Tour Through Time: Stop 7: Chongchon River

Well that was a long stint! 230 miles of solely running since our last stop at the Lui Shung prison. A few of us have slowed due to injury but we are still going!

We have now arrived at the Chongchon River and the site of the Battle of Salsu in 612AD. It began when Emperor Yang of the Sui Dynasty invaded Goguryo with well over 1 million men. It is said that the army was so large it took 40 days to depart and that the line of soldiers stretched back for 250 miles.

King Yeong-Yang of Goguryo ordered all of his troops to retreat and commissioned Ul-Ji Moon Dok as a Field Marshal to defend the nation. Ul-Ji opted for a Chongya tactic, clearing the land of all food supplies. He feigned peace negotiations with the Sui forces to assess their position. The Sui Generals became unsure of their plans, recognising the impact a lack of supplies had had on their men, but Ul-Ji taunted them, writing “Your divine plans have plumbed the heavens; Your subtle reckoning has spanned the earth. You win every battle, your military merit is great. Why then not be content and stop the war?” But the Sui troops continued towards Pyongyang, with Ul-Ji‘s troops attacking up to seven times a day, each time feigning defeat and withdrawing, only to attack again. The plan was to make the Sui feel victorious whilst slowly weakening and lessening their numbers.

As the Sui troops reached the Chongchon River in South Pyongyang they discovered the water was so low they could cross. As they did, Ul-Ji ordered the dam he built prior to their arrival to be opened, sending cascades of water down the river, flooding it and drowning thousands of enemy soldiers. The Goguryo cavalry then charged the remaining troops, forcing them to retreat to the Liaodong Peninsula to avoid being killed.

Around 99% of the Sui troops were killed, making the Battle of Salsu one of the most lethal classical formation battles in world history. It eventually aided a victory of Goguryo over the Sui Dynasty, which, coupled with internal conflicts and rebellion, led to the demise of the Sui Dynasty in 618AD.

We will be celebrating our arrival with 230 russian twists before continuing 43 miles south east to the tomb of a great legend.

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