Gui Wang: the Yongli Emperor



In the Fall of 1651, a renewed Manchu offensive out of XX forced the Court to leave Naning. Choices of where to go were limited. To the south, Vietnam would have provided a safe refuge, but to leave China would be essentially to abandon the cause, a step noone was prepared to take. Keng x x would have gladly offered the Emperor refuge with his fleet. But that would have restricted Yongli's influence almost entirely to coastal areas, and cut him off from the bulk of the forces still fighting in his name. To the North and West lay the domains of Sun Kewang, who was even then expanding out of his Yunnan power base into Guizhong, Sichuan and western Huguang.

Sun's high handed behavior and arrogance was not reassuring. But he had sworn allegiance to the Ming cause, and was actively in the field campaigning successfully against the Manchus. He looked to be on the verge of driving the foreigners entirely out of the southwestern provinces. Perhaps he could be trusted, influenced, even controlled?

So, through the winter of 1651/2, the Imperial party made its way through the rugged terrain of extreme northwestern Guanxi. The Manchus were hot on their trail, at one point only a day's march behind them. The long caravan of carts bearing all the paraphernalia of the Court was constantly harrassed by bandits and aboriginal hill tribes, and many of the priceless heirlooms of the Ming Dynasty were stolen. Their food supplies had nearly run out when they encountered one of Sun Kewang's generals, who had been sent to watch for them.

The Court was taken first to GGG, where they werte fed and rested. Then the Emperor was told to choose the fifty most irreplaceable members of the Court (his family included) to accompany him on the next leg of the journey. Expecting that all would be reunited shortly in Sun's capital, he complied. But he was not taken to Tunnanfu. Instead, the Imperial party was conducted, under a heavy escort of Sun's mtroops, to Anlung -- an obscure, dreary military post in extreme southwestern Guizhou. There the fifty men and women were packed into a single residence, it was only euphemistically called a "palace."

The Yongli Emperor's solourn in Anlong was to be four long years of suffering, and humiliation. Kept isolated and ill-informed (all communications and emissaries were channelled directly to Sun Kewang), he was treated with ill-concealed contempt by Sun's agents. The Court was provided only rough. local food, and were denied any menial servants. Imperial household and high officials alike had to do their own laundry and prepare their own meals.

Sun Kewang, meanwhile, former bandit chief and Ming Prince of the Blood by reason of extortion, conducted all the affairs of the Dynasty, without regard to the Emperor. In Guiwang, he built himself an ancestral temple, in which were three statues. To one side was Sun's own grandfather, endowed posthumously with Imperial name and titles. To the other side was Sun's adoptive father, the savagely brutal butcher Zhang Xinzhong. And between them none other than Zhu Yuanzhang, the great founder of the Ming Dynasty. Having kidknapped the Ming Emperor and hijacked the Ming Cause, he was now preparing to succeed himself to the Imperial throne.