First Sino-Japanese War

Japan and Qing China fought the First Sino-Japanese War (or the Qing-Japanese War or Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895)), primarily over control of Korea. To distinguish it from the Second Sino-Japanese War, this war is called the Jiǎwǔ War (甲午戦争) in Chinese because it occurred in the Chinese year of that name. The Japanese refer to this conflict as the Japan-Qing War (日清戦争, Nisshin snsou).


Genesis of the war

Korea (under the Joseon Dynasty) had traditionally been a tributary state of the Qing dynasty. In 1875 Qing had allowed Japan to recognise Korea as an independent state. However, Qing continued to try to assert its influence over Korea and public opinion in Korea split, with conservatives wanting to retain a close relationship with Qing while reformists wanted Korea to modernize and to have a closer relationship with Japan.

Following the assassination of a pro-Japanese reformist in 1894, a Korean religious sect, the Donghak, began the Donghak Peasant Revolution. The Korean government requested help from Qing in suppressing it. The Qing Dynasty informed the Japanese government of its decision to send troops to the Korean penisula in accordance with (clause c) of the Sino-Japanese Treaties 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 army; and (c) notify the other side beforehand should one decide to send troops to Korea. Implicit in this arrangement to Japanese eyes, was that any troops so deployed, were to be withdrawn as soon as possible (A logical corrallary to clause b).

Early stage of the war

In early 1894, Yuan Shikai, a plenipotentiary from the Qing entered Korea with a sizable body of troops upon the request of the Emperor of Korea to suppress a rebellion. For its part, Japan was ready to pounce upon any suitable opportunity for invasion. When Yuan Shikai retained troops at the request of Korean royalty, the Japanese government sent an expedition about three times the size of the Chinese Army in support of the reformists and subsequently seized the Emperor and the Royal Palace in Seoul by June, 1894. In an effort to increase its influence on the Korean peninsula, the Japanese government established a new Korean goverment and proposed a project for reform of the Korean governmental system. This was rejected by the Qing, who still regarded Korea as a dependent country. The new Korean goverment then granted Japanese Army the right to expel Chinese troops.

A short victorious war

War between Japan and Qing was officially declared on August 1, 1894, though some naval fighting had already taken place. The more modern Japanese army defeated the Chinese in a series of battles around Seoul and Pyeongyang, forcing them north, and by November 21 the Japanese had taken the fishing village of Lshun (aka Port Arthur to westerners, now known as Lshunkou, literally Lshun Port) at the tip of the Liaodong Peninsula. During the invasion Japanese army committed the holocaust of 18,000 people in Lshunkou city, leaving only 36 alive to dig graves for the dead.

The Japanese navy devastated Qing's northern fleet off the mouth of the Yalu River at the Battle of Yalu on September 17, 1894. The Chinese fleet having lost 8 out of 12 warships, retreated behind the fortifications of the Weihai naval base, and was soon afterwards caught by surprise when the Japanese landed troups they'd staged at Port Arthur on the opposite Liaodong Peninsula outflanking the harbor defenses. The unexpected attack shattered the ships in harbour with shelling from the landward side. After Weihaiwei's fall on February 2 and an easing of harsh winter conditions, Japanese troops pressed into Manchuria.

Aftermath of war

Faced with these repeated defeats Qing signed the Treaty of Shimonoseki in April, 1895, agreeing by treaty to stay out of Korea and cedeing a large portion of eastern Manchuria, including the Liaodong (literally: Eastern Liaoning) portion of the modern Liaoning province. The defeat of Qing at the hands of Japan highlighted the failure of the Qing army to modernize adequately and resulted in increased calls within Qing for accelerated modernization and reform. It also drastically accelerated the Imperialist demands laid on the dynasty by western powers, in particular Britain, France, Germany, and Russia. For example, the latter, after the diplomatic slap in the face given to Japan in the Triple Intervention, moved almost immediately to occupy the entire Liaodong Peninsula and, especially to fortify Port Arthur despite vigorous protests from China, Japan, as well as the United States - all three favoring an Open Door Policy in Manchuria.

Historian Frank Theiss relates how the Chinese diplomat "Li-Hung-chang pleaded with the Russians to lease the territory at least to save face for the Chinese" about the Liaodong (then Kwantung or Liaotung) de jure negotiations by at least signing a treaty (already in de facto control). He adds: "Russia consented to lease the Kwantung peninsula, but it actually amounted to annexation." France and Germany also took advantage of the weakened Chinese state, and gained port and trade concessions soon after the wars end. The Shandong Province was especially affected, being along the coast opposite Port Arthur. Qingdao was ceded to Germany in 1897 and Weihai with some terratory called Weihaiwei to Britain in 1898.

The degree to which western powers were emboldened can be infered by examining the actions of the powers in the Boxer Rebellion (1897-1900) where they all but fell over in the rush to blame the Qing government for the rebellion of the resentful chinese population. The result was further humilating concessions from the now moribund Chinese Empire.

Reasons for the Qing defeat

The Japanese government undertook many political reforms, such as the Meiji constitution, a naval construction program and effective modernizaton of both its army and navy. Japan had sent hordes of diplomatic and military officials abroad, imported French and German advisors for their army after evaluating the relative strengths of European armies, and did the same for the navy with Brittish and American advisors. Many of her newer ships were built in US shipyards, especially Philadelphia. After the Triple Intervention she did even more of this culture importation, to the eventual shock and dismay of the Imperial Russian court. Qing followed traditional policies, feeling secure in the strength of superior numbers. Qing was plagued with corruption as well. Corrupt politicians had systematically embezzled funds of the Qing Navy, even during the war. Therefore, the Qing state was neither able to win against the Japanese navy or army. For example, in the middle of the Battle of Yalu, Many units of the Qing navy ran out of gunpowder, and were sunk defenseless, trying to flee.

Chronicle of the war

June 1, 1894 : The rebellion army concqured the capital of Korean province Jeollado.

June 2, 1894 : The rebellion army moved towards the Korean capital Seoul.

June 3, 1894 : The Korean government formally requested help from Qing to suppress the rebellion.

June 4, 1894 : Japanese ambassador to Korea terminated his vacation.

June 5, 1894 : Japanese established the commanding center for the Korea military operation (大本営を開設し).

June 6, 1894 : Qing goverment informed Japanese goverment formally under the obligation of Treaties of Tientsin. 2465 Chinese soldiers were shipped to Korea within several days.

June 7, 1894 : Japanese goverment informed Qing goverment formally that Japan would send troops as well.

June 8, 1894 : The Korean Minister of Foreign Affairs failed to stop Japane goverment from sending troops. Around 4000 Japanese Army soldiers and 500 Marines landed in Korea between June 8 and June 10.

June 10, 1894 : Commander of the Japanese troop entered Korean capital Seoul with 420 Marines and 4 artillaries.

June 11, 1894 : First 910 Chinese Army soldiers arrived at Korea, camped in Asan about 100 kilometers south from Inchin. Treaty was signed between the rebellion and the Korean goverment. Rebellion army ceased fire and retreated.

June 12, 1894 : Japanese commander Keisuke Ootori visited Chinese commander Yuan Shikai to arrange for pulling-out.

June 13, 1894 : Japanese goverment telegraphed Ootori to keep the military presence in Korea as long as possible.

June 16, 1894 : Japanese Minister of Foreign Affairs Mutsu Munemitsu met with Chinese ambassador to Japan Wang Fengzao to discuss the future status of Korea.

June 21, 1894 : Wang informed Japanese goverment that Chinese goverment intended to pull out from Korea and expected Japanese troops to do so as well.

June 22, 1894 : Japanese goverment refused to pull out. Instead, reinforcement were sent to Korea in protection of Japanese citizens and interest in Korea. Munemitsu informed Wang for this decision. This was known as "the first breach in contact"

June 25, 1894 : Chinese goverment started to prepare for the upcoming conflict between China and Japan.

July 03, 1894 : Ootori proposed a project for reform of the Korean political system.

July 07, 1894 : Chinese diplomats tried to reach an agreement with Japanese diplomats about pulling-out the troops in a series of meetings arranged by British representatives.

July 14, 1894 : Korean Minister of Forgein Affairs refused the proposal. On the same day, Komura Jutaro informed Chinese goverment for "the second breach in contact"

July 16, 1894 : Japan signed trade treaties with UK. (日英通商航海条約)

July 23, 1894 : Japanese troops entered Seoul and occupied the royal palace. Korean Emperor was seized and a new goverment was established.

July 23, 1894 : The new goverment terminated all Sino-Korean treaties and granted Japanese Amy the right to expel Chinese troops.


  • Frank Theiss, The Voyage of Forgotten Men, 1937, Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1st Ed., Indianapolis & New York, 415 pp.
  • F.R. Sedwick, (R.F.A.), The Russo-Japanese War, 1909, The Macmillan Company, N.Y., 192 pp.
  • Dennis and Peggy Warner, The Tide At Sunrise, 1974, Charterhouse, New York, 659 pp.
  • William Henry Chamberlain, Japan Over Asia, 1937, Little, Brown, and Company, Boston, 395 pp.
  • Colliers (Ed.), The Russo-Japanese War, 1904, P.F. Collier & Son, New York, 129 pp.

Related topics

de:Japanisch-Chinesischer Krieg es:Guerra chino-japonesa (1894-1895) fi:Kiinan-Japanin sota (1894-1895) fr:Guerre sino-japonaise (1894-1895) ja:日清戦争 lt:Kinų - japonų karai he:מלחמת סין-יפן הראשונה nl:Eerste Sino-Japanese oorlog sv:Frsta Sino-Japanska kriget zh-cn:中日甲午战争 zh-tw:中日甲午战争


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