Wan-li: Year 21, Month 1, Day 6

6 Feb 1593

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The Censor-in-Chief Xiao Yan, supreme commander of Guang-dong/Guang-xi, memorialized: "Siam is situated far to the West and it is over 10,000 li from there to Japan. Recently, their [Siam's] tribute envoy submitted a request to the Ministry of War, noting that they wished to demonstrate their loyalty to the Emperor by assisting the state. The Ministry of War re-submitted the request, noting that they should be ordered to despatch troops to directly attack Japan. However, considering the length of the sea journey and the unpredictable nature of the yi, the request should be denied." The Ministry of War deliberated and noted: "The kanpaku (關白) has usurped power with his bandit followers, acted in debauched, tyrannical and brutal ways and brow-beaten the various states. He has now also occupied Korea and is secretly planning to attack China's inner territory. This has brought troubles to the Imperial army. The anger of the tribute envoy from Siam at these evil actions manifested both the loyalty of those who wish to assist the state, and the righteousness of those who demonstrate sympathy for neighbours. We especially requested that they be required to send troops, firstly in order to encourage the distant states and, secondly, in order to bring the Japanese forces under control. The writers on military strategy have noted many aspects in which mistakes can be made, but they have never noted one of these as being a situation where great and dignified China relies on the strength of the yi from the islands. Imperial orders should be sent praising their loyalty and righteousness and advising respect for their motives. We should wait until the supreme commander has deliberated, obtain his reply and then promulgate the orders. A thorough understanding and far-sightedness is where majesty lies. Now, the supreme commander is guarding the distant Southern border, and he is cognizant of the appropriate actions in respect of the maritime countries. He should be ordered to handle matters as proposed in the memorial. The recruitment officials (號召官員) which this ministry has already despatched should heed his deliberations in respect of whether to proceed or halt. If they have already reached that country, we should send a loyal and courageous interpreter to transmit orders instructing the king of the country of Siam to respectfully observe the Imperial orders, ready his naval forces, and return a memorial of advice. He should wait until Imperial orders arrive, and then respectfully implement them." This was approved.

Shen-zong: juan 256.1b-2a

Zhong-yang Yan-jiu yuan Ming Shi-lu, volume 107, page 4752/53

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Preferred form of citation for this entry:

Geoff Wade, translator, Southeast Asia in the Ming Shi-lu: an open access resource, Singapore: Asia Research Institute and the Singapore E-Press, National University of Singapore, http://epress.nus.edu.sg/msl/reign/wan-li/year-21-month-1-day-6, accessed January 17, 2021


The "Kampaku" mentioned in this entry is the Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1536-1598), one of the warlords who unified Japan at the end of the 16th c. In 1592, he launched an attack to Korea, with the ultimate goal of conquering China, and perhaps even India. This fact is proved by some letters he personally wrote during the 1590's, and it is interesting how Ming intelligence was aware of Hideyoshi's ultimate goal already in 1593. Hideyoshi, who never went to Korea, died in 1598. His men, by then stalmated in the South of the Korean peninsula, returned immediately to Japan after seven years of frustrating attempts to submit the local populace. The intervention of the Ming Celestial Army was crucial in repelling the invasion, while the Korean contributed to the defense of their country with successful guerrilla-style attacks both on the land and at sea.

Details on the title "Kampaku" (=Imperial Regent) and about the campaign in Korea can be found in "Hideyoshi," by Elizabeth Berry, 1982; the letters discussing Hideyoshi's ambitions are translated into English in "101 Letters of Hideyoshi," by Adriana Boscaro, 1975.
The campaign in Korea is treated by Jurgis Elisonas in "Japan’s Relationship with China and Korea" in The Cambridge History of Japan, Vol. IV.
As an undergraduate, I wrote a short paper which can be of interest as a simple introduction to this topic. It is still available online at: http://www.samurai-archives.com/hak.html
More sources (Japanese diaries, Korean sources) can be easily found.

Best Regards, and THANK YOU for this fantastic resource you are sharing.
Cesare Polenghi,