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First Sino-Japanese War
Sino Japanese war 1894.jpg
Japanese troops during the Sino-Japanese war
First Sino-Japanese War, major battles and troop movements
First Sino-Japanese War, major battles and troop movements
Date1 August 1894 – 17 April 1895
(8 months, 2 weeks and 2 days)
LocationKorea, Manchuria, Taiwan, Yellow Sea

Japanese victory; a significant loss of prestige for the Qing Dynasty.

  • Joseon Korea removed from Qing vassalage.
  • Korean Peninsula transferred to Japanese sphere of influence.
Qing Empire cedes Taiwan, Penghu, and the Liaodong Peninsula to the Empire of Japan.
 Qing Empire  Empire of Japan
Commanders and leaders

Qing Dynasty Li Hongzhang
Qing Dynasty Ding Ruchang
Qing Dynasty Deng Shichang
Qing Dynasty Guangxu Emperor

Qing Dynasty Empress Dowager Cixi
Empire of Japan Itō Hirobumi
Empire of Japan Yamagata Aritomo
Empire of Japan Itō Sukeyuki
Empire of Japan Emperor Meiji
630,000 men
Beiyang Army
Beiyang Navy
240,616 men
Imperial Japanese Army
Imperial Japanese Navy
Casualties and losses
35,000 dead or wounded 1,132 dead,
3,758 wounded
285 died of wounds
11,894 died of disease

First Sino-Japanese War
Battle of Songhwan improved.jpg
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese 甲午戰爭
Simplified Chinese 甲午战争
Japanese name
Japanese Japan–Qing War
Chinese name
Chinese War of Jiawu - referring to the year 1894 under the
traditional sexagenary system

The First Sino-Japanese War (1 August 1894 – 17 April 1895) was fought between Qing Dynasty China and Meiji Japan, primarily over control of Korea. After more than six months of continuous successes by the Japanese army and naval forces, as well as the loss of the Chinese port of Weihai, the Qing leadership sued for peace in February 1895.

The war was a clear indication of the failure of the Qing dynasty's attempts to modernize its military and fend off threats to its sovereignty, especially compared with Japan's successful post-Meiji restoration[1] For the first time, regional dominance in East Asia shifted from China to Japan; the prestige of the Qing Dynasty, 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 revolutions and political changes led by Sun Yat-Sen and Kang Youwei. These trends would later manifest in the 1911 Revolution.

The war is commonly known in China as the War of Jiawu (simplified Chinese: 甲午战争; traditional Chinese: 甲午戰爭; pinyin: Jiǎwǔ Zhànzhēng), referring to the year (1894) as named under the traditional sexagenary system of year reckoning. In Japan, it is commonly known as the Japan–Qing War (Nisshin sensō (日清戦争?)). In Korea, where much of the war took place, it is commonly known as the Qing-Japan War (Korean language: 청일전쟁



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 to a modern industrial state. The Japanese had sent delegations and students around the world in order to learn and assimilate western arts and sciences; this was done not only to prevent Japan from falling under foreign domination but to enable Japan to compete equally with the Western powers.[2] Korea continued to try to exclude foreigners, refusing embassies from foreign countries and firing on ships near Korea. At the start of the war, Japan had been reforming for three decades, where Korea had suppressed attempts at reform, leaving it in a vulnerable situation.

Conflict over Korea

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

As a newly emergent power, Japan turned its attention toward Korea. In order to protect its own interests and security, Japan wanted to block another power from annexing Korea or maintaining dominance in Korea, or at least ensure Korea's effective independence by developing its resources and reforming its administration. As Prussian advisor Major Klemens Meckel put it to the Japanese army, Korea was "a dagger pointed at the heart of Japan".[4] Japan felt that another power having a military presence on the Korean peninsula would have been detrimental to Japanese national security, and so resolved to end the centuries-old Chinese suzerainty over Korea. Moreover, Japan realized that having access to Korea’s coal and iron ore deposits would benefit Japan's growing industrial base. Korea was also seen as a source of agricultural imports to Japan, helping to feed the growing Japanese population.

On February 27, 1876, after certain incidents and confrontation involving Korean isolationists and the Japanese, Japan imposed the Japan–Korea Treaty of 1876; forcing Korea to open itself to Japanese trade. Similar treaties were signed between Korea and other nations.

Korea had traditionally been a tributary state and continued to be so under the influence of China's Qing Dynasty, which exerted large influence over the conservative Korean officials gathered around the royal family of the Joseon Dynasty. Opinion in Korea itself was split; conservatives wanted to retain the traditional subservient relationship with China, while reformists wanted to establish closer ties with Japan and western nations. After two Opium Wars in 1839 and 1856 against the British Empire and the Sino-French War, China had become weak and was unable to resist political intervention and territorial encroachment by western powers (see Unequal Treaties). Japan sought to prevent any major power from dominating Korea, fearing that would allow another power to threaten Japan, but this became a desire to replace Chinese influence in Korea with its Japanese influence.

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; the government was not able to pay its debts, particularly to its military. There was deep resentment among the soldiers of the Korean army who had not been paid for months. On July 23, a military mutiny and riot broke out in Seoul; troops, assisted by the population, sacked the rice granaries there. The next morning the royal palace and barracks were attacked. The crowd then turned on the Japanese legation. The Japanese legation staff managed to escape to Chemulpo and then Nagasaki via the British survey ship Flying Fish.

In response the Japanese sent four warships and a battalion of troops to Seoul to safeguard Japanese interests and demand reparations. The Chinese also deployed 4,500 troops to counter the Japanese. Tensions subsided, however, with the Treaty of Chemulpo which was signed on the evening of August 30, 1882. The agreement specified that the conspirators involved would be punished and 50,000 yen would be paid to the families of the Japanese killed. The Japanese government would also receive 500,000 yen, a formal apology, and permission to construct barracks and 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 Chinese troops under General Yuan Shikai, succeeded in regaining control with 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 in the process. This caused an incident between Japan and China, but was eventually settled by the Sino-Japanese Convention of Tientsin of 1885 in which the two sides agreed to (a) pull their expeditionary forces out of Korea simultaneously; (b) not send military instructors for the training of the Korean military; and (c) notify the other side beforehand should one decide to send troops to Korea. The Japanese, however, were frustrated by repeated Chinese attempts to undermine their influence in Korea. After this treaty, Chinese and Japanese troops left, diplomatic relations were restored between Japan and Korea. Yuan Shikai, remained as ”Chinese Resident," in what the Chinese intended as a sort of Viceroy role directing Korean affairs. (He remained in that position until the Sino-Japanese War.) Yuan Shikai attempted to encourage Chinese trade and hinder Japanese trade, though Japan remained Koreas largest trading partner. Telegraphs under Chinese control were introduced to Korea, linking Korea to the Chinese network. Loans were provided to Korea by the Qing.

Nagasaki Incident

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The Nagasaki Incident was a riot in Nagasaki caused by Qing Dynasty Beiyang Fleet soldiers stopping by the port city in 1886. Several Japanese policemen confronting the rioters were killed. After the incident, the Qing did not apologize to Japan, and behaved with confidence in the superiority of their navy. At that time, the Qing possessed the Dingyuan, a relatively modern pre-dreadnought battleship built in Germany. It was thought that the Japanese navy could not match this ship at this time, as Japan lacked battleships and the Dingyuan had a heavier tonnage than the most modern Japanese cruisers of the time. (The Dingyuan was eventually scuttled after the Battle of Weihaiwei.) Japan's setback during the Gapsin Coup, in which 400 Japanese soldiers had been driven off by 2000 Qing soldiers, was still recent and fresh.

Bean Controversy

A poor harvest in 1889 caused a governor of Hamgyong province to prohibit soybean exports to Japan. Japan requested compensation in 1893 for their importers, and eventually received it. The incident highlighted the growing dependence Japan felt on Korean agriculture 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 fellow 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 was outraged, taking this as a direct affront to its stature and dignity.[6]

Tonghak Rebellion

The tension was high by June 1894, but war was certainly not yet inevitable. A rebellion in Korea caused Korean king to request Chinese troops on June 4 to aid in suppressing the Tonghak Rebellion. The rebellion proved not to be as dangerous as initially thought and the Chinese troops were not required to put down the rebellion. The Chinese government sent General Yuan Shikai as its plenipotentiary at the head of 2,800 troops. According to the Japanese, the Chinese government did not inform the Japanese government of its decision to send troops to the Korean peninsula, and in doing so failed to comply with the Convention of Tientsin.[7] In the face of China's violation of the convention, the Japanese countered and sent their own 8,000-man expeditionary force (the Oshima Composite Brigade) to Korea. The first 400 troops arrived on June 9 en route to Seoul, and 3000 landed at Inchon on June 12.[8] However, according to the Chinese, the Japanese encouraged the Chinese to honor the Koreans' request by sending in the troops. In addition, Japanese officials also implied that Japan had no intention to intervene. As a result, the key Chinese official Li Hongzhang "was lured into believing that Japan would not wage war, whereas Tokyo was fully prepared to act." [9] Japan requested that China and Japan co-operate to reform the Korean government, which China refused. Korea requested that Japan withdraw its troops which Japan refused. The Japanese force of 8,000 strong subsequently seized the king, occupied the Royal Palace in Seoul by early June 1894, and replaced the existing government with members from the pro-Japanese faction. A new government was formed July 25.[8] Though Chinese troops were already leaving Korea, finding themselves unneeded there, the new pro-Japanese Korean government granted Japan the right to expel the Chinese troops forcibly, while Japan shipped more troops to Korea. The legitimacy of the new government was rejected by China, and the stage was thus set for conflict.

Status of combatants


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

Imperial Japanese Navy

Major Combatants Japanese Navy Ensign
Protected Cruisers
Matsushima (flagship)
Armored Corvettes
Ironclad Warship

Itō Sukeyuki was the Commander-in-Chief of the 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, which at the time was the foremost naval power in the world. British advisors were sent to Japan to train, advise and educate the naval establishment; while students were in turn sent to the United Kingdom to study and observe the Royal Navy. Through drilling and tuition by Royal Navy instructors, Japan was able to possess a navy expertly skilled in the arts of gunnery and seamanship.[10]

At the start of hostilities, the Imperial Japanese Navy contained a fleet of 12 modern warships, (Izumi being added during the war), one frigate (Takao), 22 torpedo boats, and numerous auxiliary/armed merchant cruisers and converted liners.

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.

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

The Meiji era government at first modeled the army on the French Army. French advisers had been sent to Japan with two military missions (in 1872–1880 and 1884; these were the second and third missions respectively, the first having been under the shogunate). Nationwide conscription was enforced in 1873 and a western-style conscript army was established; military schools and arsenals were also built.

In 1886 Japan turned toward the German Army, specifically the Prussian model as the basis for its army. Its doctrines, military system and organisation were studied in detail and adopted by the IJA. In 1885 Jakob Meckel, a German adviser, implemented new measures, such as the reorganization of the command structure of the army 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.

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.

Imperial Japanese Army Composition 1894–1895
1st Japanese Army
3rd Provincial Division (Nagoya)
5th Provincial Division (Hiroshima)
2nd Japanese Army
1st Provincial Division (Tokyo)
2nd Provincial Division (Sendai)
6th Provincial Division (Kumamoto)
In Reserve
4th Provincial Division (Osaka)
Invasion of Formosa (Taiwan)
Imperial Guards Division


Empress Dowager Cixi took a portion of military fund for palace renovation

Although the Beiyang Forces — Beiyang Army and Beiyang Fleet — was the best equipped and symbolized the new modern Chinese military, corruption was a serious problem. Military leaders and officials systematically embezzled funds, even during the war. As a result, the Beiyang Fleet did not purchase any battleships after its establishment in 1888. The purchase of ammunition stopped in 1891, with the funding being embezzled to build the Summer Palace in Beijing. Logistics were a huge problem, as construction of railroads in Manchuria had been discouraged. The morale of the Chinese armies was generally very low due to lack of pay and prestige, use of opium and poor leadership which contributed to some rather ignominious withdrawals, such as the abandonment of the very well-fortified and defensible Weihaiwei.

Beiyang Army

Qing Dynasty China did not have a national army. Following the Taiping Rebellion the army had been segregated into separate Manchu, Mongol, Hui[11] (Muslim) and Han Chinese armies, which were further divided into largely independent regional commands. During the war, most of the fighting was done by the Beiyang Army and Beiyang Fleet; pleas calling for help from other Chinese armies and navies were completely ignored due to regional rivalry. The Huai and Anhwei armies made up the larger Beiyang Army.

Qing Muslim General Zuo Baogui (左寶貴) (1837–1894), from Shandong province, died in action in Pyongyang in Korea from Japanese artillery in 1894 while securing the city. A memorial to him was constructed.[12]

Another General, Ma Yu-kun, who commanded a separate unit, was believed to be the son of the Muslim General Ma Rulong by the Europeans. Ma Yu-kun fought with some success against Japan at Pyongyang during the war and after the war went on to fight in the Boxer Rebellion.[13][14]

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. The Beiyang Fleet was the dominant navy in East Asia before the first Sino-Japanese War. However ships were not maintained properly and indiscipline was common.[15] Sentries spent their time gambling, watertight doors were left open, rubbish was dumped in gun barrels and gunpowder for explosive shells was sold and replaced with cocoa. At the Yalu river, a battleship had one of its guns pawned by Admiral Ting .[16]

Dingyuan, the flagship of the Beiyang Fleet.


Beiyang Fleet Qing Dynasty Major combatants
Ironclad battleships Dingyuan (flagship), Zhenyuan
Armoured cruisers King Yuen, Lai Yuen
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

Foreign opinions of Chinese and Japanese forces

The prevailing view in the West was that the modernized Chinese armies and navies would crush and defeat the Japanese. Chinese armies like the Anhui Army and Beiyang Fleet were commended and admired by the Western observers. They perceived China as militarily stronger.[17]

Japan looked like it would lose, according to the German General Staff. A British advisor to the Chinese military, William Lang, was interviewed by Reuter. He praised the state of the Chinese armed forces and its training, modern ships, guns, and equipment. He stated that "in the end, there is no doubt that Japan must be utterly crushed", and viewed Japan as fated to lose the war.[18]

Contemporaneous wars being fought by China

At the same time China was fighting the First Sino Japanese War, other parts of the Chinese army were fighting in the Dungan revolt (1895–1896) against rebels in Northwestern China, in which thousands were killed.

Early stages of the war

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

6 June 1894: Approximately 2,465 Chinese soldiers are transported to Korea to suppress the Revolt. 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 approximately 4,000 Japanese soldiers and 500 marines land at Jemulpo (Incheon).

11 June 1894: End of Tonghak 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, Chinese ambassador to Japan, to discuss the future status of Korea. Wang states that the Chinese government intends to pull out of Korea after the rebellion has been suppressed and expects Japan to do the same. However, China also appoints a resident to look after Chinese interests in Korea and to re-assert Korea’s traditional subservient status to China.

22 June 1894: Additional Japanese troops arrive in Korea. Japanese Prime Minister Itō Hirobumi tells Matsukata Masayoshi that he did not think that negotiations would work, and since the Qing appeared to be making military preparations, there was 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 Gojong, which the Korean government rejects, and in return insists on troop withdrawals.

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

19 July 1894: Establishment of Japanese Combined Fleet, consisting of almost all vessels in the Imperial Japanese Navy, in preparation for upcoming war. Mutsu cables Ōtori to take whatever steps he thought necessary to compel the Korean government to carry out a reform programme.

23 July 1894: Japanese troops enter Seoul, seize the Korean King and establish a new pro-Japanese government, which terminates all Sino-Korean treaties and grants the Imperial Japanese Army the right to expel the Chinese Beiyang Army troops from Korea.

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

Events during the war

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

Opening moves

China first sent troops into Korea on the invitation of the Korean government to suppress a rebellion. In response, Japan had sent 500 troops to Seoul on June 9, then 3000 on June 12, and continued to bring reinforcements. By July 1894 Chinese forces in Korea were numbered 3000–3500 and were outnumbered by Japan. They could only be supplied by sea through the Bay of Asan. 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

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, encountered the Chinese cruiser Tsi-yuan and gunboat Kwang-yi. These vessels had steamed out of Asan in order to meet another Chinese gunboat, the Tsao-kiang, which was escorting a transport toward Asan. After a brief, hour-long engagement, the Tsi-yuan escaped while the Kwang-yi became stranded 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; the Kow-shing was on her way to Asan to reinforce Chinese forces there: 1,200 troops plus supplies and equipment were on board the vessel. A German artillery officer, Major von Hanneken, acting as an advisor to the Chinese, was also aboard. The ship was due to arrive on 25 July.

The cruiser Naniwa (under the command of Captain Tōgō Heihachirō) intercepted the two ships. The gunboat was eventually captured. The Japanese then ordered the Kow-shing to follow Naniwa and requested that the Europeans on board be transferred to Naniwa. However the 1,200 Chinese on board desired to return to Taku, and 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 fired from the Naniwa missed the Kow Shing; Naniwa then fired a broadside which hit the Kow shing; this was enough to distract the Chinese guarding the Europeans and allowed some of the Europeans to jump overboard, only to be fired upon by the Chinese.[citation needed] The Japanese rescued three of the 43 crew (the captain, first officer and quartermaster) and a German passenger, and took them to Japan; the rest died in the sinking. 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. Only three ships rescued any Chinese troops. The German gunboat Iltis rescued 150 Chinese soldiers. The French gunboat Le Lion rescued 43 Chinese soldiers. The British Cruiser HMS Porpoise also rescued an unknown number of troops. No Japanese ships rescued Chinese troops in the water and it is estimated over 900 died in the sinking.[19]

Conflict in Korea

Japanese soldiers of the Sino-Japanese War, Japan, 1895.

Korean soldiers and Chinese captives

The battle of the Yalu river

Commissioned by the new pro-Japanese Korean government to expel the Chinese forces from Korean territory by force, 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. Chinese casualties amounted to 500 killed and wounded, compared to 82 Japanese casualties.

War between China and Japan was officially declared on 1 August 1894.

The remaining Chinese forces in Korea, by August 4, retreated to the northern city of Pyongyang, where they eventually joined troops sent from China. The 13,000–15,000 defenders made extensive repairs and preparations to the city, hoping to check the Japanese advance.

The Imperial Japanese Army converged on Pyongyang from several directions on 15 September 1894. The Japanese assaulted the city and eventually defeated the Chinese by an attack from the rear; the defenders surrendered. By taking advantage of heavy rainfall and using the cover of darkness, the remaining troops marched out of Pyongyang and headed northeast toward the coast and the city of Uiju. Casualties were 2,000 killed and around 4,000 wounded for the Chinese, while the Japanese lost 102 men killed, 433 wounded and 33 missing. The entire Japanese army entered the city of Pyongyang on the early morning of 16 September 1894.

Defeat of the Beiyang fleet

On September 17, 1894, Japanese warships encountered the larger Chinese Beiyang Fleet off the mouth of the Yalu River. The Imperial Japanese Navy destroyed eight out 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.[20]

Invasion of Manchuria

An illustration of Japanese soldiers beheading Chinese soldiers.

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 5:00 pm, they assaulted the outpost of Hushan, east of Jiuliancheng. At 10:30 pm 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 (now Shenyang, China) 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 Ta-tung-kau, Ta-ku-shan, Xiuyan, Tomu-cheng, Hai-cheng and Kang-wa-seh. 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 Kin-chow and Talienwan on 6–7 November. The Japanese laid siege to the strategic port of Lushunkou.

First Sino-Japanese War, major battles and troop movements.

Fall of Lüshunkou

By 21 November 1894, the Japanese had taken the city of Lüshunkou (Port Arthur). The Japanese army massacred thousands of the city's civilian Chinese inhabitants in an event that came to be called the Port Arthur Massacre (note that the scale and nature of the killing continues to be debated). By 10 December 1894, Kaipeng (modern-day Gaixian) 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 harbor's defenses. 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 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. This would be the last major battle to be 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' Qing garrison and occupied the main town of Makung. 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 negotiations leading to the conclusion of the Treaty of Shimonoseki in April 1895.

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.

The Treaty of Shimonoseki was signed on 17 April 1895. China recognized the total independence of Korea and ceded the Liaodong Peninsula (in the south of the present day Liaoning Province), Taiwan and the 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, China was to pay Japan 200 million Kuping taels as reparation. China 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. The Triple Intervention, however, forced Japan to give up the Liaodong Peninsula in exchange for another 30 million Kuping taels (450 million yen).

After the war, according to the Chinese scholar, Jin Xide, the Qing government paid a total of 34,000,000 taels ( 13,600 tons ) of silver to Japan for both the reparations of war and war trophies. This was equivalent to (then) 510,000,000 Japanese yen, about 6.4 times the Japanese government revenue.

Japanese invasion of Taiwan

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 Yung-fu, the second Republican president, and the surrender of the Republican capital Tainan.


Japan–China Peace Treaty, 17 April 1895.

The Japanese success during the war was the result of the modernization and industrialization embarked upon two decades earlier.[21] The war demonstrated the superiority of Japanese tactics and training as a result of the adoption of a Western-style military. The Imperial Japanese Army and navy were able to inflict a string of defeats on the Chinese through foresight, endurance, strategy and power of organization. Japanese prestige rose in the eyes of the world. The victory established Japan as the dominant power in Asia.[22][23]

The war for China revealed the ineffectiveness of its government, its policies, and the corruption of the Qing administration. Traditionally China viewed Japan as a subordinate outlier of the Chinese cultural sphere. Although Qing China had already been defeated by European powers in the 19th century, a defeat at the hands of fellow Asians and a former tributary state was a bitter psychological blow. Anti-foreign sentiment and agitation grew and would later culminate in the form of the Boxer Rebellion five years later.

Convention of retrocession of the Liaotung peninsula, 8 November 1895.

Although Japan had achieved what it had set out to accomplish, mainly to end Chinese influence over Korea, Japan reluctantly had been forced to relinquish the Liaodong Peninsula, (Port Arthur), in exchange for an increased financial indemnity. The European powers (Russia especially), while having no objection to the other clauses of the treaty, did feel 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 her in applying diplomatic pressure on the Japanese, resulting in the Triple Intervention of 23 April 1895.

Japan succeeded in eliminating Chinese influence over Korea, but ironically, it was Russia who reaped the benefits. Korea proclaimed itself the Korean Empire announcing its independence from China. The Japanese sponsored Gabo reforms (Kabo reforms) from 1894-1896 transformed Korea: slavery was legally 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; marriage ages were raised, abolishing child marriage; Hangul was to be used in government documents; Korean history was introduced in schools; Ming calendar was replaced with the western (common era); education was expanded and new textbooks written.[8]

In 1895, a pro-Russian official tried to remove the king of Korea to the Russian legation and failed, but a second attempt succeeded so 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.

In 1898, Russia signed a 25-year lease on the Liaodong Peninsula and proceeded to set up a naval station at Port Arthur. Although this infuriated the Japanese, they were more concerned with Russian encroachment toward Korea than in Manchuria. Other powers, such as France, Germany and Great Britain, took advantage of the situation in China and gained port and trade concessions at the expense of the decaying Qing Empire. Tsingtao and Kiaochow was acquired by Germany, Kwang-Chou-Wan by France and Weihaiwei by Great 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 dare 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 at Japanese protests.[8]

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. This was a check to prevent either Germany or France from intervening militarily in any future war with Russia. Japan sought to prevent a repetition of the Triple Intervention that deprived her of Port Arthur. The British reasons for joining the alliance were: to check the spread of Russian expansion into the Pacific area; to strengthen Britain's hand to focus on other areas and to gain a powerful naval ally in the Pacific.

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

See also


  •  This article incorporates text from The living age ..., Volume 226, by Eliakim Littell, Robert S. Littell, Making of America Project, a publication from 1900 now in the public domain in the United States.
  •  This article incorporates text from Eclectic magazine: foreign literature, by John Holmes Agnew, Walter Hilliard Bidwell, a publication from 1900 now in the public domain in the United States.
  1. "Japan Anxious for a Fight; The Chinese Are Slow and Not in Good Shape to Go to War," New York Times. July 30, 1894.
  2. Jansen, p.335
  4. Duus, P. (1976). The rise of modern Japan (p. 125). Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
  5. Seth, p. 445
  6. Jansen, p.431
  7. James McClain, "Japan a Modern History," 297
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 Seth, Michael J (2010). A History of Korea: From Antiquity to the Present. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. p. 225. ISBN 978-0742567160. 
  9. John King Fairbank and Kwang-Ching Liu, ed. The Cambridge History of China: Late Ch'ing, 1800-1911. Volume 11, Part 2 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1980),105.
  10. "The skills of the Japanese officers and men was [sic] astronomically higher those of their Chinese counterparts." [1]
  11. Michael Dillon (1999). China's Muslim Hui community: Migration, settlement and sects. Richmond: Curzon Press. p. 72. ISBN 978-0-7007-1026-3. Retrieved 2010-06-28. 
  12. Aliya Ma Lynn (2007). Muslims in China. Volume 3 of Asian Studies. University Press. p. 44. ISBN 0-88093-861-7. Retrieved 2010-06-28. 
  13. The living age ..., Volume 226. BOSTON: The Living Age Co. Inc.. 1900. p. 757. Retrieved 2010-06-28. (Original from the University of Michigan)
  14. The Eclectic magazine: foreign literature. Leavitt, Throw and Co.. 1900. p. 620. Retrieved 2010-06-28. (Original from the University of Michigan)
  15. Naval Warfare, 1815–1914, Lawrence Sondhaus, p.168/170
  16. Geoffrey Regan, Naval Blunders, page 28
  17. John King Fairbank, Kwang-Ching Liu, Denis Crispin Twitchett, ed (1980). Late Ch'ing, 1800-1911. Volume 11, Part 2 of The Cambridge History of China Series (illustrated ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 268. ISBN 0-521-22029-7. Retrieved 2012-01-18. "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.179 When war between China and Japan appeared likely, most Westerners thought China had the advantage. Her army was vast, and her navy both out-" 
  18. John King Fairbank, Kwang-Ching Liu, Denis Crispin Twitchett, ed (1980). Late Ch'ing, 1800-1911. Volume 11, Part 2 of The Cambridge History of China Series (illustrated ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 269. ISBN 0-521-22029-7. Retrieved 2012-01-18. "numbered 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'.180" 
  19. 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
  20. Paine, S. C. M. (2003). The Sino-Japanese War of 1894-1895: Perception, Power, and Primacy. Cambridge University Press. pp. 179–189. ISBN 0-521-61745-6. 
  21. Schencking, p.78
  22. Paine, The Sino-Japanese War of 1894–1895: Perception, Power, and Primacy.
  23. "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.


  • Duus, Peter (1998). The Abacus and the Sword: The Japanese Penetration of Korea. University of California Press. ISBN 0-52092-090-2. 
  • Schencking, J. Charles (2005). Making Waves: Politics, Propaganda, And The Emergence Of The Imperial Japanese Navy, 1868-1922. Stanford University Press. ISBN 0-8047-4977-9. 
  • Jansen, Marius B. (2002). The Making of Modern Japan. Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-6740-0334-9. 
  • Chamberlin, William Henry. Japan Over Asia, 1937, Little, Brown, and Company, Boston.
  • Colliers (Ed.), The Russo-Japanese War, 1904, P.F. Collier & Son, New York.
  • Kodansha Japan An Illustrated Encyclopedia, 1993, Kodansha Press, Tokyo ISBN 4-06-205938-X
  • Lone, Stewart. Japan's First Modern War: Army and Society in the Conflict with China, 1894–1895, 1994, St. Martin's Press, New York.
  • Mutsu, Munemitsu. (1982). Kenkenroku (trans. Gordon Mark Berger). Tokyo: University of Toyko Press. 10-ISBN 0860083063/13-ISBN 9780860083061; OCLC 252084846
  • Paine, S.C.M. The Sino-Japanese War of 1894–1895: Perception, Power, and Primacy, 2003, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, MA, 412 pp.
  • Sedwick, F.R. (R.F.A.). The Russo-Japanese War, 1909, The Macmillan Company, NY, 192 pp.
  • Theiss, Frank. The Voyage of Forgotten Men, 1937, Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1st Ed., Indianapolis & New York.
  • Warner, Dennis and Peggy. The Tide At Sunrise, 1974, Charterhouse, New York.
  • Urdang, Laurence/Flexner, Stuart, Berg. The Random House Dictionary of the English Language, College Edition. Random House, New York, (1969).


  • Dugo sa Kapirasong Lupa A 1930- Philippine film
  • Saka no ue no kumo (2009)
  • Deng Sichang: The Martyr-A chinese film about the battle in yellow sea.

Further reading

  • Military Heritage did an editorial on the Sino-Japanese War of 1894 (Brooke C. Stoddard, Military Heritage, December 2001, Volume 3, No. 3).

External links

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