UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

A fortress in turbulent seas : Mao Wenlong and his military organization in wartime Northeast Asia (1621- 1638) Ma, Zoudan


In 1621, with Manchu armies occupying Ming China’s (1368-1644) northeastern territory, a Ming military officer named Mao Wenlong 毛文龍 (1576-1629) and his followers left for an island off the northwestern coast of the Korean peninsula. They soon occupied the nearby islets, filled these locales with people fleeing from Manchu rule, and recruited some of them into military. In 1622, the Ming state officially recognized this military organization and named it Dongjiang 東江. This organization played a strategic role in the Ming military strategy against the Manchus, who later established the Qing dynasty (1644-1911). Its location close to Chosŏn Korea (1392-1897) dragged Chosŏn into the conflict between great powers. Its existence posed a threat to the Manchus’ rear. In a nutshell, Dongjiang became a lynchpin for the following two decades of Northeast Asian geopolitics. This dissertation examines Dongjiang in the context of Northeast Asian geopolitics. It argues that the interactions among the Ming dynasty, the Manchus, and Chosŏn Korea gave rise to Dongjiang, nurtured its development, and eventually caused its collapse. Dongjiang was politically subordinated to the Ming court, which granted strategic importance to Dongjiang and provided corresponding political and material support. Dongjiang gradually increased its clout, but never converted itself into a sustained state-building enterprise. It remained a loosely organized military authority based on resource-deficient islands, which compelled it to seek resources from the littorals. This economic dependency paved the way for the souring relationships with all three land-based states. Dongjiang failed to live up to Ming expectations of being a functional force against the Manchus. Its continued existence overburdened Chosŏn and stood in the way of Manchu conquest and incurred Manchu attack in 1637. In 1638, at the behest of the Ming court, all the personnel in Dongjiang moved to mainland China, marking the organization’s end. This dissertation reveals the multilayered connections between Dongjiang and the surrounding states. These connections show that Dongjiang formed one integral part of a much larger conflict—the Ming-Qing conflict— that involved three land-based powers in Northeast Asia, namely Ming, Chosŏn, and the Manchus.

Item Media

Item Citations and Data


Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International