Dorgon (Manchu: Dorgon.png, literally “badger”;
Dorgon was born of the Manchu Aisin Gioro clan as the 14th son of Nurhaci, khan of the Later Jin Dynasty (later renamed to Qing Dynasty by Nurhaci’s successor Hong Taiji). His mother was Nurhaci’s primary consort Lady Abahai. Ajige and Dodo were his full brothers, and Hong Taiji was his half-brother.
Dorgon was one of the most influential of Nurhaci’s sons, and his role was instrumental to the occupation of Ming Dynasty’s capital Beijing by Qing forces in 1644. During Hong Taiji’s reign, Dorgon participated in many military campaigns, including the conquests of Mongolia and Korea.
The Chahar Mongols were fought against by Dorgon in 1628 and 1635.
After Hong Taiji died in 1643, Dorgon became involved in a power struggle with Hong Taiji’s eldest son Hooge over the succession to the throne. The conflict was resolved with a compromise – both backed out, and Hong Taiji’s ninth son Fulin ascended the throne as the Shunzhi Emperor.
Since the Shunzhi Emperor was only six years old at that time, Dorgon was appointed regent and became the de facto ruler. Dorgon was conferred the title of “Emperor’s Uncle and Prince Regent” , which was later changed to “Emperor’s Father and Prince Regent” .
It was greatly rumoured that Dorgon had a romantic affair with the Shunzhi Emperor’s mother Empress Dowager Xiaozhuang and even secretly married her, but there are also refutations.Whether they secretly married, had a secret affair or kept their distance remains a controversy in the Chinese history community.
On 17 February 1644, Jirgalang, who was a capable military leader but appeared uninterested in managing state affairs, willingly yielded control of all official matters to Dorgon. After an alleged plot by Hooge to undermine the regency was exposed on 6 May of that year, Hooge was stripped of his title of Imperial Prince and his co-conspirators were executed.
Dorgon soon replaced Hooge’s supporters (mostly from the Yellow Banners) with his own, thus gaining closer control of two more Banners. By early June 1644, he was in firm control of the Qing government and its military.
In early 1644, just as Dorgon and his advisors were pondering how to attack the Ming, peasant rebellions were dangerously approaching Beijing. On 24 April of that year, rebel leader Li Zicheng breached the walls of the Ming capital, pushing the Chongzhen Emperor to hang himself on a hill behind the Forbidden City.
Hearing the news, Dorgon’s Chinese advisors Hong Chengchou and Fan Wencheng ( 1597–1666) urged the Manchu prince to seize this opportunity to present themselves as avengers of the fallen Ming and claim the Mandate of Heaven for the Qing.
The last obstacle between Dorgon and Beijing was Ming general Wu Sangui, who was garrisoned at Shanhai Pass at the eastern end of the Great Wall. He himself was caught between the Manchus and Li Zicheng’s forces. Wu requested Dorgon’s help in ousting the bandits and restoring the Ming. When Dorgon asked Wu to work for the Qing instead, Wu had little choice but to accept.
Aided by Wu Sangui’s elite soldiers, who fought the rebel army for hours before Dorgon finally chose to intervene with his cavalry, the Qing won a decisive victory against Li Zicheng at the Battle of Shanhai Pass on 27 May. Li’s defeated troops looted Beijing for several days until Li left the capital on 4 June with all the wealth he could carry.
After six weeks of mistreatment at the hands of rebel troops, the Beijing population sent a party of elders and officials to greet their liberators on 5 June. They were startled when, instead of meeting Wu Sangui and the Ming heir apparent, they saw Dorgon, a horseriding Manchu with his shaved forehead, present himself as the Prince Regent.
In the midst of this upheaval, Dorgon installed himself in the Wuying Palace , the only building that remained more or less intact after Li Zicheng had set fire to the palace complex on 3 June.
Banner troops were ordered not to loot; their discipline made the transition to Qing rule “remarkably smooth.” Yet at the same time as he claimed to have come to avenge the Ming, Dorgon ordered that all claimants to the Ming throne (including descendants of the last Ming emperor) should be executed along with their supporters.
On June 7, just two days after entering the city, Dorgon issued special proclamations to officials around the capital, assuring them that if the local population agreed to shave their foreheads, wear queues, and surrender, the officials would be allowed to stay at their posts. He had to repeal this command three weeks later after several peasant rebellions erupted around Beijing, threatening Qing control over the capital region.
Dorgon greeted Shunzhi at the gates of Beijing on 19 October 1644. On 30 October the six-year-old monarch performed sacrifices to Heaven and Earth at the Altar of Heaven.
The southern cadet branch of Confucius’ descendants who held the title Wujing boshi and the northern branch 65th generation descendant of Confucius to hold the title Duke Yansheng had both their titles confirmed by the Qing Shunzhi on 31 October. A formal ritual of enthronement for Fulin was held on 8 November, during which the young emperor compared Dorgon’s achievements to those of the Duke of Zhou, a revered regent from antiquity.
During the ceremony, Dorgon’s official title was raised from “Prince Regent” to “Uncle Prince Regent” (Shufu shezheng wang ), in which the Manchu term for “Uncle” (ecike) represented a rank higher than that of imperial prince.
Three days later Dorgon’s co-regent Jirgalang was demoted from “Prince Regent” to “Assistant Uncle Prince Regent” (Fu zheng shuwang . In June 1645, Dorgon eventually decreed that all official documents should refer to him as “Imperial Uncle Prince Regent” (Huang shufu shezheng wang ), leaving him one step short of claiming the throne for himself.
Dorgon gave a Manchu woman as a wife to the Han Chinese official Feng Quan, who had defected from the Ming to the Qing. The Manchu queue hairstyle was willingly adopted by Feng Quan before it was enforced on the Han population and Feng learned the Manchu language.
To promote ethnic harmony, a 1648 decree from Shunzhi allowed Han Chinese civilian men to marry Manchu women from the Banners with the permission of the Board of Revenue if they were registered daughters of officials or commoners or the permission of their banner company captain if they were unregistered commoners, it was only later in the dynasty that these policies allowing intermarriage were done away with. The decree was formulated by Dorgon.
One of Dorgon’s first orders in the new Qing capital was to vacate the entire northern part of Beijing and give it to Bannermen, including Han Chinese Bannermen. The Yellow Banners were given the place of honor north of the palace, followed by the White Banners to the east, the Red Banners to the west, and the Blue Banners to the south.
This distribution complied with the order established in the Manchu homeland before the conquest and under which “each of the banners was given a fixed geographical location according to the points of the compass.” Despite tax remissions and large-scale building programs designed to facilitate the transition, in 1648 many Chinese civilians still lived among the newly arrived Banner population and there was still animosity between the two groups.
Agricultural land outside the capital was also delineated and given to Qing troops. Former landowners now became tenants who had to pay rent to their absentee Bannermen landlords. This transition in land use caused “several decades of disruption and hardship.”
In 1646, Dorgon also ordered that the civil examinations for selecting government officials be reinstated. From then on, examinations were held every three years as under the Ming. In the very first palace examination held under Qing rule in 1646, candidates, most of whom were northern Chinese, were asked how the Manchus and Han Chinese could work together for a common purpose.
The 1649 examination asked “how Manchus and Han Chinese could be unified so that their hearts were the same and they worked together without division.” Under the Shunzhi reign the average number of graduates of the metropolitan examination per session was the highest of the Qing dynasty (“to win more Chinese support”), continuing until 1660 when lower quotas were established.
Under the reign of Dorgon––whom historians have variously called “the mastermind of the Qing conquest” and “the principal architect of the great Manchu enterprise”––the Qing subdued almost all of China and pushed loyalist “Southern Ming” resistance into the far southwestern reaches of China.
After repressing anti-Qing revolts in Hebei and Shandong in the Summer and Fall of 1644, Dorgon sent armies to root out Li Zicheng from the important city of Xi’an (Shaanxi province), where Li had reestablished his headquarters after fleeing Beijing in early June 1644.
Under the pressure of Qing armies, Li was forced to leave Xi’an in February 1645. He was killed––either by his own hand or by a peasant group that had organized for self-defense during this time of rampant banditry––in September 1645 after fleeing though several provinces.
From newly captured Xi’an, in early April 1645 the Qing mounted a campaign against the rich commercial and agricultural region of Jiangnan south of the lower Yangtze River, where in June 1644 a Ming imperial prince had established a regime loyal to the Ming.
Factional bickering and numerous defections prevented the Southern Ming from mounting an efficient resistance. Several Qing armies swept south, taking the key city of Xuzhou north of the Huai River in early May 1645 and soon converging on Yangzhou, the main city on the Southern Ming’s northern line of defense.
Bravely defended by Shi Kefa, who refused to surrender, Yangzhou fell to Manchu artillery on 20 May after a one-week siege. Dorgon’s brother Prince Dodo then ordered the slaughter of Yangzhou’s entire population. As intended, this massacre terrorized other Jiangnan cities into surrendering to the Qing. Indeed Nanjing surrendered without a fight on 16 June after its last defenders made Dodo promise he would not harm the population.
The Qing soon captured the Ming emperor (who died in Beijing the following year) and seized Jiangnan’s main cities, including Suzhou and Hangzhou; by early July 1645, the frontier between the Qing and the Southern Ming had been pushed south to the Qiantang River.
On 21 July 1645, after Jiangnan had been superficially pacified, Dorgon issued a most inopportune edict ordering all Chinese men to shave their foreheads and to braid the rest of their hair into a queue identical to those of the Manchus. The punishment for non-compliance was death.
This policy of symbolic submission helped the Manchus tell friend from foe. For Han officials and literati, however, the new hairstyle was shameful and demeaning (because it breached a common Confucian directive to preserve one’s body intact), whereas for common folk cutting their hair was the same as losing their virility.
Because it united Chinese of all social backgrounds into resistance against Qing rule, the hair cutting command greatly hindered the Qing conquest. The defiant population of Jiading and Songjiang was massacred by former Ming general Li Chengdong (d. 1649), respectively on August 24 and September 22.
Jiangyin also held out against about 10,000 Qing troops for 83 days. When the city wall was finally breached on 9 October 1645, the Qing army led by the previous Ming defector Liu Liangzuo (d. 1667) massacred the entire population, killing between 74,000 and 100,000 people.
These massacres ended armed resistance against the Qing in the Lower Yangtze. A few committed loyalists became hermits, hoping that for lack of military success, their withdrawal from the world would at least symbolize their continued defiance against foreign rule.
After the fall of Nanjing, two more members of the Ming imperial household created new Southern Ming regimes: one centered in coastal Fujian around the “Longwu Emperor” Zhu Yujian, Prince of Tang––a ninth-generation descendant of Ming founder Zhu Yuanzhang––and one in Zhejiang around “Regent” Zhu Yihai, Prince of Lu. But the two loyalist groups failed to cooperate, making their chances of success even lower than they already were.
In July 1646, a new Southern Campaign led by Prince Bolo sent Prince Lu’s Zhejiang court into disarray and proceeded to attack the Longwu regime in Fujian. Zhu Yujian was caught and summarily executed in Tingzhou (western Fujian) on 6 October. His adoptive son Koxinga fled to the island of Taiwan with his fleet. Finally in November, the remaining centers of Ming resistance in Jiangxi province fell to the Qing.
In late 1646 two more Southern Ming monarchs emerged in the southern province of Guangzhou, reigning under the era names of Shaowu and Yongli. Short of official costumes, the Shaowu court had to purchase robes from local theater troops.
The two Ming regimes fought each other until 20 January 1647, when a small Qing force led by Li Chengdong captured Guangzhou, killed the Shaowu Emperor, and sent the Yongli court fleeing to Nanning in Guangxi.
In May 1648, however, Li mutinied against the Qing, and the concurrent rebellion of another former Ming general in Jiangxi helped Yongli to retake most of south China.This resurgence of loyalist hopes was short-lived. New Qing armies managed to reconquer the central provinces of Huguang (present-day Hubei and Hunan), Jiangxi, and Guangdong in 1649 and 1650.
The Yongli emperor had to flee again. Finally on 24 November 1650, Qing forces led by Shang Kexi captured Guangzhou and massacred the city’s population, killing as many as 70,000 people.
Meanwhile in October 1646, Qing armies led by Hooge (the son of Hong Taiji who had lost the succession struggle of 1643) reached Sichuan, where their mission was to destroy the kingdom of bandit leader Zhang Xianzhong. Zhang was killed in a battle against Qing forces near Xichong in central Sichuan on 1 February 1647.
Also late in 1646 but further north, forces assembled by a Muslim leader known in Chinese sources as Milayin revolted against Qing rule in Ganzhou (Gansu).
He was soon joined by another Muslim named Ding Guodong . Proclaiming that they wanted to restore the Ming, they occupied a number of towns in Gansu, including the provincial capital Lanzhou.
These rebels’ willingness to collaborate with non-Muslim Chinese suggests that they were not only driven by religion. Both Milayin and Ding Guodong were captured and killed by Meng Qiaofang (1595–1654) in 1648, and by 1650 the Muslim rebels had been crushed in campaigns that inflicted heavy casualties.
Dorgon died in 1650 during a hunting trip in Kharahotun (present-day Chengde, Hebei). He was posthumously granted the title of Emperor Yi and the temple name “Chengzong”, even though he was never emperor during his lifetime.
The Shunzhi Emperor even bowed thrice in front of Dorgon’s coffin during the funeral. 17 November 1612 – 31 December 1650) was a Manchu prince and regent of the early Qing Dynasty.