Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/Tso Liang-yü

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TSO Liang-yü 左良玉 (T. 崑山), 1598–1645, Apr. 29, Ming general, was a native of Lin-ch'ing, Shantung. Devoid of formal education, he was a versatile bowman and able strategist. His first post in Liaotung, in 1628, ended disastrously but his second under Hou Hsün (see under Hou Fang-yü) in Ch'ang-p'ing, Chihli, started him on his career. He was promoted to colonel and led a successful expedition in Liaotung. When Li Tzŭ-ch'êng and Chang Hsien-chung [q. v.] rebelled in Shensi and moved south and east, he was transferred to Huai-ch'ing, Honan, and became active in numerous minor campaigns in Honan and Anhwei. He defied his superiors, gained a reputation for strength and, although repeatedly incriminated, was never punished. In 1638 after an encounter with Chang Hsien-chung at Hsin-yang, he proposed to follow up his victory and attack him at Ku-ch'êng, in northwest Hupeh. His superior, Hsiung Wên-ts'an (see under Chêng Chih-lung), advised pacification. In 1639 Chang burned Ku-ch'êng and the neighboring district, Fanghsien, and later badly defeated Tso Liang-yü at Lo-hou-shan 羅猴山, about eighty li west of Fang-hsien. When the case was presented at Court, Hsiung Wên-ts'an was replaced and Tso Liang-yü was degraded. Early in 1640 the latter was made Rebel-pacifying General (平賊將軍); later in the same year he won a decisive victory over Chang Hsien-chung at Ma-nao-shan 瑪瑙山 on the Szechwan-Shensi border, and was made Junior Guardian of the Heir Apparent. In 1641 he defeated Chang Hsien-chung at Hsinyang in southwest Honan, but was himself badly defeated by Li Tzŭ-ch'êng in the next year near Kaifeng, and fled to Hsiang-yang in northern Hupeh. Early in 1643, when. Li Tzŭ-ch'êng forced him from that position, he went down to Wuchang and thence to Anking. Meanwhile Chang Hsien-chung pillaged the northern part of Hunan. Later in the same year when the latter occupied Szechwan Tso ascended the Yangtze River and again stayed at Wuchang.

In 1644 Tso Liang-yü was designated Ningnan po 寧南伯, or "Earl who Pacifies the South." When Peking fell and the Prince of Fu (see under Chu Yu-sung) set up his Court in Nanking he was made marquis, and later Grand Tutor of the Heir Apparent. He was associated with the Tung-lin party and was opposed to Ma Shih-ying [q. v.] who was then influential in the Court at Nanking. Compelled by his lieutenants, he rose against the Nanking government in April 1645 and issued a denunciation of Ma, accusing him of misrule. But his move eastward and his expressed desire to "clarify the surroundings of the throne" (清君側) may really have been due to the necessity of feeding his large number of followers, or else to the pressure of Li Tzŭ-ch'êng in northern Hupeh. In any event his advance caused great confusion in Nanking and served to weaken that city's defense against the Manchus. On reaching Kiukiang some of his troops, contrary to orders, pillaged and fired the city, April 29, 1645. Already ill for some time, he died that same night.

The officers of his army then put his son, Tso Mêng-kêng 左夢庚, in charge, but the latter was soon defeated by Huang Tê-kung [q. v.] in Anhwei, and later in the same year (1645) surrendered to the Manchus under Ajige [q. v.]. He was ordered to serve under the Chinese Plain Yellow Banner and in 1648 was given the hereditary rank of viscount of the first class. Tso Mêng-kêng died in 1654 and was given the posthumous name, Chuang-min 莊敏.

[M.1/273/1a; M.59/64/1a; Ming-chi nan-lüeh (see bibl. under Ma Shih-ying) 7/4a; Ming-chi pei-lüeh (see bibl. under Chang Ch'üan) 12/6a, 13/6a, 6b, 16/4a, 17/5a, 18/9a, 19/8b, 23/4b; Ming-wang shu-lüeh, hsia 10b; concerning Tso Mêng-kêng see 1/254/1b.]

Earl Swisher