Forrest/Nedela Collection: Sino-Japanese War of 1894-95


The History

The First Sino-Japanese War (1 August 1894 – 17 April 1895) was fought between the Qing Empire of China and the Empire of Japan, primarily over control of Korea. After more than six months of unbroken successes by Japanese land and naval forces and the loss of the Chinese port of Weihaiwei, the Qing government sued for peace in February 1895.

The war demonstrated the failure of the Qing Empire’s attempts to modernise 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; the prestige of the Qing Empire, along with the classical tradition in China, suffered a major blow. The humiliating loss of Korea as a vassal state sparked an unprecedented public outcry. Within China, the defeat was a catalyst for a series of political upheavals culminating in the 1911 Xinhai Revolution.

The war is commonly known in China as the War of Jiawu, referring to the year (1894) as named under the traditional sexagenary system. In Japan it is called the Japan-Qing War (Nisshin sensō) In Korea, where much of the war took place, it is called the Qing-Japan War.

After two centuries, the Japanese policy of seclusion under the shoguns of the Edo period came to an end when the country was forced open 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. 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 At the start of the war, Japan had the benefit of three decades of reform, leaving Korea outdated and vulnerable.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
As a newly risen power, Japan turned its attention toward its neighbour Korea. Japan wanted to block any other power from annexing or dominating Korea, resolving to end the centuries-old Chinese suzerainty. Moreover, Japan realised the potential economic benefits of Korea’s coal and the 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 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. Japan saw the opportunity to take China’s place in the strategically vital Korea.

Imo Incident, 1882
In 1882, the Korea 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 in 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 Nagasaki via 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
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 set 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 apologise after the incident, which resulted in a wave of anti-Qing sentiment in Japan.

Bean Controversy
A poor harvest in 1889 caused a 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 Korea food imports.

 Kim Ok-gyun Affair
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.







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 28,000 troops to Korea. 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. The Japanese countered by sending a 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 Inchon on June 12.

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.” 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 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. 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. (Wikipedia, June 2016)

Early stages of the war

1 June 1894: The Donghak Rebet Army moved towards Seoul. The Korean government requested help from the Qing govrnment to suppress the revolt.

6 June 1894: Approximately 2,465 Chinese soldiers were transported to Korea to suppress the rebellion. Japan asserted that it was not notified and thus China had violated the Convention of Tientsin which required that China and Japan must notify each other before intervening in Korea. China asserted that Japan was notified and had approved the Chinese intervention.

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




11 June 1894: The Donghak Rebellion ended.

13 June 1894: The Japanese government telegraphed 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 met with Wang Fengzao, the Qing ambassador to Japan, to discuss the future status of Korea. Wang stated that the Qing government intended to pull out of Korea after the rebellion had been suppressed and expected Japan to do the same. However, China retained a residentto look after Chinese primacy in Korea.

22 June 1894: Additional Japanese troops arrived in Korea. Japanese Prime Minister Itō HirobumiIttold Matsukata Masayoshii that since the Qing Empire appeared to be making military preparations, there was probably "no policy but to go to war." Mutsu told Ōtori to press the Korean government

26 June 1894: Ōtori presented a set of reform proposals to the Korean King Gojong. Gojong's government rejected the proposals  and in return insisted on troop withdrawals.

7 July 1894: Mediation between China and Japan arranged by the British ambassador to China, failed.

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

23 July 1894: Japanese troops occupied Seoul, captured Gojong, and established a new pro-Japanese government, which terminated all Sino-Korean treaties and granted the Imperial Japanese Army the right to expel the Qing Empire's Beiyang Army from Korea.

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




Events during the war

Opening moves

By July 1894, Qing forces in Korea numbered 3000–3500 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.

Sinking of the Kow-shing

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-yuanTs and gunboat Kwang-yi. 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 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.[ 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).

Conflict in Korea

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 0730 hours the next morning. The Chinese gradually lost ground to the superior Japanese numbers, and finally broke and fled towards Pyongyang on July 30. Chinese casualties amounted to 500 killed and wounded, compared to 82 Japanese casualties.

After the victory at Asan, the reporter Kubota Beisen wrote: “Our troops immediately began returning to Seoul by land and arrived on August 5. The Japanese minister and other members of the legation and of the Japanese residence were there to welcome the troops. Yi Yun-yong, a special envoy from the Korean king, was also present. At the southern city gate a triumphal arch surrounded by red and white screens and pine branches was built.
“At 7:25AM Major General Oshima Yoshimasa rode out with great dignity to the gate to meet his assembled troops. The king’s envoy was the first to laud the victorious troops, expressing the king’s pleasure at their achievements. The general replied solemnly and briefly. Minister Otori’s speech came next, followed by shouts of ‘Banzai!’ which rose from the crowd. The cheers shook heaven and earth, clutching every heart and almost bringing me to tears’. Kubota Beisen, Nisshin sentō gahō (Tokyo) vol.2 (November 1894),p.6.



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.

15 September 1894: Japanese troops cross the Taedong River.

15 September 1894: The Emperor Meiji moved to the imperial headquarters in Hiroshima.

On 15 September, the 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.



On September 17, 1894, Japanese warships encountered the larger Chinese Beiyang Fleet in the Yellow Seat off the mouth of the Yalu River. The Imperial Japanese Navy destroyed eightJout 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.
This battle was the largest naval engagement of the war and was a major propaganda victory for Japan.






Invasion of Manchuria

With the defeat at Pyongyang, the Chinese abandoned northern Korea and instead 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 1700 hours, they assaulted the outpost of Hushan, east of Jiuliancheng. At 2030 hours 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 Lushunkou (Port Arthur), while to the north, elements of the retreating Beiyang Army set fire to the city of Fenghuancheng. The Japanese had established a firm foothold on Chinese territory with the loss of only four killed and 140 wounded.

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.

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 (Port Arthur)

By 21 November 1894, the Japanese had taken the city of Lüshunkou (Port Arthur). Furious over the Chinese massacre, torture and mutilation of captured wounded Japanese soldiers, the Japanese army massacred thousands of the city's civilian Chinese inhabitants in an event that came to be called the Port Arthur Massacre (although the scale and nature of the killing continues to be debated).



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

Fall of Weihaiwei

The Chinese fleet subsequently retreated behind thenWeihaiwei fortifications. However, they were then surprised by Japanese ground forces, who outflanked the harbor's defences in coordination with the navy. The Battle of Weihaiwei would be 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 2 February 1895, and an easing of harsh winter conditions, Japanese troops pressed further into southern Manchuria and northern China.

On 12 February 1895, Admiral Ting Ju-chang surrendered the Chinese Peiyang Fleet.




By March 1895 the Japanese had fortified posts that commanded the sea approaches to Beijing. This would be the last major battle to be fought; numerous skirmishes would follow. Newchang fell on 5 March 1895 and the Battle of Yinkou was fought outside the port town of Yingkou, Manchuria, on 7 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 3 day  and almost bloodless campaign, the Japanese defeated the islands' Chinese garrison and occupied the main town of Magong. This operationeffectively prevented Chinese forces in Taiwan from being reinforced, and allowed the Japanese to press their demand for the cession of Taiwan in the negotiations leading to the conclusion of the Treaty of Shimonoseki in April 1895.

By March 1895 the Japanese had fortified posts that commanded the sea approaches to Beijing. This would be the last major battle to be fought; numerous skirmishes would follow. Newchang fell on 5 March 1895 and the Battle of Yinkou was fought outside the port town of Yingkou, Manchuria, on 7 March 1895.



End of the war

Japanese prints depict the Chinese delegation, led by Admiral Ding Ruchang and their foreign advisors, boarding the Japanese vessel to negotiate the surrender with Admiral Ito Sukeyukii after the Battle of Weihaiweii. In reality, Ding had committed suicide after his defeat and never surrendered.



A truce was agreed on 30 March 1895 and theTreaty 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 Islandss to Japan "in perpetuity".

On 30 May 1895, the Emperor Meiji returned to Tokyo in triumph.

  This account is largely taken from Wikepedia
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