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Famous Battles in Chinese History


Ian_Lee
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There are many famous battles in Chinese history. But I think the one that carries most historical significance is -- 淝水之戰

Why is the battle important?

(1) It involved the two-parties -- the still quite unsinicized Qin Dynasty against the Chinese Jin Dynasty. If Qin succeeded in the attempt, China might have fallen apart like the Roman Empire was.

(2) Facing an 800,000 strong army that dwarfed its token 20,000 defensive force, Jin established a classic example of defense against all odds.

(3) The way the battle was fought -- attacking the adversary when they are in transit -- is also a classic example of military strategy.

(4) The aftermath -- where wind blowing trees and grass seem like enemy coming -- is deeply embedded in the minds of every Chinese literature reader.

I recall that I studied the textbook article on 淝水之戰 in my Grade 9 Chinese Literature class (it is quite readable for a 15-yr old kid). Until today I still remembered the last paragraph -- the Jin strategists were still playing chess after they heard the incredible result of the battle!

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Besides famous battles in Chinese history, there are a couple famous battles in Asian history worth mentioning.

1) Battle of Talas (751). The Tang defeat resulted in Arab control of Central Asia. Had General Gao Xianzhi won the Battle of Talas, Central Asia would probably be under Chinese political influence today. Chinese prisoners of war from Talas taught paper making to the Arabs at Samarkand. The secrets of paper making then spread from Samarkand to Europe.

2) Battle of Hansando (1592). A classic example of an outnumbered force defeating a numerically superior opponent. Admiral Yi Sun-shin sent 5 or 6 turtle boats to feign a surprise attack on the Japanese fleet. The Japanese pursued those boats out into the open sea. As the pursuing fleet neared a certain point, a larger group of kobuksons waited nearby and launched into a crane formation against the approaching Japanese, surrounding them while launching a barrage of cannon fire.

Admiral Yi's victory at Hansando was studied by Admiral Nelson two centuries later. Yi's naval victories preserved Korean control of the sea and smashed Hideyoshi's dream of invading China; just as how Nelson's victory at Trafalgar preserved British control of the sea and smashed Napoleon's dream of invading Britain. Ironically both Admirals Yi and Nelson died in the height of battle when final victory was near.

3) Dien Bien Phu (1954), where Vo Nguyen Giap beat the French and dealt the death blow to French colonialism in Southeast Asia. Americans failed to learn from the lessons of this battle, and confidently rushed straight into the jungles of Vietnam 10 years later.

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