19 February 2006

The Manchu Great Wall Around the Sea, 1650s

From Canton in the south to the northern coastal region near Beijing itself, the [Manchu] Emperor of Unbroken Rule ordered the evacuation of the shoreline. For a distance of thirty miles from the sea, no habitation was permitted, on pain of death. The farmers and fishermen, along with their families, were given mere days to evacuate. Manchu soldiers then arrived and destroyed everything within the designated no-man's-land. Houses and barns were burned, crops wete razed and boats were sunk at their moorings.

People in some areas refused to take the edict seriously, convinced that it had somehow been garbled in its transmission. They stayed put, only to be surprised by the arrival of torch-bearing soldiers, who threw them out of their homes and burned down their villages. Hundreds of thousands of Chinese people became refugees, in a land stripped of food. Many died of starvation, or were hunted down by unsympathetic soldiers when the evacuation period expired.

The Manchus encouraged the conquered Chinese to share in their fear and ignorance of the sea. The former nomads preferred grassy steppes, mountains and lush forests – they had no wish to see a vast expanse of ocean, particularly when it harboured Coxinga and his followers. With their coastal prohibitions, they hoped not only to cut off Coxinga from his secret suppliers, but also to remove the sea from China's field of interest.
SOURCE: Coxinga and the Fall of the Ming Dynasty, by Jonathan Clements (Sutton, 2005), pp. 182-183

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