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Li Zicheng ( ) (September 22, 1606 - 1645), born Lĭ Hóngjī (鴻基), was one of the major figures in the rebellion that brought down the Ming Dynastymarker of China. He proclaimed himself Chuǎng Wáng (闖王), or "The Roaming King".

Biography

Born in Mizhi District (米脂縣), Yan'anmarker Subprefecture (延安府), Li grew up as a shepherd. Li started to learn horseriding and archery at age 20, and also worked in a wine shop and under an ironworker as an apprentice.

According to folklore, in 1630 he was put on public display in an iron collar and shackles for his failure to repay loans to an usurious magistrate, Ai. Ai struck a guard who offered shade and water to Li, whence a group of peasants tore apart Li's shackles, spirited him to a nearby hill, and proclaimed him their leader. Despite having only wooden sticks, Li and his band ambushed police sent against them and obtained their first real weapons. A terrible famine had beset Shaanxi in this time, and in three years, Li gathered more than 20,000 soldiers. The rebels then attacked and killed leading officials (Commander Sun Chanteen) in places in Henanmarker, Shanximarker, and Shaanximarker.

Li Zicheng advocated the slogan of "dividing land equally and abolishing the grain taxes payment system" which won great support of peasants. The song of "Killing cattle and sheep, preparing tasty wine and opening the city gate to welcome Chuang Wang" was widely spread at that time.

The 1642 flood in Kaifengmarker that ended the battle, unknown made by him or the Ming officials killed about a million people. After the battle of Luoyang and Kaifeng, Ming was unable to stop Li Zicheng's rebellion, for most of its army was involved in the battle against Qingmarker (the new ruler after Li Zicheng). Li successfully declared Emperor of Shun Dynasty in Xi'anmarker, Shaanximarker Province.

In April 1644, Li's rebels sacked the Ming capital of Beijing, and the last Ming emperor committed suicide. He proclaimed himself as the Emperor of Shun Dynasty (大順皇帝), that made people called him Shunwang (Thunder/Great King). After his army was defeated on May 27, 1644 by the Manchus and Wu Sangui (also see Battle of Shanhai Pass), Li Zicheng fled Beijing towards his power base in Shaanxi; after a number of defeats, he ultimately died either by committing suicide off of a Lotus tree or was killed by pro-Mingmarker militia during his escape at the age of 40. Some folk tales hold that Li didn't die upon defeat, but instead became a monk.

Li Zicheng historiography

Although the Qingmarker conquest of China was made possible by the Ming Dynasty being weakened by the Li Zicheng rebellion, ironically, official historiography during the Qing Dynasty regarded Li as an illegitimate usurper and bandit. This view sought to discourage and demonize notions of rebellion against the Qing government; the imperial government propagated the view that the Qing Dynasty put an end to the illegitimate rule of Li and restored honor to the empire, thus receiving the Mandate of Heaven to rule China. In 20th century Maoist Chinamarker, the anti-Confucian and radical inclinations of the Communist Party of China viewed Li Zicheng favorably, portraying him as an early revolutionary against feudalism. Yao Xueyin (姚雪垠) wrote the fiction Li Zicheng for 41 years.

Notes

  1. 白愚. 汴围湿襟录
  2. 顾诚. 明末农民战争史, ch.7
  3. 被遗忘了的明末大屠杀(连载)


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