BY DEMETRIUS CHARLES BOULGER
WITH A SUPPLEMENTARY CHAPTER OF RECENT EVENTS BY MAYO W. HAZELTINE
I DEDICATE THIS SHORT HISTORY OF CHINA TO SIR HALLIDAY MACARTNEY, K.C.M.G. AS A SLIGHT TRIBUTE OF PERSONAL RESPECT AND ADMIRATION FOR ONE WHO HAS MAINTAINED THE RIGHT OF CHINA TO BE TREATED BY THE GOVERNMENTS OF EUROPE WITH THE DIGNITY AND CONSIDERATION THAT BECOME A GREAT EMPIRE.
IF TO LORD MACARTNEY WE OWE THE FIRST SUCCESSFUL ATTEMPT TO OBTAIN AUDIENCE OF THE EMPEROR OF CHINA ON THE SAME CONDITIONS AS THOSE ON WHICH FOREIGN AMBASSADORS ARE RECEIVED AT EUROPEAN COURTS, TO SIR HALLIDAY MACARTNEY A SCION OF THE SAME FAMILY CHINA OWES MUCH OF THE SUCCESS THAT HAS ATTENDED HER DIPLOMACY IN FOREIGN COUNTRIES
I. THE EARLY AGES
II. THE FIRST NATIONAL DYNASTY
III. A LONG PERIOD OF DISUNION
IV. THE SUNGS AND THE KINS
V. THE MONGOL CONQUEST OF CHINA
VI. KUBLAI AND THE MONGOL DYNASTY
VII. THE MING DYNASTY
VIII. THE DECLINE OF THE MINGS
IX. THE MANCHU CONQUEST OF CHINA
X. THE FIRST MANCHU RULER
XI. THE EMPEROR KANGHI
XII. A SHORT REIGN AND THE BEGINNING OF A LONG ONE
XIII. KEEN LUNG'S WARS AND CONQUESTS
XIV. THE COMMENCEMENT OF EUROPEAN INTERCOURSE
XV. THE DECLINE OF THE MANCHUS
XVI. THE EMPEROR TAOUKWANG
XVII. THE FIRST FOREIGN WAR
XVIII. TAOUKWANG AND HIS SUCCESSOR
XIX. THE SECOND FOREIGN WAR
XX. THE TAEPING REBELLION
XXI. THE REGENCY
XXII. THE REIGN OF KWANGSU
THE WAR WITH JAPAN AND SUBSEQUENT EVENTS
THE FUTURE OF CHINA
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
Frontispiece—The Emperor Receiving the Diplomatic Corps Hong Kong Canton—The Flower Pagoda Kang, the Reformer
As China has now fairly taken her place in the family of nations, it is unnecessary to elaborate an argument in support of even the humblest attempt to elucidate her history. It is a subject to which we can no longer remain indifferent, because circumstances are bringing every day more clearly into view the important part China must play in the changes that have become imminent in Asia, and that will affect the security of our position and empire in that continent. A good understanding with China should be the first article of our Eastern policy, for not only in Central Asia, but also in Indo-China, where French ambition threatens to create a fresh Egypt, her interests coincide with ours and furnish the sound basis of a fruitful alliance.
This book, which I may be pardoned for saying is not an abridgment of my original work, but entirely rewritten and rearranged with the view of giving prominence to the modern history of the Chinese Empire, may appeal, although they generally treat Asiatic subjects with regrettable indifference, to that wider circle of English readers on whose opinion and efforts the development of our political and commercial relations with the greatest of Oriental States will mainly depend.
D. C. BOULGER, April 28, 1893.
THE EARLY AGES
The Chinese are unquestionably the oldest nation in the world, and their history goes back to a period to which no prudent historian will attempt to give a precise date. They speak the language and observe the same social and political customs that they did several thousand years before the Christian era, and they are the only living representatives to-day of a people and government which were contemporary with the Egyptians, the Assyrians, and the Jews. So far as our knowledge enables us to speak, the Chinese of the present age are in all essential points identical with those of the time of Confucius, and there is no reason to doubt that before his time the Chinese national character had been thoroughly formed in its present mold. The limits of the empire have varied from time to time under circumstances of triumph or disunion, but the Middle Kingdom, or China Proper, of the eighteen provinces has always possessed more or less of its existing proportions. Another striking and peculiar feature about China is the small amount of influence that the rest of the world has exercised upon it. In fact, it is only during the present century that that influence can be said to have existed at all. Up to that point China had pursued a course of her own, carrying on her own struggles within a definite limit, and completely indifferent to, and ignorant of, the ceaseless competition and contests of mankind outside her orbit, which make up the history of the rest of the Old World. The long struggles for supremacy in Western Asia between Assyrian, Babylonian and Persian, the triumphs of the Greek, followed by the absorption of what remained of the Macedonian conquests in the Empire of Rome, even the appearance of Islam and the Mohammedan conquerors, who changed the face of Southern Asia from the Ganges to the Levant, and long threatened to overrun Europe, had no significance for the people of China, and reacted as little on their destiny as if they had happened in another planet. Whatever advantages the Chinese may have derived from this isolation, it has entailed the penalty that the early history of their country is devoid of interest for the lest of the world, and it is only when the long independent courses of China and Europe are brought into proximity by the Mongol conquests, the efforts of the medieval travelers, the development of commerce, and the wars carried on for the purpose of obtaining a secure position for foreigners in China—four distinct phases covering the last seven centuries—that any confidence can be felt in successfully attracting notice to the affairs of China. Yet, as a curiosity in human existence, the earlier history of that country may justly receive some notice. Even though the details are not recited, the recollection of the antiquity of China's institutions must be ever present with the student, as affording an indispensable clew to the character of the Chinese people and the composition of their government.
The first Chinese are supposed to have been a nomad tribe in the province of Shensi, which lies in the northwest of China, and among them at last appeared a ruler, Fohi, whose name at least has been preserved. His deeds and his person are mythical, but he is credited with having given his country its first regular institutions. One of his successors was Hwangti (which means Heavenly Emperor), who was the first to employ the imperial style of Emperor, the earlier rulers having been content with the inferior title of Wang, or prince. He adopted the convenient decimal division in his administration as well as his coinage. His dominions were divided into ten provinces, each of these into ten departments, these again into ten districts, each of which held ten towns. He regulated the calendar, originating the Chinese cycle of sixty years, and he encouraged commerce. He seems to have been a wise prince and to have been the first of the great emperors. His grandson, who was also emperor, continued his good work and earned the reputation of being "the restorer or even founder of true astronomy."
But the most famous of Hwangti's successors was his great-grandson Yao who is still one of the most revered of all Chinese rulers. He was "diligent, enlightened, polished and prudent," and if his words reflected his actions he must have been most solicitous of the welfare of his people. He is specially remarkable for his anxiety to discover the best man to succeed him in the government, and during the last twenty-eight years of his reign he associated the minister Chun with him for that purpose. On his death he left the crown to him, and Chun, after some hesitation, accepted the charge; but he in turn hastened to secure the co-operation of another minister named Yu in the work of administration, just as he had been associated with Yao. The period covered by the rule of this triumvirate is considered one of the most brilliant and perfect in Chinese history, and it bears a resemblance to the age of the Antonines. These rulers seem to have passed their leisure from practical work in framing moral axioms, and in carrying out a model scheme of government based on the purest ethics. They considered that "a prince intrusted with the charge of a State has a heavy task. The happiness of his subjects absolutely depends upon him. To provide for everything is his duty; his ministers are only put in office to assist him," and also that "a prince who wishes to fulfill his obligations, and to long preserve his people in the ways of peace, ought to watch without ceasing that the laws are observed with exactitude." They were stanch upholders of temperance, and they banished the unlucky discoverer of the fact that an intoxicating drink could be obtained from rice. They also held fast to the theory that all government must be based on the popular will. In fact, the reigns of Yao, Chun and Yu are the ideal period of Chinese history, when all questions were decided by moral right and justice, and even now Chinese philosophers are said to test their maxims of morality by the degree of agreement they may have with the conduct of those rulers.
With them passed away the practice of letting the most capable and experienced minister rule the State. Such an impartial and reasonable mode of selecting the head of a community can never be perpetuated. The rulers themselves may see its advantages and may endeavor as honestly as these three Chinese princes to carry out the arrangement, but the day must come when the family of the able ruler will assert its rights to the succession, and take advantage of its opportunities from its close connection with the government to carry out its ends. The Emperor Yu, true to the practice of his predecessors, nominated the president of the council as his successor, but his son Tiki seized the throne, and became the founder of the first Chinese dynasty, which was called the Hia, from the name of the province first ruled by his father. This event is supposed to have taken place in the year 2197 B.C., and the Hia dynasty, of which there were seventeen emperors, ruled down to the year 1776 B.C. These Hia princes present no features of interest, and the last of them, named Kia, was deposed by one of his principal nobles, Ching Tang, Prince of Chang.
This prince was the founder of the second dynasty, known as Chang, which held possession of the throne for 654 years, or down to 1122 B.C. With the exception of the founder, who seems to have been an able man, this dynasty of twenty-eight emperors did nothing very noteworthy. The public morality deteriorated very much under this family, and it is said that when one of the emperors wanted an honest man as minister he could only find one in the person of a common laborer. At last, in the twelfth century before our era, the enormities of the Chang rulers reached a climax in the person of Chousin, who was deposed by a popular rising headed by Wou Wang, Prince of Chow.
This successful soldier, whose name signifies the Warrior King, founded the third Chinese dynasty of Chow, which governed the empire for the long space of 867 years down to 266 B.C. During that protracted period there were necessarily good and bad emperors, and the Chow dynasty was rendered specially illustrious by the appearance of the great social and religious reformers, Laoutse, Confucius and Mencius, during the existence of its power. The founder of the dynasty instituted the necessary reforms to prove that he was a national benefactor, and one of his successors, known as the Magnificent King, extended the authority of his family over some of the States of Turkestan. But, on the whole, the rulers of the Chow dynasty were not particularly distinguished, and one of them in the eighth century B.C. was weak enough to resign a portion of his sovereign rights to a powerful vassal, Siangkong, the Prince of Tsin, in consideration of his undertaking the defense of the frontier against the Tartars. At this period the authority of the central government passed under a cloud. The emperor's prerogative became the shadow of a name, and the last three centuries of the rule of this family would not call for notice but for the genius of Laoutse and Confucius, who were both great moral teachers and religious reformers.
Laoutse, the founder of Taouism, was the first in point of time, and in some respects he was the greatest of these reformers. He found his countrymen sunk in a low state of moral indifference and religious infidelity which corresponded with the corruption of the times and the disunion in the kingdom. He at once set himself to work with energy and devotion to repair the evils of his day, and to raise before his countrymen a higher ideal of duty. He has been called the Chinese Pythagoras, the most erudite of sinologues have pronounced his text obscure, and the mysterious Taouism which he founded holds the smallest or the least assignable part in what passes for the religion of the Chinese. As a philosopher and minister Laoutse will always attract attention and excite speculation, but as a practical reformer and politician he was far surpassed by his younger and less theoretical contemporary Confucius.
Confucius was an official in the service of one of the great princes who divided the governing power of China among themselves during the whole of the seventh century before our era, which beheld the appearance of both of these religious teachers and leaders. He was a trained administrator with long experience when he urged upon his prince the necessity of reform, and advocated a policy of union throughout the States. His exhortations were in vain, and so far ill-timed that he was obliged to resign the service of one prince after another. In his day the authority of the Chow emperor had been reduced to the lowest point. Each prince was unto himself the supreme authority. Yet one cardinal point of the policy of Confucius was submission to the emperor, as implicit obedience to the head of the State throughout the country as was paid to the father of every Chinese household. Although he failed to find a prince after his own heart, his example and precepts were not thrown away, for in a later generation his reforms were executed, and down to the present day the best points in Chinese government are based on his recommendations. If "no intelligent monarch arose" in his time, the greatest emperors have since sought to conform with his usages and to rule after the ideal of the great philosopher. His name and his teachings were perpetuated by a band of devoted disciples, and the book which contained the moral and philosophical axioms of Confucius passed into the classic literature of the country and stood in the place of a Bible for the Chinese. The list of the great Chinese reformers is completed by the name of Mencius, who, coming two centuries later, carried on with better opportunities the reforming work of Confucius, and left behind him in his Sheking the most popular book of Chinese poetry and a crowning tribute to the great Master.
From teachers we must again pass to the chronicle of kings, although few of the later Chow emperors deserve their names to be rescued from oblivion. One emperor suffered a severe defeat while attempting to establish his authority over the troublesome tribes beyond the frontier; of another it was written that "his good qualities merited a happier day," and the general character of the age may be inferred from its being designated by the native chroniclers "The warlike period." At last, after what seemed an interminable old age, marked by weakness and vice, the Chow dynasty came to an end in the person of Nan Wang, who, although he reigned for nearly sixty years, was deposed in ignominious fashion by one of his great vassals, and reduced to a humble position. His conqueror became the founder of the fourth Chinese dynasty.
During the period of internal strife which marked the last four centuries of the Chow dynasty, one family had steadily waxed stronger and stronger among the princes of China: the princes of Tsin, by a combination of prudence and daring, gradually made themselves supreme among their fellows. It was said of one of them that "like a wolf or a tiger he wished to draw all the other princes into his claws, so that he might devour them." Several of the later Tsin princes, and particularly one named Chow Siang Wang, showed great capacity, and carried out a systematic policy for their own aggrandizement. When Nan Wang was approaching the end of his career, the Tsin princes had obtained everything of the supreme power short of the name and the right to wear the imperial yellow robes. Ching Wang, or, to give him his later name as emperor, Tsin Chi Hwangti, was the reputed great-grandson of Chow Siang Wang, and under him the fame and power of the Tsins reached their culminating point. This prince also proved himself one of the greatest rulers who ever sat on the Dragon throne of China.
The country had been so long distracted by internal strife, and the authority of the emperor had been reduced to such a shadow, that peace was welcomed under any ruler, and the hope was indulged that the Tsin princes, who had succeeded in making themselves the most powerful feudatories of the empire, might be able to restore to the central government something of its ancient power and splendor. Nor was the expectation unreasonable or ungratified. The Tsins had fairly earned by their ability the confidence of the Chinese nation, and their principal representative showed no diminution of energy on attaining the throne, and exhibited in a higher post, and on a wider field, the martial and statesmanlike qualities his ancestors had displayed when building up the fabric of their power as princes of the empire. Their supremacy was not acquiesced in by the other great feudatories without a struggle, and more than one campaign was fought before all rivals were removed from their path, and their authority passed unchallenged as occupants of the Imperial office.
It was in the middle of this final struggle, and when the result might still be held doubtful, that Tsin Chi Hwangti began his eventful reign. When he began to rule he was only thirteen years of age, but he quickly showed that he possessed the instinct of a statesman, and the courage of a born commander of armies. On the one hand he sowed dissension between the most formidable of his opponents, and brought about by a stratagem the disgrace of the ablest general in their service, and on the other he increased his army in numbers and efficiency, until it became unquestionably the most formidable fighting force in China. While he endeavored thus to attain internal peace, he was also studious in providing for the general security of the empire, and with this object he began the construction of a fortified wall across the northern frontier to serve as a defense against the troublesome Hiongnou tribes, who are identified with the Huns of Attila. This wall, which he began in the first years of his reign, was finished before his death, and still exists as the Great Wall of China, which has been considered one of the wonders of the world. He was careful in his many wars with the tribes of Mongolia not to allow himself to be drawn far from his own border, and at the close of a campaign he always withdrew his troops behind the Great Wall. Toward Central Asia he was more enterprising, and one of his best generals, Moungtien, crossed what is now the Gobi Desert, and made Hami the frontier fortress of the empire.
In his civil administration Hwangti was aided by the minister Lisseh, who seems to have been a man of rare ability, and to have entered heartily into all his master's schemes for uniting the empire. While Hwangti sat on the throne with a naked sword in his hand, as the emblem of his authority, dispensing justice, arranging the details of his many campaigns, and superintending the innumerable affairs of his government, his minister was equally active in reorganizing the administration and in supporting his sovereign in his bitter struggle with the literary classes who advocated archaic principles, and whose animosity to the ruler was inflamed by the contempt, not unmixed with ferocity, with which he treated them. The empire was divided into thirty-six provinces, and he impressed upon the governors the importance of improving communications within their jurisdiction. Not content with this general precept, he issued a special decree ordering that "roads shall be made in all directions throughout the empire," and the origin of the main routes in China may be found with as much certainty in his reign as that of the roads of Europe in the days of Imperial Rome. When advised to assign some portion of his power to his relatives and high officials in the provinces he refused to repeat the blunders of his predecessors, and laid down the permanent truth that "good government is impossible under a multiplicity of masters." He centralized the power in his own hands, and he drew up an organization for the civil service of the State which virtually exists at the present day. The two salient features in that organization are the indisputable supremacy of the emperor and the non-employment of the officials in their native provinces, and the experience of two thousand years has proved their practical value.
When he conquered his internal enemies he resolved to complete the pacification of his country by effecting a general disarmament, and he ordered that all weapons should be sent in to his capital at Hienyang. This "skillful disarming of the provinces added daily to the wealth and prosperity of the capital," which he proceeded to embellish. He built one palace within the walls, and the Hall of Audience was ornamented with twelve statues, each of which weighed twelve thousand pounds. But his principal residence named the Palace of Delight, was without the walls, and there he laid out magnificent gardens, and added building to building. In one of the courts of this latter palace, it is said he could have drawn up 10,000 soldiers. This eye to military requirements in even the building of his residence showed the temper of his mind, and, in his efforts to form a regular army, he had recourse to "those classes in the community who were without any fixed profession, and who were possessed of exceptional physical strength." He was thus the earliest possessor in China of what might be called a regular standing army. With this force he succeeded in establishing his power on a firm basis, and he may have hoped also to insure permanence for his dynasty; but, alas! for the fallacy of human expectations, the structure he erected fell with him.
Great as an administrator, and successful as a soldier, Hwangti was unfortunate in one struggle that he provoked. At an early period of his career, when success seemed uncertain, he found that his bitterest opponents were men of letters, and that the literary class as a body was hostile to his interests and person. Instead of ignoring this opposition or seeking to overcome it by the same agency, Hwangti expressed his hatred and contempt, not only of the literary class, but of literature itself, and resorted to extreme measures of coercion. The writers took up the gage of battle thrown down by the emperor, and Hwangti became the object of the wit and abuse of every literate who could use a pencil. His birth was aspersed. It was said that he was not a Tsin at all, that his origin was of the humblest, and that he was a substituted child foisted on the last of the Tsin princes. These personal attacks were accompanied by unfavorable criticism of all his measures, and by censure where he felt that he deserved praise. It would have been more prudent if he had shown greater indifference and patience, for although he had the satisfaction of triumphing by brute force over those who jeered at him, the triumph was accomplished by an act of Vandalism, with which his name will be quite as closely associated in history as any of the wise measures or great works that he carried out. His vanquished opponents left behind them a legacy of hostility and revenge of the whole literary class of China, which has found expression in all the national histories.
The struggle, which had been in progress for some years, reached its culminating point in the year 213 B.C., when a Grand Council of the empire was summoned at Hienyang. At this council were present not only the emperor's chief military and civil officers from the different provinces, but also the large literary class, composed of aspirants to office and the members of the academies and College of Censors. The opposing forces in China were thus drawn up face to face, and it would have been surprising if a collision had not occurred. On the one side were the supporters of the man who had made China again an empire, believers in his person and sharers in his glory; on the other were those who had no admiration for this ruler, who detested his works, proclaimed his successes dangerous innovations, and questioned his right to bear the royal name. The purpose of the emperor may be detected when he called upon speakers in this assembly of his friends and foes to express their opinions of his administration, and when a member of his household rose to extol his work and to declare that he had "surpassed the very greatest of his predecessors." This courtier-like declaration, which would have been excusable even if it had had a less basis of truth than it unquestionably possessed in the case of Hwangti, was received with murmurs and marks of dissent by the literati. One of them rose and denounced the speaker as "a vile flatterer," and proceeded to expatiate on the superior merit of several of the earlier rulers. Not content with this unseasonable eulogy, he advocated the restoration of the empire to its old form of principalities, and the consequent undoing of all that Hwangti had accomplished. Hwangti interrupted this speaker and called upon his favorite minister Lisseh to reply to him and explain his policy. Lisseh began by stating what has often been said since, and in other countries, that "men of letters are, as a rule, very little acquainted with what concerns the government of a country, not that government of pure speculation which is nothing more than a phantom, vanishing the nearer we approached to it, but the practical government which consists in keeping men within the sphere of their proper duties." He then proceeded to denounce the literary class as being hostile to the State, and to recommend the destruction of their works, declaring that "now is the time or never to close the mouths of these secret enemies and to place a curb on their audacity." The emperor at once from his throne ratified the policy and ordered that no time should be lost in executing the necessary measures. All books were proscribed, and orders were issued to burn every work except those relating to medicine, agriculture, and such science as then existed. The destruction of the national literature was carried out with terrible completeness, and such works as were preserved are not free from the suspicion of being garbled or incomplete versions of their original text. The burning of the books was accompanied by the execution of five hundred of the literati, and by the banishment of many thousands. By this sweeping measure, to which no parallel is to be found in the history of other countries, Hwangti silenced during the last few years of his life the criticisms of his chief enemies, but in revenge his memory has had to bear for two thousand years the sully of an inexcusable act of tyranny and narrow-mindedness. The price will be pronounced too heavy for what was a momentary gratification.
The reign of Hwangti was not prolonged many years after the burning of the books. In 210 B.C. he was seized with a serious illness, to which he succumbed, partly because he took no precautions, and partly, no doubt, through the incompetence of his physicians. His funeral was magnificent, and, like the Huns, his grave was dug in the bed of a river, and with him were buried his wives and his treasure. This great ruler left behind him an example of vigor such as is seldom found in the list of Chinese kings of effete physique and apathetic life. He is the only Chinese emperor of whom it is said that his favorite exercise was walking, and his vigor was apparent in every department of State. On one occasion when he placed a large army of, it is said, 600,000 men at the disposal of one of his generals, the commander expressed some fear as to how this huge force was to be fed. Hwangti at once replied, "Leave it to me. I will provide for everything. There shall be want rather in my palace than in your camp." He does not seem to have been a great general himself, but he knew how to select the best commanders, and he was also so quick in discovering the merits of the generals opposed to him, that some of his most notable victories were obtained by his skill in detaching them from their service or by ruining their reputation by some intrigue more astute than honorable. Yet, all deductions made, Tsin Chi Hwangti stands forth as a great ruler and remarkable man.
The Tsin dynasty only survived its founder a few years. Hwangti's son Eulchi became emperor, but he reigned no more than three years. He was foolish enough to get rid of the general Moungtien, who might have been the buttress of his throne; and the minister Lisseh was poisoned, either with or without his connivance. Eulchi himself shared the same fate, and his successor, Ing Wang, reigned only six weeks, committing suicide after losing a battle, and with him the Tsin dynasty came to an end. Its chief, nay its only claim to distinction, arises from its having produced the great ruler Hwangti, and its destiny was Napoleonic in its brilliance and evanescence.
Looking back at the long period which connects the mythical age with what may be considered the distinctly historical epoch of the Tsins, we find that by the close of the third century before the Christian era China possessed settled institutions, the most remarkable portion of its still existing literature, and mighty rulers. It is hardly open to doubt that the Chinese annalist finds in these remote ages as much interest and instruction as we should in the record of more recent times, and proof of this may be discovered in the fact that the history of the first four dynasties, which we must dismiss in these few pages, occupies as much space in the national history as the chronicle of events from Tsin Chi Hwangti to the end of the Ming dynasty in 1644, at which date the official history of China stops, because the history of the Manchu dynasty, which has occupied the throne ever since, will only be given to the world after it has ceased to rule. We must not be surprised at this discursiveness, because the teachings of human experience are as clearly marked in those early times as they have been since, and Chinese historians aim as much at establishing moral and philosophical truths as at giving a complete record of events. The consequences of human folly and incompetence are as patent and conspicuous in those days as they are now. The ruling power is lost by one family and transferred to another because the prince neglects his business, gives himself over to the indulgence of pleasure, or fails to see the signs of the times. Cowardice and corruption receive their due and inevitable punishment. The founders of the dynasties are all brave and successful warriors, who are superior to the cant of a hypercivilized state of society, which covers declining vigor and marks the first phase of effeteness, and who see that as long as there are human passions they may be molded by genius to make the many serve the few and to build up an autocracy. Nor are the lessons to be learned from history applicable only to individuals. The faults of an emperor are felt in every household of the community, and injure the State. Indifference and obtuseness at the capital entailed weakness on the frontier and in the provincial capitals. The barbarians grew defiant and aggressive, and defeated the imperial forces. The provincial governors asserted their independence, and founded ruling families. The empire became attenuated by external attack and internal division. But, to use tho phrase of the Chinese historians, "after long abiding disunion, union revived." The strong and capable man always appears in one form or another, and the Chinese people, impressed with a belief in both the divine mission of their emperor and also in the value of union, welcome with acclaim the advent of the prince who will restore their favorite and ideal system of one-man government. The time is still hidden in a far-distant and undiscoverable future when it will be otherwise, and when the Chinese will be drawn away from their consistent and ancient practice to pursue the ignis fatuus of European politics that seeks to combine human equality with good practical government and national security. The Chinese have another and more attainable ideal, nor is there any likelihood of their changing it. The fall of dynasties may, needs must, continue in the ordinary course of nature, but in China it will not pave the way to a republic. The imperial authority will rise triumphant after every struggle above the storm.
THE FIRST NATIONAL DYNASTY
As the Chinese are still proud to call themselves the sons of Han, it will be understood that the period covered by the Han rulers must be an important epoch in their history, and in more than one respect they were the first national dynasty, When the successors of Tsin Chi Hwangti proved unable to keep the throne, the victorious general who profited by their discomfiture was named Liu Pang. He had been a trusted official of the Emperor Hwangti, but on finding that his descendants could not bear the burden of government, he resolved to take his own measures, and he lost no time in collecting troops and in making a bid for popularity by endeavoring to save all the books that had not been burned. His career bears some resemblance to that of Macbeth, for a soothsayer meeting him on the road predicted, "by the expression of his features, that he was destined to become emperor." He began his struggle for the throne by defeating another general named Pawang, who was also disposed to make a bid for supreme power. After this success Liu Pang was proclaimed emperor as Kao Hwangti, meaning Lofty and August Emperor, which has been shortened into Kaotsou. He named his dynasty the Han, after the small state in which he was born.
Kaotsou began his reign by a public proclamation in favor of peace, and deploring the evils which follow in the train of war. He called upon his subjects to aid his efforts for their welfare by assisting in the execution of many works of public utility, among which roads and bridges occupied the foremost place. He removed his capital from Loyang in Honan to Singanfoo in Shensi, and as Singan was difficult of access in those days, he constructed a great highroad from the center of China to this somewhat remote spot on the western frontier. This road still exists, and has been described by several travelers in our time. It was constructed by the labor of one hundred thousand men through the most difficult country, crossing great mountain chains and broad rivers. The Chinese engineers employed on the making of this road, which has excited the admiration of all who have traversed it, first discovered and carried into execution the suspension bridge, which in Europe is quite a modern invention. One of these "flying bridges," as the Chinese called them, is one hundred and fifty yards across a valley five hundred feet below, and is still in use. At regular intervals along this road Kaotsou constructed rest-houses for travelers, and postal-stations for his couriers. No Chinese ruler has done anything more useful or remarkable than this admirable road from Loyang to Singanfoo. He embellished his new capital with many fine buildings, among which was a large palace, the grandeur of which was intended to correspond with the extent of his power.
The reign of Kaotsou was, however, far from being one of uncheckered prosperity. Among his own subjects his popularity was great because he promoted commerce and improved the administration of justice. He also encouraged literature, and was the first ruler to recognize the claims of Confucius, at whose tomb he performed an elaborate ceremony. He thus acquired a reputation which induced the King of Nanhai—a state composed of the southern provinces of China, with its capital at or near the modern Canton—to tender his allegiance. But he was destined to receive many slights and injuries at the hands of a foreign enemy, who at this time began a course of active aggression that entailed serious consequences for both China and Europe.
Reference has been made to the Hiongnou or Hun tribes, against whom Tsin Hwangti built the Great Wall. In the interval between the death of that ruler and the consolidation of the power of Kaotsou, a remarkable chief named Meha, or Meta, had established his supremacy among the disunited clans of the Mongolian Desert, and had succeeded in combining for purposes of war the whole fighting force of what had been a disjointed and barbarous confederacy. The Chinese rulers had succeeded in keeping back this threatening torrent from overflowing the fertile plains of their country, as much by sowing dissension among these clans and by bribing one chief to fight another, as by superior arms. But Meha's success rendered this system of defense no longer possible, and the desert chieftain, realizing the opportunity of spoil and conquest, determined to make his position secure by invading China. If the enterprise had failed, there would have been an end to the paramounce of Meha, but his rapid success convinced the Huns that their proper and most profitable policy was to carry on implacable war with their weak and wealthy neighbors. Meha's success was so great that in a single campaign he recovered all the districts taken from the Tartars by the general Moungtien. He turned the western angle of the Great Wall, and brought down his frontier to the river Hoangho. His light cavalry raided past the Chinese capital into the province of Szchuen, and returned laden with the spoil of countless cities. These successes were crowned by a signal victory over the emperor in person. Kaotsou was drawn into an ambuscade in which his troops had no chance with their more active adversaries, and, to save himself from capture, Kaotsou had no alternative but to take refuge in the town of Pingching, where he was closely beleaguered. It was impossible to defend the town for any length of time, and the capture of Kaotsou seemed inevitable, when recourse was had to a stratagem. The most beautiful Chinese maiden was sent as a present to propitiate the conqueror, and Meha, either mollified by the compliment, or deeming that nothing was to be gained by driving the Chinese to desperation, acquiesced in a convention which, while it sealed the ignominious defeat of the Chinese, rescued their sovereign from his predicament.
This disaster, and his narrow personal escape, seem to have unnerved Kaotsou, for when the Huns resumed their incursions in the very year following the Pingching convention, he took no steps to oppose them, and contented himself with denouncing in his palace Meha as "a wicked and faithless man, who had risen to power by the murder of his father, and one with whom oaths and treaties carried no weight." Notwithstanding this opinion, Kaotsou proceeded to negotiate with Meha as an equal, and gave this barbarian prince his own daughter in marriage as the price of his abstaining from further attacks on the empire. Never, wrote a historian, "was so great a shame inflicted on the Middle Kingdom, which then lost its dignity and honor." Meha observed this peace during the life of Kaotsou, who found that his reputation was much diminished by his coming to terms with his uncivilized opponent, but although several of his generals rebelled, until it was said that "the very name of revolt inspired Kaotsou with apprehension," he succeeded in overcoming them all without serious difficulty. His troubles probably shortened his life, for he died when he was only fifty-three, leaving the crown to his son, Hoeiti, and injunctions to his widow, Liuchi, as to the conduct of the administration.
The brief reign of Hoeiti is only remarkable for the rigor and terrible acts of his mother, the Empress Liuchi, who is the first woman mentioned in Chinese history as taking a supreme part in public affairs. Another of Kaotsou's widows aspired to the throne for her son, and the chief direction for herself. Liuchi nipped their plotting in the bud by poisoning both of them. She marked out those who differed from her, or who resented her taking the most prominent part in public ceremonies, as her enemies, to be removed from her path by any means. At a banquet she endeavored to poison one of the greatest princes of the empire, but her plot was detected and baffled by her son. It is perhaps not surprising that Hoeiti did not live long after this episode, and then Liuchi ruled in her own name, and without filling up the vacancy on the throne, until the public dissatisfaction warned her that she was going too far. She then adopted a supposititious child as her grandson and governed as regent in his name. The mother of this youth seems to have made inconvenient demands on the empress, who promptly put her out of the way, and when the son showed a disposition to resent this action, she caused him to be poisoned. She again ruled without a puppet emperor, hoping to retain power by placing her relatives in the principal offices; but the dissatisfaction had now reached an acute point, and threatened to destroy her. It may be doubted whether she would have surmounted these difficulties and dangers, when death suddenly cut short her adventurous career. The popular legend is that this Chinese Lucretia Borgia died of fright at seeing the apparitions of her many victims, and there can be no doubt that her crimes did not conduce to make woman government more popular in China.
It says much for the excellence of Kaotsou's work, and for the hold the Han family had obtained on the Chinese people, that when it became necessary to select an emperor after the death of Liuchi the choice should have fallen unanimously on the Prince of Tai, who was the illegitimate son of Kaotsou. On mounting the throne, he took the name of Wenti. He began his reign by remitting taxes and by appointing able and honest governors and judges. He ordered that all old men should be provided with corn, meat and wine, besides silk and cotton for their garments. At the suggestion of his ministers, who were alive to the dangers of a disputed succession, he proclaimed his eldest son heir to the throne. He purified the administration of justice by declaring that prince and peasant must be equally subject to the law; he abolished the too common punishment of mutilation, and had the satisfaction of seeing crime reduced to such low proportions in the empire that the jails contained only four hundred prisoners. Wenti was a strong advocate of peace, which was, indeed, necessary to China, as it had not recovered from the effects of the last Hun invasion. He succeeded by diplomacy in inducing the Prince at Canton, who had shown a disposition to assert his independence, to recognize his authority, and thus averted a civil war. In his relations with the Huns, among whom the authority of Meha had passed to his son, Lao Chang, he strove to preserve the peace, giving that chief one of his daughters in marriage, and showing moderation in face of much provocation. When war was forced upon him by their raids he did everything he could to mitigate its terrors, but the ill success of his troops in their encounters with the Tartars broke his confidence, and he died prematurely after a reign of twenty-three years, which was remarkable as witnessing the consolidation of the Hans. The good work of Wenti was continued during the peaceful reign of sixteen years of his son Kingti.
The next emperor was Vouti, a younger son of Kingti, and one of his earliest conquests was to add the difficult and inaccessible province of Fuhkien to the empire. He also endeavored to propitiate the Huns by giving their chief one of the princesses of his family as a wife, but the opinion was gaining ground that it would be better to engage in a war for the overthrow of the national enemy than to purchase a hollow peace. Wang Kua, a general who had commanded on the frontier, and who knew the Hun mode of warfare, represented that success would be certain, and at last gained the emperor's ear. Vouti decided on war, and raised a large army for the purpose. But the result was not auspicious. Wang Kua failed to bring the Huns to an engagement, and the campaign which was to produce such great results ended ingloriously. The unlucky general who had promised so much anticipated his master's displeasure by committing suicide. Unfortunately for himself, his idea of engaging in a mortal struggle with the Tartars gained ground, and became in time the fixed policy of China. Notwithstanding this check, the authority of Vouti continued to expand. He annexed Szchuen, a province exceeding in size and population most European states, and he received from the ruler of Manchuria a formal tender of submission. In the last years of his reign the irrepressible Hun question again came up for discussion, and the episode of the flight of the Yuchi from Kansuh affords a break in the monotony of the struggle, and is the first instance of that western movement which brought the tribes of the Gobi Desert into Europe. The Yuchi are believed to have been allied with the Jats of India, and there is little or no doubt that the Sacae, or Scythians, were their descendants. They occupied a strip of territory in Kansuh from Shachow to Lanchefoo, and after suffering much at the hands of the Huns under Meha, they resolved to seek a fresh home in the unknown regions of Western Asia. The Emperor Vouti wished to bring them back, and he sent an envoy named Chang Keen to induce them to return. That officer discovered them in the Oxus region, but all his arguments failed to incline them to leave a quarter in which they had recovered power and prosperity. Powerless against the Huns, they had more than held their own against the Parthians and the Greek kingdom of Bactria. They retained their predominant position in what is now Bokhara and Balkh, until they were gathered up by the Huns in their western march, and hurled, in conjunction with them, on the borders of the Roman Empire. Meantime, the war with the Huns themselves entered upon a new phase. A general named Wei Tsing obtained a signal victory over them, capturing 15,000 prisoners and the spoil of the Tartar camp. This success restored long-lost confidence to the Chinese troops, and it was followed by several other victories. One Chinese expedition, composed entirely of cavalry, marched through the Hun country to Soponomo on the Tian Shan, carrying everything before it and returning laden with spoil, including some of the golden images of the Hun religion. Encouraged by these successes, Vouti at last took the field in person, and sent a formal summons to the Tartar king to make his submission to China. His reply was to imprison the bearer of the message, and to defy the emperor to do his worst. This boldness had the effect of deterring the emperor from his enterprise. He employed his troops in conquering Yunnan and Leaoutung instead of in waging another war with the Huns. But he had only postponed, not abandoned, his intention of overthrowing, once and for all, this most troublesome and formidable national enemy. He raised an enormous force for the campaign, which might have proved successful but for the mistake of intrusting the command to an incompetent general. In an ill-advised moment, he gave his brother-in-law, Li Kwangli, the supreme direction of the war. His incompetence entailed a succession of disasters, and the only redeeming point amid them was that Li Kwangli was taken prisoner and rendered incapable of further mischief. Liling, the grandson of this general, was intrusted with a fresh army to retrieve the fortunes of the war; but, although successful at first, he was outmaneuvered, and reduced to the unpleasant pass of surrendering to the enemy. Both Li Kwangli and Liling adapted themselves to circumstances, and took service under the Tartar chief. As this conduct obtained the approval of the historian Ssematsien, it is clear that our views of such a proceeding would not be in harmony with the opinion in China of that day. The long war which Vouti waged with the Huns for half a century, and which was certainly carried on in a more honorable and successful manner than any previous portion of that historic struggle, closed with discomfiture and defeat, which dashed to the ground the emperor's hopes of a complete triumph over the most formidable national enemy.
After a reign of fifty-four years, which must be pronounced glorious, Vouti died, amid greater troubles and anxieties than any that had beset him during his long reign. He was unquestionably a great ruler. He added several provinces to his empire, and the success he met with over the Huns was far from being inconsiderable. He was a Nimrod among the Chinese, and his principal enjoyment was to chase the wildest animals without any attendants. Like many other Chinese princes, Vouti was prone to believe in the possibility of prolonging human life, or, as the Chinese put it, in the draught of immortality. In connection with this weakness an anecdote is preserved that will bear telling. A magician offered the emperor a glass containing the pretended elixir of eternal life, and Vouti was about to drink it when a courtier snatched it from his hand and drained the goblet. The enraged monarch ordered him to prepare for instant death, but the ready courtier at once replied, "How can I be executed, since I have drunk the draught of immortality?" To so convincing an argument no reply was possible, and Vouti lived to a considerable age without the aid of magicians or quack medicines. Of him also it may be said that he added to the stability of the Han dynasty, and he left the throne to Chaoti, the youngest of his sons, a child of eight, for whom he appointed his two most experienced ministers to act as governors. As these ministers were true to their duty, the interregnum did not affect the fortunes of the State adversely, and several claimants to the throne paid for their ambition with their lives. The reign of Chaoti was prosperous and successful, but, unfortunately, he died at the early age of thirty-one, and without leaving an heir.
After some hesitation, Chaoti's uncle Liucho was proclaimed emperor, but he proved to be a boor with low tastes, whose sole idea of power was the license to indulge in coarse amusements. The chief minister, Ho Kwang, took upon himself the responsibility of deposing him, and also of placing on the throne Siuenti, who was the great-grandson, or, according to another account, the grandson, of Vouti. The choice was a fortunate one, and "Ho Kwang gave all his care to perfecting the new emperor in the science of government." As a knowledge of his connection with the Imperial family had been carefully kept from him, Siuenti was brought from a very humble sphere to direct the destinies of the Chinese, and his greater energy and more practical disposition were probably due to his not having been bred in the enervating atmosphere of a palace. He, too, was brought at an early stage of his career face to face with the Tartar question, and he had what may be pronounced a unique experience in his wars with them. He sent several armies under commanders of reputation to wage war on them, and the generals duly returned, reporting decisive and easily obtained victories. The truth soon leaked out. The victories were quite imaginary. The generals had never ventured to face the Tartars, and they were given no option by their enraged and disappointed master but to poison themselves. Other generals were appointed, and the Tartars were induced to sue for peace, partly from fear of the Chinese, and partly because they were disunited among themselves. Such was the reputation of Siuenti for justice that several of the Tartar chiefs carried their grievances to the foot of his throne, and his army became known as "the troops of justice." It is said that all the tribes and countries of Central Asia as far west as the Caspian sent him tribute, and to celebrate the event he built a kilin or pavilion, in which he placed statues of all the generals who had contributed toward his triumph. Only one incident marred the tranquillity of Siuenti's reign. The great statesman, Ho Kwang, had sunk quietly into private life as soon as he found the emperor capable of governing for himself; but his wife Hohien was more ambitious and less satisfied with her position, although she had effected a marriage between her daughter and Siuenti. This lady was only one of the queens of the ruler, and not the empress. Hohien, to further her ends, determined to poison the empress, and succeeded only too well. Her guilt would have been divulged by the doctor she employed, but that Ho Kwang, by an exercise of his authority, prevented the application of torture to him when thrown into prison. This narrow escape from detection did not keep Hohien from crime. She had the satisfaction of seeing her daughter proclaimed empress, but her gratification was diminished by the son of the murdered Hiuchi being selected as heir to the throne. Hohien resolved to poison this prince, but her design was discovered, and she and all the members of her family were ordered to take poison. The minister, Ho Kwang, had taken no part in these plots, which, however, injured his reputation, and his statue in the Imperial pavilion was left without a name.
Siuenti did not long survive these events, and Yuenti, the son of Hiuchi, became emperor. His reign of sixteen years presents no features of interest beyond the signal overthrow of the Tartar chief, Chichi, whose head was sent by the victorious general to be hung on the walls of Singan. Yuenti was succeeded by his son Chingti, who reigned twenty-six years, and who gained the reputation of a Chinese Vitellius. His nephew Gaiti, who was the next emperor, showed himself an able and well-intentioned prince, but his reign of six years was too brief to allow of any permanent work being accomplished. One measure of his was not without its influence on the fate of his successors. He had disgraced and dismissed from the service an official named Wang Mang, who had attained great power and influence under Chingti. The ambition of this individual proved fatal to the dynasty. On Gaiti's death he emerged from his retirement, and, in conjunction with that prince's mother, seized the government. They placed a child, grandson of Yuenti, on the throne, and gave him the name of Pingti, or the Peaceful Emperor, but he never governed. Before Pingti was fourteen, Wang Mang resolved to get rid of him, and he gave him the poisoned cup with his own hands. This was not the only, or perhaps the worst, crime that Wang Mang perpetrated to gain the throne. Pressed for money to pay his troops, he committed the sacrilege of stripping the graves of the princes of the Han family of the jewels deposited in them. One more puppet prince was placed on the throne, but he was soon got rid of, and Wang Mang proclaimed himself emperor. He also decreed that the Han dynasty was extinct, and that his family should be known as the Sin.
Wang Mang the usurper was certainly a capable administrator, but in seizing the throne he had attempted a task to which he was unequal. As long as he was minister or regent, respect and regard for the Han family prevented many from revolting against his tyranny, but when he seized the throne he became the mark of popular indignation and official jealousy. The Huns resumed their incursions, and, curiously enough, put forward a proclamation demanding the restoration of the Hans. Internal enemies sprang up on every side, and Wang Mang's attempt to terrify them by severity and wholesale executions only aggravated the situation. It became clear that the struggle was to be one to the death, but this fact did not assist Wang Mang, who saw his resources gradually reduced and his enemies more confident as the contest continued. After twelve years' fighting, Wang Mang was besieged at Singan. The city was soon carried by storm, and Wang Mang retired to the palace to put an end to his existence. But his heart failed him, and he was cut down by the foe. His last exclamation and the dirge of his short-lived dynasty, which is denied a place in Chinese history, was, "If Heaven had given me courage, what could the family of the Hans have done?"
The eldest of the surviving Han princes, Liu Hiuen, was placed on the throne, and the capital was removed from Singan to Loyang, or Honan. Nothing could have been more popular among the Chinese people than the restoration of the Hans. It is said that the old men cried for joy when they saw the banner of the Hans again waving over the palace and in the field. But Liu Hiuen was not a good ruler, and there might have been reason to regret the change if he had not wisely left the conduct of affairs to his able cousin, Liu Sieou. At last the army declared that Liu Sieou should be emperor, and when Liu Hiuen attempted to form a faction of his own he was murdered by Fanchong, the leader of a confederacy known as the Crimson Eyebrows, on whose co-operation he counted. The Crimson Eyebrows were so called from the distinguishing mark which they had adopted when first organized as a protest against the tyranny of Wang Mang. At first they were patriots, but they soon became brigands. After murdering the emperor, Fanchong, their leader, threw off all disguise, and seizing Singan, gave it over to his followers to plunder. Liu Sieou, on becoming emperor, took the style of Kwang Vouti, and his first task was to overthrow the Crimson Eyebrows, who had become a public enemy. He intrusted the command of the army he raised for this purpose to Fongy, who justified his reputation as the most skillful Chinese general of his day by gaining several victories over a more numerous adversary. Within two years Kwang Vouti had the satisfaction of breaking up the formidable faction known as the Crimson Eyebrows, and of holding its leader Fanchong as a prisoner in his capital.
Kwang Vouti was engaged for many more years in subduing the numerous potentates who had repudiated the imperial authority. His efforts were invariably crowned with success, but he acquired so great a distaste for war that it is said when his son asked him to explain how an army was set in battle array he refused to reply. But the love of peace will not avert war when a State has turbulent or ambitious neighbors who are resolved to appeal to arms, and so Kwang Vouti was engaged in almost constant hostilities to the end of his days. Chingtse, the Queen of Kaochi, which may be identified with the modern Annam, defied the Chinese, and defeated the first army sent to bring her to reason. This reverse necessitated a still greater effort on the part of the Chinese ruler to bring his neighbor to her senses. The occupant of the Dragon throne could not sit down tamely under a defeat inflicted by a woman, and an experienced general named Mayuen was sent to punish the Queen of Kaochi. The Boadicea of Annam made a valiant defense, but she was overthrown, and glad to purchase peace by making the humblest submission. The same general more than held his own on the northern and northwest frontiers. When Kwang Vouti died, in A.D. 57, after a brilliant reign of thirty-three years, he had firmly established the Han dynasty, and he left behind him the reputation of being both a brave and a just prince.
His son and successor, Mingti, was not unworthy of his father. His acts were characterized by wisdom and clemency, and the country enjoyed a large measure of peace through the policy of Mingti and his father. A general named Panchow, who was perhaps the greatest military commander China ever produced, began his long and remarkable career in this reign, and, without the semblance of an effort, kept the Huns in order, and maintained the imperial authority over them. Among other great and important works, Mingti constructed a dike, thirty miles long, for the relief of the Hoangho, and the French missionary and writer, Du Halde, states that so long as this was kept in repair there were no floods. The most remarkable event of Mingti's reign was undoubtedly the official introduction of Buddhism into China. Some knowledge of the great Indian religion and of the teacher Sakya Muni seems to have reached China through either Tibet, or, more probably, Burma, but it was not until Mingti, in consequence of a dream, sent envoys to India to study Buddhism, that its doctrine became known in China. Under the direct patronage of the emperor it made rapid progress, and although never unreservedly popular, it has held its ground ever since its introduction in the first century of our era, and is now inextricably intertwined with the religion of the Chinese state and people. Mingti died after a successful reign of eighteen years in 75 A.D. His son, Changti, with the aid of his mother, Machi, the daughter of the general Mayuen, enjoyed a peaceful reign of thirteen years, and died at an early age lamented by his sorrowing people.
After Changti came his son, Hoti, who was only ten at the time of his accession, and who reigned for seventeen years. He was a virtuous and well-intentioned prince, who instituted many internal reforms, and during his reign a new writing paper was invented, which is supposed to have been identical with the papyrus of Egypt. But the reign of Hoti is rendered illustrious by the remarkable military achievements of Panchow. The success of that general in his operations with the Huns has already been referred to, and he at last formed a deliberate plan for driving them away from the Chinese frontier. Although he enjoyed the confidence of his successive sovereigns, the imperial sanction was long withheld from this vast scheme, but during the life of Changti he began to put in operation measures for the realization of this project that were only matured under Hoti. He raised and trained a special army for frontier war. He enlisted tribes who had never served the emperor before, and who were specially qualified for desert warfare. He formed an alliance with the Sienpi tribes of Manchuria, who were probably the ancestors of the present Manchus, and thus arranged for a flank attack on the Huns. This systematic attack was crowned with success. The pressure brought against them compelled the Hiongnou to give way, and as they were ousted from their possessions, to seek fresh homes further west. In this they were, no doubt, stimulated by the example of their old opponents, the Yuchi, but Panchow's energy supplied a still more convincing argument. He pursued them wherever they went, across the Gobi Desert and beyond the Tian Shan range, taking up a strong position at modern Kuldja and Kashgar, sending his expeditions on to the Pamir, and preparing to complete his triumph by the invasion of the countries of the Oxus and Jaxartes. When Hoti was still a youth, he completed this programme by overrunning the region as far as the Caspian, which was probably at that time connected with the Aral, and it may be supposed that Khiva marked the limit of the Chinese general's triumphant progress. It is affirmed with more or less show of truth that he came into contact with the Roman empire or the great Thsin, as the Chinese called it, and that he wished to establish commercial relations with it. But however uncertain this may be, there can be no doubt that he inflicted a most material injury on Rome, for before his legions fled the Huns, who, less than four centuries later, debased the majesty of the imperial city, and whose leader, Attila, may have been a descendant of that Meha at whose hands the Chinese suffered so severely.
After this brilliant and memorable war, Panchow returned to China, where he died at the great age of eighty. With him disappeared the good fortune of the Han dynasty, and misfortunes fell rapidly on the family that had governed China so long and so well. Hoti's infant son lived only a few months, and then his brother, Ganti, became emperor. The real power rested in the hands of the widow of Hoti, who was elevated to the post of regent. Ganti was succeeded in A.D. 124 by his son, Chunti, in whose time several rebellions occurred, threatening the extinction of the dynasty. Several children were then elevated to the throne, and at last an ambitious noble named Leangki, whose sister was one of the empresses, acquired the supreme direction of affairs. He gave a great deal of trouble, but at last, finding that his ambitious schemes did not prosper, he took poison, thus anticipating a decree passed for his execution. Hwanti, the emperor who had the courage to punish this powerful noble, was the last able ruler of the Hans. His reign was, on the whole, a brilliant one, and the Sienpi tribes, who had taken the place of the Hiongnou, were, after one arduous campaign, defeated in a pitched battle. The Chinese were on the verge of defeat when their general, Twan Kang, rushed to the front, exclaiming: "Recall to your minds how often before you have beaten these same opponents, and teach them again to-day that in you they have their masters."
After Hwanti's death the decline of the Hans was rapid. They produced no other ruler worthy of the throne. In the palace the eunuchs, always numerous at the Chinese court, obtained the upper hand, and appointed their own creatures to the great governing posts. Fortunately this dissension at the capital was not attended by weakness on the frontier, and the Sienpi were again defeated. The battle is chiefly memorable because the Sienpi endeavored to frighten the Chinese general by threatening to kill his mother, who was a prisoner in their hands, if he attacked. Not deterred by this menace, Chow Pow attacked the enemy, and gained a decisive victory, but at the cost of his mother's life, which so affected him that he died of grief shortly afterward. After some time dissensions rose in the Han family, and two half-brothers claimed the throne. Pienti became emperor by the skillful support of his uncle, General Hotsin, while his rival, Hienti, enjoyed the support of the eunuchs. A deadly feud ensued between the two parties, which was aggravated by the murder of Hotsin, who rashly entered the palace without an escort. His soldiers avenged his death, carrying the palace by storm and putting ten thousand eunuchs to the sword. After this the last emperors possessed only the name of emperor. The practical authority was disputed among several generals, of whom Tsow Tsow was the most distinguished and successful; and he and his son Tsowpi founded a dynasty, of which more will be heard hereafter. In A.D. 220 Hienti, the last Han ruler, retired into private life, thus bringing to an end the famous Han dynasty, which had governed China for four hundred and fifty years.
Among the families that have reigned in China none has obtained as high a place in popular esteem as the Hans. They rendered excellent work in consolidating the empire and in carrying out what may be called the imperial mission of China. Yunnan and Leaoutung were made provinces for the first time. Cochin China became a vassal state. The writ of the emperor ran as far as the Pamir. The wealth and trade of the country increased with the progress of its armies. Some of the greatest public works, in the shape of roads, bridges, canals, and aqueducts, were constructed during this period, and still remain to testify to the glory of the Hans. As has been seen, the Hans produced several great rulers. Their fame was not the creation of one man alone, and as a consequence the dynasty enjoyed a lengthened existence equaled by few of its predecessors or successors. No ruling family was ever more popular with the Chinese than this, and it managed to retain the throne when less favored rulers would have expiated their mistakes and shortcomings by the loss of the empire. With the strong support of the people, the Hans overcame innumerable difficulties, and even the natural process of decay; and when they made their final exit from history it was in a graceful manner, and without the execration of the masses. That this feeling retains its force is shown in the pride with which the Chinese still proclaim themselves to be the sons of Han.
A LONG PERIOD OF DISUNION
The ignominious failure of the usurper Wang Mang to found a dynasty was too recent to encourage any one to take upon himself the heavy charge of administering the whole of the Han empire, and so the state was split up into three principalities, and the period is known from this fact as the Sankoue. One prince, a member of the late ruling family, held possession of Szchuen, which was called the principality of Chow. The southern provinces were governed by a general named Sunkiuen, and called Ou. The central and northern provinces, containing the greatest population and resources, formed the principality of Wei, subject to Tsowpi, the son of Tsow Tsow. A struggle for supremacy very soon began between these princes, and the balance of success gradually declared itself in favor of Wei. It would serve no useful purpose to enumerate the battles which marked this struggle, yet one deed of heroism deserves mention, the defense of Sinching by Changte, an officer of the Prince of Wei. The strength of the place was insignificant, and, after a siege of ninety days, several breaches had been made in the walls. In this strait Changte sent a message to the besieging general that he would surrender on the hundredth day if a cessation of hostilities were granted, "as it was a law among the princes of Wei that the governor of a place which held out for a hundred days and then surrendered, with no prospect of relief visible, should not be considered as guilty." The respite was short and it was granted. But the disappointment of the besieger, already counting on success, was great when a few days later he saw that the breaches had been repaired, that fresh defenses had been improvised, and that Sinching was in better condition than ever to withstand a siege. On sending to inquire the meaning of these preparations, Changte gave the following reply: "I am preparing my tomb and to bury myself in the ruins of Sinching." Of such gallantry and resource the internecine strife of the Sankoue period presents few instances, but the progress of the struggle steadily pointed in the direction of the triumph of Wei.
The Chow dynasty of the Later Hans was the first to succumb to the princes of Wei, and the combined resources of the two states were then directed against the southern principality of Ou. The supreme authority in Wei had before this passed from the family of Tsowpi to his best general, Ssemachow, who had the satisfaction of beginning his reign with the overthrow of the Chow dynasty. If he had earned out the wishes of his own commander, Tengai, by attacking Ou at once, and in the flush of his triumph over Chow, he might have completed his work at a stroke, for as Tengai wrote, "An army which has the reputation of victory flies from one success to another." But Ssemachow preferred a slower and surer mode of action, with the result that the conquest of Ou was put off for twenty years. Ssemachow died in A.D. 265, and his son Ssemachu founded the new dynasty of the Later Tsins under the name of Vouti, or the warrior prince.
The main object with Vouti was to add the Ou principality to his dominions, and the descendants of Sunkiuen thought it best to bend before the storm. They sent humble embassies to Loyang, expressing their loyalty and submission, but at the same time they made strenuous preparations to defend their independence. This double policy precipitated the collision it was intended to avert. Vouti paid more heed to the acts than the promises of his neighbor, and he ordered the invasion of his territory from two sides. He placed a large fleet of war junks on the Yangtsekiang to attack his opponent on the Tunting Lake. The campaign that ensued was decided before it began. The success of Vouti was morally certain from the beginning, and after his army had suffered several reverses Sunhow threw up the struggle and surrendered to his opponent. Thus was China again reunited for a short time under the dynasty of the Later Tsins. Having accomplished his main task, Vouti gave himself up to the pursuit of pleasure, and impaired the reputation he had gained among his somewhat severe fellow-countrymen by entertaining a theatrical company of five thousand female comedians, and by allowing himself to be driven in a car drawn by sheep through the palace grounds. Vouti lived about ten years after the unity of the empire was restored, and his son, Ssemachong, or Hweiti, became emperor on his death in A.D. 290. One of the great works of his reign was the bridging of the Hoangho at Mongtsin, at a point much lower down its course than is bridged at the present time.
The reign of Hweiti was marred by the ambitious vindictiveness of his wife, Kiachi, who murdered the principal minister and imprisoned the widow of the Emperor Vouti. The only good service she rendered the state was to discern in one of the palace eunuchs named Mongkwan a great general, and his achievements bear a strong resemblance to those of Narses, who was the only other great commander of that unfortunate class mentioned in history. Wherever Mongkwan commanded in person victory attended his efforts, but the defeats of the other generals of the Tsins neutralized his success. At this moment there was a recrudescence of Tartar activity which proved more fatal to the Chinese ruler than his many domestic enemies. Some of the Hiongnou tribes had retired in an easterly direction toward Manchuria when Panchow drove the main body westward, and among them, at the time of which we are speaking, a family named Lin had gained the foremost place. They possessed all the advantages of Chinese education, and had married several times into the Han family. Seeing the weakness of Hweiti these Lin chiefs took the title of Kings of Han, and wished to pose as the liberators of the country. Hweiti bent before the storm, and would have made an ignominious surrender but that death saved him the trouble.
His brother and successor, Hwaiti, fared somewhat better at first, but notwithstanding some flashes of success the Lin Tartars marched further and further into the country, capturing cities, defeating the best officers of the Tsins, and threatening the capital. In A.D. 310 Linsong, the Han chief, invaded China in force and with the full intention of ending the war at a blow. He succeeded in capturing Loyang, and carrying off Hwaiti as his prisoner. The capital was pillaged and the Prince Royal executed. Hwaiti is considered the first Chinese emperor to have fallen into the hands of a foreign conqueror. Two years after his capture, Hwaiti was compelled to wait on his conqueror at a public banquet, and when it was over he was led out to execution. This foul murder illustrates the character of the new race and men who aspired to rule over China. The Tartar successes did not end here, for a few years later they made a fresh raid into China, capturing Hwaiti's brother and successor, Mingti, who was executed, twelve months after his capture, at Pingyang, the capital of the Tartar Hans.
After these reverses the enfeebled Tsin rulers removed their capital to Nankin, but this step alone would not have sufficed to prolong their existence had not the Lin princes themselves suffered from the evils of disunion and been compelled to remove their capital from Pingyang to Singan. Here they changed their name from Han to Chow, but the work of disintegration once begun proceeded rapidly, and in the course of a few years the Lin power crumbled completely away. Released from their most pressing danger by the fall of this family, the Tsin dynasty took a new lease of life, but it was unable to derive any permanent advantage from this fact. The last emperors of this family were weak and incompetent princes, whose names need not be given outside a chronological table. There would be nothing to say about them but that a humble individual named Linyu, who owed everything to himself, found in the weakness of the government and the confusion in the country the opportunity of distinction. He proved himself a good soldier and able leader against the successors of the Lin family on one side, and a formidable pirate named Sunghen on the other. Dissatisfied with his position, Linyu murdered one emperor and placed another on the throne, and in two years he compelled his puppet, the last of the Later Tsins, to make a formal abdication in his favor. For a considerable portion of their rule they governed the whole of China, and it is absolutely true to say that they were the least worthy family ever intrusted with so great a charge. Of the fifteen emperors who ruled for one hundred and fifty-five years there is not more than the founder whose name calls for preservation on his own merits.
Although Linyu's success was complete as far as it went, his dynasty, to which he gave the name of Song, never possessed exclusive power among the Chinese. It was only one administration among many others, and during his brief reign of three years he could do nothing toward extending his power over his neighbors, although he may have established his own the more firmly by poisoning the miserable Tsin emperor whom he deposed. His son and successor, Chowti, was deposed and murdered after a brief reign of one year. His brother Wenti succeeded him, and he was soon drawn into a struggle for power, if not existence, with his northern neighbor the King of Wei, who was one of the most powerful potentates in the empire. The principal and immediate bone of contention between them was the great province of Honan, which had been overrun by the Wei ruler, but which Wenti was resolved to recover. As the Hoangho divides this province into two parts, it was extremely difficult for the Wei ruler to defend the portion south of it, and when Wenti sent him his declaration of war, he replied, "Even if your master succeeds in seizing this province I shall know how to retake it as soon as the waters of the Hoangho are frozen." Wenti succeeded in recovering Honan, but after a protracted campaign, during which the Wei troops crossed the river on the ice, his armies were again expelled from it, and the exhausted combatants found themselves at the close of the struggle in almost the same position they had held at the commencement. For a time both rulers devoted their attention to peaceful matters, although Topatao, king of Wei, varied them by a persecution of the Buddhists, and then the latter concentrated all his forces with the view of overwhelming the Song emperor. When success seemed certain, victory was denied him, and the Wei forces suffered severely during their retreat to their own territory. This check to his triumphant career injured his reputation and encouraged his enemies. A short time after this campaign, Topatao was murdered by some discontented officers.
Nor was the Song ruler, Wenti, any more fortunate, as he was murdered by his son. The parricide was killed in turn by a brother who became the Emperor Vouti. This ruler was fond of the chase and a great eater, but, on the whole, he did no harm. The next two emperors were cruel and bloodthirsty princes, and during their reigns the executioner was constantly employed. Two more princes, who were, however, not members of the Song family, but only adopted by the last ruler of that house, occupied the throne, but this weakness and unpopularity—for the Chinese, unlike the people of India, scout the idea of adoption and believe only in the rights of birth—administered the finishing stroke to the Songs, who now give place to the Tsi dynasty, which was founded by a general named Siaotaoching, who took the imperial name of Kaoti. The change did not bring any improvement in the conditions of China, and it was publicly said that the Tsi family had attained its pride of place not by merit, but by force. The Tsi dynasty, after a brief and ignominious career, came to an end in the person of a youthful prince named Hoti. After his deposition, in A.D. 502, his successful enemies ironically sent him in prison a present of gold. He exclaimed, "What need have I of gold after my death? a few glasses of wine would be more valuable." They complied with his wish, and while he was drunk they strangled him with his own silken girdle.
After the Tsi came the Leang dynasty, another of those insignificant and unworthy families which occupy the stage of Chinese history during this long period of disunion. The new Emperor Vouti was soon brought into collision with the state of Wei, which during these years had regained all its power, and had felt strong enough to transfer its capital from the northern city of Pingching to Honan, while the Leang capital remained at Nankin. The progress of this contest was marked by the consistent success of Wei, and the prince of that kingdom seems to have been as superior in the capacity of his generals as in the resources of his state. One incident will be sufficient to show the devotion which he was able to inspire in his officers. During the absence of its governor, Vouti attempted to capture the town of Ginching, and he would certainly have succeeded in his object had not Mongchi, the wife of that officer, anticipating by many centuries the conduct of the Countess of Montfort and of the Countess of Derby, thrown herself into the breach, harangued the small garrison, and inspired it with her own indomitable spirit. Vouti was compelled to make an ignominious retreat from before Ginching, and his troops became so disheartened that they refused to engage the enemy, notwithstanding their taunts and their marching round the imperial camp with the head of a dead person decked out in a widow's cap and singing a doggerel ballad to the effect that none of Vouti's generals was to be feared. In the next campaign Vouti was able to restore his declining fortunes by the timely discovery of a skillful general in the person of Weijoui, who, taking advantage of the division of the Wei army into two parts by a river, gained a decisive victory over each of them in turn. If Vouti had listened to his general's advice, and followed up this success, he might have achieved great and permanent results, but instead he preferred to rest content with his laurels, with the result that the Wei prince recovered his military power and confidence. The natural consequences of this was that the two neighbors once more resorted to a trial of strength, and, notwithstanding the valiant and successful defense of a fortress by another lady named Liuchi, the fortune of war declared in the main for Vouti. This may be considered one of the most remarkable periods for the display of female capacity in China, as the great state of Wei was governed by a queen named Houchi; but the general condition of the country does not support an argument in favor of female government.
The tenure of power by Houchi was summarily cut short by the revolt of the Wei commander-in-chief, Erchu Jong, who got rid of his mistress by tying her up in a sack and throwing her into the Hoangho. He then collected two thousand of her chief advisers in a plain outside the capital, and there ordered his cavalry to cut them down. Erchu Jong then formed an ambitious project for reuniting the empire, proclaiming to his followers his intention in this speech: "Wait a little while, and we shall assemble all the braves from out our western borders. We will then go and bring to reason the six departments of the north, and the following year we will cross the great Kiang, and place in chains Siaoyen, who calls himself emperor." This scheme was nipped in the bud by the assassination of Erchu Jong. Although the death of its great general signified much loss to the Wei state, the Emperor Vouti experienced bitter disappointment and a rude awakening when he attempted to turn the event to his own advantage. His army was defeated in every battle, his authority was reduced to a shadow, and a mutinous officer completed in his palace the overthrow begun by his hereditary enemy. Vouti was now eighty years of age, and ill able to stand so rude a shock. On being deposed he exclaimed: "It was I who raised my family, and it was I who have destroyed it. I have no reason to complain"; and he died a few days later, from, it is said, a pain in his throat which his jailers refused to alleviate with some honey. On the whole, Vouti was a creditable ruler, although the Chinese annalists blame him for his superstition and denounce his partiality for Buddhism.
Vouti's prediction that his family was destroyed proved correct. He was succeeded in turn by three members of his family, but all of these died a violent death. A general named Chinpasien founded a fresh dynasty known as the Chin, but he died before he had enjoyed power many years. At this period also disappeared the Wei state, which was dissolved by the death of Erchu Jong, and now merged itself into that of Chow. The growth of this new power proved very rapid, and speedily extinguished that of the unfortunate Chins. The Chow ruler took the name of Kaotsou Wenti, and ruled over a great portion of China. He changed the name of his dynasty to the Soui, which, although it did not hold possession of the throne for long, vindicated its claim to supremacy by successful wars and admirable public works. This prince showed himself a very capable administrator, and his acts were marked by rare generosity and breadth of view. His son and successor, Yangti, although he reached the throne by the murder of a brother, proved himself an intelligent ruler and a benefactor of his people. He transferred his capital from Nankin to Honan, which he resolved to make the most magnificent city in the world. It is declared that he employed two million men in embellishing it, and that he caused fifty thousand merchants to take up their residence there. But of all his works none will compare with the great system of canals which he constructed, and in connection with which his name will live forever in history. Although he reigned no more than thirteen years, he completed nearly five thousand miles of canals. Some of these, such as the Grand Canal, from the Hoangho to the Yangtsekiang, are splendid specimens of human labor, and could be made as useful today as they were when first constructed. The canal named is forty yards wide and is lined with solid stone. The banks are bordered with elms and willows. These works were constructed by a general corvee or levy en masse, each family being required to provide one able-bodied man, and the whole of the army was also employed on this public undertaking. It is in connection with it that Yangti's name will be preserved, as his wars, especially one with Corea, were not successful, and an ignominious end was put to his existence by a fanatic. His son and successor was also murdered, when the Soui dynasty came to an end, and with it the magnificent and costly palace erected at Loyang, which was denounced as only calculated "to soften the heart of a prince and to foment his cupidity."
There now ensues a break in the long period of disunion which had prevailed in China, and for a time the supreme authority of the emperor recovered the general respect and vigor which by right belonged to it. The deposer of the Souis was Liyuen, who some years before had been given the title of Prince of Tang. In the year A.D. 617 he proclaimed himself emperor under the style of Kaotsou, and he began his reign in an auspicious manner by proclaiming an amnesty and by stating his "desire to found his empire only on justice and humanity." While he devoted his attention to the reorganization of the administration at Singan, which he chose for his capital, his second son, Lichimin, was intrusted with the command of the army in the field, to which was assigned the task of subjecting all the provinces. Lichimin proved himself a great commander, and his success was both rapid and unqualified. He was equally victorious over Chinese rebels and foreign enemies. His energy and skill were not more conspicuous than his courage. At the head of his chosen regiment of cuirassiers, carrying black tiger skins, he was to be found in the front of every battle, and victory was due as often to his personal intrepidity as to his tactical skill. Within a few years the task of Lichimin was brought to a glorious completion, and on his return to Singan he was able to assure his father that the empire was pacified in a sense that had not been true for many centuries. His entry into Singan at the head of his victorious troops reminds the reader of a Roman triumph. Surrounded by his chosen bodyguard, and followed by forty thousand cavalry, Lichimin, wearing a breastplate of gold and accompanied by the most important of his captives, rode through the streets to make public offering of thanks for victory achieved, at the Temple of his ancestors. His success was enhanced by his moderation, for he granted his prisoners their lives, and his reputation was not dimmed by any acts of cruelty or bloodshed.
The magnitude of Lichimin's success and his consequent popularity aroused the envy and hostility of his elder brother, who aspired to the throne. The intrigues against him were so far successful that he fell into disgrace with the emperor, and for a time withdrew from the court. But his brother was not content with anything short of taking his life, and formed a conspiracy with his other brothers and some prominent officials to murder him. The plot was discovered, and recoiled upon its authors, who were promptly arrested and executed. Then Lichimin was formally proclaimed heir to the throne; but the event sinks into comparative insignificance beside the abdication of the throne by Kaotsou in the same year. The real cause of this step was probably not disconnected with the plot against Lichimin, but the official statement was that Kaotsou felt the weight of years, and that he wished to enjoy rest and the absence of responsibility during his last days. Kaotsou must be classed among the capable rulers of China, but his fame has been overshadowed by and merged in the greater splendor of his son. He survived his abdication nine years, dying in A.D. 635 at the age of seventy-one.
On ascending the throne, Lichimin took the name of Taitsong, and he is one of the few Chinese rulers to whom the epithet of Great may be given without fear of its being challenged. The noble task to which he at once set himself was to prove that the Chinese were one people, that the interests of all the provinces, as of all classes of the community, were the same, and that the pressing need of the hour was to revive the spirit of national unity and patriotism. Before he became ruler in his own name he had accomplished something toward this end by the successful campaigns he had conducted to insure the recognition of his father's authority. But Taitsong saw that much more remained to be done, and the best way to do it seemed to him to be the prosecution of what might be called a national war against those enemies beyond the northern frontier, who were always troublesome, and who had occasionally founded governments within the limits of China like the Topa family of Wei. In order to achieve any great or lasting success in this enterprise, Taitsong saw that it was essential that he should possess a large and well-trained standing army, on which he could rely for efficient service beyond the frontier as well as in China itself. Before his time Chinese armies had been little better than a rude militia, and the military knowledge of the officers could only be described as contemptible. The soldiers were, for the most part, peasants, who knew nothing of discipline, and into whose hands weapons were put for the first time on the eve of a war. They were not of a martial temperament, and they went unwillingly to a campaign; and against such active opponents as the Tartars they would only engage when superiority of numbers promised success. They were easily seized with a panic, and the celerity and dash of Chinese troops only became perceptible when their backs were turned to the foe. So evident had these faults become that more than one emperor had endeavored to recruit from among the Tartar tribes, and to oppose the national enemy with troops not less brave or active than themselves. But the employment of mercenaries is always only a half remedy, and not free from the risk of aggravating the evil it is intended to cure. But Taitsong did not attempt any such palliation; he went to the root of the question, and determined to have a trained and efficient army of his own. He raised a standing army of nine hundred thousand men, which he divided into three equal classes of regiments, one containing one thousand two hundred men, another one thousand, and the third eight hundred. The total number of regiments was eight hundred and ninety-five, of which six hundred and thirty-four were recruited for home service and two hundred and sixty-one for foreign. By this plan he obtained the assured services of more than a quarter of a million of trained troops for operations beyond the frontier. Taitsong also improved the weapons and armament of his soldiers. He lengthened the pike and supplied a stronger bow. Many of his troops wore armor; and he relied on the co-operation of his cavalry, a branch of military power which has generally been much neglected in China. He took special pains to train a large body of officers, and he instituted a Tribunal of War, to which the supreme direction of military matters was intrusted. As these measures greatly shocked the civil mandarins, who regarded the emperor's taking part in reviews and the physical exercises of the soldiers as "an impropriety," it will be allowed that Taitsong showed great moral courage and surmounted some peculiar difficulties in carrying out his scheme for forming a regular army. He overcame all obstacles, and gathered under his banner an army formidable by reason of its efficiency and equipment, as well as for its numerical strength.
Having acquired what he deemed the means to settle it, Taitsong resolved to grapple boldly with the ever-recurring danger from the Tartars, Under different names, but ever with the same object, the tribes of the vast region from Corea to Koko Nor had been a trouble to the Chinese agriculturist and government from time immemorial. Their sole ambition and object in life had been to harry the lands of the Chinese, and to bear back to their camps the spoils of cities. The Huns had disappeared, but in their place had sprung up the great power of the Toukinei or Turks, who were probably the ancestors of the Ottomans. With these turbulent neighbors, and with others of different race but of the same disposition on the southern frontier, Taitsong was engaged in a bitter and arduous struggle during the whole of his life; and there can be little or no doubt that he owed his success to the care he bestowed on his army. The Great Wall of Tsin Hwangti had been one barrier in the path of these enemies, but, held by a weak and cowardly garrison, it had proved inadequate for its purpose. Taitsong supplied another and a better defense in a consistent and energetic policy, and in the provision of a formidable and confident army.