May 20, 1645
The 10-day Yangzhou massacre begins, resulting in a death toll as high as 800,000
The Yangzhou area was loyal to the Ming empire, and when the Qing dynasty took hold soldiers eliminated potential threats, inflicted punishment for resisting the new dynasty, and made a public example out of the city. Traditionally, the death count from the 10-day massacre is estimated to be 800,000, though some modern historians believe this number is likely an exaggeration.
One translation of the massacre, written by 17th-century scholar Wang Xiuchu, describes the massacre:
Several dozen people were herded like sheep or goats. Any who lagged were flogged or killed outright. The women were bound together at the necks with a heavy rope—strung one to another like pearls. Stumbling with each step, they were covered with mud. Babies lay everywhere on the ground. The organs of those trampled like turf under horses’ hooves or people’s feet were smeared in the dirt, and the crying of those still alive filled the whole outdoors. Every gutter or pond we passed was stacked with corpses, pillowing each others arms and legs. Their blood had flowed into the water, and the combination of green and red was producing a spectrum of colors. The canals, too, had been filled to level with dead bodies.
Then fires started everywhere, and the thatched houses…caught fire and were soon engulfed in flames…Those who had hidden themselves beneath the houses were forced to rush out from the heat of the fire, and as soon as they came out, in nine cases out of ten, they were put to death on the spot. On the other hand, those who had stayed in the houses—were burned to death within the closely shuttered doors and no one could tell how many had died from the pile of charred bones that remained afterwards.