Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/Li Ch'êng-liang

LI Ch'êng-liang 李成梁 (T. 汝器 or 汝契, H. 銀[寅]城), Aug. 21, 1526–1618, Ming general, was a native of T'ieh-ling, Liaotung. His ancestor in the fifth generation, Li Ying-ni 李膺尼, was a Korean who moved to T'ieh-ling in the early Ming period from a town on the south bank of the Yalu River. The latter's son, Li Ying 李英, was made hereditary secretary of the garrison at T'ieh-ling and became the recognized founder of the clan. Li Ying had five sons, each of whom founded his own branch of the clan. The eldest grandson, Li Ch'un-mei 李春美, succeeded to the hereditary secretaryship, and his descendants prospered in the Ming period. Another branch, founded by Li Ch'un-mao 李春茂, achieved fame in the Ch'ing period.

Li Ch'êng-liang was the eldest of four grandsons of Li Ch'un-mei. Owing to poverty he could not afford to pay the expenses attendant on the succession to the family rank, and so remained a hsiu-ts'ai until he was about forty sui. This, however, did not impede his official career, for he continued in service for more than thirty years. About 1565 he was helped financially by a censor who was inspecting his district, and finally he went to Peking to register his claims. After succeeding to the military rank he began to serve in the army, and in a few years became a lieutenant colonel in command of a fort in Liaotung. In 1567, for his help in warding off the invading Mongols at Yung-pʻing, he was advanced to an assistant brigade general in the garrison at Liaoyang; and in 1570 rose to be commander of that garrison. For taking the stronghold of Wang Kao of Chien-chou (see under Nurhaci) in 1573, he was given the title, Commander in Chief of the Left Army (左軍都督府左都督), and the rank of brigade general. When Wang Kao was captured, in 1575, Li was given the title of Grand Guardian of the Heir Apparent and a minor hereditary rank. For repeatedly defeating the Tumet Mongols at Chin-chou and elsewhere, he was created an earl (1579), with the designation, Ning-yüan Po 寧遠伯. A year later, for defeating an invasion by the Chien-chou Ju-chên (Manchus, see under Nurhaci), the earldom was made hereditary.

In the following eleven years (1580–91) Li Ch'êng-liang defended Liaotung against repeated attacks by the Tumet Mongols on the north and west, and occasional raids by the Ju-chên tribes on the east. In 1582 he took the stronghold of Wang Kao's son, Atai (see under Nurhaci) and in the encounter killed a number of Chien-chou chiefs, including the father and grandfather of Nurhaci [q. v.]. In 1584 he killed two chiefs of the Yehe tribe (see under Yangginu), and in 1588 temporarily subdued the Yehe. For these and other exploits he was rewarded with increased stipends and with elevation of the ranks of his sons and nephews. In time he and his family became very powerful and his sons held high military posts in Peking and the provinces. But he himself is reported to have become gradually less energetic in suppressing the border tribes, and tried to appease them; he would make harmless raids into enemy territory, kill a few civilians on the way, and report victories. For this he was frequently denounced by censors, but was always cleared by high civil officials who protected him. To appease his adversaries he several times requested that his power be lessened or that he himself be removed, but without avail. Finally, in 1591, he was accused of falsifying military reports, but the accusation was dropped. He pleaded illness, and later in that year was allowed to retire to his house in Peking which the emperor had given him in 1582. There he lived quietly for ten years, during which time the defenses in Liaotung were weakened by frequent change of commanders, among them two of his five sons (see below). In 1601 he was recalled from retirement to resume, at seventy-six sui, his post as brigade general of Liaotung. He served there for seven years more and witnessed the gradual expansion of Chien-chou under Nurhaci whose life he had spared in 1583. According to some accounts, Nurhaci owed to Li not only his life but much of his early education in military affairs. At any rate, Li made possible Nurhaci's initiation into the rights and powers of a tribal chief of Chien-chou, and Li saw Nurhaci occupy territory which he himself had once controlled. He could not, however, foresee what great power Nurhaci would ultimately wield. After his rank was raised to Grand Tutor Li again retired to Peking where he lived until his death at the age of ninety-three (sui).

Of Li Ch'êng-liang's five sons, all of whom held high military posts and owed their start in life to their father's fame, the eldest, Li Ju-sung 李如松 (T. 子茂, H. 仰城, 1549–1598), stood out as a brave soldier. In 1592 he was commander-in-chief of the armies in Shensi which subdued the rebellion of a Mongol chief at Ninghsia. After some hard fighting the rebellion was suppressed and Li Ju-sung was ordered to go immediately to Korea to resist the Japanese invaders. He reached there early in 1593 and helped gradually to liberate most of that country. Late in that year he made a truce with the Japanese who held the southern seacoast of Korea, and he withdrew most of his forces early in 1594. In 1598 he served as brigade general of Liaotung and was killed in action with the Tumet Mongols. He was canonized as Chung-lieh 忠烈 and was posthumously given the rank of Ning-yüan Po.

The post of brigade-general of Liaotung was then given to Li Ch'êng-liang's fifth son, Li Ju-mei 李如梅 (T. 子清, H. 方城), who held it until he was superseded in 1618 by Li Ch'êng-liang's second son, Li Ju-po 李如柏 (T. 子貞, H. 肖城, 1553–1621). The latter had fought in the war against the Japanese in Korea (1593), and had served for some time as brigade-general of Kweichow and later of Ninghsia. After a retirement of more than twenty years he was recalled to service. In 1619 he was in command of one of the four armies under Yang Hao [q. v.] in the disastrous invasion of the territory of Nurhaci. After his defeat he was put in prison awaiting trial, and there he committed suicide. His younger brother, Li Ju-chên 李如楨 (T. 景城, d. 1631), the third son of Li Ch'êng-liang, was appointed brigade-general in command of the forces in Liaotung. In 1619 Li Ju-chên was accused of cowardice for failure to rescue his ancestral home, T'ieh-ling, from the onslaught of Nurhaci, and was sentenced to imprisonment awaiting execution. Thus ended the continuous domination of the military power in Liaotung by Li Ch'êng-liang and his family, after a tenure of some fifty years. When the inheritor of the earldom, Li Tsun-tsu 李遵祖, a grandson of Li Ju-sung, was killed in 1644 at the fall of Peking, Li Ch'êng-liang's branch of the family was no longer powerful.

In the Ch'ing period the descendants of the above-mentioned Li Ch'un-mao gained prominence, but his branch of the family lost heavily in 1619 when T'ieh-ling fell to the Manchus. Ten men and six women lost their lives, some of the younger men being spared to serve under the Manchus. Contrary to custom, these men not only did not avenge the death of their forebears but served the Manchus vigorously and rose to be high officials. Li Ssŭ-chung 李思忠 (T. 葵陽, 1595–1657), a grandnephew of Li Ch'êng-liang, was captured by the Manchus in 1618. A year later his parents were killed by the Manchus, but he continued to serve them, and in 1621 brought many of his clansmen over to Nurhaci's side. He became a baron in 1631, and a member of the Chinese Plain Yellow Banner in 1642. In 1644 he followed Dodo [q. v.] to conquer China, and from 1646 to 1654 served as commander of the army in Shensi. His third son, Li Hsien-tsu 李顯祖 (T. 亢宗, 1633–1675, Manchu name 塞白理), served as provincial commander-in-chief of Kwangtung (1667–69) and of Chekiang (1669–75). The rank of baron was inherited by Li Hsien-tsu's branch of the family. Li Ssŭ-chung's second son, Li Yin-tsu 李蔭祖 (T. 繩武, 1629–1664), served from the age of twenty-six to thirty-two (sui) as governor-general of Chihli, Honan and Shantung (1654–58), and of Hupeh and Hunan (1658–60). He left a collection of memorials, entitled 總督奏議 Tsungtu tsou-i, 6 chüan, printed in 1680 (a copy of this work is in the Library of Congress). His son, Li Ping 李鈵 (T. 長源, 1647–1704), helped to transport grain to Mongolia in 1696 (see under Yü Ch'êng-lung, 1638–1700) and served as governor of Shantung (1698–1700). Li Yin-tsu's cousin, Li Hui-tsu 李輝祖 (T. 元美, H. 蒲陽, 1631–1702), rose to be governor-general of Hupeh and Hunan (1698–99). Many other members of this branch of the Li family held high offices under the Manchus.

One member of this family became a famous poet and writer, namely Li K'ai 李鍇 (T. 鐵君, 眉山, H. 廌青山人, 焦明子, b. 1686), a son of Li Hui-tsu. He took the special examination of 1736 (see under Liu Lun) but failed to pass. He and his wife, a daughter of Songgotu [q. v.], led a quiet life in or near Peking, writing poems or entertaining friends. He left a work on ancient history, entitled 尚史 Shang-shih, 70 + 4 chüan, printed in 1814, and a collection of poems, entitled 含中集 Han-chung chi, 5 chüan, which was later re-edited and printed under the title, 睫巢集 Chieh-ch'ao chi, 6 + 1 chüan. In 1934 the Han-chung chi was printed (from an old manuscript) in the Liao-hai ts'ung-shu (see under Shêng-yü) together with a collection of the author's short works in prose, entitled 李鐵君文鈔 Li T'ieh-chün wên-ch'ao, 2 chüan.


[M.1/238/1a; T'ieh-ling hsien-chih (1917), p. 335; P'êng Sun-i [q. v.], Shan-chung wên-chien lu, 7/6a; Chuang T'ing-lung [q. v.], Ming-shih ch'ao-lüeh; Sonoda Ikki 園田一⿔, 李成梁と其の一族に就て in Tōyō Gakuhō, vol. 26, no. 1, pp. 89–120; 3/152/31a; 3/266/3a; 6/45/14b; Li T'ieh-chün wên-ch'ao, 上/15b.]

Fang Chao-ying