The First Sino-Japanese War (25 July 1894 – 17 April 1895) was fought between the Qing Empire and the Empire of Japan, primarily over influence of Korea. After more than six months of unbroken successes by Japanese land and naval forces and the loss of the port of Weihaiwei, the Qing government sued for peace in February 1895.

The war demonstrated the failure of the Qing Empire's attempts to modernize its military and fend off threats to its sovereignty, especially when compared with Japan's successful Meiji Restoration. For the first time, regional dominance in East Asia shifted from China to Japan;[1] the prestige of the Qing Empire, along with the classical tradition in China, suffered a major blow. The humiliating loss of Korea as a tributary state sparked an unprecedented public outcry. Within China, the defeat was a catalyst for a series of political upheavals led by Sun Yat-sen and Kang Youwei, culminating in the 1911 Xinhai Revolution.

The war is commonly known in China as the War of Jiawu (Chinese: 甲午戰爭; pinyin: Jiǎwǔ Zhànzhēng), referring to the year (1894) as named under the traditional sexagenary system of years. In Japan, it is called the Japan–Qing War (Japanese: 日清戦争, Hepburn: Nisshin sensō). In Korea, where much of the war took place, it is called the Qing–Japan War (Korean: 청일전쟁; Hanja: 淸日戰爭).


After two centuries, the Japanese policy of seclusion under the shōguns of the Edo period came to an end when the country was opened to trade by American intervention in 1854. The years following the Meiji Restoration of 1868 and the fall of the shogunate had seen Japan transform itself from a feudal society into a modern industrial state. The Japanese had sent delegations and students around the world to learn and assimilate Western arts and sciences, with the intention of making Japan an equal to the Western powers.[2] Korea continued to try to exclude foreigners, refusing embassies from foreign countries and firing on ships near its shores. At the start of the war, Japan had the benefit of three decades of reform, leaving Korea outdated and vulnerable.

Conflict over Korea

Satirical drawing in the magazine Punch[3] (29 September 1894), showing the victory of "small" Japan over "large" China

As a newly risen power, Japan turned its attention toward its neighbor, Korea. Japan wanted to block any other power from annexing or dominating Korea, resolving to end the centuries-old Chinese suzerainty. As Prussian advisor Major Klemens Meckel put it to the Japanese, Korea was "a dagger pointed at the heart of Japan".[4] Moreover, Japan realized the potential economic benefits of Korea's coal and iron ore deposits for Japan's growing industrial base, and of Korea's agricultural exports to feed the growing Japanese population.

On February 27, 1876, after several confrontations between Korean isolationists and Japanese, Japan imposed the Japan–Korea Treaty of 1876, forcing Korea open to Japanese trade. Similar treaties were signed between Korea and other nations.

Korea had traditionally been a tributary state of China's Qing Empire, which exerted large influence over the conservative Korean officials who gathered around the royal family of the Joseon kingdom. Opinion in Korea itself was split: conservatives wanted to retain the traditional relationship under China, while reformists wanted to approach Japan and Western nations. After fighting two Opium Wars against the British in 1839 and 1856, and another war against the French in 1885, China was unable to resist the encroachment of Western powers (see Unequal Treaties). Japan saw the opportunity to take China's place in the strategically vital Korea.

1882 crisis

The flight of the Japanese legation in 1882

In 1882, the Korean Peninsula experienced a severe drought which led to food shortages, causing much hardship and discord among the population. Korea was on the verge of bankruptcy, even falling months behind on military pay, causing deep resentment among the soldiers. On July 23, a military mutiny and riot broke out in Seoul in which troops, assisted by the population, sacked the rice granaries. The next morning, the crowd attacked the royal palace and barracks, and then the Japanese legation. The Japanese legation staff managed to escape to Chemulpo and then to Nagasaki aboard the British survey ship HMS Flying Fish.

In response, Japan sent four warships and a battalion of troops to Seoul to safeguard Japanese interests and demand reparations. The Chinese then deployed 4,500 troops to counter the Japanese. However, tensions subsided with the Treaty of Chemulpo, signed on the evening of August 30, 1882. The agreement specified that the Korean conspirators would be punished and 50,000 yen would be paid to the families of slain Japanese. The Japanese government would also receive 500,000 yen, a formal apology, and permission to station troops at their diplomatic legation in Seoul.

Gapsin Coup

In 1884, a group of pro-Japanese reformers briefly overthrew the pro-Chinese conservative Korean government in a bloody coup d'état. However, the pro-Chinese faction, with assistance from Qing forces led by the general Yuan Shikai, succeeded in regaining control in an equally bloody counter-coup. These coups resulted not only in the deaths of a number of reformers, but also in the burning of the Japanese legation and the deaths of several legation guards and citizens. This caused a crisis between Japan and China, which was eventually settled by the Sino-Japanese Convention of Tientsin of 1885, in which the two sides agreed to pull their expeditionary forces out of Korea simultaneously, not send military trainers to the Korean military, and give warning to the other side should one decide to send troops to Korea. Chinese and Japanese troops then left, and diplomatic relations were restored between Japan and Korea.

However, the Japanese were frustrated by repeated Chinese attempts to undermine their influence in Korea. Yuan Shikai remained as "Chinese Resident", in what the Chinese intended as a sort of viceroy role directing Korean affairs. He attempted to encourage Chinese and hinder Japanese trade, though Japan remained Korea's largest trading partner, and his government provided Korea with loans. The Chinese built telegraphs linking Korea to the Chinese network.

Nagasaki incident

The Nagasaki incident was a riot that took place in the Japanese port city of Nagasaki in 1886. Four warships from the Qing Empire's navy, the Beiyang Fleet, stopped at Nagasaki, apparently to carry out repairs. Some Chinese sailors caused trouble in the city and started the riot. Several Japanese policemen confronting the rioters were killed. The Qing government did not apologize after the incident, which resulted in a wave of anti-Chinese sentiment in Japan.

Bean controversy

A poor harvest in 1889 led the governor of Korea's Hamgyong Province to prohibit soybean exports to Japan. Japan requested and received compensation in 1893 for their importers. The incident highlighted the growing dependence Japan felt on Korean food imports.[5]

Kim Ok-gyun affair

Kim Ok-gyun photographed in Nagasaki in 1882. His assassination in China would contribute to tensions leading to the First Sino-Japanese War.

On March 28, 1894, a pro-Japanese Korean revolutionary, Kim Ok-gyun, was assassinated in Shanghai. Kim had fled to Japan after his involvement in the 1884 coup and the Japanese had turned down Korean demands that he be extradited. Ultimately, he was lured to Shanghai, where he was killed by a Korean, Hong Jong-u, at a Japanese inn in the international settlement. His body was then taken aboard a Chinese warship and sent back to Korea, where it was quartered and displayed as a warning to other rebels. The Japanese government took this as an outrageous affront.[6]

Donghak Rebellion

Tension ran high between China and Japan by June 1894 but war was not yet inevitable. On June 4, the Korean king, Gojong, requested aid from the Qing government in suppressing the Donghak Rebellion. Although the rebellion was not as serious as it initially seemed and hence Qing reinforcements were not necessary, the Qing government still sent the general Yuan Shikai as its plenipotentiary to lead 2,800 troops to Korea.[7] According to the Japanese, the Qing government had violated the Convention of Tientsin by not informing the Japanese government of its decision to send troops, but the Qing claimed that Japan had approved this.[8] The Japanese countered by sending an 8,000-troop expeditionary force (the Oshima Composite Brigade) to Korea. The first 400 troops arrived on June 9 en route to Seoul, and 3,000 landed at Incheon on June 12.[9]

However, Japanese officials denied any intention to intervene. As a result, the Qing viceroy Li Hongzhang "was lured into believing that Japan would not wage war, but the Japanese were fully prepared to act".[attribution needed][10] The Qing government turned down Japan's suggestion for Japan and China to cooperate to reform the Korean government. When Korea demanded that Japan withdraw its troops from Korea, the Japanese refused.

In early June 1894, the 8,000 Japanese troops captured the Korean king Gojong, occupied the Royal Palace in Seoul and, by June 25, replaced the existing Korean government with members of the pro-Japanese faction.[9] Even though Qing forces were already leaving Korea after finding themselves unneeded there, the new pro-Japanese Korean government granted Japan the right to expel Qing forces while Japan dispatched more troops to Korea. The Qing Empire rejected the new Korean government as illegitimate.

Status of combatants


Japanese reforms under the Meiji Emperor gave significant priority to the creation of an effective modern national army and navy, especially naval construction. Japan sent numerous military officials abroad for training and evaluation of the relative strengths and tactics of Western armies and navies.

Imperial Japanese Navy

Itō Sukeyuki was the Commander-in-Chief of the Japanese Combined Fleet.
The French-built Matsushima, flagship of the Imperial Japanese Navy during the Sino-Japanese conflict

The Imperial Japanese Navy was modeled after the British Royal Navy,[11] at the time the foremost naval power. British advisors were sent to Japan to train the naval establishment, while Japanese students were in turn sent to Britain to study and observe the Royal Navy. Through drilling and tuition by Royal Navy instructors, Japan developed naval officers expert in the arts of gunnery and seamanship.[12] At the start of hostilities, the Imperial Japanese Navy comprised a fleet of 12 modern warships, (the protected cruiser Izumi being added during the war), eight corvettes, one ironclad warship, 26 torpedo boats, and numerous auxiliary/armed merchant cruisers and converted liners. During peacetime, the warships of the Imperial Japanese Navy were divided among three main naval bases at Yokosuka, Kure and Sasebo and following mobilization, the navy was composed of five divisions of seagoing warships and three flotillas of torpedo boats with a fourth being formed at the beginning of hostilities.[13] The Japanese also had a relatively large merchant navy, which at the beginning of 1894 consisted of 288 vessels. Of these, 66 belonged to the Nippon Yusen Kaisha shipping company, which received national subsidies from the Japanese government to maintain the vessels for use by the navy in time of war. As a consequence, the navy could call on a sufficient number of auxiliaries and transports.[13]

Japan did not yet have the resources to acquire battleships and so planned to employ the Jeune École doctrine, which favoured small, fast warships, especially cruisers and torpedo boats, with guns powerful enough to destroy larger craft. The Japanese naval leadership, on the eve of hostilities, was generally cautious and even apprehensive,[14] as the navy had not yet received the warships ordered in February 1893, particularly the battleships Fuji and Yashima and the protected cruiser Akashi.[15] Hence, initiating hostilities at the time was not ideal, and the navy was far less confident than the army about the outcome of a war with China.[14]

Many of Japan's major warships were built in British and French shipyards (eight British, three French and two Japanese-built) and 16 of the torpedo boats were known to have been built in France and assembled in Japan.

Imperial Japanese Army

Japanese troops during the Sino-Japanese War

The Meiji government at first modeled their army after the French Army. French advisers had been sent to Japan with two military missions (in 1872–1880 and 1884), in addition to one mission under the shogunate. Nationwide conscription was enforced in 1873 and a Western-style conscript army[16] was established; military schools and arsenals were also built. In 1886, Japan turned toward the German-Prussian model as the basis for its army,[16] adopting German doctrines and the German military system and organisation. In 1885 Klemens Meckel, a German adviser, implemented new measures, such as the reorganization of the command structure into divisions and regiments; the strengthening of army logistics, transportation, and structures (thereby increasing mobility); and the establishment of artillery and engineering regiments as independent commands. It was also an army that was equal to European armed forces in every respect.[16]

On the eve of the outbreak of the war with China all men between the ages of 17 and 40 years were eligible for conscription, but only those who turned 20 were to be drafted while those who had turned 17 could volunteer.[16] All men between the ages of 17 and 40, even those who had not received military training or were physically unfit, were considered part of the territorial militia or national guard (kokumin).[16] Following the period of active military service (gen-eki), which lasted for three years, the soldiers became part of the first Reserve (yōbi) and then the second Reserve (kōbi). All young and able-bodied men who did not receive basic military training due to exceptions and those conscripts who had not fully met the physical requirements of military service, became third Reserve (hojū).[16] In the time of war, the first Reserve (yōbi) were to be called up first and they were intended to fill in the ranks of the regular army units. Next to be called up were the kōbi reserve who were to be either used to further fill in the ranks of line units or to be formed into new ones. The hojū reserve members were to be called up only in exceptional circumstances, and the territorial militia or national guard would only be called up in case of an immediate enemy attack on or invasion of Japan.[16]

The country was divided into six military districts, with each being a recruitment area for an square infantry division consisting of two brigades of two regiments.[16] Each of these divisions contained approximately 18,600 troops and 36 artillery pieces when mobilized.[17] There was also an Imperial Guard division which recruited nationally, from all around Japan. This division was also composed of two brigades but had instead two-battalion, not three-battalion, regiments, consequently its numerical strength after mobilization was 12,500 troops and 24 artillery guns.[17] In addition, there were fortress troops consisting of approximately six battalions, the Colonial Corps which was stationed on Hokkaido and the Ryukyu Islands containing about 4,000 troops, and a battalion of military police in each of the districts. In peacetime the regular army had a total of fewer than 70,000 men, while after mobilization the numbers rose to over 220,000.[17] Moreover, the army still had a trained reserve, which, following the mobilization of the first-line divisions, could be formed into reserve brigades. These reserve brigade each consisted of four battalions, a cavalry unit, a company of engineers, an artillery battery and rear-echelon units. They were to serve as recruiting bases for their front-line divisions and could also perform secondary combat operations, and if necessary they could be expanded into full divisions with a total of 24 territorial force regiments. However, formation of these units was hindered by a lack of sufficient amounts of equipment, mainly uniforms.[17]

Japanese troops were equipped with the 8mm single-shot Murata Type 18 breech-loading rifle. The improved five-round-magazine Type 22 was just being introduced and consequently in 1894, on the eve of the war, only the Imperial Guard and 4th Division were equipped with these rifles. The division artillery consisted of 75mm field guns and mountain pieces manufactured in Osaka. The artillery was based on Krupp designs that was adapted by the Italians at the beginning of the 1880s although they could hardly be described as modern in 1894, in general it still matched contemporary battlefield requirements.[17]

By the 1890s, Japan had at its disposal a modern, professionally trained Western-style army which was relatively well equipped and supplied. Its officers had studied in Europe and were well educated in the latest tactics and strategy. By the start of the war, the Imperial Japanese Army could field a total force of 120,000 men in two armies and five divisions.


Empress Dowager Cixi built the Chinese navy in 1888.

The prevailing view in many Western circles was that the modernized Chinese military would crush the Japanese. Observers commended Chinese units such as the Huai Army and Beiyang Fleet.[nb 1] The German General Staff predicted a Japanese defeat and William Lang who was a British advisor to the Chinese military, praised Chinese training, ships, guns, and fortifications, stating that "in the end, there is no doubt that Japan must be utterly crushed".[19]

Imperial Chinese Army

The Qing Dynasty did not have a unified national army, but was made up of three main components, with the so-called Eight Banners forming the elite. The Eight Banners force were segregated along ethnic lines into separate Manchu, Han Chinese, Mongol, Hui (Muslim) and other ethnic formations.[20] Bannermen who made up the Eight Banners got higher pay than the rest of the army while the Manchu received further privileges. In total, there were 250,000 soldiers in the Eight Banners, with over 60 per cent kept in garrisons in Beijing, while the remaining 40 per cent served as garrison troops in other major Chinese cities.[21] The Green Standard Army was a 600,000-strong gendarmarie type force that was recruited from the majority Han Chinese population. Its soldiers were not given any peacetime basic military training, but were expected to fight in any conflict. The third component was an irregular force called the Braves, which were used as a kind of reserve force for the regular army, and which were usually recruited from the more distant or remote provinces of China. They were formed into very loosely organized units from the same province. The Braves were sometimes described as mercenaries, with its volunteers receiving as much military training as their commanders saw fit. With no fixed unit organization, it is impossible to know how many battle-ready Braves there actually were in 1894.[21] There were also other, smaller number of military formations, one of which was the Huai Army which was under the personal authority of Li Hongzhang and were originally created to suppress the Taiping Rebellion. The Huai army had received limited training by Western military advisors,[21] numbering nearly 45,000 troops they were considered the best armed military unit in China.[22]

Although the Chinese had established arsenals to produce firearms, and a large number of them had been imported from abroad, 40 per cent of Chinese troops at the outbreak of the war were not issued with rifles or even muskets.[23] Instead they were armed with a variety of swords, spears, pikes, halberds and bows and arrows.[23] Against well-trained, well armed and disciplined Japanese troops, they would have little chance. Those units that did have firearms were equipped with a heterogeneity of weapons, from a variety of modern rifles to old fashioned muskets; this lack of standardization led to a major problem with the proper supply of ammunition.[24]

The Imperial Chinese Army in 1894 was a heterogeneous mixture of modernized, partly modernized and almost medieval units, which no commander could have led successfully, leading to poor leadership among Chinese officers.[25]Their officers did not know how to handle their troops and the older higher-ranking officers still believed that they could fight a war as they had during the Taiping Rebellion, in 1850-60s.[26] This was also the result of the Chinese military forces being divided into largely independent regional commands. The soldiers were drawn from diverse provinces that had no affinity with each other.[27] The Chinese troops also suffered from poor morale. This was generally very low due to lack of pay, which in most units was not helped by the fact that many of the troops had not been paid for a long time.[26] Low prestige and the use of opium were also another factor, the use of opium and other narcotics was rife throughout the army.[26] Low morale and poor leadership seriously affected the effectiveness of Chinese troops, and contributed to defeats such as the abandonment of the very well-fortified and defensible Weihaiwei. Additionally, military logistics were lacking, as construction of railroads in Manchuria had been discouraged. At the outbreak of the war in 1894, the Huai troops, although they were a small minority in the overall Imperial Chinese Army, were to take part in the majority of the fighting in during the war.[21]

Beiyang Fleet

The Beiyang Fleet was one of the four modernised Chinese navies in the late Qing dynasty. The navies were heavily sponsored by Li Hongzhang, the Viceroy of Zhili who had also created the Huai army. The Beiyang Fleet was the dominant navy in East Asia before the first Sino-Japanese War. The Japanese, themselves, were apprehensive about facing the Chinese fleet especially the two German-built battleships — Dingyuan and Zhenyuan, to which the Japanese had no comparable counterparts.[14] However, China's advantages were more apparent than real as most of the Chinese warships were over-age and obsolescent,[14] the ships were also not maintained properly and indiscipline was common.[28] The greater armor and weight of a single Chinese salvo shell were more than offset by the number of quick-firing guns on most first line Japanese warships, these quick firing gave the Japanese the edge in any sustained exchange of salvos.[14] The worst feature of both Chinese battleships was actually in their main armament, each was armed with short barreled guns in twin barbettes, in echelon, which could fire only in restricted arcs. The short barrels of the main armament meant that the shells had a low muzzle velocity and poor penetration, and their accuracy was also poor at long ranges.[29]

Tactically, Chinese naval vessels entered the war with only the crudest set of instructions — ships that were assigned to designated pairs were to keep together and all ships were to fight end-on, as far forward from the beam as possible, a tactic essentially as a result of the obsolescent arrangement of Chinese naval ordinance.[29] The only vague resemblance of a fleet tactic was that all ships were to follow the visible movements of the flagship, an arrangement made necessary because the signal book used by the Chinese was written in English, a language with which few officers in the Beiyang fleet had any familiarity.[29]

When it was first developed by Empress Dowager Cixi in 1888, the Beiyang Fleet was said to be the strongest navy in Asia. Before her adopted son, Emperor Guangxu, took over the throne in 1889, Cixi wrote out explicit orders that the navy should continue to develop and expand gradually.[30] However, after Cixi went into retirement, all naval and military development came to a drastic halt. Japan’s victories over China has often been falsely rumored to be the fault of Empress Dowager Cixi .[31] Many believed that Cixi was the cause of the navy’s defeat because Cixi embezzled funds from the navy in order to build the Summer Palace in Beijing. However, extensive research by Chinese historians revealed that Cixi was not the cause of the Chinese navy’s decline. In actuality, China’s defeat was caused by Emperor Guangxu’s lack of interest in developing and maintaining the military.[30] His close adviser, Grand Tutor Weng Tonghe, advised Guangxu to cut all funding to the navy and army, because they did not see Japan as a true threat, and there were several natural disasters during the early 1890s which the Emperor thought to be more pressing.[30]

Dingyuan, the flagship of the Beiyang Fleet
Beiyang Fleet Qing dynasty Major combatants
Ironclad battleships Dingyuan (flagship), Zhenyuan
Armoured cruisers King Yuen, Laiyuan
Protected cruisers Chih Yuen, Ching Yuen
Cruisers Torpedo Cruisers – Tsi Yuen, Kuang Ping/Kwang Ping Chaoyong, Yangwei
Coastal warship Pingyuan
Corvette Kwan Chia

13 or so torpedo boats, numerous Gunboats and chartered merchant vessels

Contemporaneous wars fought by the Qing Empire

While the Qing Empire was fighting the First Sino-Japanese War, it was also simultaneously engaging rebels in the Dungan Revolt in northwestern China, where thousands lost their lives. The generals Dong Fuxiang, Ma Anliang and Ma Haiyan were initially summoned by the Qing government to bring the Hui troops under their command to participate in the First Sino-Japanese War, but they were eventually sent to suppress the Dungan Revolt instead.[32]

Early stages

1 June 1894: The Donghak Rebel Army moves toward Seoul. The Korean government requests help from the Qing government to suppress the revolt.

6 June 1894: About 2,465 Chinese soldiers are transported to Korea to suppress the Donghak Rebellion. Japan asserts that it was not notified and thus China has violated the Convention of Tientsin, which requires that China and Japan must notify each other before intervening in Korea. China asserts that Japan was notified and approved of Chinese intervention.

8 June 1894: First of about 4,000 Japanese soldiers and 500 marines land at Jemulpo (Incheon).

11 June 1894: End of the Donghak Rebellion.

13 June 1894: The Japanese government telegraphs the commander of the Japanese forces in Korea, Ōtori Keisuke, to remain in Korea for as long as possible despite the end of the rebellion.

16 June 1894: Japanese foreign minister Mutsu Munemitsu meets with Wang Fengzao, the Qing ambassador to Japan, to discuss the future status of Korea. Wang states that the Qing government intends to pull out of Korea after the rebellion has been suppressed and expects Japan to do the same. However, China retains a resident to look after Chinese primacy in Korea.

22 June 1894: Additional Japanese troops arrive in Korea. Japanese prime minister Itō Hirobumi tells Matsukata Masayoshi that since the Qing Empire appear to be making military preparations, there is probably "no policy but to go to war". Mutsu tells Ōtori to press the Korean government on the Japanese demands.

26 June 1894: Ōtori presents a set of reform proposals to the Korean king Gojong. Gojong's government rejects the proposals and in insists on troop withdrawals.

7 July 1894: Failure of mediation between China and Japan arranged by the British ambassador to China.

19 July 1894: Establishment of the Japanese Combined Fleet, consisting of almost all vessels in the Imperial Japanese Navy. Mutsu cables Ōtori to take any necessary steps to compel the Korean government to carry out a reform program.

23 July 1894: Japanese troops occupy Seoul, capture Gojong, and establish a new, pro-Japanese government, which terminates all Sino-Korean treaties and grants the Imperial Japanese Army the right to expel the Qing Empire's Beiyang Army from Korea.

25 July 1894: First battle of the war: the Battle of Pungdo / Hoto-oki kaisen

Events during the war

Footage of a naval battle during the First Sino-Japanese War (1894)

Opening moves

By July 1894, Qing forces in Korea numbered 3,000–3,500 and were outnumbered by Japan. They could only be supplied by sea through Asan Bay. The Japanese objective was first to blockade the Chinese at Asan (south of Seoul, South Korea) and then encircle them with their land forces. Japan's initial strategy was to gain command of the sea, which was critical to its operations in Korea.[33] Command of the sea would allow Japan to transport troops to the mainland. The army's Fifth Division would land at Chemulpo on the western coast of Korea, both to engage and push Chinese forces northwest up the peninsula and to draw the Beiyang Fleet into the Yellow Sea, where it would be engaged in decisive battle. Depending on the outcome of this engagement, Japan would make one of three choices; If the Combined Fleet were to win decisively, the larger part of the Japanese army would undertake immediate landings on the coast between Shan-hai-kuan and Tientsin in order to defeat the Chinese army and bring the war to a swift conclusion. If the engagement were to be a draw and neither side gained control of the sea, the army would concentrate on the occupation of Korea. Lastly, if the Combined Fleet was defeated and consequently lost command of the sea, the bulk of the army would remain in Japan and prepare to repel a Chinese invasion, while the Fifth Division in Korea would be ordered to hang on and fight a rearguard action.[34]

Sinking of the Kow-shing

Depiction from the French periodical Le Petit Journal (1894) of the sinking of the Kow-shing and the rescue of some of its crew by the French gunboat Le Lion

On 25 July 1894, the cruisers Yoshino, Naniwa and Akitsushima of the Japanese flying squadron, which had been patrolling off Asan Bay, encountered the Chinese cruiser Tsi-yuan and gunboat Kwang-yi.[34] These vessels had steamed out of Asan to meet the transport Kow-shing, escorted by the Chinese gunboat Tsao-kiang. After an hour-long engagement, the Tsi-yuan escaped while the Kwang-yi grounded on rocks, where its powder-magazine exploded.

The Kow-shing was a 2,134-ton British merchant vessel owned by the Indochina Steam Navigation Company of London, commanded by Captain T. R. Galsworthy and crewed by 64 men. The ship was chartered by the Qing government to ferry troops to Korea, and was on her way to reinforce Asan with 1,100 troops plus supplies and equipment. A German artillery officer, Major von Hanneken, advisor to the Chinese, was also aboard. The ship was due to arrive on 25 July.

The Japanese cruiser Naniwa, under Captain Tōgō Heihachirō, intercepted the Kow-shing and captured its escort. The Japanese then ordered the Kow-shing to follow Naniwa and directed that Europeans be transferred to Naniwa. However the 1,100 Chinese on board, desperate to return to Taku, threatened to kill the English captain, Galsworthy, and his crew. After four hours of negotiations, Captain Togo gave the order to fire upon the vessel. A torpedo missed, but a subsequent broadside hit the Kow Shing, which started to sink.

In the confusion, some of the Europeans escaped overboard, only to be fired upon by the Chinese.[citation needed] The Japanese rescued three of the British crew (the captain, first officer and quartermaster) and 50 Chinese, and took them to Japan. The sinking of the Kow-shing almost caused a diplomatic incident between Japan and Great Britain, but the action was ruled in conformity with international law regarding the treatment of mutineers (the Chinese troops).

The German gunboat Iltis rescued 150 Chinese, the French gunboat Le Lion rescued 43, and the British cruiser HMS Porpoise rescued an unknown number.[35]

Conflict in Korea

Japanese soldiers of the Sino-Japanese War, Japan, 1895
Korean soldiers and Chinese captives

Commissioned by the new pro-Japanese Korean government to forcibly expel Chinese forces, Major-General Ōshima Yoshimasa led mixed Japanese brigades numbering about 4,000 on a rapid forced march from Seoul south toward Asan Bay to face 3,500 Chinese troops garrisoned at Seonghwan Station east of Asan and Kongju.

On 28 July 1894, the two forces met just outside Asan in an engagement that lasted till 07:30 the next morning. The Chinese gradually lost ground to the superior Japanese numbers, and finally broke and fled towards Pyongyang. Chinese casualties amounted to 500 killed and wounded, compared to 82 Japanese casualties.

On 1 August, war was officially declared between China and Japan.

By 4 August, the remaining Chinese forces in Korea retreated to the northern city of Pyongyang, where they were met by troops sent from China. The 13,000–15,000 defenders made defensive repairs to the city, hoping to check the Japanese advance.

On 15 September, the Imperial Japanese Army converged on the city of Pyongyang from several directions. The Japanese assaulted the city and eventually defeated the Chinese by an attack from the rear; the defenders surrendered. Taking advantage of heavy rainfall overnight, the remaining Chinese troops escaped Pyongyang and headed northeast toward the coastal city of Uiju. Casualties were 2,000 killed and around 4,000 wounded for the Chinese, while the Japanese casualties totaled 102 men killed, 433 wounded, and 33 missing. In the early morning of 16 September, the entire Japanese army entered Pyongyang.

Qing Hui Muslim general Zuo Baogui, from Shandong province, died in action in Pyongyang from Japanese artillery in 1894 while securing the city. A memorial to him was constructed.[36] During the war against Japan the Chinese army included soldiers and officers from the Hui Muslim minority.[37]

Defeat of the Beiyang fleet

On September 17, 1894, Japanese warships encountered the larger Chinese Beiyang Fleet off the mouth of the Yalu River.[38] The Imperial Japanese Navy destroyed eight of the ten Chinese warships, assuring Japan's command of the Yellow Sea. The Chinese were able to land 4,500 troops near the Yalu River.

The Battle of the Yalu River was the largest naval engagement of the war and was a major propaganda victory for Japan.[39][38]

Invasion of Manchuria

An illustration of Japanese soldiers beheading 38 Chinese POWs as a warning to others by Utagawa Kokunimasa

With the defeat at Pyongyang, the Chinese abandoned northern Korea and took up defensive positions in fortifications along their side of the Yalu River near Jiuliancheng. After receiving reinforcements by 10 October, the Japanese quickly pushed north toward Manchuria.

On the night of 24 October 1894, the Japanese successfully crossed the Yalu River, undetected, by erecting a pontoon bridge. The following afternoon of 25 October at 17:00, they assaulted the outpost of Hushan, east of Jiuliancheng. At 20:30 the defenders deserted their positions and by the next day they were in full retreat from Jiuliancheng.

With the capture of Jiuliancheng, General Yamagata's 1st Army Corps occupied the nearby city of Dandong, while to the north, elements of the retreating Beiyang Army set fire to the city of Fengcheng. The Japanese had established a firm foothold on Chinese territory with the loss of only four killed and 140 wounded.[citation needed]

The Japanese 1st Army Corps then split into two groups with General Nozu Michitsura's 5th Provincial Division advancing toward the city of Mukden (present-day Shenyang) and Lieutenant-General Katsura Tarō's 3rd Provincial Division pursuing fleeing Chinese forces west along toward the Liaodong Peninsula.

By December, the 3rd Provincial Division had captured the towns of Tatungkau, Takushan, Xiuyan, Tomucheng, Haicheng and Kangwaseh. The 5th Provincial Division marched during a severe Manchurian winter towards Mukden.

The Japanese 2nd Army Corps under Ōyama Iwao landed on the south coast of Liaodong Peninsula on 24 October and quickly moved to capture Jinzhou and Dalian Bay on 6–7 November. The Japanese laid siege to the strategic port of Lüshunkou (Port Arthur).

Fall of Lüshunkou

By 21 November 1894, the Japanese had taken the city of Lüshunkou (Port Arthur) with minimal resistance and suffering minimal casualties. Describing their motives as having encountered a display of the mutilated remains of Japanese soldiers as they invaded the town, Japanese forces proceeded with the unrestrained killing of civilians during the Port Arthur Massacre with unconfirmed estimates in the thousands. An event which at the time was widely viewed with scepticism as the world at large was still in disbelief that the Japanese were capable of such deeds that seemed more likely to have been exaggerated propagandist fabrications of a Chinese government to discredit Japanese hegemony. In reality, the Chinese government itself was unsure of how to react and initially denied the occurrence of the loss of Port Arthur to the Japanese altogether.

As we entered the town of Port Arthur, we saw the head of a Japanese soldier displayed on a wooden stake. This filled us with rage and a desire to crush any Chinese soldier. Anyone we saw in the town, we killed. The streets were filled with corpses, so many they blocked our way. We killed people in their homes; by and large, there wasn't a single house without from three to six dead. Blood was flowing and the smell was awful. We sent out search parties. We shot some, hacked at others. The Chinese troops just dropped their arms and fled. Firing and slashing, it was unbounded joy. At this time, our artillery troops were at the rear, giving three cheers [banzai] for the emperor.

— Makio Okabe, diary[40]

By 10 December 1894, Kaipeng (present-day Gaizhou) fell to the Japanese 1st Army Corps.

Fall of Weihaiwei

The Chinese fleet subsequently retreated behind the Weihaiwei fortifications. However, they were then surprised by Japanese ground forces, who outflanked the harbour's defenses in coordination with the navy.[41] The Battle of Weihaiwei was a 23-day siege with the major land and naval components taking place between 20 January and 12 February 1895.

After Weihaiwei's fall on 12 February 1895, and an easing of harsh winter conditions, Japanese troops pressed further into southern Manchuria and northern China. By March 1895 the Japanese had fortified posts that commanded the sea approaches to Beijing. Although this would be the last major battle fought; numerous skirmishes would follow. The Battle of Yinkou was fought outside the port town of Yingkou, Manchuria, on 5 March 1895.

Occupation of the Pescadores Islands

On 23 March 1895, Japanese forces attacked the Pescadores Islands, off the west coast of Taiwan. In a brief and almost bloodless campaign, the Japanese defeated the islands' Chinese garrison and occupied the main town of Magong. This operation effectively prevented Chinese forces in Taiwan from being reinforced, and allowed the Japanese to press their demand for the cession of Taiwan in the peace negotiations.

End of the war

Revisionist depiction of Chinese delegation, led by Admiral Ding Ruchang and their foreign advisors, boarding the Japanese vessel to negotiate the surrender with Admiral Itō Sukeyuki after the Battle of Weihaiwei. In reality, Ding had committed suicide after his defeat and never surrendered.

Treaty of Shimonoseki

The Treaty of Shimonoseki was signed on 17 April 1895. The Qing Empire recognized the total independence of Korea and ceded the Liaodong Peninsula, Taiwan and Penghu Islands to Japan "in perpetuity". The disputed islands known as "Senkaku/Diaoyu" islands were not named by this treaty, but Japan annexed these uninhabited islands to Okinawa Prefecture in 1895. Japan asserts this move was taken independently of the treaty ending the war, and China asserts that they were implied as part of the cession of Taiwan.

Additionally, the Qing Empire was to pay Japan 200 million taels ( 8,000,000 kilograms/ 17,600,000 pounds ) of silver as war reparations. The Qing government also signed a commercial treaty permitting Japanese ships to operate on the Yangtze River, to operate manufacturing factories in treaty ports and to open four more ports to foreign trade. Russia, Germany and France in a few days made the Triple Intervention, however, and forced Japan to give up the Liaodong Peninsula in exchange for another 30 million taels of silver (equivalent to about 450 million yen).

After the war, according to the Chinese scholar Jin Xide, the Qing government paid a total of 340,000,000 taels (13,600 tons) of silver to Japan in both war reparations and trophies. This was equivalent to about 510,000,000 Japanese yen at the time, about 6.4 times the Japanese government's revenue.[citation needed]

Japanese invasion of Taiwan

"The cession of the island to Japan was received with such disfavour by the Chinese inhabitants that a large military force was required to effect its occupation. For nearly two years afterwards, a bitter guerrilla resistance was offered to the Japanese troops, and large forces — over 100,000 men, it was stated at the time — were required for its suppression. This was not accomplished without much cruelty on the part of the conquerors, who, in their march through the island, perpetrated all the worst excesses of war. They had, undoubtedly, considerable provocation. They were constantly attacked by ambushed enemies, and their losses from battle and disease far exceeded the entire loss of the whole Japanese army throughout the Manchurian campaign. But their revenge was often taken on innocent villagers. Men, women, and children were ruthlessly slaughtered or became the victims of unrestrained lust and rapine. The result was to drive from their homes thousands of industrious and peaceful peasants, who, long after the main resistance had been completely crushed, continued to wage a vendetta war, and to generate feelings of hatred which the succeeding years of conciliation and good government have not wholly eradicated." – The Cambridge Modern History, Volume 12[42]

Several Qing officials in Taiwan resolved to resist the cession of Taiwan to Japan under the Treaty of Shimonoseki, and on 23 May declared the island to be an independent Republic of Formosa. On 29 May, Japanese forces under Admiral Motonori Kabayama landed in northern Taiwan, and in a five-month campaign defeated the Republican forces and occupied the island's main towns. The campaign effectively ended on 21 October 1895, with the flight of Liu Yongfu, the second Republican president, and the surrender of the Republican capital Tainan.


The Japanese success during the war was the result of the modernisation and industrialisation embarked upon two decades earlier.[43] The war demonstrated the superiority of Japanese tactics and training from the adoption of a Western-style military. The Imperial Japanese Army and Imperial Japanese Navy were able to inflict a string of defeats on the Chinese through foresight, endurance, strategy and power of organisations. Japanese prestige rose in the eyes of the world. After this war, Japan started to have the equal status with the West powers.[44]The victory established Japan as the dominant power in Asia.</ref>[45][nb 2]

For China, the war revealed the high level of corruption present in the government and policies of the Qing administration. Traditionally, China viewed Japan as a subordinate part of the Chinese cultural sphere. Although China had been defeated by European powers in the 19th century, defeat at the hands of an Asian power and a former tributary state was a bitter psychological blow. Anti-foreign sentiment and agitation grew, which would later culminate in the form of the Boxer Rebellion five years later. The Manchu population was devastated by the fighting during the First Sino-Japanese War and the Boxer Rebellion, with massive casualties sustained during the wars and subsequently being driven into extreme suffering and hardship in Beijing and northeast China.[46]

Convention of retrocession of the Liaodong Peninsula, 8 November 1895

Although Japan had achieved what it had set out to accomplish and ended Chinese influence over Korea, Japan had been forced to relinquish the Liaodong Peninsula, (Port Arthur), in exchange for an increased financial indemnity. The European powers (especially Russia) had no objection to the other clauses of the treaty but felt that Japan should not gain Port Arthur, for they had their own ambitions in that part of the world. Russia persuaded Germany and France to join in applying diplomatic pressure on Japan, resulting in the Triple Intervention of 23 April 1895.

Although Japan had succeeded in eliminating Chinese influence over Korea, it was Russia who reaped the benefits. Korea proclaimed itself the Korean Empire and announced its independence from the Qing Empire. The Japanese sponsored Gabo reforms (Kabo reforms) of 1894–1896 transformed Korea: legal slavery was abolished in all forms; the yangban class lost all special privileges; outcastes were abolished; equality of law; equality of opportunity in the face of social background; child marriage was abolished, Hangul was to be used in government documents; Korean history was introduced in schools; the Chinese calendar was replaced with the Gregorian calendar (Common Era); education was expanded and new textbooks written.[9]

In 1895, a pro-Russian official tried to remove the King of Korea to the Russian legation and failed, but a second attempt succeeded. Thus, for a year, the King reigned from the Russian legation in Seoul. The concession to build a Seoul-Inchon railway had been granted to Japan in 1894 was revoked and granted to Russia. Russian guards guarded the King in his palace even after he left the Russian legation.

China's defeat precipitated an increase in railway construction in the country, as foreign powers demanded China to make railway concessions.[47][48]

In 1898, Russia signed a 25-year lease on the Liaodong Peninsula and proceeded to set up a naval station at Port Arthur. Although that infuriated the Japanese, they were more concerned with the Russian encroachment in Korea than that in Manchuria. Other powers, such as France, Germany and Britain, took advantage of the situation in China and gained land, port, and trade concessions at the expense of the decaying Qing Empire. Qingdao and Jiaozhou were acquired by Germany, Guangzhouwan by France, and Weihaiwei and the New Territories by Britain.

Tensions between Russia and Japan would increase in the years after the First Sino-Japanese War. During the Boxer Rebellion, an eight-member international force was sent to suppress and quell the uprising; Russia sent troops into Manchuria as part of this force. After the suppression of the Boxers, the Russian government agreed to vacate the area. However, by 1903, it had actually increased the size of its forces in Manchuria.

Negotiations between the two nations (1901–1904) to establish mutual recognition of respective spheres of influence (Russia over Manchuria and Japan over Korea) were repeatedly and intentionally stalled by the Russians. They felt that they were strong and confident enough not to accept any compromise and believed Japan would not go to war against a European power. Russia also had intentions to use Manchuria as a springboard for further expansion of its interests in the Far East. In 1903, Russian soldiers began construction of a fort at Yongnampo but stopped after Japanese protests.[9]

In 1902, Japan formed an alliance with Britain, the terms of which stated that if Japan went to war in the Far East and that a third power entered the fight against Japan, then Britain would come to the aid of the Japanese.[49] This was a check to prevent Germany or France from intervening militarily in any future war with Russia. Japan sought to prevent a repetition of the Triple Intervention that deprived it of Port Arthur. The British reasons for joining the alliance were to check the spread of Russian expansion into the Pacific area,[49] to strengthen Britain's focus on other areas, and to gain a powerful naval ally in the Pacific.

Increasing tensions between Japan and Russia were a result of Russia's unwillingness to compromise and the prospect of Korea falling under Russia's domination, therefore coming into conflict with and undermining Japan's interests. Eventually, Japan was forced to take action. This would be the deciding factor and catalyst that would lead to the Russo-Japanese War of 1904–05.

See also



  1. ^ "On the eve of the Sino-Japanese War, China appeared, to undiscerning observers, to possess respectable military and naval forces. Praise for Li Hung-chang's Anhwei Army and other Chinese forces was not uncommon, and the Peiyang Navy elicited considerable favourable comment. When war between China and Japan appeared likely, most Westerners thought China had the advantage. Her army was vast, and her navy both outnumbered and outweight Japan's. The German general staff considered a Japanese victory improbable. In an interview with Reuters, William Lang predicted defeat for Japan. Lang thought that the Chinese navy was well-drilled, the ships were fit, the artillery was at least adequate, and the coastal forts were strong. Weihaiwei, he said, was impregnable. Although Lang emphasized that everything depended on how China's forces were led, he had faith that 'in the end, there is no doubt that Japan must be utterly crushed'."[18]
  2. ^ ."A new balance of power had emerged. China's millennia-long regional dominance had abruptly ended. Japan had become the dominant power of Asia, a position it would retain throughout the twentieth century". Paine, The Sino-Japanese War of 1894–1895: Perception, Power, and Primacy.


  1. ^ Paine 2003, pp. 3.
  2. ^ Jansen 2002, p. 335.
  3. ^ www.ocu.mit.edu
  4. ^ Duus, P. (1976). The rise of modern Japan (p. 125). Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
  5. ^ Seth, p. 445
  6. ^ Jansen 2002, p. 431.
  7. ^ James Z. Gao, "Historical Dictionary of Modern China (1800–1949)", 120
  8. ^ James McClain, "Japan a Modern History", 297
  9. ^ a b c d Seth, Michael J (2010). A History of Korea: From Antiquity to the Present. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. p. 225. ISBN 978-0-7425-6716-0. 
  10. ^ Kwang-Ching 1978, p. 105.
  11. ^ Evans & Peattie 1997, p. 12.
  12. ^ Evans & Peattie 1997, p. 36.
  13. ^ a b Olender 2014, p. 39.
  14. ^ a b c d e Evans & Peattie 1997, p. 38.
  15. ^ Schencking 2005, p. 81.
  16. ^ a b c d e f g h Olender 2014, p. 30.
  17. ^ a b c d e Olender 2014, p. 31.
  18. ^ Kwang-Ching 1978, pp. 268–269.
  19. ^ Kwang-Ching 1978, p. 269.
  20. ^ Jowett 2013, p. 21.
  21. ^ a b c d Jowett 2013, p. 24.
  22. ^ Jowett 2013, p. 19.
  23. ^ a b Jowett 2013, p. 27.
  24. ^ Elleman 2001, p. 99.
  25. ^ Jowett 2013, pp. 24–25.
  26. ^ a b c Jowett 2013, p. 38.
  27. ^ Jowett 2013, p. 25.
  28. ^ Sondhaus 2001, pp. 169–170.
  29. ^ a b c Evans & Peattie 1997, p. 39.
  30. ^ a b c Chang 2013, pp. 182–184.
  31. ^ Chang 2013, pp. 160–161.
  32. ^ 董福祥与西北马家军阀的的故事 – 360Doc个人图书馆
  33. ^ Evans & Peattie 1997, p. 40.
  34. ^ a b Evans & Peattie 1997, p. 41.
  35. ^ Sequence of events, and numbers of rescued and dead, taken from several articles from The Times of London from 2 August 1894 – 25 October 1894
  36. ^ Aliya Ma Lynn (2007). Muslims in China. Volume 3 of Asian Studies. University Press. p. 44. ISBN 0-88093-861-7. 
  37. ^ Michael Dillon (16 December 2013). China's Muslim Hui Community: Migration, Settlement and Sects. Routledge. p. 72. ISBN 978-1-136-80933-0. 
  38. ^ a b Perry, John Curtis (1964). "The Battle off the Tayang, 17 September 1894". The Mariner's Mirror. Taylor & Francis. 50 (4): 243–259. doi:10.1080/00253359.1964.10657787. 
  39. ^ Paine 2003, pp. 179–189.
  40. ^ Lone 1994, p. 155.
  41. ^ Evans & Peattie 1997, p. 46.
  42. ^ Sir Adolphus William Ward; George Walter Prothero; Sir Stanley Mordaunt Leathes; Ernest Alfred Benians (1910). The Cambridge Modern History. Macmillan. p. 573. 
  43. ^ Schencking 2005, p. 78.
  44. ^ Hopper, Helen. Fukuzawa Yukichi. 
  45. ^ Paine 2003, pp. 293.
  46. ^ Rhoads, Edward J. M. (2011). Manchus and Han: Ethnic Relations and Political Power in Late Qing and Early Republican China, 1861–1928. University of Washington Press. p. 80. ISBN 0-295-80412-2. 
  47. ^ Davis, Clarence B.; Wilburn, Kenneth E., Jr; Robinson, Ronald E. (1991). "Railway Imperialism in China, 1895–1939". Railway Imperialism. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press. p. 159. ISBN 978-0-313-25966-1. Retrieved 10 August 2015 – via Questia. (Subscription required (help)). 
  48. ^ Rousseau, Jean-François (June 2014). "An Imperial Railway Failure: The Indochina-Yunnan Railway, 1898–1941". Journal of Transport History. 35 (1). Retrieved 10 August 2015 – via Questia. (Subscription required (help)). 
  49. ^ a b Evans & Peattie 1997, p. 65.


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Further reading

External links