by Demetrius Charles Boulger
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

The expulsion of the Mongols beyond the Great Wall and the death of Chunti, the last of the Yuen emperors, by no means ended the struggle between the Chinese and their late northern conquerors. The whole of the reign of Hongwou was taken up with a war for the supremacy of his authority and the security of his frontiers, in which he, indeed, took little personal part, but which was carried on under his directions by his great generals, Suta and Fuyuta. The former of these generals was engaged for nearly twenty years, from 1368 to 1385, in constant war with the Mongols. His first campaign, fought when the Chinese were in the full flush of success, resulted in the brilliant and almost bloodless conquest of the province of Shansi. The neighboring province of Shensi, which is separated from the other by the river Hoangho, was at the time held by a semi-independent Mongol governor named Lissechi, who believed that he could hold his ground against the Mings. The principal fact upon which this hope was based was the breadth and assumed impassability of that river. Lissechi believed that this natural advantage would enable him to hold out indefinitely against the superior numbers of the Chinese armies. But his hope was vain if not unreasonable. The Chinese crossed the Hoangho on a bridge of junks, and Tsinyuen, which Lissechi had made his capital, surrendered without a blow. Lissechi abandoned one fortress after another on the approach of Suta. Expelled from Shensi he hoped to find shelter and safety in the adjoining province of Kansuh, where he took up his residence at Lintao. For a moment the advance of the Chinese army was arrested while a great council of war was held to decide the further course of the campaign. The majority of the council favored the suggestion that did not involve immediate action, and wished Suta to abandon the pursuit of Lissechi and complete the conquest of Shensi, where several fortresses still held out. But Suta was of a more resolute temper, and resolved to ignore the decision of the council and to pursue Lissechi to Lintao. The vigor of Suta's decision was matched by the rapidity of his march. Before Lissechi had made any arrangements to stand a siege he found himself surrounded at Lintao by the Ming army. In this plight he was obliged to throw himself on the mercy of the victor, who sent him to the capital, where Hongwou granted him his life and a small pension.

The overthrow of Lissechi prepared the way for the more formidable enterprise against Ninghia, where the Mongols had drawn their remaining power to a head. Ninghia, the old capital of Tangut, is situated in the north of Kansuh, on the western bank of the Hoangho, and the Great Wall passes through it. Strongly fortified and admirably placed, the Mongols, so long as they possessed this town with its gates through the Great Wall, might hope to recover what they had lost, and to make a fresh bid for power in Northern China. North and west of Ninghia stretched the desert, but while it continued in their possession the Mongols remained on the threshold of China and held open a door through which their kinsmen from the Amour and Central Asia might yet re-enter to revive the feats of Genghis and Bayan. Suta determined to gain this place as speedily as possible. Midway between Lintao and Ninghia is the fortified town of Kingyang, which was held by a strong Mongol garrison. Suta laid close siege to this town, the governor of which had only time to send off a pressing appeal for aid to Kuku Timour, the governor at Ninghia, before he was shut in on all sides by the Ming army. Kuku Timour apparently did his best to aid his compatriot, but his forces were not sufficient to oppose those of Suta in the open field, and Kingyang was at last reduced to such straits that the garrison is said to have been compelled to use the slain as food. At last the place made an unconditional surrender, and the commandant was executed, not on account of his stubborn defense, but because at the beginning of the siege he had said he would surrender and had not kept his word. After the fall of Kingyang the Chinese troops were granted a well-earned rest, and Suta visited Nankin to describe the campaign to Hongwou.

The departure of Suta emboldened Kuku Timour so far as to lead him to take the field, and he hastened to attack the town of Lanchefoo, the capital of Kansuh, where there was only a small garrison. Notwithstanding this the place offered a stout resistance, but the Mongols gained a decisive success over a body of troops sent to its relief. This force was annihilated and its general taken prisoner. The Mongols thought to terrify the garrison by parading this general, whose name should be preserved, Yukwang, before the walls, but he baffled their purpose by shouting out, "Be of good courage, Suta is coming to your rescue." Yukwang was cut to pieces, but his timely and courageous exclamation, like that of D'Assas, saved his countrymen. Soon after this incident Suta reached the scene of action, and on his approach Kuku Timour broke up his camp and retired to Ninghia. The Chinese commander then hastened to occupy the towns of Souchow and Kia-yu-kwan, important as being the southern extremity of the Great Wall, and as isolating Ninghia on the west. Their loss was so serious that the Mongol chief felt compelled to risk a general engagement. The battle was keenly contested, and at one moment it seemed as if success was going to declare itself in favor of the Mongols. But Suta had sent a large part of his force to attack the Mongol rear, and when this movement was completely executed, he assailed the Mongol position at the head of all his troops. The struggle soon became a massacre, and it is said that as many as 80,000 Mongols were slain, while Kuku Timour, thinking Ninghia no longer safe, fled northward to the Amour. The success of Suta was heightened and rendered complete by the capture of a large number of the ex-Mongol ruling family by Ly Wenchong, another of the principal generals of Hongwou. Among the prisoners was the eldest grandson of Chunti, and several of the ministers advised that he should be put to death. But Hongwou instead conferred on him a minor title of nobility, and expressed his policy in a speech equally creditable to his wisdom as a statesman and his heart as a man:

"The last ruler of the Yuens took heed only of his pleasures. The great, profiting by his indolence, thought of nothing save of how to enrich themselves; the public treasures being exhausted by their malpractices, it needed only a few years of dearth to reduce the people to distress, and the excessive tyranny of those who governed them led to the forming of parties which disturbed the empire even to its foundations. Touched by the misfortunes with which I saw them oppressed, I took up arms, not so much against the Yuens as against the rebels who were engaged in war with them. It was over the same foe that I gained my first successes. And if the Yuen prince had not departed from the rules of wise government in order to give himself up to his pleasures, and had the magnates of his court performed their duty, would all honorable men have taken up arms as they did and declared against him? The misconduct of the race brought me a large number of partisans who were convinced of the rectitude of my intentions, and it was from their hands and not from those of the Yuens that I received the empire. If Heaven had not favored me should I have succeeded in destroying with such ease those who withdrew into the desert of Shamo? We read in the Chiking that after the destruction of the Chang family there remained more than ten thousand of their descendants who submitted themselves to the Chow, because it was the will of Heaven. Cannot men respect its decrees? Let them put in the public treasure-house all the spoil brought back from Tartary, so that it may serve to alleviate the people's wants. And with regard to Maitilipala (Chunti's grandson), although former ages supply examples of similar sacrifice, did Wou Wang, I ask you, when exterminating the Chang family, resort to this barbarous policy? The Yuen princes were the masters of this empire for nearly one hundred years, and my forefathers were their subjects, and even although it were the constant practice to treat in this fashion the princes of a dynasty which has ceased to reign, yet could I not induce myself to adopt it."

These noble sentiments, to which there is nothing contradictory in the whole life of Hongwou, would alone place his reign high among the most civilizing and humanly interesting epochs in Chinese history. To his people he appeared as a real benefactor as well as a just prince. He was ever studious of their interests, knowing that their happiness depended on what might seem trivial matters, as well as in showy feats of arms and high policy. He simplified the transit of salt, that essential article of life, to provinces where its production was scanty, and when dearth fell on the land he devoted all the resources of his treasury to its mitigation. His thoughtfulness for his soldiers was shown by sending fur coats to all the soldiers in garrison at Ninghia where the winter was exceptionally severe. A final instance of his justice and consideration may be cited in his ordering certain Mongol colonies established in Southern China, to whom the climate proved uncongenial, to be sent back at his expense to their northern homes, when his ministers exhorted him to proceed to extremities against them and to root them out by fire and sword.

The pacification of the northern borders was followed by the dispatch of troops into the southern provinces of Szchuen and Yunnan, where officials appointed by the Mongols still exercised authority. One of these had incurred the wrath of Hongwou by assuming a royal style and proclaiming himself King of Hia. He was soon convinced of the folly of taking a title which he had not the power to maintain, and the conquest of Szchuen was so easily effected that it would not call for mention if it were not rendered interesting as providing Hongwou's other great general Fuyuta with the first opportunity of displaying his skill as a commander. The self-created King of Hia presented himself laden with chains at the Chinese camp and begged the favor of his life. The conquest of Szchuen was little more than completed when the attention of Hongwou was again directed to the northwest frontier, where Kuku Timour was making one more effort to recover the footing he had lost on the fringe of the Celestial Empire, and for a time fortune favored his enterprise. Even when Suta arrived upon the scene and took the command of the Chinese forces in person, the Mongols more than held their own. Twice did Suta attack the strong position taken up by the Mongol chief in the desert, and twice was his assault repulsed with heavy loss. A detachment under one of his lieutenants was surprised in the desert and annihilated. Supplies were difficult to obtain, and discouraged by defeat and the scarcity of food the Chinese army was placed in an extremely dangerous position. Out of this dilemma it was rescued by the heroic Fuyuta, who, on the news of the Mongol recrudescence, had marched northward at the head of the army with which he had conquered Szchuen. He advanced boldly into the desert, operated on the flank and in the rear of Kuku Timour, vanquished the Mongols in many engagements, and so monopolized their attention that Suta was able to retire in safety and without loss. The war terminated with the Chinese maintaining all their posts on the frontier, and the retreat of the Mongols, who had suffered too heavy a loss to feel elated at their repulse of Suta. At the same time no solid peace had been obtained, and the Mongols continued to harass the borders, and to exact blackmail from all who traversed the desert. When Hongwou endeavored to attain a settlement by a stroke of policy his efforts were not more successful. His kind reception of the Mongol Prince Maitilipala has been referred to, and about the year 1374 he sent him back to Mongolia, in the hope that he would prove a friendly neighbor on his father's death. The gratitude of Maitilipala seems to have been unaffected; but, although he was the legitimate heir, the Mongols refused to recognize him as Khan on the death of his father. Gradually tranquillity settled down on those borders. The Chinese officials were content to leave the Mongols alone, and the Mongols abandoned their customary raids into Chinese territory. The death of Kuku Timour was followed by the abandonment of all ideas of reviving Mongol authority in China. Not long after that event died the great general, Suta, of whom the national historians give the following glowing description which merits preservation: "Suta spoke little and was endowed with great penetration. He was always on good terms with the generals acting with him, sharing the good and bad fortune alike of his soldiers, of whom there was not one who, touched by his kindness, would not have done his duty to the death. He was not less pronounced in his modesty. He had conquered a capital, three provinces, several hundred towns, and on the very day of his return to court from these triumphs he went without show and without retinue to his own house, received there some learned professors and discussed various subjects with them. Throughout his life he was in the presence of the emperor respectful, and so reserved that one might have doubted his capacity to speak." Hongwou was in the habit of speaking thus in his praise: "My orders received, he forthwith departed; his task accomplished, he returned without pride and without boasting. He loves not women, he does not amass wealth. A man of strict integrity, without the slightest stain, as pure and clear as the sun and moon, there is none like my first general Suta."

Hongwou had the satisfaction of restoring amicable relations with the King of Corea, a state in which the Chinese have always taken naturally enough a great interest from its proximity, as well as from an apprehension that the Japanese might make use of it as a vantage ground for the invasion of the continent. The King of Corea sent a formal embassy to Nankin, and when he died his son asked for and received investiture in his authority with the royal yellow robes at the hands of the Ming ruler. During this period it will be convenient here to note that the ruling power in Corea passed from the old royal family to the minister Li Chungwei, who was the ancestor of the present king. The last military episode of the reign of Hongwou was the conquest of Yunnan, which had been left over after the recovery of Szchuen, in consequence of the fresh outbreak of the Mongols in the north. This task was intrusted to Fuyuta, who at the head of an army of 100,000 men, divided into two corps, invaded Yunnan. The prince of that state offered the utmost resistance he could, but in the one great battle of the war his army fighting bravely was overthrown, and he was compelled to abandon his capital. The conquest of Yunnan completed the pacification of the empire, and the authority of Hongwou was unchallenged from the borders of Burmah to the Great Wall and the Corean frontier. The population of the empire thus restored did not much exceed sixty millions. The last ten years of the reign of Hongwou were passed in tranquillity, marred by only one unpleasant incident, the mutiny of a portion of his army under an ambitious general. The plot was discovered in good time, but it is said that the emperor did not consider the exigencies of the case to be met until he had executed twenty thousand of the mutineers.

In 1398 Hongwou was attacked with the illness which ended his life. He was then in his seventy-first year, and had reigned more than thirty years since his proclamation of the Ming dynasty at Nankin. The Emperor Keen Lung, in his history of the Mings, states that Hongwou possessed most of the virtues and few of the vices of mankind. He was brave, patient under suffering, far-seeing, studious of his people's welfare, and generous and forbearing toward his enemies. It is not surprising that he succeeded in establishing the Ming dynasty on a firm and popular basis, and that his family have been better beloved in China than any dynasty with the possible exception of the Hans. In his will, which is a remarkable document, he recites the principal events of his reign, how he had "pacified the empire and restored its ancient splendor." With the view of providing for the stability of his empire, he chose as his successor his grandson Chuwen, because he had remarked in him much prudence, a gentle disposition, good intelligence, and a readiness to accept advice. He also selected him because he was the eldest son of his eldest son, and as his other sons might be disposed to dispute their nephew's authority he ordered them to remain at their posts, and not to come to the capital on his death. They were also enjoined to show the new emperor all the respect and docility owed by subjects to their sovereign. Through these timely precautions Chuwen, who was only sixteen years of age, was proclaimed emperor without any opposition, and took the title of Kien Wenti.

Hongwou had rightly divined that his sons might prove a thorn in the side of his successor, and his policy of employing them in posts at a distance from the capital was only half successful in attaining its object. If it kept them at a distance it also strengthened their feeling of independence, and enabled them to collect their forces without attracting much attention. Wenti, as it is most convenient to call the new emperor, felt obliged to send formal invitations to his uncles to attend the obsequies of their father. Most of them had the tact to perceive that the invitation was dictated by regard for decency, and not by a wish that it should be accepted, and gave the simplest excuse for not attending the funeral. But Ty, Prince of Yen, the most powerful and ambitious of them all, declared that he accepted the emperor's invitation. This decision raised quite a flutter of excitement, almost amounting to consternation, at Nankin, where the Prince of Yen was regarded as a bitter and vindictive enemy. The only way Wenti saw out of this dilemma was to send his uncle a special intimation that his presence at the capital would not be desirable. Before he had been many weeks on the throne Wenti was thus brought into open conflict with the most powerful and ambitious of all his relatives. He resolved, under the advice of his ministers, to treat all his uncles as his enemies, and he sent his officers with armies at their back to depose them, and bring them as prisoners to his court. Five of his uncles were thus summarily dealt with, one committed suicide, and the other four were degraded to the rank of the people. But the Prince of Yen was too formidable to be tackled in this fashion. Taking warning from the fate of his brothers, he collected all the troops he could, prepared to defend his position against the emperor, and issued a proclamation stating that it was lawful for subjects to revolt for the purpose of removing the pernicious advisers of the sovereign. The last was, he announced, the cause of his taking up arms, and he disclaimed any motive of ambitious turbulence for raising his standard. He said, "I am endeavoring to avert the ruin of my family, and to maintain the emperor on a throne which is placed in jeopardy by the acts of traitors. My cause ought, therefore, to be that of all those who keep the blood of the great Hong-wou, now falsely aspersed, in affectionate remembrance." A large number of the inhabitants of the northern provinces joined his side, and proclaimed him as "The Prince." Wenti had recourse to arms to bring his uncle back to his allegiance, and a civil war began, which was carried on, with exceptional bitterness, during five years. The resources of the emperor, in men and money, were the superior, but he did not seem able to turn them to good account; and the prince's troops were generally victorious, and his power gradually increased. In the year 1401 both sides concentrated all their strength for deciding the contest by a single trial of arms. The two armies numbered several hundred thousand men, and it is stated that the imperial force alone mustered 600,000 strong. The battle—which was fought at Techow in Shantung—considering the numbers engaged, it is not surprising to learn, lasted several days, and its fortune alternated from one side to the other. At last victory declared for the prince, and the imperial army was driven in rout from the field with the loss of 100,000 men.

After this great victory the further progress of the prince was arrested by a capable general named Chinyong, who succeeded in gaining one great victory. If Wenti had known how to profit by this success he might have turned the course of the struggle permanently in his own favor. But instead of profiting by his good fortune, Wenti, believing that all danger from the prince was at an end, resumed his old practices, and reinstated two of the most obnoxious of his ministers, whom he had disgraced in a fit of apprehension. Undoubtedly this step raised against him a fresh storm of unpopularity, and at the same time brought many supporters to his uncle, who, even after the serious disaster described, found himself stronger than he had been before. The struggle must have shown little signs of a decisive issue, for in 1402 the prince made a voluntary offer of peace, with a view to putting an end to all strife and of giving the empire peace; but Wenti could not make up his mind to forgive him. The success of his generals in the earlier part of the struggle seemed to warrant the belief that there was no reason in prudence for coming to terms with his rebellious uncle, and that he would succeed in establishing his indisputable supremacy. The prince seemed reduced to such straits that he had to give his army the option of retreat. Addressing his soldiers he said: "I know how to advance, but not to retreat"; but his army decided to return to their homes in the north, when the extraordinary and unexpected retreat of the greater part of the army of Wenti revived their courage and induced them to follow their leader through one more encounter. Like Frederick the Great, the Prince of Yen was never greater than in defeat. He surprised the lately victorious army of Wenti, smashed it in pieces, and captured Tingan, the emperor's best general. The occupation of Nankin and the abdication of Wenti followed this victory in rapid succession. Afraid to trust himself to the mercy of his relative, he fled, disguised as a priest, to Yunnan, where he passed his life ignominiously for forty years, and his identity was only discovered after that lapse of time by his publishing, in his new character of a Buddhist priest, a poem reciting and lamenting the misfortunes of Wenti. Then he was removed to Pekin, where he died in honorable confinement. As a priest he seems to have been more fortunate than as a ruler, and history contains no more striking example of happiness being found in a private station when unattainable on a throne.

After some hesitation the Prince of Yen allowed himself to be proclaimed emperor, and as such he is best known as Yonglo, a name signifying "Eternal Joy." Considering his many declarations that his only ambition was to reform and not to destroy the administration of his nephew, his first act obliterating the reign of Wenti from the records and constituting himself the immediate successor of Hongwou was not calculated to support his alleged indifference to power. He was scarcely seated on the throne before he was involved in serious troubles on both his northern and his southern frontiers. In Mongolia he attempted to assert a formal supremacy over the khans through the person of an adventurer named Kulitchi, but the agent was unable to fulfill his promises, and met with a speedy overthrow. In Tonquin an ambitious minister named Likimao deposed his master and established himself as ruler in his place. The emperor sent an army to bring him to his senses, and it met with such rapid success that the Chinese were encouraged to annex Tonquin and convert it into a province of the empire. When Yonglo's plans failed on the steppe he was drawn into a struggle with the Mongols, which necessitated annual expeditions until he died. During the last of these he advanced as far as the Kerulon, and on his return march he died in his camp at the age of sixty-five. Although he bore arms so long against the head of the state there is no doubt that he greatly consolidated the power of the Mings, which he extended on one side to the Amour and on the other to the Songcoi. It was during his reign that Tamerlane contemplated the reconquest of China, and perhaps it was well for Yonglo that that great commander died when he had traversed only a few stages of his march to the Great Wall. One of his sons succeeded Yonglo as emperor, but he only reigned under the style of Gintsong for a few months.

Then Suentsong, the son of Gintsong, occupied the throne, and during his reign a vital question affecting the constitution of the civil service, and through it the whole administration of the country, was brought forward, and fortunately settled without recourse to blows, as was at one time feared would be the case. Before his reign the public examinations had been open to candidates from all parts of the empire, and it had become noticeable that all the honors were being carried off by students from the southern provinces, who were of quicker intelligence than those of the north. It seemed as if in the course of a short time all the posts would be held by them, and that the natives of the provinces north of the Hoangho would be gradually driven out of the service. Naturally this marked tendency led to much agitation in the north, and a very bitter feeling was spreading when Suentsong and his minister took up the matter and proceeded to apply a sound practical remedy. After a commission of inquiry had certified to the reality of the evil, Suentsong decreed that all competitors for literary honors should be restricted to their native districts, and that for the purpose of the competitive examinations China should be divided into three separate divisions, one for the north, another for the center, and the third for the south. The firmness shown by the Emperor Suentsong in this matter was equally conspicuous in his dealings with an uncle, who showed some inclination to revolt. He took the field in person, and before the country was generally aware of the revolt, Suentsong was conducting his relative to a state prison. The rest of Suentsong's reign was peaceful and prosperous, and he left the crown to his son, Yngtsong, a child eight years old.

During his minority the governing authority was exercised by his grandmother, the Empress Changchi, the mother of the Emperor Suentsong. At first it seemed as if there would be a struggle for power between her and the eunuch Wangchin, who had gained the affections of the young emperor; but after she had denounced him before the court and called for his execution, from which fate he was only rescued by the tears and supplications of the young sovereign, the feud was composed by Wangchin gaining such an ascendency over the empress that she made him her associate in the regency. Unfortunately Wangchin did not prove a wise or able administrator. He thought more of the sweets of office than of the duties of his lofty station. He appointed his relations and creatures to the highest civil and military posts without regard to their qualifications or ability. To his arrogance was directly due the commencement of a disastrous war with Yesien, the most powerful of the Mongol chiefs of the day. When that prince sent the usual presents to the Chinese capital, and made the customary request for a Chinese princess as wife, Wangchin appropriated the gifts for himself and sent back a haughty refusal to Yesien's petition, although it was both customary and rarely refused. Such a reception was tantamount to a declaration of war, and Yesien, who had already been tempted by the apparent weakness of the Chinese frontier to resume the raids which were so popular with the nomadic tribes of the desert, gathered his fighting men together and invaded China. Alarmed by the storm he had raised, Wangchin still endeavored to meet it, and summoning all the garrisons in the north to his aid, he placed himself at the head of an army computed to number half a million of men. In the hope of inspiring his force with confidence he took the boy-emperor, Yngtsong, with him, but his own incompetence nullified the value of numbers, and rendered the presence of the emperor the cause of additional ignominy instead of the inspiration of invincible confidence. The vast and unwieldy Chinese army took up a false position at a place named Toumon, and it is affirmed that the position was so bad that Yesien feared that it must cover a ruse. He accordingly sent some of his officers to propose an armistice, but really to inspect the Chinese lines. They returned to say that there was no concealment, and that if an attack were made at once the Chinese army lay at his mercy. Yesien delayed not a moment in delivering his attack, and it was completely successful. The very numbers of the Chinese, in a confined position, added to their discomfiture, and after a few hours' fighting the battle became a massacre and a rout. Wangchin, the cause of all this ruin, was killed by Fanchong, the commander of the imperial guards, and the youthful ruler, Yngtsong, was taken prisoner. There has rarely been a more disastrous day in the long annals of the Chinese empire than the rout at Toumon.

Then Yesien returned to his camp on the Toula, taking his prisoner with him, and announcing that he would only restore him for a ransom of 100 taels of gold, 200 taels of silver, and 200 pieces of the finest silk. For some unknown reason the Empress Changchi did not feel disposed to pay this comparatively low ransom, and instead of reclaiming Yngtsong from his conqueror she placed his brother, Kingti, on the throne. The struggle with the Mongols under Yesien continued, but his attention was distracted from China by his desire to become the great Khan of the Mongols, a title still held by his brother-in-law, Thotho Timour, of the House of Genghis. Yesien, suddenly releasing of his own accord Yngtsong—who returned to Pekin—hastened to the Kerulon country, where he overthrew and assassinated Thotho Timour, and was in turn himself slain by another chieftain. While the Mongol was thus pursuing his own ambition, and reaching the violent death which forms so common a feature in the history of his family, the unfortunate Yngtsong returned to China, where, on the refusal of his brother Kingti to resign the throne, he sank quietly into private life. Kingti died seven years after his brother's return, and then, failing a better or nearer prince, Yngtsong was brought from his confinement and restored to the throne. He reigned eight years after his restoration, but he never possessed any real power, his authority being wielded by unscrupulous ministers, who stained his reign by the execution of Yukien, the most honest and capable general of the period. If his reign was not remarkable for political or military vigor, some useful reforms appear to have been instituted. Among others may be named the formation of state farms on waste or confiscated lands, the establishment of military schools for teaching archery and horsemanship, and the completion of some useful and elaborate educational works, of which a geography of China, in ninety volumes, is the most famous.

Yngtsong died in the year 1465, and was succeeded by his son, Hientsong, who began his reign with acts of filial devotion that attracted the sympathy of his subjects. He also rendered posthumous honors to the ill- used general, Yukien, and established his fame as a national benefactor. During the twenty-eight years that he occupied the throne he was engaged in a number of petty wars, none of which requires specific mention. The only unpopular measure associated with his name was the creation of a Grand Council of Eunuchs, to which was referred all questions of capital punishment, and this body soon acquired a power which made it resemble the tyrannical and irresponsible British Star Chamber. After five years this institution became so unpopular and was so deeply execrated by the nation that Hientsong, however reluctantly, had to abolish his own creation, and acquiesce in the execution of some of its most active members.

During Hientsong's reign a systematic attempt was made to work the gold mines reputed to exist in Central China, but although half a million men were employed upon them it is stated that the find did not exceed thirty ounces. More useful work was accomplished in the building of a canal from Pekin to the Peiho, which thus enabled grain junks to reach the northern capital by the Euho and Shaho canals from the Yangtsekiang. Another useful public work was the repairing of the Great Wall, effected along a considerable portion of its extent, by the efforts of 50,000 soldiers, which gave the Chinese a sense of increased security. In connection with this measure of defense, it may be stated that the Chinese advanced into Central Asia and occupied the town of Hami, which then and since has served them as a useful watch-tower in the direction of the west. The death of Hientsong occurred in 1487, at a moment when the success and prosperity of the country under the Mings may be described as having reached its height.

During the reign of his son and successor, Hiaotsong, matters progressed peacefully, for, although there was some fighting for the possession of Hami, which was coveted by several of the desert chiefs, but which remained during the whole of this reign subject to China, the empire was not involved in any great war. An insurrection of the black aborigines of the island of Hainan was put down without any very serious difficulty. These events do not throw any very clear light on the character and personality of Hiaotsong, who died in 1505 at the early age of thirty-six; but his care for his people, and his desire to alleviate the misfortunes that might befall his subjects, was shown by his ordering every district composed of ten villages to send in annually to a State granary, a specified quantity of grain, until 100,000 bushels had been stored in every such building throughout the country. The idea was an excellent one; but it is to be feared that a large portion of this grain was diverted to the use of the peculating officials, whence arose the phrase, "The emperor is full of pity, but the Court of Finance is like the never-dying worm which devours the richest crops." To Hiaotsong succeeded his son, Woutsong, during whose reign many misfortunes fell upon the land. The emperor's uncles had designs on his authority, but these fell through and came to naught, rather through Woutsong's good fortune than the excellence of his arrangements. In Szchuen a peasant war threatened to assume the dimensions of a rebellion, and in Pechihli bands of mounted robbers, or Hiangmas, raided the open country. He succeeded in suppressing these revolts, but his indifference to the disturbed state of his realm was shown by his passing most of his time in hunting expeditions beyond the Great Wall. His successors were to reap the result of this neglect of business for the pursuit of pleasure; and when he died in 1519, without leaving an heir, the outlook was beginning to look serious for the Ming dynasty. One event, and perhaps the most important of Woutsong's reign, calls for special mention, and that is the arrival at Canton of the first native of Europe to reach China by sea. Of course it will be recollected that Marco Polo and others reached the Mongol court by land, although the Venetian sailed from China on his embassy to southern India. In 1511, Raphael Perestralo sailed from Malacca to China, and in 1517 the Portuguese officer, Don Fernand Perez D'Andrade, arrived in the Canton River with a squadron, and was favorably received by the mandarins. D'Andrade visited Pekin, where he resided for some time as embassador. The commencement of intercourse between Europeans and China was thus effected most auspiciously; and it might have continued so but that a second Portuguese fleet appeared in Chinese waters, and committed there numerous outrages and acts of piracy. Upon this D'Andrade was arrested by order of Woutsong, and after undergoing imprisonment, was executed by his successor in 1523. It was a bad beginning for a connection which, after nearly four hundred years, is neither as stable nor as general as the strivers after perfection could desire.

The death of Woutsong without children, or any recognized heir, threatened to involve the realm in serious dangers; but the occasion was so critical that the members of the Ming family braced themselves to it, and under the auspices of the Empress Changchi, the widow of the late ruler, a secret council was held, when the grandson of the Emperor Hientsong, a youth of fourteen, was placed on the throne under the name of Chitsong. It is said that his mother gave him good advice on being raised from a private station to the lofty eminence of emperor, and that she told him that he was about to accept a heavy burden; but experience showed that he was unequal to it. Still, his shortcomings were preferable to a disputed succession. The earlier years of his reign were marked by some successes over the Tartars, and he received tribute from chiefs who had never paid it before. But Chitsong had little taste for the serious work of administration. He showed himself superstitious in matters of religion, and he cultivated poetry, and may even have persuaded himself that he was a poet. But he did not pay any heed to the advice of those among his ministers who urged him to take a serious view of his position, and to act in a manner worthy of his dignity. It is clear that his influence on the lot of his people, and even on the course of his country's history, was small, and such reigns as his inspire the regret expressed at there being no history of the Chinese people; but such a history is impossible.

It might be more instructive to trace the growth of thought among the masses, or to indicate the progress of civil and political freedom; yet, not only do the materials not exist for such a task, but those we possess all tend to show that there has been no growth to describe, no progress to be indicated, during these comparatively recent centuries. It is the peculiar and distinguishing characteristic of Chinese history that the people and their institutions have remained practically unchanged and the same from a very early period. Even the introduction of a foreign element has not tended to disturb the established order of things. The supreme ruler possesses the same attributes and discharges the same functions; the governing classes are chosen in the same manner; the people are bound in the same state of servitude, and enjoy the same practical liberty; all is now as it was. Neither under the Tangs nor the Sungs, under the Yuens nor the Mings, was there any change in national character or in political institutions to be noted or chronicled. The history of the empire has always been the fortunes of the dynasty, which has depended, in the first place, on the passive content of the subjects, and, in the second, on the success or failure of its external and internal wars. This condition of things may be disappointing to those who pride themselves on tracing the origin of a constitution and the growth of civil rights, and also would have a history of China a history of the Chinese people; although the fact is undoubted that there is no history of the Chinese people apart from that of their country to be recorded. The national institutions and character were formed, and had attained in all essentials their present state, more than two thousand years ago, or before the destruction of all trustworthy materials for the task by the burning of the ancient literature and chronicles of China. Without them we must fain content ourselves with the history of the country and the empire.

Chitsong was engaged in three serious operations beyond his frontier, one with a Tartar chief named Yenta, another with the Japanese, and the third in Cochin China. Yenta was of Mongol extraction, and enjoyed supreme power on the borders of Shansi. His brother was chief of the Ordus tribe, which dwells within the Chinese frontier. Changtu, the old residence of Kublai, was one of his camps, and it was said that he could bring 100,000 horsemen into the field. The success of his raids carried alarm through the province of Shansi, and during one of them he laid siege to the capital, Taiyuen. Then the emperor placed a reward on his head and offered an official post to the person who would rid him of his enemy by assassination. The offer failed to bring forward either a murderer or a patriot, and Yenta's hostility was increased by the personal nature of this attack, and perhaps by the apprehension of a sinister fate. He invaded China on a larger scale than ever, and carried his ravages to the southern extremity of Shansi, and returned laden with the spoil of forty districts, and bearing with him 200,000 prisoners to a northern captivity. After this success Yenta seems to have rested on his laurels, although he by no means gave up his raids, which, however, assumed more and more a local character. The Chinese annalists state that never was the frontier more disturbed, and even the establishment of horse fairs for the benefit of the Mongols failed to keep them quiet. In Cochin China the emperor gained some gratifying if not very important successes, and asserted his right as suzerain over several disobedient princes. But a more serious and less satisfactory question had to be settled on the side of Japan.

The Japanese had never forgiven the formidable and unprovoked invasion of their country by Kublai Khan. The Japanese are by nature a military nation, and the Chinese writers themselves describe them as "intrepid, inured to fatigue, despising life, and knowing well how to face death; although inferior in number a hundred of them would blush to flee before a thousand foreigners, and if they did they would not dare to return to their country. Sentiments such as these, which are instilled into them from their earliest childhood, render them terrible in battle." Emboldened by their success over the formidable Mongols the Japanese treated the Chinese with contempt, and fitted out piratical expeditions from time to time with the object of preying on the commerce and coasting towns of China. To guard against the descents of these enterprising islanders the Chinese had erected towers of defense along the coast, and had called out a militia which was more or less inefficient. On the main they did not so much as attempt to make a stand against their neighbors, whose war junks exercised undisputed authority on the Eastern Sea. While this strife continued a trade also sprang up between the two peoples, who share in an equal degree the commercial instinct; but as the Chinese government only admitted Japanese goods when brought by the embassador, who was sent every ten years from Japan, this trade could only be carried on by smuggling. A regular system was adopted to secure the greatest success and profit. The Japanese landed their goods on some island off the coast, whence the Chinese removed them at a safe and convenient moment to the mainland. The average value of the cargo of one of the small junks which carried on this trade is said to have been $20,000, so that it may be inferred that the profits were considerable. But the national antipathies would not be repressed by the profitable character of this trade, and the refusal of a Chinese merchant to give a Japanese the goods for which he had paid lit the embers of a war which went on for half a century, and which materially weakened the Ming power. During the last years of Chitsong's long reign of forty-five years this trouble showed signs of getting worse, although the Japanese confined their efforts to irregular and unexpected attacks on places on the coast, and did not attempt to wage a regular war. In the midst of these troubles, and when it was hoped that the exhortation of his ministers would produce some effect, Chitsong died, leaving behind him a will or public proclamation to be issued after his death, and which reads like a long confession of fault. Mea culpa, exclaimed this Eastern ruler at the misfortunes of his people and the calamities of his realm, but he could not propound a remedy for them.

His third son succeeded him as the Emperor Moutsong, and the character and capacity of this prince gave promise that his reign would be satisfactory if not glorious. Unfortunately for his family, and perhaps for his country, the public expectations were dispelled in his case by an early death. The six years during which he reigned were rendered remarkable by the conclusion of a stable peace with the Tartar Yenta, who accepted the title of a Prince of the Empire. Moutsong when he found that he was dying grew apprehensive lest the youth of his son might not stir up dissension and provoke that internal strife which had so often proved the bane of the empire and involved the wreck of many of its dynasties. He exhorted his ministers to stand by his son who was only a boy, to give him the best advice in their power, and to render him worthy of the throne. That the apprehensions of Moutsong were not without reason was clearly shown by the mishaps and calamities which occurred during the long reign of his son and successor Wanleh. With the death of Moutsong the period ends when it was possible to state that the majesty of the Mings remained undimmed, and that this truly national dynasty wielded with power and full authority the imperial mandate. When they had driven out the Mongol the Mings seem to have settled down into an ordinary and intensely national line of rulers. The successors of Hongwou did nothing great or noteworthy, but the Chinese acquiesced in their rule, and even showed that they possessed for it a special regard and affection.



The reign of Wanleh covers the long and important epoch from 1573 to 1620, during which period occurred some very remarkable events in the history of the country, including the first movements of the Manchus with a view to the conquest of the empire. The young prince was only six when he was placed on the throne, but he soon showed that he had been well-trained to play the part of ruler. The best indication of the prosperity of the realm is furnished by the revenue, which steadily increased until it reached the great total, excluding the grain receipts, of seventy-five millions of our money. But a large revenue becomes of diminished value unless it is associated with sound finance. The public expenditure showed a steady increase; the emperor and his advisers were incapable of checking the outlay, and extravagance, combined with improvidence, soon depleted the exchequer. Internal troubles occurred to further embarrass the executive, and the resources of the state were severely strained in coping with more than one serious rebellion, among which the most formidable was the mutiny of a mercenary force under the command of a Turk officer named Popai, who imagined that he was unjustly treated, and that the time was favorable to found an administration of his own. His early successes encouraged him to believe that he would succeed in his object; but when he found that all the disposable forces of the empire were sent against him, he abandoned the field, and shut himself up in the fortress at Ninghia, where he hoped to hold out indefinitely. For many months he succeeded in baffling the attacks of Wanleh's general, and the siege might even have had to be raised if the latter had not conceived the idea of diverting the course of the river Hoangho, so that it might bear upon the walls of the fortress. Popai was unable to resist this form of attack, and when the Chinese stormers made their way through the breach thus caused, he attempted to commit suicide by setting fire to his residence. This satisfaction was denied him, for a Chinese officer dragged him from the flames, slew him, and sent his head to the general Li Jusong, who conducted the siege, and of whom we shall hear a great deal more.

The gratification caused by the overthrow of Popai had scarcely abated when the attention of the Chinese government was drawn away from domestic enemies to a foreign assailant who threatened the most serious danger to China. Reference was made in the last chapter to the relations between the Chinese and the Japanese, and to the aggressions of the latter, increased, no doubt, by Chinese chicane and their own naval superiority and confidence. But nothing serious might have come out of these unneighborly relations if they had not furnished an ambitious ruler with the opportunity of embarking on an enterprise which promised to increase his empire and his glory. The old Japanese ruling family was descended, as already described, from a Chinese exile; but the hero of the sixteenth century could claim no relationship with the royal house, and owed none of his success to the accident of a noble birth. Fashiba, called by some English writers Hideyoshi; by the Chinese Pingsiuki; and by the Japanese, on his elevation to the dignity of Tycoon, Taiko Sama, was originally a slave; and it is said that he first attracted attention by refusing to make the prescribed obeisance to one of the daimios or lords. He was on the point of receiving condign punishment, when he pleaded his case with such ingenuity and courage that the daimio not only forgave him his offense, but gave him a post in his service. Having thus obtained honorable employment, Fashiba devoted all his energy and capacity to promoting the interests of his new master, knowing well that his position and opportunities must increase equally with them. In a short time he made his lord the most powerful daimio in the land, and on his death he stepped, naturally enough, into the position and power of his chief. How long he would have maintained himself thus in ordinary times may be matter of opinion, but he resolved to give stability to his position and a greater luster to his name by undertaking an enterprise which should be popular with the people and profitable to the state. The Japanese had only attempted raids on the coast, and they had never thought of establishing themselves on the mainland. But Fashiba proposed the conquest of China, and he hoped to effect his purpose through the instrumentality of Corea. With this view he wrote the king of that country the following letter: "I will assemble a mighty host, and, invading the country of the Great Ming, I will fill with hoar-frost from my sword the whole sky over the 400 provinces. Should I carry out this purpose, I hope that Corea will be my vanguard. Let her not fail to do so, for my friendship to your honorable country depends solely on your conduct when I lead my army against China."

Fashiba began with an act of aggression at Corea's expense, by seizing the important harbor of Fushan. Having thus secured a foothold on the mainland and a gateway into the kingdom, Fashiba hastened to invade Corea at the head of a large army. The capital was sacked and the tombs of Lipan's ancestors desecrated, while he himself fled to the Chinese court to implore the assistance of Wanleh. An army was hastily assembled and marched to arrest the progress of the Japanese invader, who had by this reached Pingyang, a town 400 miles north of Fushan. An action was fought outside this town. The advantage rested with the Japanese, who succeeded in destroying a Chinese regiment. After this a lull ensued in the campaign, and both sides brought up fresh forces. Fashiba came over from Japan with further supplies and troops to assist his general, Hingchang, while on the Chinese side, Li Jusong, the captor of Ninghia, was placed at the head of the Chinese army. A second battle was fought in the neighborhood of Pingyang, and after some stubborn fighting the Japanese were driven out of that town.

The second campaign was opened by a brilliant feat on the part of Li Jusong, who succeeded in surprising and destroying the granaries and storehouses constructed by the Japanese, near Seoul. The loss of their stores compelled the Japanese to retire on Fushan, but they did not with such boldness and confidence that the Chinese did not venture to attack them. The ultimate result of the struggle was still doubtful when the sudden death of Fashiba completely altered the complexion of the situation. The Japanese army then withdrew, taking with it a vast amount of booty and the ears of 10,000 Coreans. The Chinese troops also retired, leaving the Corean king at liberty to restore his disputed authority, and his kingdom once more sank into its primitive state of exclusion and semi- darkness.

For the first time in Chinese history the relations between the Middle Kingdom and Europeans became of importance during the reign of Wanleh, which would alone give it a special distinction. The Portuguese led the way for European enterprise in China, and it was very unfortunate that they did so, for it was soon written of them that "the Portuguese have no other design than to come under the name of merchants to spy the country, that they may hereafter fall upon it with fire and sword." As early as the year 1560 they had obtained from the local officials the right to found a settlement and to erect sheds for their goods at a place which is now known as Macao. In a few years it became of so much importance that it was the annual restort of five or six hundred Portuguese merchants; and the Portuguese, by paying a yearly rent of 500 taels, secured the practical monopoly of the trade of the Canton River, which was then and long afterward the only vent for the external trade of China. No doubt the Portuguese had to supplement this nominal rent by judicious bribes to the leading mandarins. Next after the Portuguese came the Spaniards, who, instead of establishing themselves on the mainland, made their headquarters in a group of the Philippine Islands.

The promotion of European interests in China owed little or nothing to the forbearance and moderation of either the Spaniards or Portuguese. They tyrannized over the Chinese subject to their sway, and they employed all their resources in driving away other Europeans from what they chose to consider their special commercial preserves. Thus the Dutch were expelled from the south by the Portuguese and compelled to take refuge in Formosa, while the English and French did not make their appearance, except by occasional visits, until a much later period, although it should be recorded that the English Captain Weddell was the first to discover the mouth of the Canton River, and to make his way up to that great city.

One of the principal troubles of the Emperor Wanleh arose from his having no legitimate heir, and his ministers impressed upon him, for many years, the disadvantage of this situation before he would undertake to select one of his children by the inferior members of the harem as his successor. And then he made what may be termed a divided selection. He proclaimed his eldest son heir-apparent, and declared the next brother to be in the direct order of succession, and conferred on him the title of Prince Fou Wang. The latter was his real favorite, and, encouraged by his father's preference, he formed a party to oust his elder brother and to gain the heritage before it was due. The intrigues in which he engaged long disturbed the court and agitated the mind of the emperor. Supported by his mother, Prince Fou Wang threatened the position and even the life of the heir-apparent, Prince Chu Changlo, but the plot was discovered and Fou Wang's rank would not have saved him from the executioner if it had not been for the special intercession of his proposed victim, Chu Changlo. In the midst of these family troubles, as well as those of the state, the Emperor Wanleh died, after a long reign, in 1620. The last years of his life were rendered unhappy and miserable by the reverses experienced at the hands of the new and formidable opponent who had suddenly appeared upon the northern frontier of the empire.

Some detailed account of the Manchu race and of the progress of their arms before the death of Wanleh will form a fitting prelude to the description of the long wars which resulted in the conquest of China and in the placing of the present ruling family on the Dragon Throne.

The first chief of the Manchu clan was a mythical personage named Aisin Gioro, who flourished in the middle of the fourteenth century, while Hongwou, the founder of the Mings, was employed in the task of driving out the Mongols. Aisin Gioro is said to mean Golden Family Stem, and thus the connection with the Kin dynasty finds recognition at an early stage. His birth is described in mythical terms—it is said that a magpie dropped a red fruit into the lap of a maiden of the Niuche, who straightway ate it and conceived a son. The skeptical have interpreted this as meaning that Aisin Gioro was a runaway Mongol, who was granted shelter by the Niuche of Hootooala. At all events he became lord of the valley, and five generations later, in the reign of Wanleh, his descendant, Huen, was head of the Manchus. His grandson, the great Noorhachu, was born in the year 1559, and his birth was attended by several miraculous circumstances. He is said "to have been a thirteen-months' child, to have had the dragon face and the phenix eye, an enormous chest, large ears, and a voice like the tone of the largest bell."

A chief named Haida was the first to stir up the embers of internecine strife among the Niuche clans. To gratify his own ambition or to avenge some blood feuds, he obtained the assistance of one of the principal Chinese officers on the Leaoutung borders, and thus overran the territory of his neighbors. Encouraged by his first successes, Haida proceeded to attack the chief of Goolo, who was married to a cousin of Noorhachu, and who at once appealed to Hootooala for assistance. The whole Manchu clan marched to his rescue, and it was on this occasion that Noorhachu had his first experience of war on a large scale. The Manchus presented such a bold front that there is every reason to believe that Haida and his Chinese allies would have failed to conquer Goolo by force, but they resorted to fraud, which proved only too successful. Haida succeeded in enticing the old chief Huen and his son, the father of Noorhachu, into a conference, when he murdered them and many of their companions. The momentary success gained by this breach of faith was heavily paid for by the incentive it gave Noorhachu to exact revenge for the brutal and cowardly murder of his father and grandfather. Haida constructed a fortified camp at Toolun, but he did not feel secure there against the open attacks of Noorhachu or the private plots he formed to gain possession of his person. Several times Haida fled from Toolun to Chinese territory, where he hoped to enjoy greater safety, until at last the Chinese became tired of giving him shelter and protecting one who could not support his own pretensions. Then, with strange inconstancy, they delivered him over into the hands of Noorhachu, who straightway killed him, thus carrying out the first portion of his vow to avenge the massacre at Goolo.

Then Noorhachu turned all his attention and devoted all his energy to the realization of the project which Haida had conceived, the union of the Niuche clans; but whereas Haida had looked to Chinese support and patronage for the attainment of his object, Noorhachu resolved to achieve success as an enemy of China and by means of his own Manchu followers. His first measure was to carefully select a site for his capital on a plain well supplied with water, and then to fortify it by surrounding it with three walls. He then drew up simple regulations for the government of his people, and military rules imposing a severe discipline on his small army. The Chinese appear to have treated him with indifference, and they continued to pay him the sums of money and the honorary gifts which had been made to Haida. Several of the Niuche clans, won over by the success and reputation of Noorhachu, voluntarily associated themselves with him, and it was not until the year 1591 that the Manchu chief committed his first act of open aggression by invading the district of Yalookiang. That territory was soon overrun and annexed; but it roused such a fear among the other Niuche chiefs, lest their fate should be the same, that seven of them combined, under Boojai, to overthrow the upstart who aspired to play the part of a dictator. They brought into the field a force of 30,000 men, including, besides their own followers, a considerable contingent from the Mongols; and as Noorhachu's army numbered only 4,000 men, it seemed as if he must certainly be overwhelmed. But, small as was his force, it enjoyed the incalculable advantage of discipline; and seldom has the superiority of trained troops over raw levies been more conspicuously illustrated than by this encounter between warriors of the same race. This battle was fought at Goolo Hill, and resulted in the decisive victory of Noorhachu. Boojai and 4,000 of his men were killed, a large number of his followers were taken prisoners and enrolled in the ranks of the victor, and the spoil included many suits of mail and arms of offense which improved the state of Noorhachu's arsenal. Several of the districts which had been subject to these confederated princes passed into the hands of the conqueror, and he carried his authority northward up the Songari River over tribes who had never recognized any southern authority. These successes paved the way to an attack on Yeho, the principality of Boojai, which was reputed to be the most powerful of all the Niuche states; and on this occasion it vindicated its reputation by repelling the attack of Noorhachu. Its success was not entirely due to its own strength, for the Chinese governor of Leaoutung, roused at last to the danger from Noorhachu, sent money and arms to assist the Yeho people in their defense.

The significance of this repulse was diminished by other successes elsewhere, and Noorhachu devoted his main attention to disciplining the larger force he had acquired by his later conquests, and by raising its efficiency to the high point attained by the army with which he had gained his first triumphs. He also meditated a more daring and important enterprise than any struggle with his kinsfolk; for he came to the conclusion that it was essential to destroy the Chinese power in Leaoutung before he should undertake any further enterprise in Manchuria. His army had now been raised to an effective strength of 40,000 men, and the Manchu bowman, with his formidable bow, and the Manchu man-at-arms, in his cotton mail, proof to the arrow or spear, were as formidable warriors as then existed in the world. Confident in his military power, and thinking, no doubt, that a successful foreign enterprise was the best way to rally and confirm the allegiance of his race, Noorhachu invaded Leaoutung, and published a proclamation against the Chinese, which became known as the Seven Hates. Instead of forwarding this document to the Chinese Court he burned it in the presence of his army, so that Heaven itself might judge the justice of the cause between him and the Chinese.

It was in the year 1618 that Noorhachu invaded Leaoutung, and so surprised were the Chinese at his audacity that they offered little or no resistance. The town of Fooshun was captured and made the headquarters of the Manchu prince. From this place he sent a list of his requirements to the governor of Leaoutung, and it is said that he offered, on the Chinese complying with his terms, to withdraw and desist from hostilities. But the Chinese did not appreciate the power of this new enemy. They treated his grievances with indifference and contempt, and they sent an army to drive him out of Leaoutung. The Chinese troops soon had a taste of the quality of the Manchu army. They were defeated in several encounters, and the best Chinese troops fled before the impetuous charge of the Manchu cavalry. Noorhachu then laid siege to the prefectural town of Tsingho, which he captured after a siege of some weeks, and where he massacred nearly 20,000 of the garrison and townspeople. He would have continued the campaign but that his followers demanded to be led back, stating that they feared for the safety of their homes at the hands of Yeho, still hostile and aggressive in their rear. The conquest of Leaoutung was therefore discontinued for the purpose of closing accounts with the last of the Niuche principalities; but enough had been accomplished to whet the appetite of the Manchu leader for more, and to show him how easy it was to vanquish the Chinese. On his return to his capital, Hingking, he prepared to invade Yeho, but his plans were undoubtedly delayed by the necessity of resting his troops and of allowing many of them to return to their homes. This delay, no doubt, induced the Chinese to make a supreme effort to avert the overthrow of Yeho, who had proved so useful an ally, and accordingly the governor of Leaoutung advanced with 100,000 men into Manchuria. He sacrificed the advantage of superior numbers by dividing his army into four divisions, with very inadequate means of inter- communication. Noorhachu could only bring 60,000 men into the field; but, apart from their high training, they represented a compact body subject to the direction of Noorhachu alone. The Manchu leader at once perceived the faulty disposition of the Chinese army, and he resolved to attack and overwhelm each corps in detail before it could receive aid from the others. The strongest Chinese corps was that operating most to the west, and marching from Fooshun on Hingking; and Noorhachu perceived that if he could overthrow it the flank of the rest of the Chinese army would be exposed, and its line of retreat imperiled. The Chinese general in command of this corps was impetuous and anxious to distinguish himself. His courage might on another occasion have helped his country, but under the circumstances his very ardor served the purpose of Noorhachu. Tousong, such was his name, marched more rapidly than any of his comrades, and reached the Hwunho—the Tiber of the Manchus—behind which Noorhachu had, at a little distance, drawn up his army. Without pausing to reconnoiter, or to discover with what force he had to deal, Tousong threw himself across the river, and intrenched himself on Sarhoo Hill. His overconfidence was so extreme and fatuous that he weakened his army by sending a detachment to lay siege to the town of Jiefan. The Manchus had, however, well provided for the defense of that place, and while the Chinese detachment sent against it was being destroyed, Noorhachu attacked Tousong in his position on Sarhoo Hill with the whole of his army. The Chinese were overwhelmed, Tousong was slain, and the majority of those who escaped the fray perished in the waters of the Hwunho, beneath the arrows and javelins of the pursuing Manchus.

Then Noorhachu hastened to attack the second of the Chinese divisions under a capable officer named Malin, who selected a strong position with great care, and wished to stand on the defensive. His wings rested on two hills which he fortified, and he strengthened his center in the intervening valley with a triple line of wagons. If he had only remained in this position he might have succeeded in keeping Noorhachu at bay until he could have been joined by the two remaining Chinese corps; but the impetuosity of his troops, or it may have been the artifice of the Manchu leader, drew him from his intrenchments. At first the Chinese seemed to have the best of the battle, but in a short time victory turned to the side of the Manchus, and Malin fled with the relics of his force back to Chinese territory. After these two successes Noorhachu proceeded to attack the third Chinese corps under Liuyen, who had acquired a cheap reputation by his success over the Miaotze. He had no better fortune than any of his colleagues, and his signal defeat completed the Manchu triumph over the Chinese army of invasion. The defeat of Liuyen was effected by a stratagem as much as by superior force. Noorhachu dressed some of his troops in the Chinese uniforms he had captured, and sent them among the Chinese, who received them as comrades until they discovered their mistake in the crisis of the battle. During this campaign it was computed that the total losses of the Chinese amounted to 310 general officers and 45,000 private soldiers. Among other immediate results of this success were the return of 20,000 Yeho troops to their homes and the defection of 5,000 Coreans, who joined Noorhachu. Like all great commanders, Noorhachu gave his enemies no time to recover from their misfortunes. He pursued Malin to Kaiyuen, which he captured, with so many prisoners that it took three days to count them. He invaded Yeho, which recognized his authority without a blow, and gave him an additional 30,000 fighting men. All the Niuche clans thus became united under his banner, and adopted the name of Manchu. He had succeeded in the great object of his life, the union of his race, and he had well avenged the death of his father and grandfather; but his ambition was not satisfied with this success. It had rather grown with the widening horizon opened by the discomfiture of the Chinese, and with the sense of military superiority.

Amid these national disasters the long reign of Wanleh closed in the year 1620. That unhappy monarch lived long enough to see the establishment on his northern borders of the power which was to destroy his dynasty. The very last act of his reign was, whether by accident or good judgment, the most calculated to prevent the Manchus overrunning the State, and that was the selection of a capable general in the person of Hiung Tingbi. With the death of Wanleh the decadence of Ming power became clearly marked, and the only question that remained was whether it could be arrested before it resulted in absolute ruin.



Tingbi, with the wrecks of the Chinese armies, succeeded in doing more for the defense of his country than had been accomplished by any of his predecessors with undiminished resources. He built a chain of forts, he raised the garrison of Leaoutung to 180,000 men, and he spared no effort to place Leaouyang, the capital of that province, in a position to stand a protracted siege. If his counsels had been followed to the end, he might have succeeded in permanently arresting the flood of Manchu conquest; but at the very moment when his plans promised to give assured success, he fell into disgrace at the capital, and his career was summarily ended by the executioner. The greatest compliment to his ability was that Noorhachu remained quiescent as long as he was on the frontier, but as soon as he was removed he at once resumed his aggression on Chinese soil.

Meanwhile, Wanleh had been succeeded on the Chinese throne by his son, Chu Changlo, who took the name of Kwangtsong. He was an amiable and well- meaning prince, whose reign was unquestionably cut short by foul means. There is little doubt that he was poisoned by the mother of his half- brother, from a wish to secure the throne for her son; but if so she never gained the object that inspired her crime, for the princes of the family met in secret conclave, and selected Kwangtsong's son a youth of sixteen, as his successor. The choice did not prove fortunate, as this prince became known as Tienki the Unhappy, whose reign witnessed the culmination of Ming misfortunes. One of his first acts was the removal of Tingbi from his command, and this error of judgment, aggravated by the ingratitude it implied to a faithful servant, fitly marked the commencement of a reign of incompetence and misfortune.

In 1621 the Manchu war reopened with an attack on Moukden or Fanyang, which Noorhachu had marked out as his next object. The garrison was numerous, and might have made a good defense, for the walls were strong; but the commandant was brave to the degree of temerity, and, leaving his fortress, marched out to meet the Manchus in the open. The result was a decisive overthrow, and the victors entered Moukden at the heels of the vanquished. The Chinese still resisted, and a terrible slaughter ensued, but the Manchus retained their conquest. At this juncture the Chinese were offered the assistance of the Portuguese at Macao, who sent a small body of 200 men, armed with arquebuses and with several cannon, to Pekin; but after some hesitation the Chinese, whether from pride or contempt of so small a force, declined to avail themselves of their service, and thus lost an auxiliary that might have turned the fortune of the war in their favor. The Portuguese were sent back to Macao, and, although the Chinese kept the cannon, and employed the Jesuit priests in casting others for them, nothing came of an incident which might have exercised a lasting influence not merely on the fortune of the war, but also on the relations between the Chinese and Europeans. The Chinese sent several armies to recover Moukden; but, although they took these guns with them, they met with no success, and Noorhachu made it the base of his plan of attack on Leaouyang, the capital of the province. The defense of this important town was intrusted to Yuen Yingtai, the court favorite and incompetent successor of Tingbi. That officer, unwarned by the past, and regardless of the experience of so many of his predecessors, weakened himself and invited defeat by attempting to oppose the Manchus in the open. He was defeated, losing some of his best soldiers, and compelled to shut himself up in the town with a disheartened garrison. The Manchus gained an entrance into the city. Then a terrible encounter took place. The garrison was massacred to a man, Yuen Yingtai, brave, if incapable, committed suicide, and those of the townspeople who wished to save their lives had to shave their heads in token of subjection. This is the first historical reference to a practice that is now universal throughout China, and that has become what may be called a national characteristic. The badge of conquest has changed to a mark of national pride; but it is strange to find that the Chinese themselves and the most patient inquirers among sinologues are unable to say what was the origin of the pig-tail. They cannot tell us whether shaving the head was the national custom of the Manchus, or whether Noorhachu only conceived this happy idea of distinguishing those who surrendered to his power among the countless millions of the long-haired people of China. All that can be said of the origin of the pig-tail is that it was first enforced as a badge of subjugation by the Manchus at the siege of Leaouyang, and that thenceforward, until the whole of China was conquered, it was made the one condition of immunity from massacre.

The capture of Leaouyang signified the surrender of the remaining places in Leaoutung, which became a Manchu possession, and Noorhachu, to celebrate his triumph, and also to facilitate his plans for the further humiliation of the Chinese, transferred his capital from Moukden to Leaouyang. Misfortunes never come singly. In Szchuen a local chief had raised a force of 30,000 men for service on the frontier in the wars with the Manchus, and the viceroy of the province not only declined to utilize their services, but dismissed them without reward or even recognition of their loyalty. These slighted and disbanded braves easily changed themselves into brigands, and as the government would not have them as supporters, they determined to make it feel their enmity, Chetsong Ming, the chief who had raised them, placed himself at their head, and attracted a large number of the inhabitants to his standard. The local garrisons were crushed, the viceroy killed, and general disorder prevailed among the people of what was the most fertile and prosperous province of the empire. Chetsong attempted to set up an administration, but he does not seem to have possessed the capacity or the knowledge to establish a regular government. While he headed the rebellious movement, a woman named Tsinleang, the hereditary chieftainess of a small district, placed herself at the head of the loyalists in the state, and, leading them herself, succeeded in recovering the principal cities and in driving Chetsong out of the province. She has been not inappropriately called by one of the missionary historians the Chinese Penthesilea. The success she met with in pacifying Szchuen after a two years' struggle was not attained in other directions without a greater effort and at a still heavier cost. In Kweichow and Yunnan a rebel named Ganpangyen raised an insurrection on a large scale, and if his power had not been broken by the long siege of a strong fortress, obstinately defended by a valiant governor, there is no telling to what success he might not have attained. But his followers were disheartened by the delay in carrying this place, and they abandoned him as soon as they found that he could not command success. In Shantung another rising occurred; but after two years' disturbance the rebel leader was captured and executed. These internal disorders, produced by the corruption and inertness of the officials as much as by a prevalent sense of the embarrassment of the Mings, distracted the attention of the central government from Manchuria, and weakened its preparations against Noorhachu.

For a time Noorhachu showed no disposition to cross the River Leaou, and confined his attention to consolidating his position in his new conquest. But it was clear that this lull would not long continue, and the Chinese emperor, Tienki, endeavored to meet the coming storm by once more intrusting the defense of the frontier to Tingbi. That general devised a simple and what might have proved an efficacious line of defense, but his colleague, with more powerful influence at court, would have none of it, and insisted on his own plan being adopted. Noorhachu divined that the councils of the Chinese were divided, and that Tingbi was hampered. He promptly took advantage of the divergence of opinion, and, crossing the frontier, drove the Chinese behind the Great Wall. Even that barrier would not have arrested his progress but for the stubborn resistance offered by the fortress of Ningyuen—a town about seventy miles northeast of Shanhaikwan, once of great importance, but now, for many years past, in ruins. When he reached that place he found that Tingbi had fallen into disgrace and been executed, not for devising his own plan of campaign, but for animadverting on that of his colleague in satirical terms. The Chinese had made every preparation for the resolute defense of Ningyuen, and when Noorhachu sat down before it, its resolute defender, Chungwan, defied him to do his worst, although all the Chinese troops had been compelled to retreat, and there was no hope of re-enforcement or rescue. At first Noorhachu did not conduct the siege of Ningyuen in person. It promised to be an affair of no great importance, and he intrusted it to his lieutenants, but he soon perceived that Chungwan was a resolute soldier, and that the possession of Ningyuen was essential to the realization of his future plans. Therefore, he collected all his forces and sat down before Ningyuen with the full determination to capture it at all costs. But the garrison was resolute, its commander capable, and on the walls were arranged the cannon of European construction. Noorhachu led two assaults in person, both of which were repulsed, and it is said that this result was mainly due to the volleys of the European artillery. At last, Noorhachu was compelled to withdraw his troops, and although he obtained some successes in other parts of the country, he was so chagrined at this repulse that he fell ill and died some months later at Moukden, in September, 1626.

Noorhachu was succeeded by his fourth son, the fourth Beira or Prince, known as Taitsong, who continued both his work and policy. Taitsong was as determined to humiliate the Mings as his father had been. He commenced his offensive measures by an attack on Corea, which he speedily reduced to such a pass that it accepted his authority and transferred its allegiance from the Mings to the Manchus. This was an important success, as it secured his eastern flank and deprived the Chinese of a useful ally in the Forbidden Kingdom. It encouraged Taitsong to think that the time was once more ripe for attacking Ningyuen, and he laid siege to that fortress at the head of a large army, including the flower of his troops. Notwithstanding the energy of his attack, Chungwan, the former bold defender of the place, had again the satisfaction of seeing the Manchus repulsed, and compelled to admit that the ramparts of Ningyuen presented a serious if not insuperable obstacle to their progress. Almost at the very moment of this success the Emperor Tienki died, and was succeeded, in 1627, by his younger brother, Tsongching, who was destined to be the last of the Ming rulers.

The repulse of Taitsong before Ningyuen might have been fatal if he had not been a man of great ability and resource. The occasion called for some special effort, and Taitsong proved himself equal to it by a stroke of genius that showed he was the worthy inheritor of the mission of Noorhachu. Without taking anybody into his confidence he ordered his army and his allies, the Kortsin Mongols, to assemble in the country west of Ningyuen, and when he had thus collected over a hundred thousand men, he announced his intention of ignoring Ningyuen and marching direct on Pekin. At this juncture Taitsong divided his army into eight banners, which still remain the national divisions of the Manchu race. The Manchus seem to have been a little alarmed by the boldness of Taitsong's scheme, and they might have hesitated to follow him if he had given them any time for reflection, but his plans were not fully known until his forces were through the Dangan Pass on the march to the capital. The Chinese, relying altogether on Ningyuen as a defense, had made no preparation to hold their ground on this side, and Taitsong encountered no opposition until he reached Kichow. Then Chungwan, realizing that he had been outmaneuvered, and that the defenses of Ningyuen had been turned, hastened back by forced marches to defend Pekin. Owing to his road being the better of the two he gained the capital in time, and succeeded in throwing himself and his troops into it in order to defend it against the assault of the Manchus. After Taitsong sat down before Pekin he engaged in an intrigue for the ruin of Chungwan, whose disgrace would be equivalent to a great victory. The method is not to be approved on general grounds, but Taitsong conceived that he was justified in bribing persons in Pekin to discredit Chungwan and compass his ruin. The emperor was persuaded that Chungwan was too powerful a subject to be absolutely loyal, and it was asserted that he was in communication with the enemy. Chungwan, who had been so long the buttress of the kingdom, was secretly arrested and thrown into a prison from which he never issued. The disappearance of Chungwan was as valuable to Taitsong as a great victory, and he made his final preparations for assaulting Pekin; but either the want of supplies or the occurrence of some disturbance in his rear prevented the execution of his plan. He drew off his forces and retired behind the Great Wall at the very moment when Pekin seemed at his mercy.

During four years of more or less tranquillity Taitsong confined his attention to political designs, and to training a corps of artillery, and then he resumed his main project of the conquest of China. Instead of availing themselves of the lull thus afforded to improve their position, the Chinese ministers seemed to believe that the danger from the Manchus had passed away, and they treated all the communications from Taitsong with imprudent and unnecessary disdain. Their attention was also distracted by many internal troubles, produced by their own folly, as well as by the perils of the time.

Taitsong, in 1634, resumed his operations in China, and on this occasion he invaded the province of Shansi, at the head of an army composed largely of Mongols as well as of Manchus. Although the people of Shansi had not had any practical experience of Manchu prowess, and notwithstanding that their frontier was exceedingly strong by nature, Taitsong met with little or no resistance from either the local garrisons or the people themselves. One Chinese governor, it is said, ventured to publish a boastful report of an imaginary victory over the Manchus, and to send a copy of it to Pekin. Taitsong, however, intercepted the letter, and at once sent the officer a challenge, matching 1,000 of his men against 10,000 of the Chinese. That the offer was not accepted is the best proof of the superiority of the Manchu army.

It was at the close of this successful campaign in Shansi, that Taitsong, in the year 1635, assumed, for the first time among any of the Manchu rulers, the style of Emperor of China. Events had long been moving in this direction, but an accident is said to have determined Taitsong to take this final measure. The jade seal of the old Mongol rulers was suddenly discovered, and placed in the hands of Taitsong. When the Mongols heard of this, forty-nine of their chiefs hastened to tender their allegiance to Taitsong and the only condition made was that the King of Corea should be compelled to do so likewise. Taitsong, nothing loth, at once sent off letters to the Corean court announcing the adhesion of the Mongols, and calling upon the king of that state to recognize his supremacy. But the Corean ruler had got wind of the contents of these letters and declined to open them, thus hoping to get out of his difficulty without offending his old friends the Chinese. But Taitsong was not to be put off in this fashion. He sent an army to inflict chastisement on his neighbor, and its mission was successfully discharged. The king and his family were taken prisoners, although they had fled to the island of Gangwa for safety, and Corea became a Manchu possession. The last years of Taitsong's life were spent in conducting repeated expeditions into the provinces of Shansi and Pechihli, but the strength of the fortresses of Ningyuen and Shanhaikwan on the Great Wall effectually prevented his renewing his attempt on Pekin. These two places with the minor forts of Kingchow and Songshan formed a quadrilateral that effectually secured Pekin on its northern side, and being intrusted to the defense of Wou Sankwei, a general of great capacity, of whom much more will be heard, all Taitsong's ability and resources were taxed to overcome those obstacles to his progress south of the Great Wall. He succeeded after great loss, and at the end of several campaigns, in taking Kingchow and Songshan, but these were his last successes, for in the year 1643 he was seized with a fatal illness at Moukden, which terminated his career at the comparatively early age of fifty-two. Taitsong's premature death, due, in all probability, to the incompetence of his physicians, cut short a career that had not reached its prime, and retarded the conquest of China, for the supreme authority among the Manchus then passed from a skillful and experienced ruler into the hands of a child.

The possession of a well-trained army, the production of two great leaders of admitted superiority, and forty years of almost continuously successful war, had not availed to bring the authority of the Manchus in any permanent form south of the Great Wall. The barrier of Tsin Che Hwangti still kept out the most formidable adversary who had ever borne down upon it, and the independence of China seemed far removed from serious jeopardy. At this juncture events occurred that altered the whole situation, and the internal divisions of the Chinese proved more serious and entailed a more rapid collapse than all the efforts of the Manchus.

The arch rebel Li Tseching, who proved more formidable to the Ming ruler than his Manchu opponent, was the son of a peasant in the province of Shansi. At an early age he attached himself to the profession of arms, and became well known as a skillful archer and horseman. In 1629, he first appears on the scene as member of a band of robbers, who were, however, destroyed by a rare display of energy on the part of one of the emperor's lieutenants. Li was one of the few who were fortunate enough to escape with their lives and liberty. He soon gathered round him another band, and under his successful and courageous leading it shortly acquired the size of an army. One reason of his success was his forming an alliance with the Mohammedan settlers in Kansuh, who were already known as Tungani or "Colonists." But the principal cause of his success was his skill and promptitude in coming to terms with the imperial authorities whenever they became too strong for him, and he often purchased a truce when, if the officials had pushed home their advantage, he must have been destroyed. His power thus grew to a high point, while that of other robber chiefs only waxed to wane and disappear; and about the year 1640, when it was said that his followers numbered half a million of men, he began to think seriously of displacing the Ming and placing himself on the throne of China. With this object in view he laid siege to the town of Honan, the capital of the province of the same name. At first the resolution of the governor baffled his attempt, but treachery succeeded when force failed. A traitor opened a gate for a sum of money which he was never paid, and Li's army burst into the city. The garrison was put to the sword, and horrible outrages were perpetrated on the townspeople. From Honan Li marched on Kaifong, which he besieged for seven days; but he did not possess the necessary engines to attack a place of any strength, and Kaifong was reputed to be the strongest fortress in China. He was obliged to beat a hasty retreat, pursued by an army that the imperial authorities had hurriedly collected. There is reason to think his retreat was a skillful movement to the rear in order to draw the emperor's troops after him. Certain it is that they pursued him in four separate corps, and that he turned upon them and beat them one after the other. When he had vanquished these armies in four separate encounters he again laid siege to Kaifong, and it was thought that he would have taken it, when Li was wounded by an arrow, and called off his troops in consequence. Several times afterward he resumed the attempt, but with no better fortune, until an accident accomplished what all his power had failed to do. The governor had among other precautions flooded the moat from the Hoangho, and this extra barrier of defense had undoubtedly done much toward discomfiting the besiegers. But in the end it proved fatal to the besieged, for the Hoangho, at all times capricious in its movements, and the source of as much trouble as benefit to the provinces it waters, rose suddenly to the dimensions of a flood, and overflowing its banks spread over the country. Many of Li's soldiers were drowned, and his camp was flooded, but the most serious loss befell the Imperialists in Kaifong. The waters of the river swept away the walls and flooded the town. Thousands perished at the time, and those who attempted to escape were cut down by the rebels outside. Kaifong itself was destroyed and has never recovered its ancient importance, being now a town of only the third or fourth rank. This great success established the reputation of Li Tseching on a firm basis, and constituted him one of the arbiters of his country's destiny. He found himself master of one-third of the state; proclaimed himself Emperor of China, under the style of Yongchang, and gave his dynasty the name of Tachun. Having taken this step of open defiance to the Ming government, Li invaded Shansi, which he reduced to subjection with little difficulty or bloodshed. An officer, named Likintai, was sent to organize some measures of defense, but, on arrival, he found the province in the hands of the rebel, and he had no choice save to beat a discreet and rapid retreat. The success of Li continued unchecked. Important places like Taiyuen and Taitong surrendered to him after a merely nominal resistance, and when they fell there was no further impediment in the way of his marching on Pekin.

No preparations had been made to defend Pekin. The defenses were weak, the garrison insufficient, as all the best troops were on the frontier, and the citizens disposed to come to terms with the assailant rather than to die in the breach for their sovereign. When Li pitched his tent outside the western gate of the capital, and sent a haughty demand to the emperor to abdicate his throne, he was master of the situation; but Tsongching, ignorant of his own impotence, defied and upbraided his opponent as a rebel. His indignation was turned to despair when he learned that the troops had abandoned his cause, that the people were crying out for Li Tseching, and that that leader's followers were rapidly approaching his palace. Tsongching strangled himself with his girdle, but only one officer was found devoted enough to share his fate. Although Tsongching had some nominal successors, he was, strictly speaking, the last of the Ming emperors, and with him the great dynasty founded by Hongwou came to an end. The many disasters that preceded its fall rendered the loss of the imperial station less of a blow to the individual, and the last of the Ming rulers seems to have even experienced relief on reaching the term of his anxieties. The episode of the faithful officer, Li Kweiching, concludes the dramatic events accompanying the capture of Pekin and the fall of the dynasty. After the death of his sovereign he attempted to defend the capital; but overpowered by numbers he surrendered to the victor, who offered him an honorable command in his service. Li Kweiching accepted the offer on the stipulation that he should be allowed to give the Emperor Tsongching honorable burial, and that the surviving members of the Ming family should be spared. These conditions, so creditable to Li Kweiching, were granted; but, at the funeral of his late sovereign, grief or a spirit of duty so overcame him that he committed suicide on the grave of Tsongching. Li Tseching, who had counted on valuable assistance from this officer, became furious at this occurrence. He plundered and destroyed the ancestral temple of the Mings, and he caused every member of the imperial family on whom he could lay hands to be executed. Thus terminated the events at Pekin in the absolute and complete triumph of the rebel Li Tseching, and the panic produced by his success and severity blinded observers to the hollowness of his power, and to the want of solidity in his administration. Yet it seemed for a time as if he were left the virtual master of China.

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13     Next Part
Home - Random Browse