Shi Lang, Marquis Jinghai (1621 – 1696) was a Chinese admiral who served the Ming Dynasty, before switching sides and turning against his people. He defected to help the Manchu invaders in their successful conquest of China, overthrow of the Ming Dynasty, and its replacement with the Manchu Qing Dynasty which ruled China until the early 20th century.
Shi Lang was born into a prominent family in Fujian, studied the military arts, and gained an expertise in naval warfare. He joined the Ming navy, which was led by the powerful Zheng family and quickly distinguished himself. Lang rapidly rose to command a powerful contingent by his mid-20s. A falling out with a scion of the Zhengs led Shi Lang to defect to the rising Manchus in 1646. The Zhengs retaliated by slaughtering the family he left behind as traitors, killing Shi Lang’s father, brother, and son.
The Manchus, who lacked a seafaring tradition and capable naval commanders, warmly welcomed Shi Lang for his naval talents and network of contacts throughout East Asia’s port cities. In 1656, he helped the Manchus conquer his native province of Fujian. Later, in 1663, he conducted a successful campaign against the Zheng family, in cooperation with a naval contingent from the Dutch East India Company.
In 1681, he led the Manchu invasion of the Ming Dynasty’s last bastion in Taiwan which gave him great personal satisfaction. He once again defeated the Zheng family, crushing their leading admiral in a sea battle off the Pescadores, and forcing the final surrender of his old enemies. After conquering Taiwan for the Manchus, Shi Lang was given the hereditary rank of marquis, and granted the title of “General Who Maintains Peace on the Seas”.