Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/Kao Chieh

KAO Chieh 高傑 (T. 英吾), d. 1645, Feb. 9?, bandit chief (as such called 翻山鷂), and later Ming loyalist, was a native of Mi-chih, Shensi, home of the rebel Li Tzŭ-ch'êng [q. v.], with whom, as co-leader, he pillaged throughout their native province. The siege of Lung-chou, Shensi, in which Kao was engaged in 1634 lasted so long that Li suspected Kao of having made a secret alliance with Ho Jên-lung 賀人龍, lieutenant colonel of the garrison of that city. In the meantime Kao became intimate with Li's wife (née Hsing 邢); and both, fearing revenge, fled to the camp of Ho, where Kao surrendered (1635). Kao assisted Ho in many campaigns against bandits until 1642 when Ho was executed by order of Sun Ch'uan-t'ing 孫傳庭 (T. 伯雅 or 百雅, chin-shih of 1619, d. 1643, age 51 sui), governor-general of Shensi. Soon thereafter, in recognition of his loyalty to the Ming cause, Kao was promoted to the rank of major, and then to that of assistant brigade-general (1643). He led the vanguard of Sun's army against the forces of Li Tzŭ-ch'êng, but the latter's rebellion was rapidly gaining strength, and late in 1643 Kao suffered a serious defeat at the battle of Tung-kuan where his commander, Sun Ch'uan-t'ing, was killed. In the following year Kao, as brigade-general, was sent to check the forces of Li Tzŭ-ch'êng in their march from southwestern Shansi toward the capital, but he proceeded southeast toward Tsê-chou, Shansi, plundering as he went.

After the overthrow of the Ming power in the north the Prince of Fu (see under Chu Yu-sung) set up his court at Nanking, and Kao Chieh, together with Huang Tê-kung, Liu Tsê-ch'ing, and Liu Liang-tso [qq. v.] were appointed Four Guardian Generals (四鎮). Kao Chieh was assigned to Yangchow, with the title of Earl of Hsing-p'ing (興平伯). But the people of Yangchow, fearing pillage and exploitation at the hands of Kao's army, closed the gates of the city against him, and for more than a month resisted his attack. Outside the walls Kao allowed his troops to plunder the countryside at will. Finally, on the verge of discontinuing the siege, Kao was persuaded by Shih K'o-fa [q. v.] to transfer his headquarters from Yangchow to the nearby city of Kua-chou. There had been a bitter struggle between Kao and Huang Tê-kung over the command of the wealthy city of Yangchow, and this circumstance added to Kao's chagrin in giving it up. But Shih K'o-fa's extraordinary generosity toward Kao, added to the persuasions of Kao's wife who since her elopement had become a loyal helpmeet, finally assuaged his wrath, and he was induced, instead, to launch an expedition in the hope of making the Yellow River the northern boundary of the Ming domain. In February 1645 he was received by Hsü Ting-kuo 許定國(d. 1646, age 71 sui), a brigade-general in Honan. Hsü had incurred Kao's wrath by referring to the latter, in a memorial, as a bandit, and Kao's animosity was augmented by a rumor that Hsü was in collusion with the Ch'ing army. Fearing Kao's revenge, Hsü made a pretense of loyalty; and Kao, relenting toward his former enemy, accepted an invitation to Hsü's residence at Suichou. Here after a banquet Kao was killed as he slept. According to some accounts he was murdered by Hsü in revenge for having cruelly annihilated Hsü's entire family when as bandit chieftain he had plundered Hsü's native place. Kao's death made revival of the Ming cause more hopeless than ever, and is said to have been greatly deplored by Shih K'o-fa. Kao was posthumously given by the southern Ming court the honorary title, Grand Guardian of the Heir Apparent.


[M.1/273/19a; M.35/13/6a; M.56/0/1b; M.59/ 21/5b; 明季南略 Ming-chi nan-lüeh 3/9b, 7/7a; 鹿樵紀聞 Lu ch'iao chi-wên 上/13a.]

Tomoo Numata