14 August 2019

A critique of Samuel Hawley's The Imjin War: Japan's Sixteenth-Century Invasion of Korea and Attempt to Conquer China — Part 1: The first invasion

Recently, Samuel Hawley's book titled 'The Imjin War: Japan's Sixteenth-Century Invasion of Korea and Attempt to Conquer China' was translated and published in China, which marked for the first time China's readers can learn about Imjin War from a western perspective. I was only made aware of this fact after a friend of mine (who would like to remain anonymous) informed me and requested my help to translate a book review/critique of this book from China. So, with permission from the critic, here is the part one of the translated article.

Translator's Remark
  • For clarity sake, I will use "the author" to refer to the author of the book, Samuel Hawley, "the critic" to refer to the reviewer that wrote this book review/critique, and "translator" to refer to myself. 
  • Due to time constraints, I have to leave all the sources cited by the critic untranslated. Quotes from primary sources are also left out due to the difficulties in translating them. Hopefully with time I can fix them.
  • The critic actually wrote down the page number for nearly every entry in the article. However, since he was using the Chinese edition of the book while I only have Kindle edition (i.e. ebook), these page numbers have to be omitted.
  • It should be noted that the critic picked the book apart and corrected each and every error he could find, writing them down in point form. This resulted in a rather haphazardly formatted article, so I took the liberty to rearrange the points based on page/chronological order.
  • The critic levelled some criticisms at the author that, upon closer inspection, seem to stem from translation mistakes of the Chinese edition, rather than errors on the author's part. These are omitted as well.
  • For ease of reference, I inserted entire passages lifted directly from Samuel Hawley's book (in italic) into the translated article. Obviously, these passages would not have been present in the original article (since it was written in Chinese).
  • For ease of reference, I decided to use the same romanisation of Chinese and Korean names as Samuel Hawley's book, rather than the one I normally use (i.e. Choson instead of Joseon, Cholla instead of Jeolla, Pyokje instead of Byeokjegwan etc.). For the same reason, I also converted all dates to follow Gregorian calendar.
  • Bolded texts are my own emphases.

Overall impression of the book
The critic begins the article by expressing his appreciation to the great effort that went into the translation and publication of this book in China, particularly at this point of time, given the recent diplomatic spat between China and Canada (author Samuel Hawley is Canadian) and the fact that Imjin War is still a somewhat sensitive topic in China.

He also expressed high hope but also subsequent disappointment in this book. The primary criticisms against the book are numerous inaccuracies in the book, as well as the author's clear bias.

The critic gives several examples to support his point:
  • In chapter 15, the author denies the importance of Ming intervention in repelling the Japanese invaders, stating that

    "It must be stressed, however, that China's coming contribution to the effort would not make the difference between victory and defeat, but would rather hasten what was already an inevitable outcome. By the end of 1592 the Koreans had overcome their initial shock at being invaded, and had pieced together a haphazard campaign of grassroots resistance that would ultimately make their country ungovernable for the Japanese."

    "Korean losses would be many times higher. But they were willing to bear the sacrifice. The Japanese were not. It would probably have taken several years of guerrilla warfare before the Koreans wore the Japanese down to the point where they were forced to leave the peninsula altogether. But this they would have done—with or without the help of the Ming Chinese."

    The critic argues that the author has entered the realm of pure speculation, To quote the critic directly, "history is not a video game that allows one to reload a save". Since it is impossible to prove this alternate scenario, the speculation is meaningless.

    On top of that, the critic also draws from historical sources to demonstrate that contemporary Koreans never believed that they could repel the Japanese invaders on their own. Korean source (《閔氏壬辰錄》) outright states that:

    “The Japanese had occupied Pusan with a large force for a long time, (and they) refurbished the walls and towers (and) strongly entrenched themselves. Yi Sun-sin knew that he could not attack (Pusan) easily, so he retreated and waited for Chinese troops to come.” 

    This shows that not even Yi Sun-sin (李舜臣), the most celebrated Korean general in the war, believed that he could win the war without Chinese help.

    On top of that, respected 19th century Japanese historian Hoshino Hisashi (星野恒, 1839–1917) also emphasised the importance of Ming intervention. In his book (『大日本編年史』), he stated that:

    "Hideyoshi originally hoped to swallow up Korea and invade China. Then Ming army intervened, and our army suffered heavy casualties and realised the difficulties (of Hideyoshi's ambition). So (Hideyoshi) hoped to end the whole affair with the annexation of only four Korean provinces and a diplomatic marriage with Ming Dynasty."

    As such, both Korean and Japanese sources agree that Korea could not repel the invaders on its own, and it was the Ming army that dealt the heaviest blow to Japanese army. The conjecture that Korea could somehow win the war after a few years of guerrilla activities remains baseless.
  • The author is highly critical of Ming army and openly questions the reliability of ALL Chinese historical records. In Chapter 17, he states that

    "According to Song's report, the Japanese lost 16,047 men in the fighting, plus 10,000 others who burned to death in the fires that scorched the city, plus numerous others who were taken captive. Enemy losses were so extreme, Song bragged, that scarcely a tenth of the troops defending the city were able to escape. As with the accusations of civilian killings, nothing came of the charges of exaggeration leveled against Li, although had the Ming official bothered to check with the Koreans he would have found that there had been no more than 15,000 Japanese stationed at Pyongyang, and that their losses may have been as low as 1,285."

    The author then goes on and states that

    "This episode is but one of many examples of how the Korean historical record of the Imjin War is decidedly more accurate and more reliable than the records kept by the Ming Chinese. The Chinese were prone to exaggeration in ways that the Koreans were not, primarily because they had so much to prove. Their country, after all, was the Middle Kingdom, the most important nation in the world as they saw it, and as such could not afford to be seen as weak in any way. So we read of the emperor threatening to send a million-man army against the Japanese, when in fact the empire had only forty-thousand-odd troops to spare. And so we find Ming commanders inflating victories at times to staggering proportions, for it was an easy step from exaggeration for the good of the nation to exaggeration for personal honors and rewards.".

    The author is clearly showing his bias. Furthermore, he actually bases his argument on an entirely erroneous premise of his own making. Firstly, Song Yingchang (宋應昌) reported that 1,647 Japanese troops were killed in action, not 16,047. The author simply copied the number wrong. Secondly, the figure of 15,000 Japanese troops stationed in Pyongyang originally came from (『朝鮮征伐記』), a Japanese source, and this number is nowhere to be found in any Korean source. So even if the Ming official "bothered to check with the Koreans", he would have no way of knowing that figure. Thirdly, the author states that Japanese losses "may have been as low as 1,285", citing (《宣祖昭敬大王實錄》) as his source, without realising that the very source he cited copied this number directly from Song's report that he just mocked as untrustworthy.
    (Translator's Note: Song reported 1,285 Japanese heads taken inside Pyongyang city, another 362 Japanese heads taken in an ambush at the nearby Taedong river, and 9 captured alive. He also estimated around 10,000 Japanese troops either perished in fire or drowned. In effect, what the author did amounts to citing Song's report to attack the reliability of the very same Song's report.)
  • The critic remarks that the author somehow managed to get nearly every single troop number wrong. He is also slightly impressed by the author's ability to construct a coherent narrative despite getting almost all the facts wrong.

  • The author claims that "the army of invasion that Tokoyomi Hideyoshi sent to Korea in 1592 totaled 158,800 men...". While this number is not wrong, it only accounts for the initial invasion army. Hideyoshi later sent out around 60,000 men as reinforcement according to (『太閤記』), (『天正記』),  (『岛津文書 』) and (『山崎文書 』).

Chapter 1: Japan: From Civil War to World Power
  • The author claims that "In 1564 he (i.e. Oda Nobunaga) took complete control of former Imagawa holdings in the provinces of Mikawa, Totomi, and Suruga after Imagawa Yoshimoto's heir fled to a monastery.".

    The critic comments that the author clearly has very little knowledge in Sengoku period. In reality, Suruga was already under the control of Tokugawa Ieyasu (徳川家康) at the time, while Imagawa clan lost Mikawa and Totomi to the allied force of Takeda Shingen (武田信玄) and Tokugawa Ieyasu in 1568, not 1564.
  • The author claims that Oda Nobunaga (織田信長) "started with an arsenal of five hundred weapons (i.e. musket) in the early 1550s.". According to (『信長公記』), Oda Nobunaga brought with him a mixed archer/musketeer contingent numbering 500 men to meet with Saito Dosan (斎藤道三), so he didn't have 500 muskets.
  • The author claims that "In 1591 Hideyoshi in fact possessed the most powerful military machine in the world had ever seen. In Europe at the time even the best armies would probably not have been a match for the disciplined forces of Alexander the Great (356–323 BC); that degree of military power would not be acquired for another twenty to thirty years. Against Hideyoshi, however, neither Alexander's hoplites nor any sixteenth century "push of pike" European army would have stood a chance. When the taiko was sending 250,000 men armed with many thousands of muskets to Kyushu in 1587, and 158,800 men to Korea, the largest single-state armies in Europe rarely topped 50,000.".

    This is obviously the author's subjective opinion. It is highly debatable if Japan really was as strong as he claimed, since it failed to conquer even Korea. In fact, after the Second Battle of Pyongyang, Japanese army was effectively forced into a slow but irreversible retreat, eventually ended up only holding a few forts along the southern edge of Korea.
  • The author claims that "In the national tumult of the sengoku era, Japan had forgotten its tributary relationship to China, reestablished at the beginning of the fifteenth century by the third Ashitaka shogun, who had dully received investiture as the king of Japan, and had ceased sending tribute missions to the Chinese court.". This is incorrect. The tributary relationship was not forgotten but broke apart due to Ningbo Incident in 1523.
  • The author claims that Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang, founder of the Ming Dynasty, was "a fiercely ugly man with great spots on his face.". The ugliness of Hongwu Emperor is still a matter of debate. At the very least, in the official recorded history, court paintings and contemporary descriptions, he had a perfectly normal, even fairly handsome, face.

    (Translator's Note: It should be noted that the "ugly" version of Hongwu Emperor only arose during mid-Ming period, and most if not all currently circulating portraits of ugly Hongwu were drawn during Qing period. The seventy-two dark spots on his face were not meant to emphasis his ugliness but to mark him as a man of great destiny. A similar legend can be found on Liu Bang, founder of Han Dynasty, who according to legend had seventy-two dark spots on his left leg.)

Chapter 6: Preparations for War

  • The author claims that "A further force of 75,000 provided by Tokugawa Ieyasu, Date Masamune, Uesugi Kagekatsu, and other Honshu daimyo, would remain stationed at invasion headquarters at Nagoya. Hideyoshi did not plan to send this reserve into action; their job was to protect Nagoya in the event of a Chinese counterattack.".

    While this was Hideyoshi's original plan, eventually he had to commit the reserve to Korea as well. Date Masamune (伊達政宗) actually participated in the Second Battle of Chinju.

Chapter 8: North to Seoul
Fall of Pusan
  1. The author claims that the fort at Tadaepo at the mouth of the Naktong River fell before Pusan did. This is incorrect. It fell after Pusan was conquered by the Japanese.
  2. The author claims that "Kyongsang Left Navy Commander Pak Hong, based at Kijang a short distance to the east, witnessed this battle from the top of a nearby hill.". This is also incorrect. At the time, Pak Hong (朴泓) was at Tongnae (동래 or 東萊) mountain fortress, situated north of Pusan, and only learnt of the attack through scouting report from the commandery administrator of Yangsan (양산 or 梁山).
  3. The author also claims that "Instead he (i.e. Pak Hong) ordered his entire fleet scuttled, a total of one hundred vessels, including fifty or more panokson battleships. He also had all his weapons destroyed and provisions burned so they would not fall into enemy hands. He then deserted his post and fled north all the way to Seoul, leaving behind thousands of bewildered soldiers and sailors who naturally followed his example and drifted away.". This is incorrect and unsupported by any source. In reality, Pak Hong simply abandoned his fleet and fled to Onyang (언양 or 彥陽), then to Kyongju (경주 or 慶州). The author seems to confuse him with Kyongsang Right Navy Commander Won Kyun, who, according to Chingbirok (《 懲毖錄》), did the scuttling (although the entire scuttling incident may be the result of Chingbirok's author trying to slander and vilify Won Kyun).

Siege of Tongnae
  1. The author claims that "Korean death totaled five thousand" after the battle. According to first hand accounts from (『西征日記』), written by a Japanese Buddhist monk (Translator's Note: the author is commonly accepted to be Tenkei, a monk from Myōshin-ji in Kyoto, who served as a diplomat under Konishi Yukinaga.), Japanese army only beheaded 3,000 Koreans and captured another 500.

  • The author claims that the first contingent under Konishi Yukinaga (小西行長) swept through Miryang and then attacked Taegu in rapid succession. He seems to miss that Konishi Yukinaga also attacked the town of Chongdo (청도 or 清道), situated between Miryang and Taegu.
Route of advance of Konishi Yukinaga's first contingent. From bottom to top: Miryang, Chongdo, Taegu, and Indong.

Battle of Sangju
  • The author claims that General Yi Il (李鎰) "decided to leave this useless rabble behind and set out with a guard of just sixty mounted men he knew he could rely upon. With this small "army" plus others he hoped to pick up along the way, General Yi was expected to halt the Japanese advance.". This is completely untrue. According to (《宣祖修正實錄》), General Yi Il had 6,000 men, not 60.
  • The author claims that after Kato Kiyomasa (加藤清正) arrived at Korea, he "struck north at a punishing pace along his pre-assigned eastern route. He stormed through Ulsan first, encountering no resistance. At Kyongju, capital of the ancient Silla dynasty, he easily smashed through the hastily assembled defenses, torched the city's thousand-year-old buildings and temples, and put three thousand people to the sword. Next it was Yongchon's turn, then Sinnyong's and Kumi's.".

    The entire route is incorrect
    . In reality, Kato Kiyomasa actually started from Yangsan, then he moved to Onyang, then Kyongju, then Yongchon, then Sinnyong, and finally arrived at Andong (안동 or 安東).

    Route of advance of Kato Kiyomasa's second contingent. From bottom to top: Yangsan, Onyang, Kyongju, Yongchong, Sinnyong, Andong.
  • The author writes that "Konishi Yukinaga's first contingent had already taken Taegu by this point and was nearing Sosan, a few kilometers to the southeast.". The correct name should be Sonsan (선산 or 善山). The author seems to confuse it with Sosan (서산, either 瑞山 or 西山).

Chapter 11: On to Pyongyang
Ordos Campaign
  1. The author states that "A local Mongol chieftain named Pubei, who had previously been co-opted by the Ming and rewarded with a high military rank, joined the rebellion and was then pushed to the fore as its leader.". In reality, Pubei was not a Mongol chieftain. He offended his own Taiji and became a fugitive, then surrendered and worked for Ming Dynasty for a time. Pubei was also not the leader of the rebellion. That would be Liu Dongyang (劉東暘).

Battle of Imjin River
  1. The author claims that Commander-in-chief Kim Myong-won "was soon joined by Han Ung-in, the government minister who had been sent to Beijing earlier that year to deliver the first full report on the Japanese threat. Upon his return Han was given command of three thousand experienced soldiers from the northern province of Pyongan and sent south to join Kim Myong-won in the defense of the Imjin, bringing the total Korean force assembled there to ten thousand men, the largest army so far to be placed in the way of the enemy advance.". The number is incorrect. According to (《壬辰日錄》), Han Ung-in actually brought 5,000 men with him.

Negotiation at Taedong River
  1. The author claims that "Significantly, Genso did not speak of the Japanese armies as having been sent to conquer China. All they wanted was to have "friendly relations" with the Ming. It was therefore quite unreasonable for the Koreans to stand in their way—and pointless too, for the Koreans had already proven themselves incapable of resisting the Japanese advance.".

    This is incorrect. According to (《宣祖昭敬大王實錄》), Genso made it abundantly clear that the Japanese intended to conquer China. In fact, according to (『西征日記』), Konishi Yukinaga and So Yoshitoshi (宗義智) already sent letter to the Koreans and made their intention clear during the standoff before Battle of Imjin River. Since the war had already progressed to this stage, it would be pointless for Genso to keep up the facade anyway.

Chapter 13: “To me the Japanese robber army will be but a swarm of ants and wasps.”
First Battle of Pyongyang
  1. The author claims that "In July it (i.e. Ming Dynasty) dispatched a token force of a thousand men under Tai Zhaobian and Shi Ru to aid the Koreans.” and “The Chinese eventually responded in August by raising a second army, this time of five thousand men, mostly cavalry and spearmen, under the command of General Zhao Chengxun...". Both are incorrect.

    According to (《宣祖昭敬大王實錄》), Ming court dispatched three batches of troops in rapid succession. The first batch was led by Shi Ru (史儒) and Dai Zhaobian (戴朝弁), numbered 1,029 men and 1,093 horses. The second batch was led by Wang Shouguan (王守官) and Guo Mengzheng (郭夢征), numbered 506 men and 779 horses. The third batch was led by Zu Chengxun (祖承訓), with 1,319 men and 1,259 horses. So instead of 6,000 men as claimed by the author, the token force only numbered 2,854 men and 3,131 horses.

    (Translator's Note: The author incorrectly romanised Tai Zhaobian and Zhao Chengxun. They should be Dai Zhaobian and Zu Chengxun.)
  2. The author claims that "by the end of the day three thousand Chinese lay dead or dying in the rain and the mud...". Since it is established that Ming army had fewer than 3,000 troops, this claim obviously cannot be true.

    In reality, Korean source (《宣祖昭敬大王實錄》) lists the Ming casualties at 300, while a report sent by Konishi Yukinaga to sanbugyo (三奉行, three municipal administrators) currently kept in the Saga Prefecture Nagoya Castle Museum lists Ming casualties at 1,000. 'Historia de Iapam (History of Japan)' authored by Portuguese Jesuit Luís Fróis also lists initial Ming casualties at 300, with additional unaccounted casualties during the retreat.
  3. The author claims that after the conclusion of the First Battle of Pyongyang, Japanese commanders, worried about the eventual return of Ming army, held a conference in Seoul, and "what would be needed to guard against the return of the Chinese, it was decided, was a defense in depth: a line of forts between Pyongyang and Seoul that would allow Konishi's forward force to effect a controlled withdrawal in the even of overwhelming attack. The forts would be garrisoned by Kuroda's third contingent, already on the scene in Hwanghae Province, and by Kobyakawa's sixth contingent, currently encamped on the northern border of Cholla Province. ".

    This is again inaccurate. The primary source of this conference, (『黒田家譜』), records nothing of the sort. While Kuroda Nagamasa (黒田長政) did propose to build a number of forts north of Seoul during the conference, his true intention was to shrink down the overstretched battle line, give up on Pyongyang, and focus the defence around Seoul. Obviously, Konishi Yukinaga, being the one that captured Pyongyang in the first place and responsible for its defence, disagreed, so nothing constructive came out of that conference. After the conference, Kuroda Nagamasa and Kobayakawa Takakage (小早川隆景) moved their armies to the surroundings of Pyongyang, but otherwise Japanese army did nothing to bolster the defence between Pyongyang and Seoul due to the limitations of logistics. Kuroda Nagamasa's suggestion was later proven to be correct as the overstretched battle line eventually cost them the Second Battle of Pyongyang.

Battle of Pusan bay
  1. The author claims that "Yi Sun-sin and his combined fleet destroyed 130 Japanese ships in Pusan harbor that day.". This is incorrect. By Yi Sun-sin's own admission in his report (《壬辰狀草》), he only managed to destroy four ships.

    (Translator's Note: The critic later clarifies that Joseon fleet managed to destroy around one hundred empty Japanese ships after the initial four.)
  2. The author claims that "The Korean navy's attack on Pusan had been astonishingly successful.". It wasn't. In fact, Yi Sun-sin lost the battle, as his primary objective was to liberate Pusan, which he failed to achieve. He even lost commander Chong-un (정운 or 鄭運) in that battle.

  • The author claims that Shen Weijing (沈唯敬) "was evidently some sort of adventurer who had been attracted to the capital from Jiaxing on the central coast, near present-day Shanghai, by the emperor's edict offering ten thousan taels of silver and noble rank to anyone who could restore peace in Korea.". In reality, Shen Weijing left his hometown and went to the capital a long time ago. He did not specifically travel to the capital for the emperor's edict.

Chapter 15: Suppression and Resistance

  • The author claims that "neighboring Cholla Province, the "Red Country" that had been largely bypassed in the initial thrust north, went to Kobayakawa Takakage and his sixth contingent from Kyushu, a total of fifteen thousand men.". In reality, the muster quota for sixth contingent was 15,700 men, and Kobayakawa Takakage was supposed to fill 10,000 men of that quota. However, according to (『梨羽紹幽物語』), Kobayakawa Takakage only managed to muster 8,000 men in time. As such, sixth contingent only had up to 13,700 men at the maximum.
  • The author claims that "The mountainous central province of Kangwon on the east coast was to be subdued by Mori Yoshinari and Shimazu Yoshihiro of the fourth contingent, at the head of fourteen thousand men.". In reality, according to (『島津家文書』), Shimazu Yoshihiro (島津義弘) only managed to muster 2,000 men even though he was supposed to bring 10,000 men to Korea during the first invasion. As such, the fourth contingent only numbered about 4,000 men in total.
  • The author claims that "After its victory over the Koreans at Haejongchang, Kato's second contingent broke in two. The second in command, Nabeshima Naoshige, made his headquarters in Kilchu and set to work imposing order on Hamgyong Province "according to Japanese rules.". This is incorrect. In reality, Kato Kiyomasa (加藤清正) and Nabeshima Naoshige (鍋島直茂) already divided up their respective territories before the battle. Also, Nabeshima actually set up his headquarters in Hamhung (함흥 or 咸興), while Kilchu remained under jurisdiction of Kato Kiyomasa.

Battle of Yonan

  1. The author claims that after the initial failure of taking Yonan, Kuroda Nagamasa "withdrew for a time, but only get more troops. When he appeared again on October 6, this time with three thousand men, the defenders of Yonan realized the situation was probably hopeless.". This is incorrect. According to (《宣祖修正實錄》), Kuroda Nagamasa actually showed up again with 6,000 men, as Otomo Yoshimune (大友義統) also joined him in that battle.

First Battle of Chinju

  1. The author claims that "The Japanese arrived outside the walls of Chinju on November 8, a body of 15,570 men from the seventh contingent from western Honshu under the leadership of Kato Mitsuyasu, Hasegawa Hidekazu, Nagaoka Tadaoki, and Kimura Shigeji.". This is incorrect. According to (『細川家記』), (『松井家譜』) and (『太閤記』), Japanese army only numbered 13,000 men.

Chapter 17: The Retreat form Pyongyang to the “River of Hell”
  • The author claims that "Even in Hamgyong Province, which Kato Kiyomasa had by his own reckoning subdued so completely the previous fall, civilian resistance was becoming a serious threat. The Japanese headquarters at Kilchu came under attack, co-opted Korean administrators were assassinated or driven into the hills by guerrillas, and the province's nascent government of occupation was reduced to a shambles.". This is incorrect. As previously stated, there was no Japanese headquarters in Kilchu at all. Kato Kiyomasa set up his headquarters in Anbyon (안변 or 安邊) while Nabeshima Naoshige's base was in Hamhung.

Second Battle of Pyongyang

  1. The author claims that the second Ming intervention force under Li Rusong (李如松) totalled some 43,000 men, which is incorrect. The only reliable primary source of the numbers of Ming troops is (《經略復國要編》), which lists the total number at 38,537 men. Not only that, there were already deserters early in the war so the actual number should be even lower. In particular, as many as 400 men under Ge Fengxia (葛逢夏) deserted at the same time. The author later claims that Ming-Korean allied force numbered 58,000 men, and “a force of nearly sixty thousand men" attacked Pyongyang, both are also incorrect.
  2. The author claims that there were 15,000 Japanese troops stationed in Pyongyang at the time. In reality, an authoritative estimation is difficult to make due to different sources claiming different numbers. (《宣祖昭敬大王實錄》) records six thousands and several hundreds but revises the number to around 16~17,000 men later, (『吉見元頼朝鮮日記』) records 10,000 men, (『和漢三才図会』) records less than 5,000 men, (《燃藜室記述》) records around 6~7,000 men, and (『朝鮮征伐記』) records about 15,000 men.
  3. The author claims that Konishi Yukinaga was deceived by Li Rusong before the battle and sent a party of twenty men to meet the Ming envoys, and "one version of the events has it that they were welcomed by Shen Weijing.". In reality, Shen Weijing was kept under custody at the time and was forbidden from meeting with the Japanese. The Ming envoy was actually Zha Dashou (查大受).
  4. The author claims that "There were not supposed to be any Korean civilians still residing in the area.". This is incorrect, as Ming army still managed to rescue 1,150 Korean civilians after the battle, according to (《敘恢復平壤開城戰功疏》).
  5. The author claims that "The fight for Moranbong raged for two days and nights and claimed the lives of more than six hundred of Hyujong's men. Finally, with Chinese troops under Wu Weichong providing support from the west, Matsuura and his surviving men were forced to fall back to Pyongyang.". In reality, Moranbong (모란봉 or 杜丹峰) was never taken by the warrior monks and Chinese troops until after Pyongyang itself was liberated and Japanese army retreated from Pyongyang, according to (《西厓集》).
  6. The author claims that Li Rusong offered a reward of "five thousand liang of silver to the first man over the wall!". This is incorrect. According to Wang Bidi (王必迪), who had a spat with Li Rusong over the reward, the offer was only 300 liang, not 5,000.
  7. The author claims that Konishi Yukinaga accepted an offer from Li Rusong that allowed his men to retreat from Pyongyang. While this claim is not completely unfounded, other sources such as (《李元翼馳啟》) cited by Yu Song-nyong's (《平壤賊遁形止狀》) and Japanese source (《義弘公御譜中》) suggest that Konishi Yukinaga actually managed to slip away in the night without alerting Ming army, and never entered any agreement with Li Rusong.
  8. The critic comments that the author seems to base his narrative of Second Battle of Pyongyang almost entirely on (《宣祖昭敬大王實錄》). However, using a single source for such an important event is inadequate. Japanese sources such as (『大曲記』) and (『吉野甚五左衛門覚書』) also provide invaluable insight to this battle and should not be overlooked. Besides, 'Historia de Iapam' by Luís Fróis also contains important information regarding this battle.

Battle of Pyokje

  1. The author claims that "Kobayakawa managed to get his troops clear of the city only hours ahead of the advancing enemy and back across the Imjin River to the vicinity of Seoul.". This is incorrect. In reality, Kobayakawa actually vacated Kaesong on February 19, one day before the arrival of Chinese-Korean allied army, according to (《宣祖昭敬大王實錄》). Later Ming sources intentionally altered the date of his retreat (Translator's Note: Presumably to make it seems like Kobayakawa fled in fear of the sight of the mighty Ming army.), causing the confusion.
  2. The author claims that Kobayakawa "refused to enter the capital itself, choosing instead to camp alongside the main road fifteen kilometers to the north.". This is totally untrue. Kobayakawa actually retreated into Seoul directly. Based on the information deduced from multiple sources including (『吉見元頼朝鮮日記』) and (《象村稿》), Ming offensive already reached the western gate of Seoul on February 24. It was only after the skirmish at Yosokyon (여석현 or 礪石峴) on February 27 that Kobayakawa moved out from Seoul and pushed Ming army back to Pyokje.
  3. The author claims that "in the vicinity of the rest station at Pyokje, fifteen kilometers north of Seoul, Zha and Ko came upon a lightly armed unit of Japanese and gave them a severe mauling.". This is false. The skirmish actually happened at Yosokyon, not Pyokje.
  4. The author claims that Li Rusong's men "spotted a small and apparently isolated party of Japanese soldiers watching them from the slopes of a nearby hill. Li divided his cavalry into two groups and charged to the attack, chasing the fleeing Japanese up the hill and down into a long, narrow valley beyond — and straight into the bulk of the Japanese army.". The author uses Chingbirok as the basis of this claim, however Chingbirok is clearly in the wrong here.

    It should be noted that Chingbirok attempts to push the narrative that Li Rusong was carelessly lured by the Japanese into a trap at Yosokyon and suffered heavy setback as a result (Translator's Note: The reason for this falling out between Li Rusong and Yu Song-nyong, author of Chingbirok, can be inferred from my other translated blog posts.). However, by referencing Chinese source (《敘恢復平壤開城戰功疏》) and Korean source (《宣祖昭敬大王實錄》), it is clear that Ming vanguards already encountered the main body of Japanese army at Yosokyon, and being pushed back towards Pyokje before Li Rusong even arrived at the scene. Japanese army also deployed troops all around Manggaekyon (망객현 or 望客峴) and pretty much had the Ming vanguards surrounded. As such, Li Rusong joined the battle fully aware of the massive numerical advantage of his adversaries and even had to whip up his terrified troops to press the attack. By that time, the battle was fought at its most intense at Pyokje, so it was impossible for Li Rusong to be "lured into a trap" at Yosokyon.

    A modified Google Map screenshot co-oped from my other translated article about Battle of Pyokje, showing the location of Yosokyon (Yeoseoghyeon in the map), Manggaekyon (Manggaeghyeon in the map) and Pyokje (Byeokjegwan in the map). It should be noted that Ming army came from the north. As such, it was impossible for Li Rusong to be lured into a trap at Yosokyon, unless he magically missed the large presence of troops at Pyokje.
  5. The author claims that as many as 41,000 Japanese troops participated in the battle. This number is in turn based on an estimate found in the book (『日本戰史: 朝鮮役』) written in 1893. However the estimate is clearly incorrect, as it simply adds together the number of troops under each Japanese commander when they first landed in Korea.
  6. The author claims that "Before Commander Li's force could be totally annihilated, General Yang Yuan hurried to the rescue with the main body of the Ming army, bringing the Chinese forces to 20,000 men.". The author was clearly influenced by several unreliable secondary or tertiary sources here. According to reliable primary source such as (《敘恢復平壤開城戰功疏》), it is clear that Ming army only numbered about 5,000 men at the maximum. In fact, according to (《壬辰記錄 · 李提督自辯》), Ming army that actually fought the battle could be as few as 3,500 men. Besides, whether the reinforcement led by Yang Yuan (楊元) actually participated in the fighting is still a matter of debate, according to sources such as (《明神宗實錄》) and (《宋經略書》).
  7. Thus, it logically follows that the author's claim about the battle "now took on epic proportions, a total of 61,000 combatants crowding the narrow valley..." is completely wrong.
  8. The author claims that Ming cavalry used "short, straight, double-edged stabbing weapons". This claim is again based on Chingbirok and is simply untrue.
  9. The author claims that Japanese army "reportedly returning with 6,000 Ming heads.", which is also based on (『日本戰史: 朝鮮役』). Since it is established that the total number of Ming troops did not exceed 6,000, this claim simply cannot be true.
  10. The author claims that "Li Rusong downplayed the disaster at Pyokje in his subsequent report to the Koreans, leaving them with the impression that only a few hundred men had been lost. The true figure was much higher, although perhaps not as high as the Japanese claimed.". It should be noted that Li Rusong was the commander-in-chief of the Ming expeditionary force and outranked the Koreans, so he informed, not reported to, the Koreans about the battle. Li Rusong also did not "downplay the disaster", as his reported casualty figure (several hundred men lost) is consistent with primary sources from Japanese side such as (『文禄二年四月五日 · 立花宗茂宛 · 豊臣秀吉朱印状』), incorporated in (『小早川家文書』).

Chapter 18: Seoul Retaken
Burning of Yongsan Warehouse Complex
  1. The author claims that the situation of Japanese army in Seoul "became critical when a small unit of Chinese and Korean commandos launched a covert operation against the large warehouse complex at Yongsan, just south of the city wall on the banks of the Han River, and succeeded in burning it to the ground. The loss of grain suffered in this raid left the Japanese with food for less than a month and little choice but to commandeer grain from local citizens to keep themselves alive.".

    This is a widespread but ultimately untrue misinformation. In reality, based on inference from multiple historical sources as well as the geography around Seoul, the burning of Yongsan Warehouse Complex did not happen. Analysis below:

    As common narrative goes, in March 1593, Li Rusong attempted to break the stalemate after losing Battle of Pyokje. He ordered Zha Dashou to lead a commando team to attack Yongsan Warehouse Complex situated at the north of Seoul, and succeeded in burning it to the ground (in reality Yongsan Warehouse Complex was located at the south of Seoul. Some Chinese records get the location wrong). According to Chinese sources such as (《明史 · 李如松傳》), the success of this covert operation caused the Japanese to starve and losing the will to continue fighting, so they eventually sued for peace and abandoned Seoul. In other words, despite the setback at Battle of Pyokje, Li Rusong regained strategic advantage through his clever use of covert operation. It should be noted that (《明史 · 李如松傳》) was written at a later date, although there are several other Chinese sources that predate it, such as (《皇明從信錄》), (《萬曆三大征考》), and (《兩朝平攘錄》).The earliest and primary Chinese records about the burning of Yongsan Warehouse Complex come from (《經略復國要編》) authored by Song Yingchang, as well as Korean source (《事大文軌》) that incorporates some documents written by Song Yingchang.

    While Song Yingchang claimed that Ming army successfully burned down Yongsan Warehouse Complex, and later Chinese sources generally parrot this claim, primary Korean sources, in particular Chingbirok written by Yu Song-nyong, make no mention of this important operation, and even contradict Song Yingchang's claim on multiple accounts. According to Chinese primary source (《經略復國要編 · 報王趙張三相公書(三月初三日)》), Song Yingchang ordered Li Rusong to burn down Yongsan Warehouse Complex on March 22, 1593. This claim is disputed by a long article incorporated in Korean primary source Chingbirok, titled (《論京城賊勢且節制諸將各有統屬處處截邀仍乞請宋經略送南方精卒於忠清道使先剿滅漢江以南屯守之賊以斷賊歸路(三月五日)》), which records that Yu Song-nyong proposed the idea of burning down the warehouse to Song Yingchang on April 4, 1593, because he thought Korean army was incapable of doing it alone.

    If Ming army really did burn down the warehouse complex as early as March, then Yu Song-nyong shouldn't be bringing up the idea again on April. Furthermore, according to (《懲毖錄·馳啟京城賊勢速請提督進剿狀(三月二十日)》), Korean army actually launched an attack on Yongsan Warehouse Complex by boats on April 16, 1593, although the attack was inconclusive due to  the presence of Japanese army guarding the warehouse complex. On top of that, according to (《懲毖錄·馳啟軍功狀(四月十九日)》), Korean army was still contemplating to launch a night raid on Yongsan Warehouse Complex as late as May 1593, although they didn't execute the plan due to Shen Weijing (Translator's Note: Shen Weijing was undergoing negotiation with the Japanese at the time.). If the warehouse complex really was burnt down, then it'd be pointless for the Japanese to waste manpower to guard a charred ruin, or for the Korean army to attack it.

    In fact, according to Chingbirok, after Japanese army retreated from Seoul, Yu Song-nyong had to assign new warehouse keepers to guard the now-abandoned warehouse complex, due to the fact that previous keepers had fled. Korean source (《燃藜室記述 · 車駕還京》) even records that after Korean king returned to the liberated Seoul, he ordered the warehouse complex to be opened up and used some of the stored grains to relief the starving populace.

    According to (『大日本編年史 · 後陽城天皇紀 (7) · 文禄二年 ~ 三年』) authored by Meiji era positivist historian Hoshino Hisashi, Japanese army ran into serious logistical issues due to overstretched supply line and frequent Korean guerrilla harassment. As for the contradiction of Chinese and Korean sources, Hoshino's opinion was that the entire blunder was the result of Li Rusong and others fabricating a "victory" as a cover up for their slow progress of the war.

    The critic commends that Hoshino's opinion was fair and unbiased. As a positivist historian, he did not view the history through an ethnic or nationalistic lens. Whilst many other Japanese history works of his time gloated about slaughtering hundreds of thousands Ming troops and collecting tens of thousands of Chinese heads during Battle of Pyokje, only Hoshino referenced primary records like Chingbirok, and reported the truth: Li Rusong and several thousand cavalry fought and lost the Battle of Pyokje. Whereas other Japanese historical sources like (『豊臣秀吉譜』), (『日本逸史』) and (『日本外史』) bragged about how Hideyoshi tore up the imperial edict and humiliated Ming envoys during his investiture as the king of Japan, portraying him as a staunch defender of the honour and integrity of Japanese race to the point that such nationalistic falsehood even deceive modern works such as (『日本社会の歴史』) authored by Yoshihiko Amino (網野善彦), Hoshino alone reconstructed the event based on reliable first-hand witness accounts such as (『仙巢稿』) written by Japanese Buddhist monk Keitetsu Genso (景轍玄蘇), and reported that Hideyoshi gladly accepted the royal title bestowed by Ming Dynasty, and chanted "Ten thousand years" three times. As such, from the position of positivist historiography and based on records of Chingbirok, the critic agrees with Hoshino Hishashi's opinion.

    Even in many other Korean sources, there are overwhelming evidences that support the notion that this entire burning operation was nonsense.

    According to (《亂中雜錄》) and (《再造藩邦志》), during the peace negotiation between Shen Weijing and the Japanese army in April 1593, Japanese side agreed to leave 20,000 dan (convertible to 1,825 metric tons) of leftover rice in Yongsan Warehouse Complex alone during the retreat. Japanese army later honoured the agreement and gave 20,000 dan of rice to Li Rusong's envoy Shen Sixian (沈思賢), after it retreated from Seoul on May 19, 1593. Therefore, not only Japanese army wasn't starving after March 22, 1593, it actually still had leftover food to transfer to Ming army. Nevertheless, even the records of  (《亂中雜錄》) and (《再造藩邦志》) are slightly exaggerated. According to a report by Ishida Mitsunari (石田三成) and others to Nagoya Castle on February 20, 1593, Japanese army only had 14,000 koku (roughly convertible to 1,820 metric tons) of rice left, barely enough for another two months of consumption. Also, Konishi Yukinaga wrote a letter to Shen Weijing after Japanese army retreated from Seoul, claiming that Japanese army left 200,000 koku of food to Ming army as promised. Although both Konishi Yukinaga and Korean sources exaggerated the amount of food left, they still constitute enough proof that the burning of Yongsan Warehouse Complex did not actually happen, and Japanese army still had food left.  (《宣祖昭敬大王實錄》) even directly debunks the claim, clearly showing that contemporary Koreans never believed such an incident had taken place.

    The critic also points out that Yongsan Warehouse Complex was located at the southwest of Seoul. Since Seoul was occupied by the Japanese at the time, it was highly improbable for Ming army (coming from the north) to sneak pass the heavily defended city to attack the warehouse complex behind it.

    As such, it is safe to conclude that the burning of Yongsan Warehouse Complex did not happen. However, it should be pointed out that Japanese army was indeed facing serious logistical issues (the aforementioned Ishida Mitsunari's report was written three days before Battle of Pyokje) and was later forced to sue for peace and retreat from Seoul. Song Yingchang and Li Rusong merely took advantage of the situation and lied about the burning operation to gain more merit.

    The critic points out that while the author unfairly accuses the Chinese as being prone to exaggeration, in all fairness such exaggeration did happen sometimes. Regrettably, the author often incorrectly dismisses truthful and trustworthy sources as mere exaggerations, while at the same time foolishly accepting actual lies and exaggerations at face value.

Chapter 19: Negotiations at Nagoya, Slaughter at Chinju

Second Battle of Chinju
  1. The author claims that during the First Battle of Chinju, "a disciplined force of only 3,800 Koreans held out for five days against a 15,000-man army from Mori Terumoto's seventh contingent from Honshu...". In reality, Mōri Terumoto (毛利輝元) didn't even take part in that battle. Japanese army during the First Battle of Chinju was actually led by Hosokawa Tadaoki (細川 忠興), Hasegawa Hidekazu (長谷川秀一), and Matsui Yasuyuki (松井康之).
  2. The author claims that Korean army at Chinju "would be facing an army of possibly 93,000, the bulk of Hideyoshi's remaining invasion force plus reinforcements recently sent from Japan.". In reality, according to (『島津家文書』), Japanese army only numbered 74,750 men. On top of that, according to (『吉川家譜』), only 50,000 men among them actually participated in the fighting.
  3. The author claims that "At least sixty thousand Koreans lost their lives in the Second Battle of Chinju.". This is an exaggeration propagated by the Koreans. In reality, according to (『大和田重清日記』) Japanese army only killed about 3,000 Koreans.

Other blog posts in my translated The Imjin War critique series:
Part 1: The first invasion


  1. I've read Kenneth Swope's "A Dragon's Head and a Serpent's Tail: Ming China and the First Great East Asian War, 1592–1598" which draws largely from Chinese sources. Have you read it?
    And do you still recommend Hawley's book, now that we know the inaccuracies?

    1. No, at least not yet. My wallet runs dry after getting Samuel Hawley's book (Currency exchange rate has not been kind to me).

      I'd still recommend Hawley's book though, especially after I finish the translation, as people can now use his book and reference this article to get a more-or-less factually correct picture of the entire war.

    2. I think that book is pretty good. It puts to myth alot of assertions about Ming armies that seems to have basically been invented by a few missionaries and later historians who were not good with primary texts.

  2. "In 1591 Hideyoshi in fact possessed the most powerful military machine in the world had ever seen. In Europe at the time even the best armies would probably not have been a match for the disciplined forces of Alexander the Great (356–323 BC); that degree of military power would not be acquired for another twenty to thirty years. Against Hideyoshi, however, neither Alexander's hoplites nor any sixteenth century "push of pike" European army would have stood a chance."
    So much BS within so few words, lol. Never ceases to amaze me.

    1. Yeah since the bulk of Alexander's army was phalangites, not hoplites (completely missing the poit).

  3. Thanks for translating once again. Always look forward to anything you have to show us regarding the Imjin War.

    I remember there was some written spats between the three authors (or, according to Hawley, Swope being kind of a jerk to him and Turnbull here https://i.imgur.com/dHGLoe1.png)

    Full interview: http://www.theshogunshouse.com/2010/04/interview-with-samuel-hawley-author-of_27.html).

    Kinda amusing how Western scholarship on the Imjin War seems to have absorbed the heated discussion in Japanese, Korean, and Chinese circles (though from what I gather there seems to be a lot less nationalistic fervour on the Chinese side even if it's still around).

    Having only read a few passages of his book alongside this critique, I find it really odd that Hawley hypes the Japanese as much as he does. You could probably inject that passage into Noel Perrin's "Giving up the Gun" and its heavy-handed Japan worship and it could probably be indistinguishable. I don't think either of these authors are actually historians to begin with (Hawley at least has an MA in history, Perrin doesn't have any scholarly background in history as far as I can tell), so it makes me wonder why people cite Perrin's book so often when it's essentially just Cold War de-nuclearization propaganda. I've even seen it cited on r/AskHistorians up until only recently when people started rejecting that book as a proper source.

    On a side note, have you read Nam-lin Hur's article/critique on Hawley and Swope's (+Turnbull's) books and their flawed usage of sources? I remember being referred to it anonymously (Pretty sure it was Wansui!) on 4chan's /his/. It's a free article and it does a good job breaking down the issues with both authors' books.


    1. Wait, there was such a drama back then? Never realise that until now (maybe I've heard of it before, but can't recall anymore). Oh, I see RollingWave commenting at that blog too!

      The interview does clarify a few things for me though, mainly the reason Samuel Hawley present the narrative the way he did ("tell the story as Korean know it").

      It's unsurprising that all three Western books are "taking sides", as they are essentially popular-level books, interesting in storytelling but skin-deep in substance. After all, you need a good "protagonist" for a good story.

      (BTW, I am sure Turnbull and Swope's books will also be shot full of holes by this critic if they ever get published in China)

      "Chinese side" seems like it has less nationalistic fervor because for the most part China doesn't pay a lot of attention to this war (until very very recently). That's why scarcely any serious research paper on the topic of Imjin War come out of China. Then again, a recent popular-level book about Imjin War from China, 《帝國最後的榮耀》 or "The last glory of an empire", is every bit as nationalistic as the others. Even its title alone can already tell you that much.

      Overall, I think Japan is far ahead in this field of research (there are some books from Japan that even the critic can recommend), although deeper, research-heavy books tend to be dry and boring.

      I haven't read the article, thanks for notifying me!

  4. Samuel Hawley also made some other blatant errors that the critic didn't bother to point out, like Japanese burning off the grass around the vincinity of Seoul that caused the death of ten thousand Ming horses "in just a few days", which is just stupid. That was the total amount of horses lost since Ming army entered Korea.

  5. Thank you for posting the other side of the arguement for the Imjin Waeran. I had read The Imjin Waeran book by Hawley.

    All accounts of Imjin Waeran from Chinese side , Korean and Japanese side there will be as always certain embellishment in their part. So it is important to read multiple resources on the subject matter so as to get a more balanced approach.

    To this day, I like to read Imjin Waeran because this subject used to be ignored. Japanese Military agression tend to be viewed from WW2 only. My other interest in Imjin Waeran was how the knowledge of Qi Jiguang Jixiao Shinshu and other Martial Arts material were passed to the Koreans which in itself was also covered the same embellishment of facts just as the Imjin Waeran itself.

    1. I'd argue that instead of taking a "Chinese/Korean/Japanese side", the critic starts from a position of positivism, which is to present the events as objective and as truthful as possible.

      A hypothetical "Chinese side" would've paint the Battle of Jiksan/Chiksan as Ming victory, and present the Yongsan Warehouse burning as fact, just like how "Korean side" try to spin Battle of Busan Bay into a massive Yi Sun-sin victory, even thought he actually lost the battle. The critic has done none of these.

      IMHO his method involves more than simply referening multiple sources from all three sides to get a so-called "balanced approach". He also fact-checked the sources to detect those embellishment and bullsh*t.

      For example, if sources from one side are unreliable (i.e. Chinese claim about burning down Yongsan Warehouse Complex), then unreliable records from that side will be kicked out. This is certainly not "balanced", but much more truthful.

    2. I noticed that the critic doesn't seem to have responded to Hawley blasting Song Yingchang's post-Pyongyang Japanese casualty numbers, i.e, the "10,000 others who burned to death in the fires that scorched the city, plus numerous others who were taken captive."

      Cross-referencing Swope, he accurately cites Song's figures ("1,300-1,700 troops") and also adds "with 5,000 dying in the smoke and flames and perhaps as many as 6,000 more drowning in the Taedong as Konishi tried to escape."

      I'm guessing Song fluffed up his report a bit to make it look impressive (but I assume it'd be hard to get a hard number of how many were roasted/drowned) but is there any way to tell how many Konishi actually lost at Pyongyang, or are Japanese sources quiet about the number?

      Also, how do these losses compare with the Ming blunders at Sacheon/Ulsan/Suncheon? I see the critic has a more meticulously-reached number for Ulsan--Swope, citing Li Rumei, says that "3,000-4,000 Chinese and Korean troops were killed."

      At Sacheon, Swope writes that "reports state that only 50–60 of Peng [Xingu]’s contingent of 3,000 men survived the attack, and Mao [Guoqi] lost 600–700 more."

      Swope doesn't have a number for Suncheon but describes a bunch of failed assaults (Chen Lin's naval one included).

    3. @Bleb
      Song Yingchang did report an estimation of 10,000 roasted/drowned, so I guess that part doesn't warrant a refutation. He did not specify how many roasted and how many drowned though, so I don't know how Swope get that number. Song also report 8 captured.

      The critic does not give the actual number of Japanese troops in Pyongyang, but I've read in one source (can't remember which) that there were less than 10,000 Japanese troops in Pyongyang (not counting Korean collaborationists, which should bring the number significantly higher than 10,000), and less than 5,000 left the city after the siege. Japanese casualty should be significantly more than 1,647 "heads taken" reported by Song, but less than his 10,000 "roasted/drowned" estimation. There were probably Korean collaborationists and unfortunate civilians caught up in the fire or drowned.

      The high casualty reports/estimates for Ulsan were exaggerations. The so-called "Li Rumei's report" cited by Swope was actually based on the hearsay and rumors heard by a Korean foreign official in Li Rumei's army. That estimation was overturned by Yi Deok-hyung (another Korean official) after careful investigation and interviews with surviving Ming troops.

      Sacheon was indeed a complete disaster after the explosion though. Ming casualty should be somewhere around 7000+.

  6. Excellent review my friend! --- I agree while this book does an admirable job of providing us Korean accounts on the Imijin War

    There is a couple things that Hawley got wrong. For example an error I saw in the book that Hawley had preconceived notions that Samurai commanders and retainers had viewed firearms as dishonorable and below them, its why they give them to the lower-class Ashigaru soldiers. He couldn't be anymore wrong on that matter.

    1. The critic also comments that he has a poor knowledge about Sengoku Japan.

    2. Yes and that is probably one of the biggest misnomer things about Hawley's book here. While he did a lot of research on the Korean side of the Imjin War. His information on the Chinese and Japanese side of things is way off and blatantly wrong.

    3. Apparently even Koreans criticised the quality of his work. Bleb in this comment section share to me a paper written by Professor Nam-lin Hur, for example.

  7. I saw Samuel Hawley's videos on Youtube and based on his comments and replies in the comment section, I feel that this guy is indeed somewhat arrogant and anti-China, an attitude that shouldn't be expressed by an academic like him, since academics and scholars are supposed to be just and unbiased.

    1. Samuel Hawley is not an academic, he's a journalist and writer, he says so himself. And yes he's biased against China from some reason. Stick with Ken Swope's account of the Imjin War.

    2. I am generally not a very good judge of character and not really interested in his videos (since I read his book), so I will take your word for it.

      I am not really surprised if that's the case just by reading the book.

    3. I can applaud Hawley for revising the big point in his book about how Alexander's "hoplite" army would've wiped the floor with the best European armies of 1591 to "You could take Alexander the Great's [not hoplite this time, whew! But the image he's blown up for Alexander's army still look like a bunch of Classical hoplites] army from around 300 B.C. and transport it forward in time to face an English army in around 1400 AD, and they'd have stood roughly an equal chance against each other."

      Anyway, I've just skipped through a bunch but it's a bit sad to see Hawley dedicate two whole videos to counterfactuals (then again, he's not a historian), one for "could the Spanish conquer Ming China?" and "Could the Japanese have conquered China?", bringing everybody who's not already had one go of it back into the reviving hell that is Historum threads that ask the same questions. They do just seem to be clickbait/and or attempts to provoke the ire of Chinese nationalists ('kicking the hornet's nest,' he calls it).

      Some of the evidence he's using to support his counterfactual/alt-history seem to be spotty as well, like how the Ming wouldn't be able to respond properly to a Japanese or Spanish invasion because the Ming in *1555* weren't able to deal with wokou effectively.

    4. @Bleb
      I still highly doubt ALexander's army could take on massed longbowmen and plate armored English foot knights of the 1400s.

    5. @春秋戰國
      Spain was not even able to conquer Cambodia at its worst political crisis during the dark ages of Cambodia.

      Not to say hold their position in north africa against the ottomans. Nevermind china

      The conquest of the Philippines was not complete until by the 19th century (Spanish-moro conflict, luzon mountains and stuff). Spanish colonial power is very elusive, much of Latin American territory was phantom administration and the Indians continued to wage continuous wars well into the 20th century and the Spanish language was unknown to many Latinos until the compulsory education, Creole languages ​​were spoken in the place strongly influenced by indigenous people before or like Nheengatu in Portugal's case (i can't really understand it). Perhaps the Spanish empire seems big on the maps, but these maps are just claiming as many territories as possible to avoid spheres of influence by other European powers, the worst of which not even the American continent beyond the coast was very well known. In practice Portugal and Spain, it is as if the United States and the Soviet Union divided the entire solar system between themselves and 2 centuries later they only occupy de facto 15~20% of all territory once claimed

      The Spaniards for a while in the 16th century believed that they were still interacting with the same native American race in Asia and that germs, iron, horses, dogs and gunpowder would make all the difference in bringing ethnocide.. literally thought of encomienda plans for china. Ottoman conquest of Europe in the 16th century sounds more plausible than the hispano-japanese colonization of china. Iberian power is overrated

    6. @henrique
      Agreed, I totally get how ridiculous Samuel's claim is.

    7. I have seen people suggest that the only reason the Spanish attack against China was put off was because of the failure of the 1588 Armada. Seems pretty absurd to me. It would have been logistically impossible to send more than a few hundred men from Spain to Asia would it not? That was before we even talked about technology or armies,

    8. I still sometimes get Hawley confused with Turnbull for some reason. Is Turnbull reliable on his Imijin war books?

    9. Turnbull is more Japan-centric than Hawley.

      His books are so-so at best IMO.

  8. I've posted these critiques on Samuel Hawley's Youtube channel since he recently made a series videos about Imjin War, I really can't stand so many strange misconceptions(mainly against China) spewed from his mouth, his Imjin War book is supposedly first published at 2005 and surprisingly(or unsurprisingly) he's still continuely upholding his bias and misleading data from his book in his latest Imjin War videos, he didn't change one bit of his misconceptions during past 15 years.

    1. Personally I won't bother with his YouTube videos, it's not like he can simply revise his book to correct the mistakes (consider the number of fixes required, it will be easier to just write a new book). But thanks anyway.

    2. Yeah, but at least he can correct them in his videos, he only starts make them recently and all he does is talk, but NO, he seems to be very confident about his anti-chinese narrative and misleading data.


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