The necessity for this military reform was clearly shown by the experience of his first campaign with these implacable enemies, when, in the year of his accession and before his organization had been completed, a horde of these barbarians broke into the empire and carried all before them, almost to the gates of the capital. On this occasion Taitsong resorted to diplomacy and remonstrance. He rode almost unattended to the Tartar camp, and reproached their chiefs with their breach of faith, reminding them that on his sending one of his sisters to be the bride of their chief they had sworn by a solemn oath to keep the peace. He asked: "Are these proceedings worthy, I will not say of princes, but of men possessing the least spark of honor? If they forget the benefits they have received from me, at the least they ought to be mindful of their oaths. I had sworn a peace with them; they are now violating it, and by that they place the justice of the question on my side." The Chinese chroniclers declare that the Tartars were so impressed by Taitsong's majestic air and remonstrances that they agreed to retire, and fresh vows of friendship and peace were sworn over the body of a white horse at a convention concluded on the Pienkiao bridge across the Weichoui River. The only safe deduction from this figurative narrative is that there was a Tartar incursion, and that the Chinese army did not drive back the invaders. Their retreat was probably purchased, but it was the first and last occasion on which Taitsong stooped to such a measure.
The peace of Pienkiao was soon broken. The tribes again drew their forces to a head for the purpose of invading China, but before their plans were complete Taitsong anticipated them by marching into their territory at the head of a large army. Taken by surprise, the Tartars offered but a feeble resistance. Several of their khans surrendered, and at a general assembly Taitsong proclaimed his intention to govern them as Khan of their khans, or by the title of Tien Khan, which means Celestial Ruler. This was the first occasion on which a Chinese ruler formally took over the task of governing the nomad tribes and of treating their chiefs as his lieutenants. Down to the present day the Chinese emperor continues to govern the Mongol and other nomadic tribes under this very title, which the Russians have rendered as Bogdo Khan. The success of this policy was complete, for not only did it give tranquillity to the Chinese borders, but it greatly extended Chinese authority. Kashgaria was then, for the first time, formed into a province under the name of Lonugsi, and Lichitsi, one of the emperor's best generals, was appointed Warden of the Western Marches. Some of the most influential of Taitsong's advisers disapproved of this advanced policy, and attempted to thwart it, but in vain. Carried out with the vigor and consistency of Taitsong there cannot be two opinions about its wisdom and efficacy.
During this reign the relations between China and two of its neighbors, Tibet and Corea, were greatly developed, and the increased intercourse was largely brought about by the instrumentality of war. The first envoys from Tibet, or, as it was then called, Toufan or Toupo, are reported to have reached the Chinese capital in the year 634. At that time the people of Tibet were rude and unlettered, and their chiefs were little better than savages. Buddhism had not taken that firm hold on the popular mind which it at present possesses, and the power of the lamas had not arisen in what is now the most priest-ridden country in the world. A chief, named the Sanpou—which means the brave lord—had, about the time of which we are speaking, made himself supreme throughout the country, and it was said that he had crossed the Himalaya and carried his victorious arms into Central India. Curiosity, or the desire to wed a Chinese princess, and thus to be placed on what may be termed a favored footing, induced the Sanpou to send his embassy to Singan; but although the envoys returned laden with presents, Taitsong declined to trust a princess of his family in a strange country and among an unknown people. The Sanpou chose to interpret this refusal as an insult to his dignity, and he declared war with China. But success did not attend his enterprise, for he was defeated in the only battle of the war, and glad to purchase peace by paying five thousand ounces of gold and acknowledging himself a Chinese vassal. The Sanpou also agreed to accept Chinese education, and as his reward Taitsong gave him one of his daughters as a wife. It is stated that one of his first reforms was to abolish the national practice of painting the face, and he also built a walled city to proclaim his glory as the son-in-law of the Emperor of China. During Taitsong's life there was no further trouble on the side of Tibet.
Taitsong was not so fortunate in his relations with Corea, where a stubborn people and an inaccessible country imposed a bar to his ambition. Attempts had been made at earlier periods to bring Corea under the influence of the Chinese ruler, and to treat it as a tributary state. A certain measure of success had occasionaly attended these attempts, but on the whole Corea had preserved its independence. When Taitsong in the plenitude of his power called upon the King of Corea to pay tribute, and to return to his subordinate position, he received a defiant reply, and the Coreans began to encroach on Sinlo, a small state which threw itself on the protection of China. The name of Corea at this time was Kaoli, and the supreme direction of affairs at this period was held by a noble named Chuen Gaisoowun, who had murdered his own sovereign. Taitsong, irritated by his defiance, sent a large army to the frontier, and when Gaisoowun, alarmed by the storm he had raised, made a humble submission and sent the proper tribute, the emperor gave expression to his displeasure and disapproval of the regicide's acts by rejecting his gifts and announcing his resolve to prosecute the war. It is never prudent to drive an opponent to desperation, and Gaisoowun, who might have been a good neighbor if Taitsong had accepted his offer, proved a bitter and determined antagonist. The first campaign was marked by the expected success of the Chinese army. The Coreans were defeated in several battles, several important towns were captured, but Taitsong had to admit that these successes were purchased at the heavy loss of twenty-five thousand of his best troops. The second campaign resolved itself into the siege and defense of Anshu, an important town near the Yaloo River. Gaisoowun raised an enormous force with the view of effecting its relief, and he attempted to overwhelm the Chinese by superior numbers. But the better discipline and tactics of the Chinese turned the day, and the Corean army was driven in rout from the field. But this signal success did not entail the surrender of Anshu, which was gallantly defended. The scarcity of supplies and the approach of winter compelled the Chinese emperor to raise the siege after he had remained before the place for several months, and it is stated that as the Chinese broke up their camp the commandant appeared on the walls and wished them "a pleasant journey." After this rebuff Taitsong did not renew his attempt to annex Corea, although to the end of his life he refused to hold any relations with Gaisoowun.
During the first portion of his reign Taitsong was greatly helped by the labors of his wife, the Empress Changsun-chi, who was a woman of rare goodness and ability, and set a shining example to the whole of her court. She said many wise things, among which the most quotable was that "the practice of virtue conferred honor upon men, especially on princes, and not the splendor of their appointments." She was a patron of letters, and an Imperial Library and College in the capital owed their origin to her. She was probably the best and most trustworthy adviser the emperor had, and after her death the energy and good fortune of Taitsong seemed to decline. She no doubt contributed to the remarkable treatise on the art of government, called the "Golden Mirror," which bears the name of Taitsong as its author. Taitsong was an ardent admirer of Confucius, whom he exalted to the skies as the great sage of the world, declaring emphatically that "Confucius was for the Chinese what the water is for the fishes." The Chinese annalists tell many stories of Taitsong's personal courage. He was a great hunter, and in the pursuit of big game he necessarily had some narrow escapes, special mention being made of his slaying single-handed a savage boar. Another instance was his struggle with a Tartar attendant who attempted to murder him, and whom he killed in the encounter. He had a still narrower escape at the hands of his eldest son, who formed a plot to assassinate him which very nearly succeeded. The excessive anxiety of Prince Lichingkien to reach the crown cost him the succession, for on the discovery of his plot he was deposed from the position of heir-apparent and disappeared from the scene.
After a reign of twenty-three years, during which he accomplished a great deal more than other rulers had done in twice the time, Taitsong died in A.D. 649, leaving the undisturbed possession of the throne to his son, known as the Emperor Kaotsong. There need be no hesitation in calling Taitsong one of the greatest rulers who ever sat on the Dragon Throne, and his death was received with extraordinary demonstrations of grief by the people he had ruled so well. Several of his generals wished to commit suicide on his bier, the representatives of the tributary nations at his capital cut off their hair or sprinkled his grave with their blood, and throughout the length and breadth of the land there was mourning and lamentation for a prince who had realized the ideal character of a Chinese emperor. Nor does his claim to admiration and respect seem less after the lapse of so many centuries. His figure still stands out boldly as one of the ablest and most humane of all Chinese rulers. He not only reunited China, but he proved that union was for his country the only sure basis of prosperity and power.
Under Kaotsong the power of the Tangs showed for thirty years no diminution, and he triumphed in directions where his father had only pointed the way to victory. He began his reign with a somewhat risky act by marrying one of his father's widows, who then became the Empress Won. She was perhaps the most remarkable woman in the whole range of Chinese history, acquiring such an ascendency over her husband that she practically ruled the state, and retained this power after his death. In order to succeed in so exceptional a task she had to show no excessive delicacy or scrupulousness, and she began by getting rid of the other wives, including the lawful empress of Kaotsong, in a summary fashion. It is stated that she cast them into a vase filled with wine, having previously cut off their hands and feet to prevent their extricating themselves. But on the whole her influence was exerted to promote the great schemes of her husband.
The Tibetan question was revived by the warlike proclivities of the new Sanpou, who, notwithstanding his blood relationship with the Chinese emperor, sought to extend his dominion at his expense toward the north and the east. A desultory war ensued, in which the Chinese got the worst of it, and Kaotsong admitted that Tibet remained "a thorn in his side for years." A satisfactory termination was given to the struggle by the early death of the Sanpou, whose warlike character had been the main cause of the dispute. Strangely enough the arms of Kaotsong were more triumphant in the direction of Corea, where his father had failed. From A.D. 658 to 670 China was engaged in a bitter war on land and sea with the Coreans and their allies, the Japanese, who thus intervened for the first time in the affairs of the continent. Owing to the energy of the Empress Wou victory rested with the Chinese, and the Japanese navy of four hundred junks was completely destroyed. The kingdom of Sinlo was made a Chinese province, and for sixty years the Coreans paid tribute and caused no trouble. In Central Asia also the Chinese power was maintained intact, and the extent of China's authority and reputation may be inferred from the King of Persia begging the emperor's governor in Kashgar to come to his aid against the Arabs, who were then in the act of overrunning Western Asia in the name of the Prophet. Kaotsong could not send aid to such a distance from his borders, but he granted shelter to several Persian princes, and on receiving an embassy from the Arabs, he impressed upon them the wisdom and magnanimity of being lenient to the conquered. Kaotsong died in 683, and the Empress Wou retained power until the year 704, when, at the age of eighty, she was compelled to abdicate. Her independent rule was marked by as much vigor and success as during the life of Kaotsong. She vanquished the Tibetans and a new Tartar race known as the Khitans, who appeared on the northern borders of Shensi. She placed her son in confinement and wore the robes assigned for an emperor. The extent of her power may be inferred from her venturing to shock Chinese sentiment by offering the annual imperial sacrifice to heaven, and by her erecting temples to her ancestors. Yet it was not until she was broken down by age and illness that any of her foes were bold enough to encounter her. She survived her deposition one year, and her banished son Chongtsong was restored to the throne.
Chongtsong did not reign long, being poisoned by his wife, who did not reap the advantage of her crime. Several emperors succeeded without doing anything to attract notice, and then Mingti brought both his own family and the Chinese empire to the verge of ruin. Like other rulers, he began well, quoting the maxims of the "Golden Mirror" and proclaiming Confucius King of Literature. But defeats at the hands of the Khitans and Tibetans imbittered his life and diminished his authority. A soldier of fortune named Ganlochan revolted and met with a rapid and unexpected success owing to "the people being unaccustomed, from the long peace, to the use of arms." He subdued all the northern provinces, established his capital at Loyang, and compelled Mingti to seek safety in Szchuen, when he abdicated in favor of his son. The misfortunes of Mingti, whose most memorable act was the founding of the celebrated Hanlin College and the institution of the "Pekin Gazette," the oldest periodical in the world, both of which exist at the present day, foretold the disruption of the empire at no remote date. His son and successor Soutsong did something to retrieve the fortunes of his family, and he recovered Singan from Ganlochan. The empire was then divided between the two rivals, and war continued unceasingly between them. The successful defense of Taiyuen, where artillery is said to have been used for the first time, A.D. 757, by a lieutenant of the Emperor Soutsong, consolidated his power, which was further increased by the murder of Ganlochan shortly afterward. The struggle continued with varying fortune between the northern and southern powers during the rest of the reign of Soutsong, and also during that of his successor, Taitsong the Second. This ruler showed himself unworthy of his name, abandoning his capital with great pusillanimity when a small Tibetan army advanced upon it. The census returns threw an expressive light on the condition of the empire during this period. Under Mingti the population was given at fifty- two million; in the time of the second Taitsong it had sunk to seventeen million. A great general named Kwo Tsey, who had driven back the Tibetan invaders, enabled Tetsong, the son and successor of Taitsong, to make a good start in the government of his dominion, which was sadly reduced in extent and prosperity. This great statesman induced Tetsong to issue an edict reproving the superstitions of the times, and the prevalent fashion of drawing auguries from dreams and accidents. The edict ran thus: "Peace and the general contentment of the people, the abundance of the harvest, skill and wisdom shown in the administration, these are prognostics which I hear of with pleasure; but 'extraordinary clouds,' 'rare animals,' 'plants before unknown,' 'monsters,' and other astonishing productions of nature, what good can any of these do men as auguries of the future? I forbid such things to be brought to my notice." The early death of Kwo Tsey deprived the youthful ruler of his best adviser and the mainstay of his power. He was a man of magnificent capacity and devotion to duty, and when it was suggested to him that he should not be content with any but the supreme place, he proudly replied that he was "a general of the Tangs." It seems from the inscription on the stone found at Singan that he was a patron of the Nestorian Christians, and his character and career have suggested a comparison with Belisarius.
Tetsong lived twenty-four years after the death of his champion, and these years can only be characterized as unfortunate. The great governors claimed and exacted the privilege that their dignities should be made hereditary, and this surrender of the imperial prerogative entailed the usual deterioration of the central power which preceded a change of dynasty. Unpopularity was incurred by the imposition of taxes on the principal articles of production and consumption, such as tea, and, worst symptom of all, the eunuchs again became supreme in the palace. Although the dynasty survived for another century, it was clear that its knell was sounded before Tetsong died. Under his grandson Hientsong the mischief that had been done became more clearly apparent. Although he enjoyed some military successes, his reign on the whole was unfortunate, and he was poisoned by the chief of the eunuchs. His son and successor, Moutsong, from his indifference may be suspected of having been privy to the occurrence. At any rate, he only enjoyed power for a few years before he was got rid of in the same summary fashion. Several other nonentities came to the throne, until at last one ruler named Wentsong, whose intentions at least were stronger than those of his predecessors, attempted to grapple with the eunuchs and formed a plot for their extermination. His courage failed him and the plot miscarried. The eunuchs exacted a terrible revenge on their opponents, of whom they killed nearly three thousand, and Wentsong passed the last year of his life as a miserable puppet in their hands. He was not allowed even to name his successor. The eunuchs ignored his two sons, and placed his brother Voutsong on the throne.
The evils of the day became specially revealed during the reign of Ytsong, who was scarcely seated on the throne before his troops suffered several defeats at the hands of a rebel prince in Yunnan, who completely wrested that province from the empire. He was as pronounced a patron of Buddhism as some of his predecessors had been oppressors, and he sent, at enormous expense, to India a mission to procure a bone of Buddha's body, and on its arrival he received the relic on bended knees before his whole court. His extravagance of living landed the Chinese government in fresh difficulties, and he brought the exchequer to the verge of bankruptcy. Nor was he a humane ruler. On one occasion he executed twenty doctors because they were unable to cure a favorite daughter of his. His son Hitsong came to the throne when he was a mere boy, and at once experienced the depth of misfortune to which his family had sunk. He was driven out of his capital by a rebel named Hwang Chao, and if he had not found an unexpected ally in the Turk chief Likeyong, there would then have been an end to the Tang dynasty. This chief of the Chato immigrants—a race supposed to be the ancestors of the Mohammedan Tungani of more recent times—at the head of forty thousand men of his own race, who, from the color of their uniform, were named "The Black Crows," marched against Hwang Chao, and signally defeated him. The condition of the country at this time is painted in deplorable colors. The emperor did not possess a palace, and all the great towns of Central China were in ruins. Likeyong took in the situation at a glance, when he said, "The ruin of the Tangs is not far distant." Likeyong, who was created Prince of Tsin, did his best to support the emperor, but his power was inadequate for coping with another general named Chuwen, prince of Leang, in whose hands the emperor became a mere puppet. At the safe moment Chuwen murdered his sovereign, and added to this crime a massacre of all the Tang princes upon whom he could lay his hands. Chao Siuenti, the last of the Tangs, abdicated, and a few months later Chuwen, to make assurance doubly sure, assassinated him. Thus disappeared, after two hundred and eighty-nine years and after giving twenty rulers to the state, the great Tang dynasty which had restored the unity and the fame of China. It forms a separate chapter in the long period of disunion from the fall of the Hans to the rise of the Sungs.
After the Tangs came five ephemeral and insignificant dynasties, with the fate of which we need not long detain the reader. In less than sixty years they all vanished from the page of history. The struggle for power between Chuwen, the founder of the so-called Later Leang dynasty, and Likeyong was successfully continued by the latter's son, Litsunhiu, who proved himself a good soldier. He won a decisive victory at Houlieoupi, and extinguished the Leang dynasty by the capture of its capital and of Chuwen's son, who committed suicide. Litsunhiu ruled for a short time as emperor of the Later Leangs, but he was killed during a mutiny of his turbulent soldiers. This dynasty had a very brief existence; the last ruler of the line, finding the game was up, retired with his family to a tower in his palace, which he set on fire, and perished, with his wives and children, in the flames. Then came the Later Tsins, who only held their authority on the sufferance of the powerful Khitan king, who reigned over Leaoutung and Manchuria. The fourth and fifth of these dynasties, named the Later Hans and Chows, ran their course in less than ten years; and when the last of these petty rulers was deposed by his prime minister a termination was at last reached to the long period of internal division and weakness which prevailed for more than seven hundred and fifty years. The student reaches at this point firmer ground in the history of China as an empire, and his interest in the subject must assume a more definite form on coming to the beginning of that period of united government and settled authority which has been established for nearly one thousand years, during which no more than four separate families have held possession of the throne.
THE SUNGS AND THE KINS
One fact will have been noticed during the latter portion of the period that has now closed, and that is the increasing interest and participation in Chinese affairs of the races neighboring to, but still outside, the empire. A large number of the successful generals, and several of the princely families which attained independence, were of Tartar or Turk origin; but the founder of the new dynasty, which restored the unity of the empire, was of pure Chinese race, although a native of the most northern province of the country. Chow Kwang Yu was born in Pechihli, at the small town of Yeoutou, on the site of which now stands the modern capital of Pekin. His family had provided the governor of this place for several generations, and Chow himself had seen a good deal of military service during the wars of the period. He is described as a man of powerful physique and majestic appearance, to whose courage and presence of mind the result of more than one great battle was due, and who had become in consequence the idol of the soldiery. The ingenuity of later historians, rather than the credulity of his contemporaries, may have discovered the signs and portents which indicated that he was the chosen of Heaven; but his army had a simple and convincing method of deciding the destiny of the empire. Like the legionaries of Rome, they exclaimed, "The empire is without a master, and we wish to give it one. Who is more worthy of it than our general?" Thus did Chow Kwang Yu become the Emperor Taitsou and the founder of the Sung dynasty.
Taitsou began his reign by proclaiming a general amnesty, and he sent the proclamation of his pardon into provinces where he had not a shred of authority. The step was a politic one, for it informed the Chinese people that they again had an emperor. At the same time he ordered that the gates and doors of his palace should always be left open, so that the humblest of his subjects might have access to him at any time. His own words were that "his house should resemble his heart, which was open to all his subjects." He also devoted his attention to the improvement of his army, and particularly to the training of his officers, who were called upon to pass an examination in professional subjects as well as physical exercises. A French writer said, forty years ago, that "The laws of military promotion in the states of Europe are far from being as rational and equitable as those introduced by this Chinese ruler." His solicitude for the welfare of his soldiers was evinced during a campaign when the winter was exceedingly severe. He took off his own fur coat, and sent it to the general in command, with a letter stating that he was sorry that he had not one to send to every soldier in the camp. A soldier himself, he knew how to win a soldier's heart, and the affection and devotion of his army never wavered nor declined. He had many opportunities of testing it. His first war was with the Prince of Han, aided by the King of Leaoutung, whom he speedily vanquished, and whose capacity for aggression was much curtailed by the loss of the frontier fortress of Loochow. His next contest was with an old comrade-in-arms named Li Chougsin, whom he had treated very well, but who was seized with a foolish desire to be greater than his ability or power warranted. The struggle was brief, and Li Chougsin felt he had no alternative save to commit suicide.
The tranquillity gained by these successes enabled Taitsou to institute a great reform in the civil administration of the empire, and one which struck at the root of the evil arising from the excessive power and irresponsibility of the provincial governors. Up to this date the governors had possessed the power of life and death without reference to the capital. It had enabled them to become tyrants, and had simplified their path to complete independence. Taitsou resolved to deprive them of this prerogative and to retain it in his own hands, for, he said, "As life is the dearest thing men possess, should it be placed at the disposal of an official who is often unjust or wicked?" This radical reform greatly strengthened the emperor's position, and weakened that of the provincial viceroys; and Taitsou thus inaugurated a rule which has prevailed in China down to the present day, where the life of no citizen can be taken without the express authority and order of the emperor. Taitsou then devoted his attention to the subjugation of those governors who had either disregarded his administration or given it a grudging obedience. The first to feel the weight of his hand was the viceroy of Honan; but his measures were so well taken, and the military force he employed so overwhelming, that he succeeded in dispossessing him and in appointing his own lieutenant without the loss of a single man. The governor of Szchuen, believing his power to be greater than it was, or trusting to the remoteness of his province, publicly defied Taitsou, and prepared to invade his dominions. The emperor was too quick for him, and before his army was in the field sixty thousand imperial troops had crossed the frontier and had occupied the province. By these triumphs Taitsou acquired possession of some of the richest provinces and forty millions of Chinese subjects.
Having composed these internal troubles with enemies of Chinese race, Taitsou resumed his military operations against his old opponents in Leaoutung. Both sides had been making preparations for a renewal of the struggle, and the fortress of Taiyuen, which had been specially equipped to withstand a long siege, was the object of the emperor's first attack. The place was valiantly defended by a brave governor and a large garrison, and although Taitsou defeated two armies sent to relieve it, he was compelled to give up the hope of capturing Taiyuen on this occasion. Some consolation for this repulse was afforded by the capture of Canton and the districts dependent on that city. He next proceeded against the governor of Kiangnan, the dual province of Anhui and Kiangsu, who had taken the title of Prince of Tang, and striven to propitiate the emperor at the same time that he retained his own independence. The two things were, however, incompatible. Taitsou refused to receive the envoys of the Prince of Tang, and he ordered him to attend in person at the capital. With this the Tang prince would not comply, and an army was at once sent to invade and conquer Kiangnan. The campaign lasted one year, by which time the Tang power was shattered, and his territory resumed its old form as a province of China. With this considerable success Taitsou's career may be said to have terminated, for although he succeeded in detaching the Leaoutung ruler from the side of the Prince of Han, and was hastening at the head of his forces to crush his old enemy at Taiyuen, death cut short his career in a manner closely resembling that of Edward the First of England. Taitsou died in his camp, in the midst of his soldiers; and, acting on the advice of his mother, given on her death-bed a few years before, "that he should leave the throne to a relation of mature age," he appointed his brother his successor, and as his last exhortation to him said, "Bear yourself as becomes a brave prince, and govern well." Many pages might be filled with the recitation of Taitsou's great deeds and wise sayings; but his work in uniting China and in giving the larger part of his country tranquillity speaks for itself. His character as a ruler may be gathered from the following selection, taken from among his many speeches: "Do you think," he said, "that it is so easy for a sovereign to perform his duties? He does nothing that is without consequence. This morning the thought occurs to me that yesterday I decided a case in a wrong manner, and this memory robs me of all my joy."
The new emperor took the style of Taitsong, and during his reign of twenty-three years the Sung dynasty may be fairly considered to have grown consolidated. One of his first measures was to restore the privileges of the descendant of Confucius, which included a hereditary title and exemption from taxation, and which are enjoyed to the present day. After three years' deliberation Taitsong determined to renew his brother's enterprise against Taiyuen, and as he had not assured the neutrality of the King of Leaoutung, his task was the more difficult. On the advance of the Chinese army, that ruler sent to demand the reason of the attack on his friend the Prince of Han, to which the only reply Taitsong gave was as follows: "The country of the Hans was one of the provinces of the empire, and the prince having refused to obey my orders I am determined to punish him. If your prince stands aside, and does not meddle in this quarrel, I am willing to continue to live at peace with him; if he does not care to do this we will fight him." On this the Leaou king declared war, but his troops were repulsed by the covering army sent forward by Taitsong, while he prosecuted the siege of Taiyuen in person. The fortress was well defended, but its doom was never in doubt. Taitsong, moved by a feeling of humanity, offered the Prince of Han generous terms before delivering an assault which was, practically speaking, certain to succeed, and he had the good sense to accept them. The subjugation of Han completed the pacification of the empire and the triumph of Taitsong; but when that ruler thought to add to this success the speedy overthrow of the Khitan power in Leaoutung he was destined to a rude awakening. His action was certainly precipitate, and marked by overconfidence, for the army of Leaoutung was composed of soldiers of a warlike race accustomed to victory. He advanced against it as if it were an army which would fly at the sight of his standard, but instead of this he discovered that it was superior to his own forces on the banks of the Kaoleang River, where he suffered a serious defeat. Taitsong was fortunate enough to retain his conquests over the southern Han states and to find in his new subjects in that quarter faithful and valiant soldiers. The success of the Leaou army was also largely due to the tactical skill of its general, Yeliu Hiuco, who took a prominent part in the history of this period. When Taitsong endeavored, some years later, to recover what he had lost by the aid of the Coreans, who, however, neglected to fulfill their part of the contract, he only invited fresh misfortunes. Yeliu Hiuco defeated his army in several pitched battles with immense loss; on one occasion it was said that the corpses of the slain checked the course of a river. The capture of Yangyeh, the old Han defender of Taiyuen, who died of his wounds, completed the triumph of the Leaou general, for it was said, "If Yangyeh cannot resist the Tartars they must be invincible." Taitsong's reign closed under the cloud of these reverses; but, on the whole, it was successful and creditable, marking an improvement in the condition of the country and the people, and the triumph of the Sungs over at least one of their natural enemies.
His son and successor, Chintsong, must be pronounced fortunate in that the first year of his reign witnessed the death of Yeliu Hiuco. The direct consequence of his death was that the Chinese were, for the first time, successful in their campaign against the Leaous. But this satisfactory state of things did not long continue, and the Leaous became so aggressive and successful that there was almost a panic among the Chinese, and the removal of the capital to a place of greater security was suggested. The firm counsel and the courageous demeanor of the minister Kaochun prevented this course being adopted. He figuratively described the evil consequences of retreat by saying, "Your majesty can, without serious consequences, advance a foot further than is absolutely necessary, but you cannot retire, even to the extent of an inch, without doing yourself much harm." Chintsong, fortunately for himself and his state, adopted this course; and the Tartars thought it best to come to terms, especially as the Chinese emperor was willing to pay annually an allowance in silk and money as the reward of their respecting his frontier. The arrangement could not have been a bad one, as it gave the empire eighteen years of peace, The country, no doubt, increased greatly in prosperity during this period; but the reputation of Chintsong steadily declined. He seems to have been naturally superstitious, and he gave himself up to fortune tellers and soothsayers during the last years of his reign; and when he died, in A.D. 1022, he had impaired the position and power of the imperial office. Yet, so far as can be judged, the people were contented, and the population rose to over one hundred million.
Chintsong was succeeded by his sixth son, Jintsong, a boy of thirteen, for whom the government was carried on by his mother, a woman of capacity and good sense. She took off objectionable taxes on tea and salt—prime necessaries of life in China—and she instituted surer measures against the spiritualists and magicians who had flourished under her husband and acquired many administrative offices under his patronage. After ruling for ten peaceful years she died and Jintsong assumed the personal direction of affairs. During the tranquillity that had now prevailed for more than a generation a new power had arisen on the Chinese frontier in the principality of Tangut or Hia. This state occupied the modern province of Kansuh, with some of the adjacent districts of Koko Nor and the Gobi Desert. Chao Yuen, the prince of this territory, was an ambitious warrior, who had drawn round his standard a force of one hundred and fifty thousand fighting men. With this he waged successful war upon the Tibetans, and began a course of encroachments on Chinese territory which was not to be distinguished from open hostility. Chao Yuen was not content with the appellation of prince, and "because he came of a family several of whose members had in times past borne the imperial dignity," he adopted the title of emperor. Having taken this step, Chao Yuen wrote to Jintsong expressing "the hope that there would be a constant and solid peace between the two empires." The reply of the Chinese ruler to this insult, as he termed it, was to declare war and to offer a reward for the head of Chao Yuen.
It was soon made evident that Chao Yuen possessed the military power to support an imperial dignity. He defeated the emperor's army in two pitched battles at Sanchuen and Yang Moulong, and many years elapsed before the Sung rulers can be held to have recovered from the loss of their best armies. The Khitans of Leaoutung took advantage of these misfortunes to encroach, and as Jintsong had no army with which to oppose them, they captured ten cities with little or no resistance. The Chinese government was compelled to purchase them back by increasing the annual allowance it paid of gold and silk. A similar policy was resorted to in the case of Chao Yuen, who consented to a peace on receiving every year one hundred thousand pieces of silk and thirty thousand pounds of tea. Not content with this payment, Chao Yuen subsequently exacted the right to build fortresses along the Chinese frontier. Soon after this Chao Yuen was murdered by one of his sons, whose betrothed he had taken from him. If Jintsong was not fortunate in his wars he did much to promote education and to encourage literature. He restored the colleges founded by the Tangs, he built a school or academy in every town, he directed the public examinations to be held impartially and frequently, and he gave special prizes as a reward for elocution. Some of the greatest historians China has produced lived in his reign, and wrote their works under his patronage; of these Szemakwang was the most famous. His history of the Tangs is a masterpiece, and his "Garden of Szemakwang" an idyll. He was remarkable for his sound judgment as well as the elegance of his style, and during the short time he held the post of prime minister his administration was marked by ability and good sense. The character of Jintsong was, it will be seen, not without its good points, which gained for him the affection of his subjects despite his bad fortune against the national enemies, and his reign of thirty years was, generally speaking, prosperous and satisfactory. After the brief reign of his nephew, Yngtsong, that prince's son, Chintsong the Second, became emperor.
The career of Wanganchi, an eccentric and socialistic statesman, who wished to pose as a great national reformer, and who long possessed the ear and favor of his sovereign, lends an interest to the reign of the second Chintsong. Wanganchi did not possess the confidence or the admiration of his brother officials, and subsequent writers have generally termed him an impostor and a charlatan. But he may only have been a misguided enthusiast when he declared that "the State should take the entire management of commerce, industry, and agriculture into its own hands, with the view of succoring the working classes, and preventing their being ground to the dust by the rich." The advocacy of such a scheme is calculated to earn popularity, as few of those who are to benefit by it stop to examine its feasibility, and Wanganchi might have been remembered as an enlightened thinker and enthusiastic advocate of the rights of the masses if he had not been called upon to carry out his theories. But the proof of experience, like the touch of Ithuriel's spear, revealed the practical value of his suggestions, and dissolved the attractive vision raised by his perfervid eloquence and elevated enthusiasm. His honesty of purpose cannot, however, be disputed. On being appointed to the post of chief minister he took in hand the application of his own project. He exempted the poor from all taxation. He allotted lands, and he supplied the cultivators with seeds and implements. He also appointed local boards to superintend the efforts of the agricultural classes, and to give them assistance and advice. But this paternal government, this system of making the state do what the individual ought to do for himself, did not work as it was expected. Those who counted on the agricultural laborer working with as much intelligence and energy for himself as he had done under the direction of a master were doomed to disappointment. Want of skill, the fitfulness of the small holder, aggravated perhaps by national calamities, drought, flood, and pestilence, being felt more severely by laborers than by capitalists, led to a gradual shrinkage in the area of cultivated land, and at last to the suffering of the classes who were to specially benefit from the scheme of Wanganchi. The failure of his scheme, which, to use his own words, aimed at preventing there being any poor or over-rich persons in the state, entailed his disgrace and fall from power. But his work and his name have continued to excite interest and speculation among his countrymen down to the present day. His memory has been aspersed by the writers of China, who have generally denounced him as a free-thinker and a nihilist, and although, twenty years after his death, a tablet bearing his name was placed in the Hall of Confucius as the greatest Chinese thinker since Mencius, it was removed after a brief period, and since then both the name and the works of Wanganchi have been consigned to an oblivion from which only the curiosity of European writers has rescued them.
Chintsong's reign was peaceful, but he seems to have only avoided war by yielding to all the demands of the Tartars, who encroached on the frontier and seized several Chinese cities. His son Chetsong was only ten when he became emperor, and the administration was carried on by his mother, the Empress Tefei, another of the capable women of Chinese history. Her early death left Chetsong to rule as he listed, and his first acts of independent authority were not of happy augury for the future. He had not been on the throne many months before he divorced his principal wife without any apparent justification, and when remonstrated with he merely replied that he was imitating several of his predecessors. The censor's retort was, "You would do better to imitate their virtues, and not their faults." Chetsong did not have any long opportunity of doing either, for he died of grief at the loss of his favorite son, and it is recorded that, as "he did not expect to die so soon," he omitted the precaution of selecting an heir. Fortunately the mischief of a disputed successor was avoided by the unanimous selection of his brother Hoeitsong as the new emperor. He proved himself a vain and superstitious ruler, placing his main faith in fortune tellers, and expecting his subjects to yield implicit obedience to his opinions as "the master of the law and the prince of doctrine." Among other fallacies, Hoeitsong cherished the belief that he was a great soldier, and he aspired to rank as the conqueror of the old successful enemy of China, the Khitans of Leaoutung. He had no army worthy of the name, and the southern Chinese who formed the mass of his subjects were averse to war, yet his personal vanity impelled him to rush into hostilities which promised to be the more serious because a new and formidable power had arisen on the northern frontier.
The Niuche or Chorcha Tartars, who had assumed a distinct name and place in the vicinity of the modern Kalgan, about the year 1000 A.D., had become subservient to the great Khitan chief Apaoki, and their seven hordes had remained faithful allies of his family and kingdom for many years after his death. But some of the clan had preferred independence to the maintenance of friendly relations with their greatest neighbor, and they had withdrawn northward into Manchuria. For some unknown reason the Niuche became dissatisfied with their Khitan allies, and about the year 1100 A.D. they had all drawn their forces together as an independent confederacy under the leadership of a great chief named Akouta. The Niuche could only hope to establish their independence by offering a successful resistance to the King of Leaoutung, who naturally resented the defection of a tribe which had been his humble dependents. They succeeded in this task beyond all expectation, as Akouta inflicted a succession of defeats on the hitherto invincible army of Leaoutung. Then the Niuche conqueror resolved to pose as one of the arbiters of the empire's destiny, and to found a dynasty of his own. He collected his troops, and he addressed them in a speech reciting their deeds and his pretensions. "The Khitans," he said, "had in the earlier days of their success taken the name of Pintiei, meaning the iron of Pinchow, but although that iron may be excellent, it is liable to rust and can be eaten away. There is nothing save gold which is unchangeable and which does not destroy itself. Moreover, the family of Wangyen, with which I am connected through the chief Hanpou, had always a great fancy for glittering colors such as that of gold, and I am now resolved to take this name as that of my imperial family. I therefore give it the name of Kin, which signifies gold." This speech was made in the year 1115, and it was the historical introduction of the Kin dynasty, which so long rivaled the Sung, and which, although it attained only a brief lease of power on the occasion referred to, was remarkable as being the first appearance of the ancestors of the present reigning Manchus.
Like other conquerors who had appeared in the same quarter, the Kins, as we must now call them, owed their rise to their military qualifications and to their high spirit. Their tactics, although of a simpler kind, were as superior to those of the Leaous as the latter's were to the Chinese. Their army consisted exclusively of cavalry, and victory was generally obtained by its furious attacks delivered from several sides simultaneously. The following description, taken from Mailla's translation of the Chinese official history, gives the best account of their army and mode of fighting:
"At first the Niuche had only cavalry. For their sole distinction they made use of a small piece of braid on which they marked certain signs, and they attached this to both man and horse. Their companies were usually composed of only fifty men each, twenty of whom, clothed in strong cuirasses, and armed with swords and short pikes, were placed in the front, and behind those came the remaining thirty in less weighty armor, and with bows and arrows or javelins for weapons. When they encountered an enemy, two men from each company advanced as scouts, and then arranging their troops so as to attack from four sides, they approached the foe at a gentle trot until within a hundred yards of his line. Thereupon charging at full speed, they discharged their arrows and javelins, again retiring with the same celerity. This maneuver they repeated several times until they threw the ranks into confusion, when they fell upon them with sword and pike so impetuously that they generally gained the victory."
The novelty, as well as the impetuosity, of their attack supplied the want of numbers and of weapons, and when the Khitans raised what seemed an overwhelming force to crush the new power that ventured to play the rival to theirs in Northern China, Akouta, confident in himself and in his people, was not dismayed, and accepted the offer of battle. In two sanguinary battles he vanquished the Khitan armies, and threatened with early extinction the once famous dynasty of Leaoutung. When the Sung emperor heard of the defeats of his old opponents, he at once rushed to the conclusion that the appearance of this new power on the flank of Leaoutung must redound to his advantage, and, although warned by the King of Corea that "the Kins were worse than wolves and tigers," he sent an embassy to Akouta proposing a joint alliance against the Khitans. The negotiations were not at first successful. Akouta concluded a truce with Leaoutung, but took offense at the style of the emperor's letter. The peace was soon broken by either the Kins or the Khitans, and Hoeitsong consented to address Akouta as the Great Emperor of the Kins. Then Akouta engaged to attack Leaoutung from the north, while the Chinese assailed it on the south, and a war began which promised a speedy termination. But the tardiness and inefficiency of the Chinese army prolonged the struggle, and covered the reputation of Hoeitsong and his troops with ignominy. It was compelled to beat a hasty and disastrous retreat, and the peasants of Leaoutung sang ballads about its cowardice and insufficiency.
But if it fared badly with the Chinese, the armies of Akouta continued to be victorious, and the Khitans fled not less precipitately before him than the Chinese did before them. Their best generals were unable to make the least stand against the Kin forces. Their capital was occupied by the conqueror, and the last descendant of the great Apaoki fled westward to seek an asylum with the Prince of Hia or Tangut. He does not appear to have received the protection he claimed, for after a brief stay at the court of Hia, he made his way to the desert, where, after undergoing incredible hardships, he fell into the hands of his Kin pursuers. With his death soon afterward the Khitan dynasty came to an end, after enjoying its power for two hundred years, but some members of this race escaped across the Gobi Desert, and founded the brief-lived dynasty of the Kara Khitay in Turkestan. Akouta died shortly before the final overthrow of the Leaoutung power, and his brother Oukimai ruled in his place.
The ill-success of Hoeitsong's army in its joint campaign against Leaoutung cost the emperor his share in the spoil. The Kins retained the whole of the conquered territory, and the Sung prince was the worse off, because he had a more powerful and aggressive neighbor. The ease of their conquest, and the evident weakness of the Chinese, raised the confidence of the Kins to such a high point that they declared that the Sungs must surrender to them the whole of the territory north of the Hoangho, and they prepared to secure what they demanded by force of arms. The Chinese would neither acquiesce in the transfer of this region to the Kins nor take steps to defend it. They were driven out of that portion of the empire like sheep, and they even failed to make any stand at the passage of the Hoangho, where the Kin general declared that "there could not be a man left in China, for if two thousand men had defended the passage of this river we should never have succeeded in crossing it." Hoeitsong quitted his capital Kaifong to seek shelter at Nankin, where he hoped to enjoy greater safety, and shortly afterward he abdicated in favor of his son Kintsong. The siege of Kaifong which followed ended in a convention binding the Chinese to pay the Kins an enormous sum—ten millions of small gold nuggets, twenty millions of small silver nuggets, and ten million pieces of silk; but the Tartar soldiers soon realized that there was no likelihood of their ever receiving this fabulous spoil, and in their indignation they seized both Hoeitsong and Kintsong, as well as any other members of the royal family on whom they could lay their hands, and carried them off to Tartary, where both the unfortunate Sung princes died as prisoners of the Kins.
Although the Kins wished to sweep the Sungs from the throne, and their general Walipou went so far as to proclaim the emperor of a new dynasty, whose name is forgotten, another of the sons of Hoeitsong, Prince Kang Wang, had no difficulty in establishing his own power and in preserving the Sung dynasty. He even succeeded in imparting a new vigor to it, for on the advice of his mother, who pointed out to him that "for nearly two hundred years the nation appears to have forgotten the art of war," he devoted all his attention to the improvement of his army and the organization of his military resources. Prince Kang Wang, on becoming emperor, took the name of Kaotsong, and finally removed the southern capital to Nankin. He was also driven by his financial necessities to largely increase the issue of paper money, which had been introduced under the Tangs. As both the Kins and the Mongols had recourse to the same expedient, it is not surprising that the Sungs should also have adopted the simplest mode of compensating for a depleted treasury. Considering the unexpected difficulties with which he had to cope, and the low ebb to which the fortunes of China had fallen, much might be forgiven to Kaotsong, who found a courageous counselor in the Empress Mongchi, who is reported to have addressed him as follows: "Although the whole of your august family has been led captive into the countries of the north, none the less does China, which knows your wisdom and fine qualities, preserve toward the Sungs the same affection, fidelity, and zeal as in the past. She hopes and expects that you will prove for her what Kwang Vouti was for the Hans." If Kaotsong did not attain the height of this success, he at least showed himself a far more capable prince than any of his immediate predecessors.
The successful employment of cavalry by the Kins naturally led the Chinese to think of employing the same arm against them, although the inhabitants of the eighteen provinces have never been good horsemen. Kaotsong also devoted his attention especially to the formation of a corps of charioteers. The chariots, four-wheeled, carried twenty-four combatants, and these vehicles drawn up in battle array not only presented a very formidable appearance, but afforded a very material shelter for the rest of the army. Kaotsong seems to have been better in imagining reforms than in the task of carrying them out. After he had originated much good work he allowed it to languish for want of definite support, and he quarreled with and disgraced the minister chiefly responsible for these reforms. A short time after this the Kins again advanced southward, but thanks to the improvement effected in the Chinese army, and to the skill and valor of Tsongtse, one of Kaotsong's lieutenants, they did not succeed in gaining any material advantage. Their efforts to capture Kaifong failed, and their general Niyamoho, recognizing the improvement in the Chinese army, was content to withdraw his army with such spoil as it had been able to collect. Tsongtse followed up this good service against the enemy by bringing to their senses several rebellious officials who thought they saw a good opportunity of shaking off the Sung authority. At this stage of the war Tsongtse exhorted Kaotsong, who had quitted Nankin for Yangchow, to return to Kaifong to encourage his troops with his presence, especially as there never was such a favorable opportunity of delivering his august family out of the hands of the Kins. Tsongtse is reported to have sent as many as twenty formal petitions to his sovereign to do this, but Kaotsong was deaf to them all, and it is said that his obtuseness and want of nerve caused Tsongtse so much pain that he died of chagrin.
The death of Tsongtse induced the Kins to make a more strenuous effort to humiliate the Sungs, and a large army under the joint command of Akouta's son, Olito, and the general Niyamoho, advanced on the capital and captured Yangchow. Kaotsong, who saved his life by precipitate flight, then agreed to sign any treaty drawn up by his conqueror. In his letter to Niyamoho he said, "Why fatigue your troops with long and arduous marches when I will grant you of my own will whatever you demand?" But the Kins were inexorable, and refused to grant any terms short of the unconditional surrender of Kaotsong, who fled to Canton, pursued both on land and sea. The Kin conquerors soon found that they had advanced too far, and the Chinese rallying their forces gained some advantage during their retreat. Some return of confidence followed this turn in the fortune of the war, and two Chinese generals, serving in the hard school of adversity, acquired a military knowledge and skill which made them formidable to even the best of the Kin commanders. The campaigns carried on between 1131 and 1134 differed from any that had preceded them in that the Kin forces steadily retired before Oukiai and Changtsiun, and victory, which had so long remained constant in their favor, finally deserted their arms. The death of the Kin emperor, Oukimai, who had upheld with no decline of luster the dignity of his father Akouta, completed the discomfiture of the Kins, and contributed to the revival of Chinese power under the last emperor of the Sung dynasty. The reign of Oukimai marks the pinnacle of Kin power, which under his cousin and successor Hola began steadily to decline.
The possession of Honan formed the principal bone of contention between the Kins and Sungs, but after considerable negotiation and some fighting, Kaotsong agreed to leave it in the hands of the Kins, and also to pay them a large annual subsidy in silk and money. He also agreed to hold the remainder of his states as a gift at the hands of his northern neighbor. Thus, notwithstanding the very considerable successes gained by several of the Sung generals, Kaotsong had to undergo the mortification of signing a humiliating peace and retaining his authority only on sufferance. Fortunately for the independence of the Sungs, Hola was murdered by Ticounai, a grandson of Akouta, whose ferocious character and ill-formed projects for the subjugation of the whole of China furnished the Emperor Kaotsong with the opportunity of shaking off the control asserted over his actions and recovering his dignity. The extensive preparations of the Kin government for war warned the Sungs to lose no time in placing every man they could in the field, and when Ticounai rushed into the war, which was all of his own making, he found that the Sungs were quite ready to receive him and offer a strenuous resistance to his attack. A peace of twenty years' duration had allowed of their organizing their forces and recovering from an unreasoning terror of the Kins. Moreover, there was a very general feeling among the inhabitants of both the north and the south that the war was an unjust one, and that Ticounai had embarked upon a course of lawless aggression which his tyrannical and cruel proceedings toward his own subjects served to inflame.
The war began in 1161 A. D., with an ominous defeat of the Kin navy, and when Kaotsong nerved himself for the crisis in his life and placed himself at the head of his troops, Ticounai must have felt less sanguine of the result than his confident declaration that he would end the war in a single campaign indicated. Before the two armies came into collision Ticounai learned that a rebellion had broken out in his rear, and that his cousin Oulo challenged both his legitimacy and his authority. He believed, and perhaps wisely, that the only way to deal with this new danger was to press on, and by gaining a signal victory over the Sungs annihilate all his enemies at a blow. But the victory had to be gained, and he seems to have underestimated his opponent. He reached the Yangtsekiang, and the Sungs retired behind it. Ticounai had no means of crossing it, as his fleet had been destroyed and the Sung navy stood in his path. Such river junks as he possessed were annihilated in another encounter on the river. He offered sacrifices to heaven in order to obtain a safe passage, but the powers above were deaf to his prayers. Discontent and disorder broke out in his camp. The army that was to have carried all before it was stopped by a mere river, and Ticounai's reputation as a general was ruined before he had crossed swords with the enemy. In this dilemma his cruelty increased, and after he had sentenced many of his officers and soldiers to death he was murdered by those who found that they would have to share the same fate. After this tragic ending of a bad career, the Kin army retreated. They concluded a friendly convention with the Sungs, and Kaotsong, deeming his work done by the repulse of this grave peril, abdicated the throne, which had proved to him no bed of roses, in favor of his adopted heir Hiaotsong. Kaotsong ruled during the long period of thirty-six years, and when we consider the troubled time through which he passed, and the many vicissitudes of fortune he underwent, he probably rejoiced at being able to spend the last twenty-five years of his life without the responsibility of governing the empire and free from the cares of sovereignty.
The new Kin ruler Oulo wished for peace, but a section of his turbulent subjects clamored for a renewal of the expeditions into China, and he was compelled to bend to the storm. The Kin army, however, had no cause to rejoice in its bellicoseness, for the Chinese general, Changtsiun, defeated it in a battle the like of which had not been seen for ten years. After this a peace was concluded which proved fairly durable, and the remainder of the reigns of both Oulo and Hiaotsong were peaceful and prosperous for northern and southern China. Both of these princes showed an aversion to war and an appreciation of peace which was rare in their day. The Kin ruler is stated to have made this noble retort when he was solicited by a traitor from a neighboring state to seize it: "You deceive yourself if you believe me to be capable of approving an act of treason whatever the presumed advantage it might procure me. I love all peoples of whatever nation they may be, and I wish to see them at peace with one another." It is not surprising to learn that a prince who was so thoroughly imbued with the spirit of civilization should have caused the Chinese classics to be translated into the Kin language. Of all the Kin rulers he was the most intellectual and the most anxious to elevate the standard of his people, who were far ruder than the inhabitants of southern China.
Hiaotsong was succeeded by his son Kwangtsong, and Oulo by his grandson Madacou, both of whom continued the policy of their predecessors. Kwangtsong was saved the trouble of ruling by his wife, the Empress Lichi, and after a very short space he resigned the empty title of emperor, which brought him neither satisfaction nor pleasure. Ningtsong, the son and successor of Kwangtsong, ventured on one war with the Kins in which he was worsted. This the last of the Kin successes, for Madacou died soon afterward, just on the eve of the advent of the Mongol peril, which threatened to sweep all before it, and which eventually buried both Kin and Sung in a common ruin. The long competition and the bitter contest between the Kins and Sungs had not resulted in the decisive success of either side. The Kins had been strong enough to found an administration in the north but not to conquer China. The Sungs very naturally represent in Chinese history the national dynasty, and their misfortunes rather than their successes appeal to the sentiment of the reader. They showed themselves greater in adversity than in prosperity, and when the Mongol tempest broke over China they proved the more doughty opponent, and the possessor of greater powers of resistance than their uniformly successful adversary the Kin or Golden Dynasty.
THE MONGOL CONQUEST OF CHINA
While the Kins were absorbed in their contest with the Southern Chinese, they were oblivious of the growth of a new and formidable power on their own borders. The strength of the Mongols had acquired serious dimensions before the Kins realized that they would have to fight, not only for supremacy, but for their very existence. Before describing the long wars that resulted in the subjection of China by this northern race, we must consider the origin and the growth of the power of the Mongols, who were certainly the most remarkable race of conquerors Asia, or perhaps the whole world, ever produced.
The home of the Mongols, whose name signifies "brave men," was in the strip of territory between the Onon and Kerulon rivers, which are both tributaries or upper courses of the Amour. They first appeared as a separate clan or tribe in the ninth century, when they attracted special attention for their physical strength and courage during one of China's many wars with the children of the desert, and it was on that occasion they gained the appellation under which they became famous. The earlier history of the Mongol tribe is obscure, and baffles investigation, but there seems no reason to doubt their affinity to the Hiongnou, with whose royal house Genghis himself claimed blood relationship. If this claim be admitted, Genghis and Attila, who were the two specially typical Scourges of God, must be considered members of the same race, and the probability is certainly strengthened by the close resemblance in their methods of carrying on war. Budantsar is the first chief of the House of Genghis whose person and achievements are more than mythical. He selected as the abode of his race the territory between the Onon and the Kerulon, a region fertile in itself, and well protected by those rivers against attack. It was also so well placed as to be beyond the extreme limit of any triumphant progress of the armies of the Chinese emperor. If Budantsar had accomplished nothing more than this, he would still have done much to justify his memory being preserved among a free and independent people. But he seems to have incited his followers to pursue an active and temperate life, to remain warriors rather than to become rich and lazy citizens. He wrapped up this counsel in the exhortation, "What is the use of embarrassing ourselves with wealth? Is not the fate of man decreed by heaven?" He sowed the seed of future Mongol greatness, and the headship of his clan remained vested in his family.
In due order of succession the chief ship passed to Kabul Khan, who in the year 1135 began to encroach on the dominion of Hola, the Kin emperor. He seems to have been induced to commit this act of hostility by a prophecy, to the effect that his children should be emperors, and also by discourteous treatment received on the occasion of his visit to the court of Oukimai. Whatever the cause of umbrage, Kabul Khan made the Kins pay dearly for their arrogance or short-sighted policy. Hola sent an army under one of his best generals, Hushahu, to bring the Mongol chief to reason, but the inaccessibility of his home stood him in good stead. The Kin army suffered greatly in its futile attempt to cross the desert, and during its retreat it was harassed by the pursuing Mongols. When the Kin army endeavored to make a stand against its pursuers, it suffered a crushing overthrow in a battle at Hailing, and on the Kins sending a larger force against the Mongols in 1139, it had no better fortune. Kabul Khan, after this second success, caused himself to be proclaimed Great Emperor of the Mongols. His success in war, and his ambition, which rested satisfied with no secondary position, indicated the path on which the Mongols proceeded to the acquisition of supreme power and a paramount military influence whithersoever they carried their name and standards. The work begun by Kabul was well continued by his son Kutula, or Kublai. He, too, was a great warrior, whose deeds of prowess aroused as much enthusiasm among the Mongols as those of Coeur de Lion evoked in the days of the Plantagenets. The struggle with the Kins was rendered more bitter by the execution of several Mongols of importance, who happened to fall into the hands of the Kins. When Kutula died the chiefship passed to his nephew, Yissugei, who greatly extended the influence and power of his family among the tribes neighboring to the Mongol home. Many of these, and even some Chinese, joined the military organization of the dominant tribe, so that what was originally a small force of strictly limited numbers became a vast and ever-increasing confederacy of the most warlike and aggressive races of the Chinese northern frontier. Important as Yissugei's work in the development of Mongol power undoubtedly was, his chief historical interest is derived from the fact that he was the father of Genghis Khan.
There are several interesting fables in connection with the birth of Genghis, which event may be safely assigned to the year 1162. One of these reads as follows: "One day Yissugei was hunting in company with his brothers, and was following the tracks of a white hare in the snow. They struck upon the track of a wagon, and following it up came to a spot where a woman's yart was pitched. Then said Yissugei, 'This woman will bear a valiant son.' He discovered that she was the damsel Ogelen Eke (i.e., the mother of nations), and that she was the wife of Yeke Yilatu, chief of a Tartar tribe. Yissugei carried her off and made her his wife." Immediately after his overthrow of Temujin, chief of one of the principal Tartar tribes, Yissugei learned that the promised "valiant son" was about to be born, and in honor of his victory he gave him the name of Temujin, which was the proper name of the great Genghis. The village or encampment in which the future conqueror first saw the light of day still bears the old Mongol name, Dilun Boldak, on the banks of the Onon. When Yissugei died, Temujin, or Genghis, was only thirteen, and his clan of forty thousand families refused to recognize him as their leader. At a meeting of the tribe Genghis entreated them with tears in his eyes to stand by the son of their former chief, but the majority of them mocked at him, exclaiming, "The deepest wells are sometimes dry, and the hardest stone is sometimes broken, why should we cling to thee?" Genghis owed to the heroic attitude of his mother, who flung abroad the cow-tailed banner of his race, the acceptance of his authority by about half the warriors who had obeyed his father. The great advantage of this step was that it gave Genghis time to grow up to be a warrior as famous as any of his predecessors, and it certainly averted what might have easily become the irretrievable disintegration of the Mongol alliance.
The youth of Genghis was passed in one ceaseless struggle to regain the whole of his birthright. His most formidable enemy was Chamuka, chief of the Juriats, and for a long time he had all the worst of the struggle, being taken prisoner on one occasion, and undergoing the indignity of the cangue. On making his escape he rallied his remaining followers round him for a final effort, and on the advice of his mother, Ogelen Eke, who was his principal adviser and stanchest supporter, he divided his forces into thirteen regiments of one thousand men each, and confined his attention to the defense of his own territory. Chamuka, led away by what he deemed the weakness of his adversary, attacked him on the Onon with as he considered the overwhelming force of thirty thousand men; but the result dispelled his hopes of conquest, for Genghis gained a decisive victory. Then was furnished a striking instance of the truth of the saying that "nothing succeeds like success." The despised Temujin, who was thought to be unworthy of the post of ruling the Mongols, was lauded to the skies, and the tribes declared with one voice, "Temujin alone is generous and worthy of ruling a great people." At this time also he began to show the qualities of a statesman and diplomatist. He formed in 1194 a temporary alliance with the Kin emperor, Madacou, and the richness of his reward seems to have excited his cupidity, while his experience of the Kin army went to prove that they were not so formidable as had been imagined. The discomfiture of Chamuka has been referred to, but he had not abandoned the hope of success, and when he succeeded in detaching the Kerait chief, Wang Khan, from the Mongols, to whom he was bound by ties of gratitude, he fancied that he again held victory in his grasp. But the intrigue did not realize his expectations. Wang Khan deserted Genghis while engaged in a joint campaign against the Naimans, but he was the principal sufferer by his treachery, for the enemy pursued his force, and inflicted a heavy defeat upon it. In fact, he was only rescued from destruction by the timely aid of the man he had betrayed.
But far from inspiring gratitude, this incident inflamed the resentment of Wang Khan, who, throwing off the cloak of simulated friendship, declared publicly that either the Kerait or the Mongol must be supreme on the great steppe, as there was not room for both. Such was the superiority in numbers of the Kerait, that in the first battle of this long and keenly- contested struggle, Wang Khan defeated Temujin near Ourga, where the mounds that cover the slain are still shown to the curious or skeptical visitor. After this serious, and in some degree unexpected reverse, the fortunes of Genghis sank to the lowest ebb. He was reduced to terrible straits, and had to move his camp rapidly from one spot to another. A small section of his followers, mindful of his past success and prowess, still clung to him, and by a sudden and daring coup he changed the whole aspect of the contest. He surprised Wang Khan in his camp at night, and overwhelmed him and his forces. Wang Khan escaped to his old foes, the Naimans, who, disregarding the laws of hospitality, put him to death. The death of Wang Khan signified nothing less than the wholesale defection of the Kerait tribe, which joined Genghis to the last man. Then Genghis turned westward to settle the question of supremacy with the Naimans, who were both hostile and defiant. The Naiman chief shared the opinion of Wang Khan, that there could not be two masters on the Tian Shan, and with that vigorous illustration which has never been wanting to these illiterate tribes, he wrote, "There cannot be two suns in the sky, two swords in one sheath, two eyes in one eyepit, or two kings in one empire." Both sides made strenuous efforts for the fray, and brought every fighting man they could into the field. The decisive battle of the war was fought in the heart of Jungaria, and the star of Genghis rose in the ascendant. The Naimans fought long and well, but they were borne down by the heavier armed Mongols, and their desperate resistance only added to their loss. Their chief died of his wounds, and the triumph of Genghis was rendered complete by the capture of his old enemy, Chamuka. As Genghis had sworn the oath of friendship with Chamuka, he would not slay him, but he handed him over to a relative, who promptly exacted the rough revenge his past hostility and treachery seemed to call for. On his way back from this campaign the Mongol chief attacked the Prince of Hia, who reigned over Kansuh and Tangut, and thus began the third war he waged for the extension of his power. Before this assumed serious proportions he summoned a Grand Council or Kuriltai, at his camp on the Onon, and then erected outside his tent the royal Mongol banner of the nine white yak-tails. It was on this occasion that Temujin took, and was proclaimed among the Mongol chiefs by, the highly exalted name of Genghis Khan, which means Very Mighty Khan. The Chinese character for the name signifies "Perfect Warrior," and the earlier European writers affirm that it is supposed to represent the sound of "the bird of heaven." At this assemblage, which was the first of a long succession of Mongol councils summoned at the same place on critical occasions, it was proposed and agreed that the war should be carried on with the richer and less warlike races of the south. Among soldiers it is necessary to preserve the spirit of pre-eminence and warlike zeal by granting rewards and decorations. Genghis realized the importance of this matter, and instituted the order of Baturu or Bahadur, meaning warrior. He also made his two leading generals Muhula and Porshu princes, one to sit on his right hand and the other on his left. He addressed them before the council in the following words: "It is to you that I owe my empire. You are and have been to me as the shafts of a carriage or the arms to a man's body." Seals of office were also granted to all the officials, so that their authority might be the more evident and the more honored.
In 1207 Genghis began his war with the state of Hia, which he had determined to crush as the preliminary to an invasion of China. In that year he contented himself with the capture of Wuhlahai, one of the border fortresses of that principality, and in the following year he established his control over the tribes of the desert more fully, thus gaining many Kirghiz and Naiman auxiliaries. In 1209 he resumed the war with Hia in a determined spirit, and placed himself in person at the head of all his forces. Although the Hia ruler prepared as well as he could for the struggle, he was really unnerved by the magnitude of the danger he had to face. His army was overthrown, his best generals were taken prisoners, and he himself had no resource left but to throw himself on the consideration of Genghis. For good reasons the Mongol conqueror was lenient. He married one of the daughters of the king, and he took him into subsidiary alliance with himself. Thus did Genghis absorb the Hia power, which was very considerable, and prepared to enroll it with all his own resources against the Kin empire. If the causes of Mongol success on this occasion and afterward are inquired for, I cannot do better than repeat what I previously wrote on this subject: "The Mongols owed their military success to their admirable discipline and to their close study of the art of war. Their military supremacy arose from their superiority in all essentials as a fighting power to their neighbors. Much of their knowledge was borrowed from China, where the art of disciplining a large army and maneuvering it in the field had been brought to a high state of perfection many centuries before the time of Genghis. But the Mongols carried the teaching of the past to a further point than any of the former or contemporary Chinese commanders, indeed, than any in the whole world, had done; and the revolution which they effected in tactics was not less remarkable in itself, and did not leave a smaller impression upon the age, than the improvements made in military science by Frederick the Great and Napoleon in their day. The Mongol played in a large way in Asia the part which the Normans on a smaller scale played in Europe. Although the landmarks of their triumph have now almost wholly vanished, they were for two centuries the dominant caste in most of the states of Asia."
Having thus prepared the way for the larger enterprise, it only remained to find a plausible pretext for attacking the Kins. With or without a pretext Genghis would no doubt have made war, but even the ruthless Mongol sometimes showed a regard for appearances. Many years before the Kins had sent as envoy to the Mongul encampment Chonghei, a member of their ruling house, and his mission had been not only unsuccessful, but had led to a personal antipathy between the two men. In the course of time Chonghei succeeded Madacou as emperor of the Kins, and when a Kin messenger brought intelligence of this event to Genghis, the Mongol ruler turned toward the south, spat upon the ground, and said, "I thought that your sovereigns were of the race of the gods, but do you suppose that I am going to do homage to such an imbecile as that?" The affront rankled in the mind of Chonghei, and while Genghis was engaged with Hia, he sent troops to attack the Mongol outposts. Chonghei thus placed himself in the wrong, and gave Genghis justification for declaring that the Kins and not he began the war. The reputation of the Golden dynasty, although not as great as it once was, still stood sufficiently high to make the most adventurous of desert chiefs wary in attacking it. Genghis had already secured the co- operation of the ruler of Hia in his enterprise, and he next concluded an alliance with Yeliu Liuko, chief of the Khitans, who were again manifesting discontent with the Kins. Genghis finally circulated a proclamation among all the desert tribes, calling upon them to join him in his attack on the common enemy. This appeal was heartily and generally responded to, and it was at the head of an enormous force that Genghis set out in March, 1211, to effect the conquest of China. The Mongol army was led by Genghis in person, and under him his four sons and his most famous general, Chepe Noyan, held commands.
The plan of campaign of the Mongol ruler was as simple as it was bold. From his camp at Karakoram, on the Kerulon, he marched in a straight line through Kuku Khoten and the Ongut country to Taitong, securing an unopposed passage through the Great Wall by the defection of the Ongut tribe. The Kins were unprepared for this sudden and vigorous assault directed on their weakest spot, and successfully executed before their army could reach the scene. During the two years that the forces of Genghis kept the field on this occasion, they devastated the greater portion of the three northern provinces of Shensi, Shansi, and Pechihli. But the border fortress of Taitong and the Kin capital, Tungking, successfully resisted all the assaults of the Mongols, and when Genghis received a serious wound at the former place, he reluctantly ordered the retreat of his army, laden with an immense quantity of spoil, but still little advanced in its main task of conquering China. The success of the Khitan Yeliu Liuko had not been less considerable, and he was proclaimed King of Leaou as a vassal of the Mongols. The planting of this ally on the very threshold of Chinese power facilitated the subsequent enterprises of the Mongols against the Kins, and represented the most important result of this war.
In 1213 Genghis again invaded the Kin dominions, but his success was not very striking, and in several engagements of no very great importance the Kin arms met with some success. The most important events of the year were, however, the deposition and murder of Chonghei, the murder of a Kin general, Hushahu, who had won a battle against the Mongols, and the proclamation of Utubu as emperor. The change of sovereign brought no change of fortune to the unlucky Kins. Utubu was only able to find safety behind the walls of his capital, and he was delighted when Genghis wrote him the following letter: "Seeing your wretched condition and my exalted fortune, what may your opinion be now of the will of heaven with regard to myself? At this moment I am desirous to return to Tartary, but could you allow my soldiers to take their departure without appeasing their anger with presents?" In reply Utubu sent Genghis a princess of his family as a wife, and also "five hundred youths, the same number of girls, three thousand horses, and a vast quantity of precious articles." Then Genghis retired once more to Karakoram, but on his march he stained his reputation by massacring all his prisoners—the first gross act of inhumanity he committed during his Chinese wars.
When Utubu saw the Mongols retreating, he thought to provide against the most serious consequences of their return by removing his capital to a greater distance from the frontier, and with this object he transferred his residence to Kaifong. The majority of his advisers were against this change, as a retirement could not but shake public confidence. It had another consequence, which they may not have contemplated, and that was its providing Genghis with an excuse for renewing his attack on China. The Mongol at once complained that the action of the Kin emperor implied an unwarrantable suspicion of his intentions, and he sent his army across the frontier to recommence his humiliation. On this occasion a Kin general deserted to them, and thenceforward large bodies of the Chinese of the north attached themselves to the Mongols, who were steadily acquiring a unique reputation for power as well as military prowess. The great event of this war was the siege of Yenking—on the site of which now stands the capital Pekin—the defense of which had been intrusted to the Prince Imperial; but Utubu, more anxious for his son's safety than the interests of the state, ordered him to return to Kaifong. The governor of Yenking offered a stout resistance to the Mongols, and when he found that he could not hold out, he retired to the temple of the city and poisoned himself. His last act was to write a letter to Utubu begging him to listen no more to the pernicious advice of the man who had induced him to murder Hushahu.
The capture of Yenking, where Genghis obtained a large supply of war materials, as well as vast booty, opened the road to Central China. The Mongols advanced as far as the celebrated Tunkwan Pass, which connects Shensi and Honan, but when their general, Samuka, saw how formidable it was, and how strong were the Kin defenses and garrison, he declined to attack it, and, making a detour through very difficult country, he marched on Kaifong, where Utubu little expected him. The Mongols had to make their own road, and they crossed several ravines by improvised "bridges made of spears and the branches of trees bound together by strong chains." But the Mongol force was too small to accomplish any great result, and the impetuosity of Samuka nearly led to his destruction. A prompt retreat, and the fact that the Hoangho was frozen over, enabled him to extricate his army, after much fatigue and reduced in numbers, from its awkward position. The retreat of the Mongols inspired Utubu with sufficient confidence to induce him to attack Yeliu Liuko in Leaoutung, and the success of this enterprise imparted a gleam of sunshine and credit to the expiring cause of the Kins. Yeliu Liuko was driven from his newly-created kingdom, but Genghis hastened to the assistance of his ally by sending Muhula, the greatest of all his generals, at the head of a large army to recover Leaoutung. His success was rapid and remarkable. The Kins were speedily overthrown, Yeliu Liuko was restored to his authority, and the neighboring King of Corea, impressed by the magnitude of the Mongol success, hastened to acknowledge himself the vassal of Genghis. The most important result of this campaign was that Genghis intrusted to Muhula the control of all military arrangements for the conquest of China. He is reported to have said to his lieutenant: "North of the Taihing Mountains I am supreme, but all the regions to the south I commend to the care of Muhula," and he "also presented him with a chariot and a banner with nine scalops. As he handed him this last emblem of authority, he spoke to his generals, saying, 'Let this banner be an emblem of sovereignty, and let the orders issued from under it be obeyed as my own.'" The principal reason for intrusting the conquest of China to a special force and commander was that Genghis wished to devote the whole of his personal attention to the prosecution of his new war with the King of Khwaresm and the other great rulers of Western Asia.
Muhula more than justified the selection and confidence of his sovereign. In the year 1218-19 he invaded Honan, defeated the best of the Kin commanders, and not merely overran, but retained possession of the places he occupied in the Kin dominions. The difficulties of Utubu were aggravated by an attack from Ningtsong, the Sung emperor, who refused any longer to pay tribute to the Kins, as they were evidently unable to enforce the claim, and the Kin armies were as equally unfortunate against their southern opponents as their northern. Then Utubu endeavored to negotiate terms with Muhula for the retreat of his army, but the only conditions the Mongol general would accept were the surrender of the Kin ruler and his resignation of the imperial title in exchange for the principality of Honan. Utubu, low as he had sunk, declined to abase himself further and to purchase life at the loss of his dignity. The sudden death of Muhula gained a brief respite for the distressed Chinese potentate, but the advantage was not of any permanent significance; first of all because the Kins were too exhausted by their long struggle, and, secondly, because Genghis hastened to place himself at the head of his army. The news of the death of Muhula reached him when he was encamped on the frontier of India and preparing to add the conquest of that country to his many other triumphs in Central and Western Asia. He at once came to the conclusion that he must return to set his house in order at home, and to prevent all the results of Muhula's remarkable triumphs being lost. What was a disadvantage for China proved a benefit for India, and possibly for Europe, as there is no saying how much further the Mongol encroachment might have extended westward, if the direction of Genghis had not been withdrawn. While Genghis was hastening from the Cabul River to the Kerulon, across the Hindoo Koosh and Tian Shan ranges, Utubu died and Ninkiassu reigned in his stead.
One of the first consequences of the death of Muhula was that the young king of Hia, believing that the fortunes of the Mongols would then wane, and that he might obtain a position of greater power and independence, threw off his allegiance, and adopted hostile measures against them. The prompt return of Genghis nipped this plan in the bud, but it was made quite evident that the conquest of Hia was essential to the success of any permanent annexation of Chinese territory, and as its prince could dispose of an army which he boasted numbered half a million of men, it is not surprising to find that he took a whole year in perfecting his arrangements for so grave a contest. The war began in 1225 and continued for two years. The success of the Mongol army was decisive and unqualified. The Hias were defeated in several battles, and in one of them fought upon the frozen waters of the Hoangho. Genghis broke the ice by means of his engines, and the Hia army was almost annihilated. The king Leseen was deposed, and Hia became a Mongol province.