In China's long history, there have been countless thousands of distinguished generals and military strategists, and even today, their noble deeds and achievements are still often talked about. In this article, we will introduce Bai Qi to you.
Bai Qi was a very famous general in the state of Qin during the Warring States period and his military successes laid a good foundation for the later unification of China by Emperor Qin Shihuang. According to historical records he won more than 70 battles, and never lost one. In his lifetime his troops killed over a million soldiers.
Bai Qi (白起; 332 BC – 257 BC), also known as Gongsun Qi (公孫起), was a military general of the state of Qin (秦) during the Warring States period (战国时代) of China. Born in Mei (present-day Mei County, Shaanxi), Bai Qi served as commander of the Qin army for over 30 years, being responsible for the deaths of over one million people, earning him the nickname Ren Tu (人屠 lit. manslayer').
According to the historical book Shiji (史記) he captured more than 73 cities from six other enemy states, and to date no records have been found to show that Bai suffered a single defeat during his military career. Bai Qi is called by Chinese historians as one of the four greatest generals of the late Warring States period, along with Li Mu (李牧, general of the state of Zhao), Wang Jian (王翦, general of the state of Qin) and Lian Po (廉頗, 327 BC – 243 BC) general of the state of Zhao).
Bai Qi later changed his surname to Bai, but the reason is unclear. His name only became known at the beginning of the reign of King Zhaoxiang of Qin. At that time King Zhaoxiang was still a child so in matters of government the emperor was assisted by his mother and uncle, Wei Ran (Marquis Xiang) who acted as regents. It was Wei Ran who boosted Bai's career by giving him the responsibility of strengthening the Qin country's military. Immediately after being appointed as supreme commander of the empire he reformed the Qin army by imposing strict discipline and intensive military training, he built a cavalry force capable of movement and resilience. In a short time, Qin already has a strong army and ready for battle.
By around 294 BC, the Qin empire had become the main military power in China. His first conquests began with the nearby Wei and Han kingdoms. Wei and Han have been enemies for many years, and don't pay much attention to Qin.
In 294 BC Qin, under general Bai Qi, attacked the Han and captured an important stronghold. Wei and Han became aware of Qin's power, and joined forces to stop Qin from further conquest. Wei and Han raised 240,000 troops to face Qin. The battlefield was a large area including five fortresses, towns and defensive positions along rivers and mountains. Bai Qi only had 120,000 people under his command. But the alliance army was afraid of the more well-trained and well-equipped Qin army, so the alliance decided on a passive defense. The battle was stalemate until 293 BC.
Bai Qi noticed that Wei and Han were actually still enemies with each other, so he decided on a divide and conquer strategy. He scouted the area looking for weaknesses in the alliance's defenses. He attracted the attention of the main Han army with a small ambush, then attacked the weakly defended Wei positions with the main Qin army.
The Wei officers believed that the Han had deliberately failed to support the Wei army's position. Hostilities grew worse between the two allies. Han decided to keep his power and stop trying to support Wei. Therefore Bai Qi was able to avoid fighting against the Han forces. Over the next few months, he defeated the Wei positions one by one.
Bai Qi then turned his attack towards the Han army. Eventually the Han troops were trapped by the Qin troops and they tried to escape. However the Qin cavalry made sure that none of them made it back. Bai Qi led the Qin army to victory against the Wei (魏) and Han (韓) forces at the Battle of Yique (伊阙之战). now in Longmen (龍門), southeast of Luoyang, Henan. Alliance leader Gongsun Xi (公孙喜), was arrested.
Notes: This battle brought Qin influence to central China for the first time. The Wei and Han forces were crushed after the Battle of Yique. The two countries ceded lands to Qin in exchange for temporary peace, but destruction was ultimately ensured. Qin state conquered the Han state in 230 BC, and conquered the Wei state in 225 BC.
In 292 BC, Bai Qi was promoted from Zuo Shu Zhang (左庶長, Deputy Premier of Qin) to Da Liang Zao (大良造, Premier of Qin) by King Zhaoxiang of Qin (秦昭襄王, 325–251 BC), or King Zhao of Qin (秦昭王), the King's nickname, Ying Ji (嬴稷).
In 278 BC, Bai led his troops to war with the state of Chu, he succeeded in occupying the city of Yan (now the southeastern part of Yicheng, Hubei) and several other cities. The following year he invaded the Chu capital Ying (present-day Jiangling, Hubei). King Chu fled and moved his capital to Chen (now Huaiyang, Henan). This victory resulted in him being knighted by the Duke of Wu'an (武安君).
In 272 BC, it is reported that Bai's forces drowned 100,000 people in a flood attack. In 273 BC, Qin forces under his command defeated the combined forces of the Zhao (趙) and Wei states at Huayang (華陽, south of present-day Zhengzhou, Henan), where he massacred an army reported to have numbered around 150,000 troops, composed separately of total: 130,000 Wei soldiers with another 20,000 Zhao soldiers, killed and thrown into the river.
In 264 BC, Bai successfully laid siege to five strongholds of the Han state and after that beheaded 50,000 enemy soldiers. The Battle of Changping (長平之戰) was a military campaign that took place from 262 BC to 260 BC in Changping (northwest of present-day Gaoping, Shanxi province), between the two strongest military powers at the time, the State of Qin and the State of Zhao. After two years of bitter fighting, the battle ended in a decisive victory for the Qin army and the cruel execution of sentences for most of the Zhao captives, resulting in the irrecoverable loss of manpower and strategic reserves for the state of Zhao.
Records: The Battle of Changping is one of the bloodiest battles in human history, the primary historical record for this event comes from the Records of the Grand Historian, which was written more than a century later. estimates that around 450,000 people died on the Zhao side and 250,000 people died on the Qin side. Emperor Xuanzong of Tang (685–762) later built a temple over the collection of some human remains, and the scattered bones of the mass burials that continue to be found at the site even today.
During the Battle of Changping in 260 BC, Bai Qi replaced Wang He as commander of the Qin army, and soon defeated the Zhao army commanded by the inexperienced Zhao Kuo, who replaced the general Lian Po as commander-in-chief. The Zhao army was split into two parts and its supply lines and retreat routes were cut off by Bai Qi. Bai staged a triangular siege that trapped Zhao Kuo's troops around a small mountain range and supplies quickly ran low, Zhao Kuo's troops waiting for reinforcements. However Zhao was unable to secure any reinforcements from the Chu State or the Qi State.
financially and domestically exhausting for both countries. The State of Zhao never recovered from the loss of manpower due to this defeat, and while within a decade Qin was able to recover to full strength and gain complete dominance over the other states. Forty years later in 221 BC, the state of Qin would use this dominance to subdue all other nations and unify China.
Bai Qi wanted to end the state of Zhao once and for all, as they were exhausted and affected psychologically by the losses incurred from the Battle of Changping, but the premier of Qin, Fan Ju (范雎), persuaded by speakers of Zhao, feared Bai's power and influence. Increasing Qi, then recommended that the king stop the attack under the pretext that the Qin army should be rested, and to accept the surrender of territory negotiations. Bai Qi finally stopped the attacks and on the way back to Qin Country, Bai fell ill.
According to Shiji, in 257 BC, Qin began a siege of Handan, the capital of Zhao. Due to Bai Qi's illness, the Qin king engaged another prominent general, Wang Ling (王陵), who later lost the battle. After about four months, when Bai Qi seemed to have recovered, the king asked him to return to his post as commander, but Bai Qi thought differently, he argued that Qin no longer had sufficient resources for such long-distance warfare.
Later, Fan Ju asked Bai Qi again to return to the army, but Bai Qi still claimed to be sick. King Zhaoxiang then deposed Bai Qi as a soldier and banished him to Yinmi. Due to his illness, Bai Qi did not depart immediately.
After three months, news of the defeat of the Qin army came from Handan, and King Zhaoxiang became angry with Bai Qi and ordered him to leave immediately without staying. Bai Qi had to go on his way with his illness, and when he arrived at Duyou (present-day Xianyang City, Shaanxi), King Zhaoxiang discussed with Fan Ju and ordered Bai Qi to kill himself because he thought Bai Qi was reluctant to follow orders.
Before he died, Bai Qi looked up to the sky and sighed: "What have I done to deserve this?" After a long time, he said, "I ought to have died. At the battle of Changping, the Zhao army surrendered hundreds of thousands of soldiers, and I buried them all alive by deceitful means, and that was enough of a death sentence!" After saying this, he drew his sword and killed himself. The time was November, the fiftieth year of King Zhaoxiang of Qin (257 BC).
Reference: Wuxia Indonesia