Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/Wu San-kuei
WU San-kuei 吳三桂 ( 長伯, 月所 ?), 1612–1678, Oct. 2, general, founder of the short-lived Kingdom of Chou 周 (1673–1681), was a native of Liaotung where his family had migrated from Kao-yu, Kiangsu. His father, Wu Hsiang 吳驤(襄), T. 雨環, (a military chin-shih of 1622, d. 1644), served the Ming House as an officer guarding the frontiers in Liaotung against the Manchus. In 1631 Tsu Ta-shou [q. v.], whose sister was the second wife of Wu Hsiang, was beseiged at Ta-ling-ho and was later forced to surrender to the Manchus. For his failure to go to the aid of Tsu, Wu Hsiang was dismissed from the army. But volunteering in the following year to fight the rebels who were under the leadership of K'ung Yu-tê [q. v.] at Lai-chou, Shantung, he was, after several victories, reinstated and given a minor hereditary rank. Wu San-kuei, having become a military chü-jên, also served in this campaign in Shantung with the rank of major. When Wu Hsiang returned to Liaotung (1634) his son must have gone with him, for in 1637 Wu San-kuei is mentioned in a memorial on military defense as in command of 1, 600 soldiers. Two years later he is referred to as an acting brigade-general in charge of reservist training camps (團練總兵) and in 1640 as full brigade-general at Liaotung (遼東總兵).
In 1644, when Li Tzŭ-ch'êng [q. v.] was pressing on Peking, Emperor I-tsung (see under Chu Yu-chien) designated Wu San-kuei P'ing-hsi po 平西伯 "Earl Who Pacifies the West", and ordered him to come to the rescue of the capital. Wu Hsiang, who had retired in or before 1637, was then living in Peking and was ordered to assist in commanding the local defenders. Wu San-kuei delayed in coming to the rescue of Peking; and, having learned on the way that the city had fallen to the rebels, turned back to Shanhaikuan, perhaps to await developments. It is commonly believed that he was about to surrender to Li Tzŭ-ch'êng who was holding his father (Wu Hsiang) as a hostage. But after learning that the rebel leader had taken his favorite concubine, Ch'ên Yüan 陳沅 or Ch'ên Yüan-yüan 陳圓圓, he decided to oppose him. Li personally led an army eastward to subdue Wu, thus practically driving him into the arms of Dorgon [q. v.], the Manchu regent, who was stationed with his army not far from Shanhaikuan. Wu besought the aid of Dorgon against the rebel and, for such aid, promised him additional territory. But Dorgon preferred to take advantage of the situation to effect the conquest of China—which had been his purpose in camping near the border. Pressed from both sides, Wu chose to surrender to the Manchus, and in return was invested by Dorgon with the title, "Prince Who Pacifies the West". They met east of Shanhaikuan on May 27, 1644, and in a few days their combined forces routed Li's large army in several engagements. As Li was retreating towards Peking he had Wu Hsiang and his entire family executed. Seeing the futility of defending Peking, however, Li evacuated it on June 4, 1644, and two days later Dorgon entered. In October, after Emperor Shih-tsu and the Manchu government had been transferred to Peking, the title, "Prince Who Pacifies the West", which had been conferred an Wu, was finally confirmed. At this time a message came from Chu Yu-sung [q. v.], the Ming prince at Nanking, conferring on Wu San-kuei the rank of Duke of Chi (薊國公), but Wu declined it.
For nearly thirty years Wu San-kuei fought for the cause of the Manchus and served them as an official. In 1644 he accompanied Ajige [q. v.] in pursuit of Li Tzŭ-ch'êng to Shensi, Honan, and finally to Hupeh. After Li's death Ajige and Wu sailed down the Yangtze River to Kiangsi and returned to Peking in September 1645. For his share in these exploits, Wu was granted the title of Ch'in-wang 親王 or prince of the blood of the first degree, and was ordered to station his soldiers at Chinchow. However, not long after he arrived at the garrison post, he asked to be relieved of the title, Ch'in-wang, and his request was granted. In 1647 K'ung Yu-tê, Kêng Chung-ming, Shang K'o-hsi [qq. v.]—the three Ming generals who had gone over to the Manchus in 1633—were sent to South China to war against the Ming prince, Chu Yu-lang [q. v.]. Wu asked to be sent to active duty also, and in 1648 he was transferred with his men to Hanchung, Shensi, where he quelled several local uprisings, occasionally advancing into Szechwan to fight against the Ming troops. Successful in several battles, he was given, in 1652, an increase in salary. Meanwhile his eldest son, Wu Ying-hsiung 吳應熊 (d. 1674), was created a viscount of the third class and married Princess K'o-ch'un (恪純公主, 1642–1705?), the youngest half-sister of Emperor Shih-tsu.
The war against the Southern Ming troop. took a sharp turn in 1657 when Sun K'o-wang [q. v.] surrendered to Hung Ch'êng-ch'ou [q. v.] in Changsha, Hunan. Invested with the title "Generalissimo Who Pacifies the West" (平西大將軍), Wu San-kuei was ordered to lead an army from Szechwan to Kweichow where two other armies were to join him, one from Hunan, the other from Kwangsi. After the fall of Kweiyang (Kweichow) these armies advanced on Yunnanfu where Chu Yu-lang had established his Court. Early in 1659 the latter was forced to seek refuge in Burma with Li Ting-kuo [q. v.], after which the entire province of Yunnan was pacified. At the suggestion of Hung Ch'êng-ch'ou, Wu was given both civil and military control of that province. Early in 1661 he led an army into Burma, defeated Li Ting-kuo, and advanced within sixty li of Mandalay, then the Burmese capital. The Burmese were forced to surrender Chu Yu-lang and his followers. Chu was escorted to Yunnan, and there was put to death by strangling. With the collapse of the Ming regime, Wu was again promoted to the rank of Ch'in-wang, his jurisdiction extending to Kweichow. He engaged in several successful campaigns against hostile aborigines, confiscated their lands, and established a number of new magistracies. His revenues increased, as did also his fame as a feudal lord.
Meanwhile Shang K'o-hsi in Kwangtung and Kêng Ching-chung [q. v.] in Fukien enjoyed almost the same privileges as Wu San-kuei. Sun Yen-ling [q. v.] and his wife (daughter of K'ung Yu-tê) succeeded K'ung as heads of the government of Kwangsi. Of these four feudatories, that of Wu was by far the most powerful. By 1660 his army cost the national treasury more than nine million taels annually. When the Board of Revenue recommended the disbandment of some of his forces, he found ample excuse for retaining them, either by initiating a campaign into Burma or by fighting aboriginal tribes. Meanwhile he built palaces for himself, increased taxes, established monopolies on salt wells, gold and copper mines, and on the trade in ginseng and rhubarb. He also carried on a prosperous trade with the Tibetans. As his wealth increased, the number of ambitious and talented men in various fields who were attracted to his service increased also. Before long, his appointments had to be regarded as valid, even though the Board of Civil Office had already appointed others. This power, which came to be known as Hsi-hsüan 西選, "Selection by the Pacificator of the West," gave him control not merely of Yunnan and Kweichow but virtually also of Hunan, Szechwan, Shensi and Kansu. In 1667 he sent up his resignation to the throne on grounds of old age and weakening eyesight. The Court in Peking decided to accept it, but was forced to reconsider on the unanimous plea of the higher officials of Yunnan and Kweichow. By this time the annual expense of Wu's armies reached twenty million taels and, to cover it, funds had to be taken from the revenues of Kiangnan.
In 1673 Shang K'o-hsi, forced by the unruliness of his son, Shang Chih-hsin [q. v.], memorialized the throne of his desire to pass his last days in Liaotung. Not only was his request granted, but his feudatory in Kwangtung was abolished, and all the soldiers under his command were ordered to be transferred. Prior to the execution of this order Wu San-kuei and Kêng Ching-chung had submitted similar memorials as 'feelers'. Officials in Peking were divided into two factions—those favorable to the abolition of the feudatories, and those opposed. The former group won; although in the minority, they were led by Mingju and Misḥan [q. v.], and had the youthful Emperor Shêng-tsu on their side. Fully conscious of the import of this decision, Wu set up the standard of revolt on December 28, 1673, murdering the officials opposed to him, including Chu Kuo-chih, the governor (see under Yeh Fang-ai and Chin Jên-jui). Calling his dynasty Chou, and styling himself commander-in-chief of all the armies of the country (天下都招討兵馬大元帥) he ordered the restoration of Ming customs and ceremonies. Early in 1674 his armies occupied Kweichow and Hunan, and he himself went to Ch'ang-tê, Hunan, to direct the campaign.
If Wu had hurried northward, it is possible that his revolt would have been successful. Instead he lingered in Hunan during the first few months of 1674, perhaps in the hope of sparing the life of his son, Wu Ying-hsiung, who was detained as a hostage in Peking. He addressed a memorial to Emperor Shêng-tsu, declaring his intention of restoring the Ming regime, and even promised him the whole of Korea if he would consent to lead the Manchus back to Manchuria. Infuriated, the Emperor ordered the execution (1674) of Wu Ying-hsiung, and thereupon Wu declared war. But it was too late—his delay afforded the Manchus time to concentrate troops on the northern bank of the Yangtze River in Hupeh, and so stem his northward push. Nevertheless, not a few generals in Szechwan, Kwangsi, and Fukien came to his aid. A detachment went to Kiangsi and occupied a number of cities. The allegiance of Wang Fu-ch'ên [q. v.] brought the northwestern provinces to Wu's aide, and although Wu did not win a decisive battle, he held his ground in Hunan duiring 1675. Early in 1676 Shang Chih-hsin [q. v.] joined the rebellion and took reinforcements from Kwangtung to Kiangsi. But with the surrender of Wang Fu-ch'ên to the Manchus in Kansu, and of Kêng Ching-chung in Fukien, the tide turned. Before long Shang Chih-hsin also surrendered (1677), and Sun Yen-ling would have followed suit if he had not been murdered by Wu's men. In 1677 Wu suffered several reverses in Kiangsi and Hunan. Retreating to Hêng-chou, Hunan, he proclaimed himself Emperor of the Chou Dynasty on March 23, 1678, with the reign-title Chao-wu 昭武. But the situation grew increasingly unfavorable to him. Five and a half months later he died of dysentery. His eldest grandson, Wu Shih-fan 吳世璠, son of Wu Ying-hsiung, having been given the designation T'ai-sun 太孫 "Imperial Eldest Grandson," ruled from Yunnanfu; and, beginning in 1679, took the reign title Hung-hua 洪化. By this time Wu Shih-fan's authority extended only to Yunnan, Kweichow and parts of Hunan, Szechwan and Kwangsi. Late in 1679 Kwangsi went over to the Ch'ing side, and early in 1680 Szechwan was taken by Chao Liang-tung [q. v.], a Ch'ing general. The latter marched on Kweiyang, while Jangtai [q. v.] advanced from Hunan, and Laita (see under Gubadai) from Kwangsi. The pacification of Kweichow in 1681 confined Wu Shih-fan entirely to Yunnan. Beseiged in his capital for several months, he finally committed suicide (Dec. 7, 1681), thus ending the rebellion begun by Wu San-kuei eight years earlier. In Chinese accounts this war is known as San-fan chih luan 三藩之亂 the "War of the Three Feudatories," the leaders being Kêng Ching-chung, Shang Chih-hsin, and Wu San-kuei.
After the war, most of the officials who had served under Wu, and were later forced to surrender, were executed. A few military officers who had surrendered earlier were highly honored. For example, Lin Hsing-chu (see under Pengcun), who surrendered in 1678, was made a marquis and later served in the war against the Russians at Albazin.
A painting depicting Wu San-kuei in Ming costume, watching a quail-fight, is preserved in the Palace Museum, Peiping. Before proclaiming himself Emperor Wu San-kuei issued copper cash bearing the reign-title Li-yung 利用. Later he and his grandson issued coins with the respective reign-titles, Chao-wu and Hung-hua (see above). As to Ch'ên Yüan, it is said that she accompanied Wu to Yunnan, but in later years became a nun.
[1/480/1a; 2/80/1a, translated by E. Hauer under the title "General Wu San-kuei," in Asia Major, IV, 4, pp. 563–611, 1927; Wei Yüan [q. v.] Shêng-wu chi (1846) 2/1a-18b, translated by E. Haenisch under the title "Bruchstücke aus der Geschichte Chinas Unter der Mandschu-Dynastie," in T'oung Pao (1913), pp. 1–123 with bibliography, notes, and maps; P'ing-ting san-ni fang-lüeh (see under Han T'an) in Ssŭ-k'u ch'üan-shu chên-pên ch'u-chi (see under Chi Yün); Ming Ch'ing shih-liao (see under Hung Ch'êng-ch'ou) 1930–31, pp. 7, 9, 24, 723, 783, 862, 944, 968; Ch'ing san-fan shih-liao (Materials on the War of the Three Feudatories) in Wên-hsien ts'ung-pien tsêng-k'an (see bibl. under Li Fu), issues for 1931–32; Chu Hsi-tsu, "Some Explanations of Wu San-kuei's Chou Regime" in Academia Sinica (Bulletin of the National Research Institute of History and Philosophy), vol. 2, no. 4 (1932), pp. 393–401; 故宮 Ku-kung, no. 2 (Oct. 1929); Kunming hsien-chih (1901) 10/11a; W.M.S.C.K. chüan 14; Ross, John The Manchus (1880), pp. 195–210, 417–461.]