Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/Tsu Ta-shou

TSU Ta-shou 祖大壽 (T. 復宇), d. 1656, Ming general, was a native of Liaotung. In 1620, when he was a major in charge of one of the fortresses in that district, he received with others special commendation from the generalissimo, Hsiung T'ing-pi [q. v.]. In 1620 he was transferred to army headquarters at Kuang-ning, under the command of Wang Hua-chên [q. v.]. When this city fell to the Manchus in March 1622, Tsu retired to the island of Chüeh-hua, just off the coast, to defend the granaries. Shortly afterwards, he was ordered to assist in the fortification and defense of Ning-yuan, and was in the latter city in 1626 when the Manchus attacked. Tsu and Yüan Ch'ung-huan [q. v.] successfully held Ning-yüan, employing "foreign" cannon (see under Sun Yüan-hua) to devastate the enemy, but Manchu raiding parties meanwhile overran the island, causing heavy casualties. In the following year (1627) Ning-yüan was again attacked by the Manchus, but without success. In 1628 Tsu was advanced by the emperor to the post of brigade-general of the Frontline Troops with headquarters at Chinchou. In 1630 he recovered Luan-chou which had recently been captured by the Manchus, causing the retirement of Amin [q. v.] from Yung-p'ing. When he was inspecting the fortifications of Ta-ling-ho in 1631, the city was surrounded by Manchu forces. Tsu held it through a siege of eighty days, from September 2, to November 21, under appalling conditions of famine and misery. When he finally surrendered, with two-thirds of the population dead, he asked guarantees for the safety of his wife and family, then in Chin-chou. Abahai [q. v.] received him in audience with all courtesy, and suggested that he prepare a plan for taking the city. Tsu thereupon proposed that he himself should simulate a retreat toward Chin-chou, and after being received into the city, should attempt to hand it over. Although recognizing the possibility of duplicity, Abahai determined to adopt this plan, and on November 22, Tsu was permitted to "escape" to Chin-chou. His sons who remained with the Manchus were treated with the utmost consideration.

Tsu stayed in Chin-chou for the next ten years, either unable or unwilling to carry out the plan for handing over the city. Although at first suspected by the other generals, he was in complete command by the year 1635. To communications from Abahai reminding him of his promises he returned no answer, continuing to repel attacks of the Manchus, and defeating Dodo [q. v.] at Chung-hou-so in 1638. The Manchus settled down in 1641, after earlier unsuccessful attempts, to a determined siege of Chin-chou. With the help of propaganda they brought about the defection of the Mongol troops associated with the Chinese, and gained entrance to the outer city. Tsu, however, continued to hold the citadel, even against the pleading of his own sons who had risen to high positions on the Manchu side. After withstanding the siege for a year, he was convinced by news of the fall of Sung-shan (see under Hung Ch'êng-ch'ou), on March 19, 1642, of the hopelessness of his position, and on April 8 he surrendered. Having respect for Tsu's fidelity to the Ming cause, Abahai received him again with courtesy and consideration, attaching him to the Chinese division of the Plain Yellow Banner of which two of Tsu's sons were leading officers. Tsu appears to have taken little part in subsequent affairs. He died in Peking and was buried with honors. Several members of his family held hereditary ranks, two of them becoming viscounts.


[1/240/15b; 2/78/37b; Hauer, Erich, Huang-Ts'ing k'ai-kuo fang-lüeh, pp. 261–84, 376 f, 511–543, et passim.]

George A. Kennedy