CHAPTER VIII. THE DECLINE OF THE MINGS
The significance of this repulse was diminished by other successes elsewhere, and Noorhachu devoted his main attention to disciplining the larger force he had acquired by his later conquests, and by raising its efficiency to the high point attained by the army with which he had gained his first triumphs. He also meditated a more daring and important enterprise than any struggle with his kinsfolk; for he came to the conclusion that it was essential to destroy the Chinese power in Leaoutung before he should undertake any further enterprise in Manchuria. His army had now been raised to an effective strength of 40,000 men, and the Manchu bowman, with his formidable bow, and the Manchu man-at-arms, in his cotton mail, proof to the arrow or spear, were as formidable warriors as then existed in the world. Confident in his military power, and thinking, no doubt, that a successful foreign enterprise was the best way to rally and confirm the allegiance of his race, Noorhachu invaded Leaoutung, and published a proclamation against the Chinese, which became known as the Seven Hates. Instead of forwarding this document to the Chinese Court he burned it in the presence of his army, so that Heaven itself might judge the justice of the cause between him and the Chinese.
It was in the year 1618 that Noorhachu invaded Leaoutung, and so surprised were the Chinese at his audacity that they offered little or no resistance. The town of Fooshun was captured and made the headquarters of the Manchu prince. From this place he sent a list of his requirements to the governor of Leaoutung, and it is said that he offered, on the Chinese complying with his terms, to withdraw and desist from hostilities. But the Chinese did not appreciate the power of this new enemy. They treated his grievances with indifference and contempt, and they sent an army to drive him out of Leaoutung. The Chinese troops soon had a taste of the quality of the Manchu army. They were defeated in several encounters, and the best Chinese troops fled before the impetuous charge of the Manchu cavalry. Noorhachu then laid siege to the prefectural town of Tsingho, which he captured after a siege of some weeks, and where he massacred nearly 20,000 of the garrison and townspeople. He would have continued the campaign but that his followers demanded to be led back, stating that they feared for the safety of their homes at the hands of Yeho, still hostile and aggressive in their rear. The conquest of Leaoutung was therefore discontinued for the purpose of closing accounts with the last of the Niuche principalities; but enough had been accomplished to whet the appetite of the Manchu leader for more, and to show him how easy it was to vanquish the Chinese. On his return to his capital, Hingking, he prepared to invade Yeho, but his plans were undoubtedly delayed by the necessity of resting his troops and of allowing many of them to return to their homes. This delay, no doubt, induced the Chinese to make a supreme effort to avert the overthrow of Yeho, who had proved so useful an ally, and accordingly the governor of Leaoutung advanced with 100,000 men into Manchuria. He sacrificed the advantage of superior numbers by dividing his army into four divisions, with very inadequate means of inter- communication. Noorhachu could only bring 60,000 men into the field; but, apart from their high training, they represented a compact body subject to the direction of Noorhachu alone. The Manchu leader at once perceived the faulty disposition of the Chinese army, and he resolved to attack and overwhelm each corps in detail before it could receive aid from the others. The strongest Chinese corps was that operating most to the west, and marching from Fooshun on Hingking; and Noorhachu perceived that if he could overthrow it the flank of the rest of the Chinese army would be exposed, and its line of retreat imperiled. The Chinese general in command of this corps was impetuous and anxious to distinguish himself. His courage might on another occasion have helped his country, but under the circumstances his very ardor served the purpose of Noorhachu. Tousong, such was his name, marched more rapidly than any of his comrades, and reached the Hwunho - the Tiber of the Manchus - behind which Noorhachu had, at a little distance, drawn up his army. Without pausing to reconnoiter, or to discover with what force he had to deal, Tousong threw himself across the river, and intrenched himself on Sarhoo Hill. His overconfidence was so extreme and fatuous that he weakened his army by sending a detachment to lay siege to the town of Jiefan. The Manchus had, however, well provided for the defense of that place, and while the Chinese detachment sent against it was being destroyed, Noorhachu attacked Tousong in his position on Sarhoo Hill with the whole of his army. The Chinese were overwhelmed, Tousong was slain, and the majority of those who escaped the fray perished in the waters of the Hwunho, beneath the arrows and javelins of the pursuing Manchus.