3.Course of the fighting : Fall of Pyongyang and the Battle of the Yalu River –Japanese army enters China

The Japanese army's plan of action decided

After the fall of Asan, the Chinese army's base at the start of the war, the units commanded by General Ye Zhichao, which had been encamped there, moved north to Pyongyang and the number of Chinese troops in the city gradually increased.

When the Japanese became aware of this movement of Chinese forces in early August (Document 1), they made Pyongyang the target of their next attack and proceeded with military preparations. Having declared war on China with the aim of driving out the Chinese army stationed at Asan, in mid August Japan decided on a policy of either expelling all Chinese forces from Korea or attacking China directly depending on how the situation developed (Document 2). If fact, having occupied Pyongyang and other Chinese strongholds in Korea, the Japanese army went on to advance into Chinese territory and carry out a series of campaigns.

The Imperial General Headquarters, which had been set up in the General Staff Office in June, was moved to the Imperial Palace on 5 August and then to Hiroshima Castle on 13 September. Two days later on 15 September Emperor Meiji arrived at the Hiroshima Headquarters (Document 3). Hiroshima, with its port at Ujina (later to grow into what is now the Port of Hiroshima), was already a major centre for the transport of soldiers and supplies to the war zone but with the arrival of the Emperor and the relocation of the Imperial Diet and many key national institutions, it came to function as the temporary capital of Japan for the duration of the Sino-Japanese War.

The Battle of Pyongyang

On 1 September the Japanese 1st Army was created from the 5th Division, including the 5th Mixed Brigade under Major General Ōshima Yoshimasa which had done most of the fighting so far, and the newly dispatched 3rd Division. General Yamagata Aritomo was appointed its commanding officer (Document 4). However, as the main body of the 3rd Division had not reached Korea, the attack on Pyongyang was to be undertaken by the 5th Division and the advance units of the 3rd Division.

Since Japanese forces had not yet gained naval supremacy over the Yellow Sea, reinforcements from Japan landed at Wonsan on the east coast of the Korean peninsula or at Busan on the south coast to avoid attack by the Chinese fleet. After disembarking at Busan the main force of the 5th Division advanced by land and reached the Hanseong area by the end of August. On 1 September these units set out for Pyongyang and later joined the main force of the 9th Mixed Brigade, which was ahead of them, the units from Sangnyeong north of Hanseong (Sangnyeong detachment) and the units that had headed west after landing at Wonsan (Wonsan detachment) to surround Pyongyang. On 15 September this combined force launched an all-out attack on the city. Given the considerable numbers of soldiers in these Japanese units and the large force of 13,000 Chinese troops garrisoned in Pyongyang at the time (according to Japanese military estimates) the fighting around Pyongyang was the first large-scale land battle of the Sino-Japanese War.

> See Main Feature : 15 September 1894 Fall of Pyongyang

The Chinese army mounted a strong defence of Pyongyang and the fighting was fierce on both sides. However, towards evening the Chinese units fighting the Sangnyeong and Wonsan detachments broke of their attack and raised the white flag. During a heavy thunderstorm that followed and on into the night the Chinese forces evacuated Pyongyang. At dawn the following day the Japanese army entered Pyongyang and quickly occupied the city.

The Battle of the Yalu River

Since the start of the way the Yellow Sea/Bohai Sea area had been under the control of China's Beiyang Fleet which had its bases at Port Arthur and Weihaiwei. The Beiyang Fleet, under the command of Admiral Ding Ruchang, had a number of powerful battleships including its flagship the Dingyuan and the Zhenyuan, but, in the light on their experience in the Battle of Pungdo, the Chinese made renewed efforts to strengthen their naval capability by improving the equipment of their ships in readiness for attacks on the Japanese fleet. The Japanese Combined Fleet, under its commander-in-chief Vice Admiral Itō Sukeyuki, realised the necessity of blockading the Beiyang Fleet, but, owing to a lack of information, was unable to pinpoint its location and continued to reconnoître the Yellow Sea for some time in an effort to find it (Document 5).

On 17 September, the Beiyang Fleet, which had finished escorting the ships transporting reinforcements and supplies for the troops garrisoned in Pyongyang, and was sailing off Dagushan to the west of the mouth of the Yalu River, and the Japanese Combined Fleet, which was continuing it reconnaissance and heading for an anchorage at Dalu Island off Dagushan, suddenly came upon each other. Both fleets immediately launched a large-scale attack and the battle began for naval control of the Yellow and Bohai Seas. This conflict is variously called the Battle of the Yalu River, the Battle of the Yellow Sea and the Battle of Dagushan.

> See Main Feature : 17 September 1894 Battle of the Yalu River

Both sides sustained heavy losses in the battle. Four ships of the Japanese Combined Fleet, including its flagship the cruiser Matsushima, suffered severe or intermediate damage while four of the Beiyang Fleet's vessels were sunk and many others were badly damaged. Its capital ships including the Zhenyuan and the Dingyuan caught fire but managed to retreat to Weiheiwei but thereafter Chinese naval power in the Yellow Sea was significantly reduced.

The Japanese 1st Army crosses the Yalu River

With the loss of Pyongyang, its key base in Korea, and then the retreat of the Beiyang Fleet to Weihaiwei, Chinese military power on the Korean peninsula and in the Yellow Sea declined. This meant that for the Japanese the conditions for moving to an attack on China itself had been fulfilled.

From here the Japanese army launched a two-pronged attack on China. The first was for the 1st Army, which had been leading the fighting on the Korean peninsula, to head north, enter China by crossing the Yalu River, which marked the border between Korea and China, and advance on the capital Beijing. The other route was for the newly formed 2nd Army to land directly from the Yellow Sea on the Liaodong and Shandong peninsulas and attack the Chinese fleet's bases at Port Arthur and Weihaiwei from land and sea.

Of the units composing the 1st Army, the 5th Division and part of the 3rd Division had carried out the occupation of Pyongyang while the remainder of the 3rd Division had landed at Incheon in mid September then headed via Hanseong to Pyongyang which it reached at the end of the month (Document 6). Once the 3rd Division had caught up, the 1st Army began a phased advance in the direction of the Yalu River. Along the route lay Chongju (Jongju) and Anju where units of the Qing army were garrisoned but in each location the Chinese had retreated towards the border so there was no fighting. However, the Japanese faced problems in securing food and provisions for such a large army and a sufficient number porters and packhorses to transport them.

On 24 October the 1st Army constructed temporary bridges at two sites along the Yalu River and began to cross. Meanwhile on the Chinese side, units stationed at Jiuliancheng on the west bank of the Yalu River to defend the border and the forces that had retreated from Pyongyang and elsewhere in Korea based themselves at Hushan on the banks of the river. From there they launched attacks on the Japanese forces as they completed the crossing and fierce fighting ensued.

> See Main Feature : 24 October 1894 Japanese forces cross the Yalu River

Having crossed the Yalu River and thus the border and fought off the Chinese resistance, at dawn on 26 October the Japanese 1st Army proceeded to surround and attack Jiuliancheng. The Chinese forces guarding the city had suffered losses in the fighting at the Yalu River staged a withdrawal before the attack began.

> See Main Feature : 26 October 1894 Fall of Jiuliancheng

Having captured Jiuliancheng without having to fight, the Japanese 1st Army divided into two contingents. The first, centred around the 5th Division, marched west to Fenghuangcheng and launched an attack on 29 October. The Chinese forces soon withdrew and the city quickly fell to the Japanese.

> See Main Feature : 29 October 1894 Fall of Fenghuangcheng

The second contingent, centred around the 3rd Division, headed south along the bank of the Yalu River, captured Dadonggou and pursued the escaping Chinese troops along the coast to Dagushan. On 5 November the Japanese forces began their attack on the Chinese units in the area but as these had already completed their withdrawal the Japanese were able to take Dagushan unopposed. As Dagushan had a port the Japanese army subsequently used it as a base for supplies arriving by sea.

The Japanese set up a Civil Administration Bureau (Minseichō) for Andong County, in which Dagushan was located, to take on responsibility for local government and control of crime among the Chinese population of the areas captured by the 1st Army. Komura Jutarō, formerly Japan's interim chargé d'affaires in China, was appointed first director of the Bureau (Document 7).

On 11 November the units of the 5th Division which had been marching west from Fenghuangcheng towards Fengtian Prefecture engaged Chinese forces at Lianshanguan and captured the town.

> See Main Feature : 11 November 1894 Fall of Lianshanguan

In response a large Chinese force sallied from Fentian Prefecture and attacked the Japanese army units based at Motien Pass near Lianshanguan. As a result the Japanese withdrew from Lianshanguan and fell back to Caohekou located to the south-east where fierce fighting between the two sides continued for some time (Document 8).

The Japanese 2nd Army lands on the Liaodong Peninsula and the Battle of Port Arthur

The second prong of the Japanese army's attack on China started with the landing of the 2nd Army on the Liaodong Peninsula. On 25 September, following the successes in the Battles of Pyongyang and of the Yalu River, a 2nd Army was formed from the 1st and 2nd Divisions and the 12th Mixed Brigade, and Army Minister Ōyama Iwao was appointed its Commander (Document 9). The 12th Mixed Brigade landed at Incheon at the end of September while the remaining units made their way by sea to the Liaodong Peninsula during mid to late October. Meanwhile the Combined Fleet reconnoitred suitable landing sites for the 2nd Army whose first objective was the attack on Port Arthur, proposing Huayuankou on the south coast of the Liaodong Peninsula halfway between Dagushan and Jinzhou. Initially Commander Ōyama was against the idea, believing it was too far from the 2nd Army's target area (Document 10) but in the end Huayuankou was chosen and the landings took place from 24-27 October (Document 11). On 7 November the 12th Mixed Brigade also landed at Huayuankou.

Once the 2nd Army had landed, the 1st Division marched west and on 6 November attacked Jinzhou. Situated on the western tip of the Liaodong Peninsula, Jinzhou was a strategic location but the Chinese garrison withdrew early on in the attack.

> See Main Feature : 6 November 1894 Fall of Jinzhou

The 1st Division then continued west and, having captured the battery at Dalian Bay on 7 November, began preparations for the attack on Port Arthur. Now joined by the 12th Mixed Brigade they assembled a temporary siege park equipped with heavy artillery and, once they had taken the battery, landed in Dalian Bay and set up camp.

For the Chinese army, the defence of Port Arthur, the base for the Beiyang Fleet, had great siginifance for the future course of the war. The size of the Chinese force in Port Arthur had increased with the addition of troops that had retreated from Jinzhou to augment the original garrison (Document 12).

Hostilities between the Japanese and Chinese contingents near Port Arthur broke out on 18 November and before dawn on 21st the Japanese launched an all-out attack. After fierce fighting Japanese units captured the entire battery and Port Arthur fell.

> See Main Feature : 21 November 1894 Fall of Port Arthur

The arrival of winter

In November, the area from the Liaodong Peninsula to Fengtian Prefecture which had been the main focus of ifghting was gripped by severe cold and in places deep snow had fallen, presenting serious difficulties for military operations. The Japanese also foresaw that the conditions would make it even harder to guarantee food supplies, something which had been a problem ever since the theatre of war moved onto Chinese territory. So they considered a temporary cessation of hostilities over the winter and establishing winter quarters.

In the 1st Army, the 5th Division was charged with garrisoning the captured cities of Jiuliancheng and Fenghuangcheng, and despite a counterattack by Chinese forces in mid December (Document 13), passed the rest of the winter without any further fighting. On the other hand the 3rd Division had to march towards the capital Beijing and on 13 December attacked Haicheng in Fengtian Prefecture, the Chinese army's base.

> See Main Feature : 13 December 1894 Fall of Haicheng

Haicheng soon fell to the Japanese but given its importance to the Chinese army as a transport hub, Chinese forces made repeated attacks to win it back and fierce fighting with the defending Japanese continued until the end of February the following year (Document 14).

Further rebellion by the Donghak Peasant Army and its destruction

The Donghak Peasant Rebellion, which had been one of the triggers of the Sino-Japanese War, came to an end with the signing of the Treaty of Jeonju between the Peasant Army and the Korean government on 11 June, as Japan and China were both preparing to dispatch troops to Korea. However, once the establishment of the Heungseong Daewongun's regime, which sought to cooperate with Japan, led to the signing of the Japan-Korea Alliance on 26 August, the Donghak Peasant Army denounced the government's collaboration with the Japanese and began to mobilise once more. From October it stepped up attacks on the Korean government and on the Japanese army in Korea (Document 15).

The Japanese forces at this stage were initially very small compared to those fighting in China but once the Donghak Rebellion broke out again reinforcements were sent from Japan and, together with Korean government troops, fought a succession of battles against the rebels. On 28 and 29 November a Peasant Army tens of thousands strong attacked Gongju in Chungcheong Province which led to fierce fighting with the combined Japanese and Korean forces. As a result the Peasant Army suffered heavy losses and was practically wiped out (Document 16). Thereafter sporadic clashes continued into the following year between the remnants of the Peasant Army as it continued to flee southwards and the Japanese-Korean army. One by one the rebel leaders were apprehended by the Korean government and the Peasant Army's activities came to an end.

  • Document 1
  • Reference Code: C06061833000 Title: Situation of Chinese forces in Pyongyang. Ueno
  • Telegram dated 25 August 1894 sent to Foreign Minister Mutsu Munemitsu in Japan by a certain "Ueno" (possibly Ueno Sen'ichi, second secretary in the consulate at Wonsan). It passes on local intelligence collected that 1,500 Chinese troops had arrived in Pyongyang on 7 August, that the number of soldiers there had reached 50,000, and that Korean soldiers were being recruited.


  • Document 2
  • Reference Code: C08040463000 Title: Important miscellaneous matters related to compilation (9)
  • Part of a digest of documents relating to the planning and execution of various operations during the Sino-Japanese War. Image 43 onwards shows a document dated 15 August 1894 by the Chief of General Staff of the Imperial General Headquarters (Prince Taruhito) transmitting the "Grand Plan" which had been decided upon. Image 45 onwards is Version A which assumes that only China and Korea are involved and makes provision for Japanese forces gaining control of the Yellow Sea and the Bohai Sea and the main army units penetrating as far as the Chinese capital Beijing for a decisive battle. If naval supremacy is not achieved, the army is to drive the Chinese forces out of Korea. Image 47 onwards is Version B which assumes that China and Russia are involved.


  • Document 3
  • Reference Code: C10060461800 Title: Imperial General Headquarters moved to Hiroshima, the Emperor to depart on 13 September
  • Order sent on 11 September 1894 to the Bureau of Military Affairs by the Army Minister Ōyama Iwao giving instructions for officers to see the Emperor off when he departs for Hiroshima following the relocation of the Imperial General Headquarters.


  • Document 4
  • Reference Code: C05121523500 Title: General Staff Office. Setting the battle order for the 1st Army and 3rd, 5th and 6th Divisions
  • Document sent on 2 September 1894 by the Chief of General Staff Prince Taruhito to Army Minister Ōyama Iwao showing the battle order (i.e. composition of units during military action) for the 1st Army and its constituent 3rd and 5th Divisions.


  • Document 5
  • Reference Code: C08040477300 Title: B: Movements, location and behavior situation of Qing warships (4)
  • Summary of Japanese intelligence relating to the movements of the Chinese fleet from late July to early September 1894.


  • Document 6
  • Reference Code: C11080785800 Title: Rikusan No. 13. 25 September 1894. Telegram. Report from Mixed Brigade
  • Telegram sent on 25 September 1894 by General Yamagata Aritomo, Commander of the 1st Army to Imperial General Headquarters reporting the latest movements of the various units of the 1st Army.


  • Document 7
  • Reference Code: B07090725200 Title: 1. Establishment of Civil Administration Office in occupied territory
  • Exchange within the Foreign Ministry regarding the establishment of the 1st Army Civil Administration Bureau (Minseichō) in Andong County and the appointment of Komura Jutarō, Japan's interim Chargé d'affaires to China, as its director. The Civil Administration Bureau was set up under the structure of the 1st Army. Images 2 to 4 shows an exchange dated 6 November 1894 between Foreign Minister Mutsu Munemitsu, Deputy Foreign Minister Hayashi Tadasu and Secretary to the Foreign Ministry Nabeshima Keijirō seeking confirmation of the establishment of the Bureau and Komura's appointment as its head. Image 6 is a telegram from the newly appointed Komura asking the Foreign Ministry to send him clerical staff and translators.


  • Document 8
  • Reference Code: C06062054900 Title: Detailed battle report 29 November. Caoahekou. 22nd Infantry Regiment
  • Record by the 22nd Infantry Regiment (part of the 5th Division) of the battle at Caohekou on 29 November 1894.


  • Document 9
  • Reference Code: C08040613600 Title: 1894 and 1895 Table of division and unit engaged in campaign End Adjutant Department to Minister of the Navy at Imperial General Headquarters 40 (1)
  • Document laying out the composition of the Japanese army during the Sino-Japanese War. Image 17 onwards shows the battle order (composition of units during military action) of the components of the 2nd Army – the 1st Division, 2nd Division and 12th Mixed Brigade.


  • Document 10
  • Reference Code: C11080766200 Title: Naval News no.37. 23 December 1894. Full account of selection of landing site at Huayuankou
  • Report dated 23 December 1894 submitted by Vice Admiral Itō Sukeyuki, Commander-in-Chief of the Combined Fleet, to Imperial General Headquarters detailing the selection of the landing site for the 2nd Army. At the beginning, he points out that in response to the Combined Fleet's choice of Huayuankou, the 2nd Army's battle report expresses "extreme dissatisfaction". Next he explains the respective views of the Army and Navy authorities and the history of the decision to select Huayuankou.


  • Document 11
  • Reference Code: C06061906400 Title: Huayuankou 29 October. 2nd Army landing report. Ōyama, Commander, 2nd Army
  • Report sent on 29 October 1894 by General Ōyama Iwao, Commander of the 2nd Army to the Chief of General Staff in Japan on the 2nd Army's landing at Huayuankou. It gives an account of the 2nd Army's movements from the morning of 23 October when the first landing party, together with the Combined Fleet, began to move toward the landing site until 27th when all units had disembarked. At the beginning of the report Ōyama mentions that when he discussed the landing site issue with Vice Admiral Itō Sukeyuki, Commander-in-Chief of the Combined Fleet, they had been unable to come to an agreement.


  • Document 12
  • Reference Code: C06060147000 Title: Telegram. Yuyindong 19 November. From Logistics Inspector Fukubara to Logistics Inspector Kawakami
  • Telegram sent on 19 November 1894 by Major General Fukubara Toyonori, Logistics Inspector for the Southern District to Lieutenant General Kawakami Sōroku, Logistics Inspector of the Imperial General Headquarters in Japan (summary of a telegram from Inspector of Field Operations Nodo Hiromichi). It gives the plans for the attack on Port Arthur and estimates the number of Chinese troops in Port Arthur as approximately 12,000, 3-4,000 of whom were trained soldiers.


  • Document 13
  • Reference Code: C06062055900 Title: Detailed battle report 13-14 December. 2nd Battalion 21st Infantry Regiment
  • The 21st Infantry Regiment's record of hostilities around Fenghuangcheng on 13-14 December 1894. The regiment was part of the 3rd Division and garrisoned Fenghuangcheng following the city's capture. As such it was involved in fighting with the Chinese forces attempting to win the city back.


  • Document 14
  • Reference Code: C06062094100 Title: No.9. 28 February. Report of fighting near Haicheng. 3rd Division
  • The 3rd Division's record of the hostilities in the Haicheng area on 28 February 1895. This day's fighting was the last large-scale engagement of the battle for Haicheng which had lasted several months.


  • Document 15
  • Reference Code: C06061839600 Title: Donghak uprising in Gyeongsang Province. Deputy Foreign Minister Hayashi
  • Telegram sent on 23 September 1894 by Deputy Foreign Minister Hayashi Tadasu to Foreign Minister Mutsu Munemitsu reporting that Donghak Peasant uprisings had broken out in Chungcheong, Jeolla and Gyeongsang Provinces. He also states that the Korean government is unable to put down the revolts.


  • Document 16
  • Reference Code: C06060050900 Title: Promulgating an imperial edict to declare a war between Japan and Qing
  • Telegram sent on 2 December 1894 by Lieutenant Colonel Itō Sukeyoshi, Commander of Logistics in Incheon to Lieutenant General Kawakami Sōroku, Logistics Inspector of the Imperial General Headquarters in Japan. In it he relates that on 28 and 29 November a Donghak Peasant Army tens of thousands strong had attacked Gongju but was repulsed by 1,000 Japanese and Korean government troops. The Peasant Army leaders were killed and after the fighting rebel groups disappeared from the area between Asan in Gyeongsang Province to Jeonju and Hongju in Chungcheong.