The battle of Phung-Tao or Asan (25 July 1894) was an encounter battle between Chinese and Japanese naval forces that took place before the official outbreak of the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-95.
In July 1984 the Chinese chartered three troopships which they used to move reinforcements from Taku to the west coast of Korea. The last of these ships, the Kowshing, left Taku on 23 July and headed into waters that now contained Japanese warships.
On 25 July the Chinese 8.2in gun cruiser Tsi Yuen and the torpedo gunboat Kuang Yi left Asan, on the Korean coast, and steamed west towards the troopship Kowshing. The Tsi Yuen had a 3in armoured deck and two 8.2in Krupp guns while the Kuang Yi carried three more modern 4.7in quick firing guns.
Near to Phung Island the two Chinese ships ran into three ships from the Japanese flying squadron, the flagship Yoshino, the 10in gun cruiser Naniwa and the 6in gun cruiser Akitsushima.
War had not yet been declared, but a Japanese ultimatum had expired on 22 July and so both sides should have been ready for a possible clash. The Japanese were ready for action, but the two Chinese ships were apparently not. When the Tsi Yuen attempted to pass the Japanese ships Captain Togo on the Naniwa opened fire at short range. A general gun battle followed with all five ships involved.
The Tsi Yuen was quickly knocked out of the fight. Her main guns were disabled and her superstructure badly damaged. Her captain attempted to escape to Wei-Hai-Wei. The Yoshino set off in pursuit, and with around an 8kt speed advantage should have caught the Tsi Yuen, but for some reason the Chinese cruiser was able to escape. The Yoshino's bridge may have been hit by a shell from one of the Chinese ships, reducing her efficiency.
This left the Kuang Yi facing the Yoshino and the Akitsushima. The Chinese ship was very badly outgunned (both Japanese ships carried four 6in quick firing guns, Akitsushima also carried six 4.7in quick firing guns, and the Yoshino had eight 4.7in quick firing guns). After putting up fierce resistance the Kuang Yi was so badly damaged that her captain had had to run her aground to prevent her from sinking. The Japanese later destroyed her.
As the Tsi Yeun fled west she passed the troopship Kowshing, heading east. The troopship then ran into the cruiser Naniwa and a period of difficult negotiations began. After these failed the Japanese sank the Kowshing. Many of the 1,000 troops onboard were drowned although some did manage to swim to safety.
The day got worse for the Chinese when the gunboat Ts'ao Chiang ran into the Japanese squadron. The Ts'ao Chiang was very badly outmatched, and surrendered without a fight. She was taken into the Japanese navy where she became the Soko.
The naval clash off Asan played a part in the eventual declaration of war between China and Japan. It was a also a first sign that the Japanese had the more powerful fleet, and by the end the war Chinese naval power in the north had been destroyed.