|Alternative Chinese name|
|Literal meaning||Coastal Evacuation Order|
The Great Clearance (traditional Chinese: 遷界令; simplified Chinese: 迁界令), also translated as the Great Evacuation or Great Frontier Shift, refers to the edicts issued in 1661, 1664, and 1679, which required the evacuation of the coastal areas of Guangdong, Fujian, Zhejiang, Jiangnan, and Shandong[note 1], in order to fight the Taiwan-based anti-Qing loyalist movement of the erstwhile Ming dynasty (1368–1644).
The edict was first issued by the Shunzhi Emperor of Qing (1643-1661) in 1661. With the Shunzhi Emperor's death in 1661, his son, the Kangxi Emperor (1661–1722), succeeded this edict under a regency led by Oboi (1661-1669). The ban on human settlement of those coastal areas was lifted in 1669, and some residents were allowed to return. Yet, in 1679, the edict was issued again. In 1683, after Qing defeated the Kingdom of Tungning in the Battle of Penghu and took control of Taiwan, the people from the cleared areas according to the edict were allowed to return and to live in the cleared areas.
The goal was to fight the anti-Qing movement based in Taiwan, begun by Ming dynasty loyalists under the leadership of Zheng Chenggong (Koxinga), who used his influence on the coastal areas to support the movement. The measure was in accordance with a five-point plan to deal with Koxinga, suggested by one of his former lieutenants who had gone over to the Manchus. Its adoption was due to a conviction that Koxinga's campaigning against the new dynasty could not be continued if aid and supplies were denied him in this way.
Enforcement of this drastic measure was extended to the Xin'an County (which covered roughly the territory of modern-day Shenzhen and Hong Kong) and adjacent counties of Guangdong in 1661. Two inspections determined the areas to be cleared. At the time of the first inspection up to a distance of 50 li from the coast, it was calculated that two-thirds of the territory of the County would be affected. A year later the boundary was extended further inland, and what remained of the County was to be absorbed into the adjoining Dongguan County. By the 5th year of Kangxi, Xin'an had ceased to be a separate administrative county. When the new boundaries were fixed, the inhabitants living outside them were given notice to move inland. These orders were enforced by troops. The result was that whole communities were uprooted from their native place, deprived of their means of livelihood and compelled to settle where they could. The rural people risked their lives if they ignored the government edict to move, or ventured back into the prohibited area. It is recorded that about 16,000 persons from Xin'an were driven inland. What is now the territory of Hong Kong became largely wasteland during the ban.
The ban was lifted in 1669, following a request by the Governor-General of Guangdong and Guangxi Zhou Youde (周有德) and Governor of Guangdong Wang Lairen (王來任), and residents were allowed to return to their original homes. Only 1,648 of those who left are said to have returned when the evacuation was rescinded in 1669.
The evacuation of the coast followed prolonged earlier years of miseries and had a profound effect on the lives of the population and on the pattern of future settlement. The survivors' hardships did not end when they returned to take up their interrupted lives in their old homes, for it is recorded that destructive typhoons in 1669 and 1671 destroyed the new houses in many places. The Evacuation has had a great impact on the minds of local people and their descendants. It is recalled in the genealogies and traditions of some of the longsettled clans of the County: it is commemorated in the construction and continued repair of temples to the two officials who strove to have the order rescinded. An example is the Chou Wong Yi Kung Study Hall in Shui Tau Tsuen, in Kam Tin, Hong Kong, which was erected in 1685 by the Tang Clan in honour of Zhou Youde and Wang Lairen. The event was also remembered centuries later by the manufacture and sale by pedlars of images of the two men, as recorded for the Yuen Long District of the New Territories of Hong Kong at the end of the 19th century.
Hakka dialect speaking communities are thought to have arrived in the Hong Kong area after the rescinding of the coastal evacuation order. Their immigration into the area was assisted by the government after the order was rescinded. The formerly established Punti clans also came back, expanded their ancestral halls, built study halls and set up market towns in Yuen Long, Tai Po, and Sheung Shui.
Moreover, three times of the Great Clearance, which happened in the 18th year of Shunzhi (1661), 3rd year of Kangxi(1664), 18th year of Kangxi(1679) respectively, caused 'what used to be busy and prosperous streets to become ruins, and the people who used to gather in the same place as family to separate. The documents that recorded family bonds got incomplete, classic books got lost, brothers were separated and ancestors were no longer worshiped. ' (Chinese: 另外顺治十八年(1661) 、康熙三年 (1664) 、十八年 (1679)三次迁界 ,也造成了“昔之闾里繁盛者 ,化而为墟矣 ,昔之鸠宗聚族者 ,化而星散矣 ,户口凋残 ,典籍失矣 ,兄弟离散 ,神主遗之。”)
In the early era of the Qing dynasty, in order to cut the connection between the coastal residents in Southeast China and the regime of Zheng retreated to Taiwan, the Qing government issued a clearance order in the 18th year of Shunzhi (1661)...(text omitted)... In the 3rd year of Kangxi (1664), the Government forced the residents to migrate again, giving the reason that "the coastal defense was an issue while the incomplete evacuation was worrisome."(Chinese: 清初为断绝东南沿海民众与退居台湾的郑氏集团的联系，于顺治18年（1661年）下令迁海。……康熙三年（1664年）政府以“以海防为事，民未尽空为虑”，再次迁民。)
The Emperor told the Minister Du Zhen and other officials who were assigned to open the border along the coast in Fujian and Guangdong, 'It is of great importance to relocate the people. You should investigate into the ownership so as to give things back to who they originally belonged to. You should work with the local high officials to make sure soldiers and civilians be in the right place. You should be self-disciplined, and do not behave like the previous officials being rude and impolite. ' (Chinese: 上谕差往福建广东展沿海边界侍郎杜臻等曰、迁移百姓、事关紧要。当察明原产、给还原主。尔等会同总督巡抚安插、务使兵民得所。须廉洁自持。勿似从前差往人员、所行鄙琐也)
In Octobor 1683, the Kangxi Emperor ordered Du Zhen, Vice Minister of Personnel and other officials to go to the four provinces of Fujian, Guangdong, Jiangsu and Zhejiang to measure the coastal lands, recruiting people to farm in the previously deserted land, to make the civilians back to their original homeland. (Chinese: 康熙二十二年(1683)十月，康熙帝命吏部侍郎杜臻等往福建、广东、江苏、浙江四省勘查沿海边界，招垦荒地，让老百姓们回到原来的土地上从事耕作。)