Enemy of the Ming — Jia Jing Da Wo Kou (嘉靖大倭寇) — Part 2

Prominent Figures
A period of strife was also a period of heroics (or villianics) and tragedies. A great many Wokou leaders rose to prominence during this period. Many of them met their end in tragedies, but not before they carved out a legend of their own.

Most prominent Wokou of Jiajing period were eradicated by Hu Zong Xian (胡宗憲) single-handedly through guile and plot. Nevertheless, the death of Wokou leaders, particularly Wang Zhi (汪直), caused Wokou to lose all semblance of self-control, and Wokou raids quickly intensified.

Wang Zhi (汪直)
(active 1540 – 1559)
Wang Zhi Wokou
Bronze statue of Wang Zhi outside of Matsura Historical Museum, Japan.
Self-titled Wu Feng Chuan Zhu (五峰船主, lit. 'Captain of the Five Peaks'), Jing Hai Wang (淨海王, lit. 'King of the Clear Ocean') and later Hui Wang (徽王, King of Huizhou), Wang Zhi was perhaps the most famous and most powerful of the Wokou leaders. In fact, many prominent Wokou leaders were his former collaborators or subordinates.

Originally a sea trader, Wang Zhi traded between China, Japan, and even ventured as far as Siam. He accumulated great wealth, and commanded the respect of both Portuguese and Japanese. In 1544, Wang Zhi came into contact with the smuggler-pirates at the haven of Shuangyu, and joined their smuggling business. After Shuangyu was destroyed by Zhu Wan (朱紈) in 1548 in an attempt to clamp down on illegal trade, he retreated to Japan, and set up a new base of operation at Gotō Islands on the invitation of Matsura Takanobu (松浦 隆信). Wang Zhi assisted Ming army to attack one of his competitors, a pirate named Chen Si Pan (陳思盼) in 1552, and captured his nephew Chen Si (陳四). He used Chen Si as a bargaining chip to acquire Ming's unofficial permission to continue his business, and set up a new port at Li Gang (瀝港), Zhejiang. However, an ambush led by Yu Da You (俞大猷) in 1553 destroyed Li Gang. Although Wang Zhi escaped to Japan, his family was arrested by Yu Da You.

No longer trustful of the Ming court that went back on their word, Wang Zhi began overseeing Wokou raids from Japan, kickstarting the Jia Jing Da Wo Kou (嘉靖大倭寇).

In 1554, Hu Zong Xian (胡宗憲) took office as the Grand coordinator of Zhejiang (浙江巡按監察御史) and sent two envoys to Japan to negotiate with Wang Zhi. He promised Wang Zhi legal trade rights on the condition that Wang Zhi would assist him to get rid of the Wokou. To show his sincerity, Hu Zong Xian set Wang Zhi's family free and left one of his envoys at Japan as hostage. Although Wang Zhi was tempted by the prospect of legal trade, he wasn't so foolish as to fall to empty promise once again, so he sent his adopted son Wang Ao (王滶) back to China first. For a time, Wang Ao assisted Hu Zong Xian to clear out Wokou. He also wrote a letter to inform Xu Hai (徐海) about Wang Zhi's negotiation of surrender upon the request of Hu Zong Xian.

Wang Zhi was eventually persuaded by his adopted son Wang Ao, now trustful of Hu Zong Xian, and returned to China. While Hu Zong Xian did intend to uphold his part of the bargain, pressure from Ming court forced him to change his mind. Wang Zhi was arrested in 1558 and executed in 1559.

Nowadays Wang Zhi is best remembered for (indirectly) introducing matchlock firearms to Japan in 1543, as well as his contribution in developing Hirado into a bristling trading port.


Xu Hai (徐海)
(active ?  – 1556)
Xu Hai was originally a Buddhist monk from Huizhou, but gave up the life as an ascetic and joined the smuggling syndicate of Wang Zhi (汪直) with his uncle Xu Wei Xue (徐惟學). After some time, Xu Wei Xue broke off from Wang Zhi's organisation and started his own smuggling business. Unfortunately, Xu Wei Xue's attempt was a failure, and he ended up indebted. To pay off his debt, Xu Hai was sold by his uncle to a band of Japanese pirates.

In a strange twist of fate, Xu Hai eventually became the leader of said pirate band. He quickly expanded his influence by forming a coalition with Chen Dong (陳東) and Ye Ma (葉麻), and commanded a Wokou fleet of more than ten thousand men. He also married a famous prostitute Wang Cui Qiao (王翠翹). Xu Hai fought with Ming general Zong Li (宗禮) at Zhejiang in 1556 and was defeated thrice, but managed to mount a counterattack that defeated Ming army and killed Zong Li. Along with Chen Dong and Ye Ma, he laid siege to Tongxiang in the same year, almost suceeding in capturing it. Hu Zong Xian (胡宗憲) was forced to bribe him with heavy ransom. Xu Hai called off the siege after he received ransom, while Chen Dong and Ye Ma were forced to retreat along with him, as they no longer had enough troops to continue the siege.

Knowing he couldn't defeat Xu Hai's Wokou coalition without suffering insumerable loss, Hu Zong Xian devised a cunning plot to get rid of him. He sent Luo Long Wen (羅龍文), a fellow of Xu Hai from Huizhou, as an undercover agent into Xu Hai's Wokou coalition. Luo Long Wen sowed discord between Wokou leaders, and slowly gained the favour of Wang Cui Qiao with gifts. He deceived her into believing that they would be pardoned and put into favourable position if they surrender to Hu Zong Xian. To add more weight to his word, Hu Zong Xian also brought the news of Wang Zhi's negotiation of surrender to Xu Hai through a letter written by Wang Ao (王滶).

Shocked by the news and persuaded by his concubine, Xu Hai too agreed to surrender. To prove his loyalty, he lured Chen Dong into a trap by forging a letter from Satsuma Island. After Chen Dong's capture, Hu Zong Xian immediately forced Chen Dong to write a letter to inform his subordinates about Xu Hai's betrayal. Furious, Chen Dong's subordinates attacked Xu Hai's Wokou band, but both were annihilated by Ming army unleashed by Hu Zong Xian, who had waited for this moment all along. Realising the betrayal of Hu Zong Xian, Xu Hai drowned himself in despair.

Legend has it that Wang Cui Qiao also drowned herself after she realised her words caused the death of Xu Hai. Wang Cui Qiao's tragic fate earned the sympathy of the people, and her story was adapted into many novels and operas during Qing period.


Chen Dong (陳東)
(active ? - 1556)
Chen Dong originally workrd as a clerk for "Lord of the Satsuma Island and his brothers", possibly referring to Shimazu Yoshihisa (島津義久) and his younger brothers, Shimazu Yoshihiro (島津義弘) and Shimazu Toshihisa (島津歳久). He later joined the smuggling syndicate of Wang Zhi (汪直) and became a collaborator of Xu Hai (徐海).

He was betrayed and captured by Xu Hai after the plot of Hu Zong Xian, and executed shortly after.


Mao Lie (毛烈)
(active 1556 – 1559)
Mao Lie was the adopted son of Wang Zhi (汪直), from him he received another name Wang Ao (王滶). Like his adopted father, he stayed at Japan during much of the early phase of the Jia Jing Da Wo Kou. In 1556, He went back to China on the invitation of Hu Zong Xian (胡宗憲), and helped him to curb the Wokou problem on the promise that Ming court would grant Wang Zhi legal trade rights.

Little did he know, he was merely a pawn in Hu Zong Xian's plan to get rid of Xu Hai (徐海), Chen Dong (陳東), and earn the trust of Wang Zhi. After Wang Zhi was betrayed and captured, a furious Mao Lie sworn vengeance. He dismembered Xia Zheng (夏正) a trusted aide of Hu Zong Xian, gathered Wang Zhi's men and occupied Cheng Gang (岑港) in an attempt to enact vengeance. He was killed in 1559 after a year-long siege, but not before inflicting heavy casualties on Ming army.


Wu Ping (吳平)
(active 1557 – 1566)
Wu Ping was born in Zhao'an. He was a slave since youth and suffered abuses from his employer, but later escaped and joined a band of Wokou, where he served as their scout. Wu Ping gradually rose to power by absorbing Wokou remnants defeated by Ming armies elsewhere. At the height of his power, he commanded more than ten thousand men, and earned the respect from other Wokou leaders.

Wu Ping frequently raided the coasts of Chaozhou and Huizhou, causing untold mayhem. In 1564, Ming army led by Yu Da You (俞大猷) cleared out most of the Wokou at Chaozhou and Huizhou, and Wu Ping was forced to surrender and received pardon. However, Wu Ping rebuilt his fleet in secret and reverted to his old way in the same year.

Yu Da You wrote to Wu Gui Fang (吳桂芳) and Qi Ji Guang (戚繼光) and devised a plan to surround Wu Ping from three sides and destroy him once and for all. However, his plan was rejected and Ming army from Fujian attacked prematurely (in part fearing Wu Ping might be able to regroup with the rest of his Japanese allies). Alerted, Wu Ping fled to Nan'ao and fortified his base. In 1565, a thirty thousand strong combined force led by both Yu Da You and Qi Ji Guang laid siege and captured Wu Ping's holdout, forcing him to fled to Annam (modern day Vietnam) on captured ships. Wu Ping killed himself after his remnant force was defeated in a joint Ming-Annam military operation.

Wu Ping's death marked the last major victory of the Ming campaign against Wokou, and the passing of Wokou era.


The "Fifty-three Rōnin"
(active 1555)
Fifty-three (some sources record seventy-two) unnamed Wokou that landed at Shangyu in June 1555 and rampaged through Zhejiang, Wun Sheng (皖省, modern day Anhui) and Jiangsu, raiding no less than twenty towns and villages over the course of two months. They even attempted to lay siege on Nanjing with only fifty-three men. By the time these Wokou were defeated, they had rack up a body count of no less than three thousand, including several mandarins and military officers.

Unlike other Wokou, their only purpose was to kill, and did not engage in plundering or rape.



Post-Jiajing Pirates
Pirates from this period were no longer (or only rarely) perceived as Wokou, although composition of the pirate bands remained largely unchanged. Many of these pirates actually rose to prominence during the last years of Jiajing Emperor's reign, and remained active after the supposed "Wokou era" was over.

Unlike Wokou leaders such as Wang Zhi of the previous era, these pirates were not always on good term with the Japanese, and often had to sought refuge in Taiwan or Southeast Asia instead of Japan. Some pirates, like Lin Dao Qian (林道乾), even intentionally distanced themselves from actual Wokou.


Lin Dao Qian/Lim To Khiam (林道乾)
(active 1561  early 17th century)
Seri Patani Siege Cannon
Original Seri Patani cannon, also known as Phraya Tani, currently kept outside of Ministry of Defence building, Bangkok.
Also known as Lin Wu Liang (林悟梁), Vintoquián in Spanish and Tok Kayan in Malay, Lin Dao Qian was born in Chenghai . He briefly served as a county servant before turning to piracy. Lin Dao Qian's career as a pirate was shrouded in mystery. It is known that he raided Zhao'an in either 1563 or 1566 (or both), but was defeated by Yu Da You (俞大猷) and forced to flee to Cambodia. He later converted to Islam and settled at Sultanate of Pattani, where he held a high government position.

Lin Dao Qian cast two heavy siege cannons, known as Seri Patani and Seri Negara, for Ratu Biru (Malay for Blue Queen), then Queen Regent of the Sultanate. Legend has it that he lost his life trying to cast the third cannon, which resulted in an accident. After the fall of Sultanate of Pattani to Rattanakosin Kingdom of Siam in 1785, Siamese attempted to bring the cannons back to Bangkok as spoils of war. They brought Seri Patani back to Bangkok, where it still stands to this day, but another cannon, the Seri Negara, was lost to the storm during transit.


Lin Feng/Lim Hong (林鳳)
(active 1567 – 1589)
Limahong attack Spanish
'Ang Pagsalakay ng mga Kawal ni Limahong', an oil painting by Juanito Torres in 2011, depicting Lin Feng's siege of Manila.
Also known as Lin A Feng/Limahong (林阿鳳), Lin Feng joined the pirate band of Tia La Ong/Tial Lao (泰老翁) at the age of nineteen, and soon suceeded him as leader of the pirate band. Many sources (including some Ming records) mistaken Lin Feng and Lin Dao Qian (林道乾) to be the same person, while in reality they were two different figures, contemporary but also rival of each other. Lin Feng rose to prominence in 1573 and managed to defeat and absorb the pirate fleet of Lin Dao Qian, replacing him as the largest pirate faction of the time.

After he suffered repeated defeats by Ming navy in 1574, he retreated to Penghu, then to Wang Gang (魍港, modern day Budai, Taiwan), and defeated the aboriginals. Ming navy sent out a pursuit force and got into contact with the aboriginals, and the combined force defeated Lin Feng's pirates. In November 1574, Lin Feng retreated to Penghu to gather the remnant of his fleet and set sail to Philippines. He laid siege to Spanish colony of Manila and burned Manila to the ground, but was met with stiff resistance and driven away. Lin Feng relocated to Lingayen, subjugating the locals and set up a pirate base. With the help from five thousand Filipino warriors hired by Ming official Wang Wang Gao (王望高, known as Omoncon in Spanish records) sent to capture him, Spanish conquistadors eventually dislodged Lin Feng from Lingayen after a month-long siege, but he slipped away unscathed.

Lin Feng returned to China and resumed his piratical operation once again. He was still active as late as 1589, and escaped several attempts by Ming army to capture or kill him. He eventually fled to Siam, never to be heard from ever since.



Late Ming Pirates
The conclusion of Sengoku Jidai (戦国時代) and the enforcement of Sakoku (鎖国) isolationist policy caused pirates of this period to lose almost all of their Japanese characteristics. While some pirates maintained good relationship with Japan, and even acquired Shuinjō (朱印状) trading permit from Japan, Japanese pirates became an extremely rare sight.

Despite this, Wokou raids not associated with these pirate leaders still occured from time to time.


Zheng Zhi Long (鄭芝龍)
(active ? – 1646)
Nicholas Iquan Gaspard
Eighteenth century European impression of Zheng Zhilong, taken from the corner of the map 'Iles aux environs de la Chine où se tenoient autrefois les fameux pirates Yquen et Koxinga, suivant les mémoires d'un fidèle voyageur' by Van Der Aa, Pieter.
Also known as Nicholas Iquan Gaspard and father of the legendary Koxinga, Zheng Zhi Long was born in Nan'an, Fujian. He learned the trade of merchantship from his uncle Huang Cheng (黃程) at Macau, and later joined the piratical confederation of another Chinese pirate Li Dan (李旦, also known by his baptismal name Andrea Dittis and nickname "Captain China") and Yan Si Qi (顏思齊), where he served as a translator and negotiator. They set up a smuggling port at Formosa (modern day Taiwan), and assisted the Dutch to settle on Tayouan (大圓, modern day Anping, Taiwan) after they were chased away from Penghu in 1624.

Zheng Zhi Long succeeded Li Dan as the leader in 1625. He went into conflict with Xu Xin Su (許心素), a former subordinate of Li Dan that sided with the Ming Dynasty, and killed him. Nevertheless, Zheng Zhi Long himself surrendered to Ming Dynasty in 1628 and was appointed an admiral. His surrender made him an enemy of his former allies and subordinates, but he managed to defeat them all (including the Dutch during Battle of Liaoluo Bay) and effectively monolopied China's maritime trade business with Japan, Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch and Southeast Asia.

After the fall of Ming Dynasty in 1644, Qing army began to approach Zheng Zhi Long's base at An Ping (安平, modern day Anhai). He decided to defect to Qing Dynasty on the promise of great reward, but was put under house arrest and executed in 1661.


Liu Xiang (劉香)
(active ? – 1635)
Liu Xiang was also known as Liu Xiang Lao (劉香佬). He was a former ally of Zheng Zhi Long, but disagreed with his decision to surrender to Ming Dynasty, and they went their separate way. Since then, he participated in a series of three-sided conflicts between Ming navy (under Zheng Zhi Long), Dutch East India Company (under Hans Putmans) and Chinese pirates.

Liu Xiang sided with Dutch East India Company during the Battle of Liaoluo Bay, but was defeated by Zheng Zhi Long. The defeat caused the Dutch to reconsider their foreign policy with China. As the Dutch distanced themselves from Chinese pirates and tried to normalise trade relation with Ming Dynasty, Liu Xiang, feeling betrayed, attacked the Fort Zeelandia in 1634 with six hundred pirates. He was repelled by the Dutch, but managed to blockade Dutch trading port with fifty junks. Unfortunately, Liu Xiang suffered six consecutive defeats and killed by Zheng Zhi Long in the next year.



Other blog posts about my Wokou series:
Enemy of the Ming — Jia Jing Da Wo Kou — Part 1
Enemy of the Ming — Jia Jing Da Wo Kou — Part 2
Enemy of the Ming — Jia Jing Da Wo Kou — Part 3

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