China Marches West: The Qing Conquest of Central Eurasia

By Peter C. Perdue | Go to book overview

5

Eating Snow: The End
of Galdan, 1690–1697

During the six years between his first and second campaigns, the emperor shored up his defenses and planned to isolate Galdan from potential allies. Galdan, for his part, aimed to win back the Khalkhas who had surrendered to Kangxi, recover his strength far from the border, and ensure support from the Dalai Lama. Tibet became a primary focus of rivalry. The emperor tried to cut off communication routes between Galdan and Tibet running through Hami and Xining. Galdan, in turn, tried to cut contact between Kangxi and Tsewang Rabdan, because the emperor aimed to use Galdan's nephew against him at his rear. Both rulers publicly professed their dedication to peaceful relations while each plotted against the other.

Kangxi began to recognize the severe supply problems that prevented him from pursuing Galdan to his lair. He had vowed to "exterminate Galdan root and branch," but he could not reach him in distant Khobdo. He could only act defensively, until either his logistical foundations were more secure or Galdan could be lured into a closer attack. The first steps toward building the giant logistical network that culminated in Qianlong's campaigns of the 1750s began during this period. Likewise, the "fatal individualism," or divisions between the Zunghar and Khalkha Mongols, and within the Zunghars themselves, prevented any joint action by them against the Qing regime.1 These divisions, arising in the 1690s, ultimately caused the destruction of the Zunghar people in the mid-eighteenth century.

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