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bhchao

Sichuan at end of Ming dynasty

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bhchao

There are many candidates in Chinese history whose policies caused the deaths of so many people. But one individual strikes out as perhaps the most heinous in Chinese history. He was 張獻忠, the peasant rebel leader who ravaged the population of Sichuan in the last years of Ming.

Zhang killed all the scholars, merchants, government officials, and landlords in Sichuan, including their wives and families. He then turned his wrath on the civilian population in Sichuan. He wiped out the entire population of Chengdu, setting a quota of 200 a day. He also eliminated all the monks in the province. After his soldiers had finished killing everyone they could find in Sichuan, he divided them in two and ordered them to kill each other and each other's wives.

The civil service exams in Sichuan had been suspended because of the strife. Zhang announced a continuation of the exams "to fill his government". He decreed that all intellectuals in Sichuan interested in advancing their careers can gather in the exam hall in Chengdu. More than 17,000 exam takers showed up. When they finished assembling in the hall, all of them were put to the sword.

What is striking is that his followers actually complied with this insanity. There was no coup d'etat. They carried out his orders without dissent or rebellion. There were over 6 million people in Sichuan during late Ming. By the time Zhang was defeated, Sichuan's population had been reduced to 18,000 residents.

What Zhang did was worse than the acts committed by Stalin, Hitler, or Qin Shi Huang. There was no rational behind his actions or even an ideology to base his actions on. Qin Shi Huang punished those according to Legalist law. Zhang killed for fun or for the sake of killing. And unlike the Ming loyalist Zheng Chenggong who fought for a cause, Zhang was loyal only to himself. He had a stone tablet erected in his own memory.

After seeing the devastation in Sichuan, Emperor Kangxi offered incentives for Guangdong people interested in migrating to Sichuan. Kangxi gave the Cantonese financial assistance and monetary benefits for emigrating to Sichuan. Today there is a lot of Sichuan ren with Cantonese descent because of Kangxi's incentive program.

The PLA destroyed Zhang's stone tablet during the late 70's. It is rumored that Deng Xiaoping, a Hakka who was a native of Sichuan, ordered the tablet blown up.

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Nakura

It's controversial.

Many historians believe that Sichuan people were actually killed by Qing army. The Qing regime imputed the crime to Zhang. The Chaos in Sichuan had continued for decades. During most part of the time, Sichuan was under the Qing army's control.

Zhang might be a devil, but hard to say all the crimes committed by Zhang.

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