Remarks on the Sino-Oyirad negotiation following the battle of 1449

YuanChu Ruby Lam

Remarks on the Sino-Oyirad negotiation following the battle of 1449

(62nd Meeting Friedensau, 2019)

In the forthcoming 2022 winter Olympic, when the world best athletes are competing to ski down the slopes north of Beijing, they will come very close to a real 1449 battleground situating in that mountainous area. This battle was a swift but brutal one fought between the Chinese of the Ming dynasty and the Mongols led by Esen, a powerful Oyirad tribal leader.

The immediate result of this battle was that the twenty-one year old Ming emperor Zhu Qizhen was captured and was held hostage for the next thirteen months. As for Esen, at first he was looking for a huge ransom by escorting the emperor back to Beijing. However, when none of his demands was taken seriously by the Chinese court, he failed to enforce them with military expedition. Toward the end, he became the biggest loser of the negotiation.

There exists two personal accounts written by two of the assistants who accompanied Zhu Qizhen in captivity. Through their report, we can detect a three-way negotiating maneuvers. The dethroned emperor, relying upon his surviving instinct, had succeeded in persuading his enemies and his own half-brother who replaced him on the throne to bring him home.

In this negotiation, the Chinese court was sticking to a rather firm stand in dealing with the demands made by Esen and was at the same time backed up by a strong border defense. Its strategy was indirectly reflected upon those two above-mentioned accounts, whereas Esen was kept in those accounts like a naïve nomadic tribal chief instead of an empire builder.