Warfare in Chinese History

By Hans J. Van Der Ven | Go to book overview

MOUNTAIN FORTRESS DEFENCE: THE EXPERIENCE
OF THE SOUTHERN SONG AND KOREA IN RESISTING
HUANG K'UAN-CHUNG
TRANSLATED BY DAVID WRIGHT1

INTRODUCTION

The scale of the wars waged by the Mongols in the thirteenth century was pan-Asian. After his unification of Mongolia, Chinggis khan's (1162–1227) armies swept over Eurasia with unprecedented speed, defeating and scattering all who tried to resist them. The wars launched by the Mongols against Song China and Korea, however, met with ore stubborn resistance. The Song was able to maintain a stalemate vis-à-vis the Jurchen Jin Dynasty (1115–1234) and then resist the Mongol onslaught for forty-five years, from 1234 to 1279, and Korea held out for twenty-seven years, from 1231 to 1258, before finally falling to the Mongols. Both China and Korea thus resisted the Mongols fairly successfully during the thirteenth century.

The essential elements enabling the Chinese in Sichuan and the Koreans to hold out for so long against the Mongols were precipitous riparian topography and the effective use of mountain fortresses (shancheng).2 In Sichuan, Jie's mountain fortress defence system

____________________
1
This article was originally published in Chinese as 'Shancheng Fangyü: Yi Nansong, Gaoli kangyü Menggu de jingjiam wei lie', Zhongguo Shi Yanjiu 1 (Beijing: 1993), 102–12. Since its publication, much research on both Sichuan and Chinese military history has become available. I have therefore attempted to include as much of this new work into the English version of this article as possible. Any oversights on my part are purely unintentional and simply reflect the difficulty of updating research in a rapidly developing field.
2
There were many reasons why the Song empire and Korea were able to resist the Mongols for so long. Before Liu Zheng (1213–1275) proposed expanding the Mongol navy, both the Song and Korea were able to exploit rivers and mountain forts in resisting the Mongols. See Xiao Qiqing, 'Meng-Yüan shuijün zhi xingqi Meng-Song zhanzheng', Meng-Yüan Shi Xinyan (Taibei: Chongchen Wenhua gongsi, 1994), 349–81. For the development of Song-Yüan naval power see Jung-Pang Lo, 'The Emergence of China as a sea power during the Late Song and Early Yüan periods', Far Eastern Quarterly 11:2 (1952), 489–509.

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