Historic Tales, Vol. 12 (of 15) - The Romance of Reality
by Charles Morris
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Twenty-four years had elapsed from the time they left Venice before they appeared in that city again. They were quite forgotten, but the wealth in precious stones they brought with them soon freshened the memory of their relatives, and they became the heroes of the city. Marco took part in a war then raging with Genoa, was taken prisoner, and long lay in a dungeon, where he dictated to a fellow-prisoner the story of his adventures and the wonderful things he had seen in the dominions of the Great Khan of Cathay. This was afterwards published as "Il Milione di Messer Marco Polo Veneziano," and at once gained a high reputation, which it has preserved from that day to this. Though long looked on by many as pure fable, time has proved its essential truth, and it is now regarded as the most valuable geographical work of the Middle Ages.

We cannot undertake to give the diffuse narrative of Marco Polo's book, but a condensed account of a few of his statements may prove of interest, as showing some of the conditions of China in this middle period of its existence. His description of the great palace of Kublai, near his capital city of Kambalu, much the largest royal residence in the world, is of sufficient interest to be given in epitome. The palace grounds included a great park, enclosed by a wall and ditch eight miles square, with an entrance gate midway of each side. Within this great enclosure of sixty-four square miles was an open space a mile broad, in which the troops were stationed, it being bounded on the interior by a second wall six miles square. This space, twenty-eight square miles in area, held an army of more than a hundred thousand men, nearly all cavalry.

Within the second wall lay the royal arsenals and the deer-park, with meadows and handsome groves, and in the interior rose a third wall of great thickness, each side of which was a mile in length, while its height was twenty-five feet. This last enclosure, one square mile in area, contained the palace, which reached from the northern to the southern wall and included a spacious court. Though its roof was very lofty, it was but one story in height, standing on a paved platform of several feet elevation, from which extended a marble terrace seven feet wide, surrounded by a handsome balustrade, which the people were allowed to approach.

Carved and gilt dragons, figures of warriors and animals, and battle-scenes ornamented the sides of the great hall and the apartments, while the roof was so contrived that only gilding and painting were to be seen. On each side of the palace a grand flight of marble steps ascended to the marble terrace which surrounded the building. The interior contained an immense hall, capable of serving as a banqueting-room for a multitude of guests, while the numerous chambers were all of great beauty and admirably arranged.

The roof on the exterior was painted red, green, azure, and violet, the colors being highly durable, while the glazing of the windows was so neatly done that they were transparent as crystal. In the rear of the palace were arranged the treasure-rooms, which contained a great store of gold and silver bullion, pearls and precious stones, and valuable plate. Here also were the family apartments of the emperor and his wives. Opposite the grand palace stood another, very similar in design, where dwelt his eldest son, the heir to the throne.

On the north side, between the palace and the adjoining wall, rose an artificial mound of earth, a hundred paces high and a mile in circuit at its base. Its slopes were planted with beautiful evergreen trees, which had been transported thither, when well grown, by the aid of elephants. This perpetual verdure gave it the appropriate name of the Green Mount. An ornamental pavilion crowned the summit, which, in harmony with the sides, was also made green. The view of the mount, with its ever-verdant trees and the richly decorated building on its summit, formed a scene delightful to the eyes of the emperor and the other inmates of the palace. This hill still exists, and is yet known by its original title of Kinshan, or the Green Mount.

The excavation made to obtain the earth for the mount was filled with water from a small rivulet, forming a lake from which the cattle drank, its overflow being carried by an aqueduct along the foot of the Green Mount to fill another great and very deep excavation, made in the same manner as the former. This was used as a fish-pond, containing fish in large variety and number, sufficient to keep the table of the emperor constantly supplied. Iron or copper gratings at the entrance and exit prevented the escape of the fish along the stream. The pond was also stocked with swans and other aquatic birds, and a bridge across its width led from one palace to the other.

Such was the palace. The city was correspondingly great and prosperous, and had an immense trade. A thousand pack-horses and carriages laden with raw silk daily entered its gates, and within its workshops a vast quantity of silk and gold tissues was produced. As Hoangti made himself famous by the Great Wall, so Kublai won fame by the far more useful work of the Great Canal, which was largely due to his fostering care, and has ever since been of inestimable value to China, while the Wall never kept out a Tartar who strongly desired to get over its threatening but useless height.

Having said so much about the conditions of palace and capital, it may be of interest to extract from Polo's narrative some account of the method pursued in war during Kublai's reign. The Venetian attended a campaign made by the emperor against one of his kinsmen named Nayan, who had under him so many cities and provinces that he was able to bring into the field an army of four hundred thousand horse. His desire for sovereignty led him to throw off his allegiance, the more so as another rebel against the Grand Khan promised to aid him with a hundred thousand horsemen.

News of this movement soon reached Kublai, and he at once ordered the collection of all the troops within ten days' march of Kambalu, amounting in all to four hundred and sixty thousand men. By forced marches these were brought to Nayan's territory in twenty-five days, reaching there before the rebel prince had any warning of their approach. Kublai, having given his army two days' rest, and consulted his astrologers, who promised him victory, marched his army up the hill which had concealed them from the enemy, the great array being suddenly displayed to the astonished eyes of Nayan and his men.

Kublai took his station in a large wooden castle, borne on the backs of four elephants, whose bodies were protected with coverings of thick leather hardened by fire, over which were spread housings of cloth of gold. His army was disposed in three grand divisions, each division consisting of ten battalions of horsemen each ten thousand strong, and armed with the great Mongol bow. The right and left divisions were disposed so as to outflank the army of Nayan. In front of each battalion were stationed five hundred infantry, who, whenever the cavalry made a show of flight, were trained to mount behind them, and to alight again when they returned to the charge, their duty being to kill with their lances the horses of the enemy.

As soon as the order of battle was arranged, wind instruments of various kinds and in great numbers were sounded, while the host of warriors broke into song, as was the Tartar practice before engaging in battle. The battle began with a signal from the cymbals and drums, the sound of the instruments and the singing growing deafening. At the signal both wings advanced, a cloud of arrows filling the air, while on both sides numbers of men and horses fell. Their arrows discharged, the warriors engaged in close combat with lances, swords, and iron-shod maces, while the cries of men and horses were such as to inspire terror or rouse all hearers to the battle-rage.

For a long time the fortune of the day remained undecided, Nayan's people fighting with great zeal and courage. But at length their leader, seeing that he was almost surrounded, attempted to save himself by flight. He was made prisoner, however, and brought before Kublai, who ordered him to be put to death on the spot. This was done by enclosing him between two carpets, which were violently shaken until the spirit departed from the body, the dignity of the imperial family requiring that the sun and the air should not witness the shedding of the blood of one who belonged to the royal stock.

These extracts from the narrative of the Venetian traveller may be fitly followed by a portion of Coleridge's remarkable dream-poem on the subject of Kublai's palace. The poet, having been reading from "Purchas's Pilgrimage" a brief description of the palace of the Great Khan,—not the one above described, but a pleasure-retreat in another section of his dominions,—fell asleep, and his dreams took the form of an extended poem on the subject. On waking he hastened to write it down, but was interrupted by a visitor in the midst of his task, and afterwards found himself unable to recall another line of the poem, only a shadowy image of which remained in his mind. The part saved is strangely imaginative.

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan A stately pleasure-dome decree, Where Alph, the sacred river, ran Through caverns measureless to man Down to a sunless sea. So twice five miles of fertile ground With walls and towers were girdled round; And here were gardens bright with sinuous rills, Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree; And here were forests ancient as the hills, Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.

But oh! that deep romantic chasm which slanted Down the green hill athwart a cedarn cover! A savage place! as holy and enchanted As e'er beneath a waning moon was haunted By woman wailing for her demon lover! And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething, As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing, A mighty fountain momently was forced, Amid whose swift half-intermitted burst Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail, Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher's flail; And 'mid these dancing rocks at once and ever It flung up momently the sacred river. Five miles meandering with a mazy motion Through wood and dale the sacred river ran, Then reached the caverns measureless to man, And sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean: And 'mid this tumult Kubla heard from far Ancestral voices prophesying war.


While the descendants of Kublai Khan, the Mongol emperor, still held the reins of power in China, there was born in humble life in that empire a boy upon whose shoulders fortune had laid the task of driving the foreigners from the soil and restoring to the Chinese their own again. Tradition says that at his birth the room was several times filled with a bright light. However that be, the boy proved to be gifted by nature with a fine presence, lofty views, and an elevated soul, qualities sure to tell in the troubled times that were at hand. When he was seventeen years of age the deaths of his father and mother left him a penniless orphan, so destitute of means that he felt obliged to take the vows of a priest and enter the monastery of Hoangkiose. But the country was now in disorder, rebels were in the field against the Mongol rule, and the patriotic and active-minded boy could not long endure the passive life of a bonze. Leaving the monastery, he entered the service of one of the rebel leaders as a private soldier, and quickly showed such enterprise and daring that his chief not only made him an officer in his force but gave him his daughter in marriage.

The time was ripe for soldiers of fortune. The mantle of Kublai had not fallen on the shoulders of any of his successors, who proved weak and degenerate monarchs, losing the firm hold which the great conqueror had kept upon the realm. It was in the year 1345 that Choo Yuen Chang, to give the young soldier his full name, joined the rebel band. Chunti, one of the weakest of the Mongol monarchs, was now upon the throne, and on every side it was evident that the empire of Kublai was in danger of falling to pieces under this incapable ruler. Fortune had brought its protege into the field at a critical time.

Choo was not long in proving himself "every inch a soldier." Wherever he fought he was victorious. In a year's time he had under him seven hundred men of his own enlistment, and was appointed the lieutenant of his chief. Soon after the latter died, and Choo took his place at the head of the rebel band. In it enlisted another young man, Suta by name, who was before many years to become China's greatest general and the bulwark of a new dynasty.

Choo was now able to prove his powers on a larger scale. One of his first exploits was the capture of the town of Hoyan, where he manifested a high order of courage and political wisdom in saving the inhabitants from rapine by his ill-paid and hungry soldiers. Here was a degree of self-restraint and power of command which none of the Chinese leaders had shown, and which seemed to point out Choo as the man destined to win in the coming struggle for a rejuvenated China.

Meanwhile a rival came into the field who for a time threw Choo's fortunes into the shade. This was a young man who was offered to the people as a descendant of the dynasty of the Sungs, the emperors whom the Mongol invaders had dethroned. His very name proved a centre of attraction for the people, whose affection for the old royal house was not dead, and they gathered in multitudes beneath his banner. But his claim also aroused the fear of the Mongols, and a severe and stubborn struggle set in, which ended in the overthrow of the youthful Sung and the seeming restoration of the Mongol authority. Yet in reality the war had only cleared the way for a far more dangerous adversary than the defeated claimant of the throne.

Masked by this war, the strength and influence of Choo had steadily grown, and in 1356 he made a daring and masterly move in the capture of the city of Nanking, which gave him control of some of the wealthiest provinces of the land. Here he showed the same moderation as before, preserving the citizens from plunder and outrage, and proving that his only purpose was to restore to China her old native government. With remarkable prudence, skill, and energy he strengthened his position. "The time has now come to drive the foreigners out of China," he said, in a proclamation that was scattered far and wide and brought hosts of the young and daring to his ranks. Elsewhere the so-called Chinese patriots were no better than brigands, all the horrors of war descending upon the districts they occupied and the cities which fell into their hands. But where Choo ruled discipline and security prevailed, and as far as his power reached a firm and orderly government existed.

Meanwhile the Mongols had a host of evils with which to contend. Rebel leaders had risen in various quarters, some of them making more progress than Choo, but winning the execration rather than the love of the people by their rapine and violence. On the contrary, his power grew slowly but surely, various minor leaders joining him, among them the pirate Fangkue Chin, whose exploits had made him a hero to the people of the valley of the Kiang. The events of the war that followed were too many to be here detailed. Suffice it to say that the difficulties of the Mongol emperor gradually increased. He was obliged to meet in battle a Mongol pretender to his throne; Corea rose in arms and destroyed an army sent to subdue it; and Chahan Timour, Chunti's ablest general, fell victim to an assassin. Troubles were growing thick around his throne.

In the year 1366, Choo, after vanquishing some leaders who threatened his position, among them his late pirate ally Fangkue Chin, saw that the time had arrived for a vigorous effort to expel the foreign rulers, and set out at the head of his army for a general campaign, at the same time proclaiming to the people that the period was at hand for throwing off the Mongol yoke, which for nearly a century had weighed heavily upon their necks. Three armies left Nanking, two of them being sent to subdue three of the provinces of the south, a result which was achieved without a blow, the people everywhere rising and the Mongol garrisons vanishing from sight,—whether by death or by flight history fails to relate. The third army, under Suta, Choo's favorite general, marched towards Peking, the Mongol garrisons, discouraged by their late reverses, retreating as it advanced.

At length the great Mongol capital was reached. Within its walls reigned confusion and alarm. Chunti, panic-stricken at the rapid march of his enemies, could not be induced to fight for his last hold upon the empire of China, but fled on the night before the assault was made. Suta at once ordered the city to be taken by storm, and though the Mongol garrison made a desperate defence, they were cut down to a man, and the victorious troops entered the Tartar stronghold in triumph. But Suta, counselled by Choo to moderation, held his army firmly in hand, no outrages were permitted, and the lives of all the Mongols who submitted were spared.

The capture of Peking and the flight of Chunti marked the end of the empire of the Mongols in China. War with them still went on, but the country at large was freed from their yoke, after nearly a century of submission to Tartar rule. Elsewhere the vast empire of Genghis still held firm. Russia lay under the vassalage of the khans. Central and Southern Asia trembled at the Mongol name. And at the very time that the Chinese were rising against and expelling their invaders, Timour, or Tamerlane, the second great conqueror of his race, was setting out from Central Asia on that mighty career of victory that emulated the deeds of the founder of the Mongol empire. Years afterwards Timour, after having drowned Southern Asia in a sea of blood, returned to Samarcand, where, in 1415, he ordered the collection of a great army for the invasion of China, with which he proposed to revenge the wrongs of his compatriots. The army was gathered; it began its march; the mountains of Khokand were reached and passed; threats of the coming danger reached and frightened China; but on the march the grim old conqueror died, and his great expedition came to an end. All that reached China to represent the mighty Timour was his old war-horse, which was sent as a present four years afterwards when an embassy from Central Asia reached Peking.

With the fall of the Mongols in China the native rule was restored, but not with it the old dynasty. Choo, the conqueror, and a man whose ability and nobleness of mind had been remarkably displayed, was everywhere looked upon as the Heaven-chosen successor to the throne, the boy who had begun his career as a penniless orphan having risen through pure power of intellect and loftiness of soul to the highest position in the realm. He was crowned emperor under the title of Hongwou, and instituted the Ming dynasty, which held the throne of China until three centuries afterwards, when another strange turn in the tide of affairs again overthrew Chinese rule and brought a new dynasty of Tartar emperors to the throne.

As regards the reign of Hongwou, it may here be said that he proved one of the ablest monarchs China ever knew, ruling his people with a just and strong hand, and, by the aid of his able general Suta, baffling every effort of the Mongols to regain their lost dominion. Luxury in the imperial administration was brought to an end, the public money was used for its legitimate purpose, and even some of the costly palaces which the Mongol emperors had built were destroyed, that the people might learn that he proposed to devote himself to their good and not to his own pleasure. Steps were taken for the encouragement of learning, the literary class was elevated in position, the celebrated Hanlin College was restored, and the great book of laws was revised. Schools were opened everywhere, orphanages and hospitals were instituted, and all that could be was done for the relief of the sick and the poor.

All this was performed in the midst of bitter and unceasing wars, which for nearly twenty years kept Suta almost constantly in the field. The Mongols were still strong in the northwest, Chungti continued to claim imperial power, and the army was kept steadily employed, marching from victory to victory under the able leadership of Suta, who in his whole career scarcely learned the meaning of defeat. His very appearance on the field on more than one occasion changed the situation from doubt to victory. In time the Mongols were driven beyond the Great Wall, the ex-emperor died, and the steppes were invaded by a great army, though not a successful one, Suta meeting here his first and only reverse. The war ended with giving the Chinese full control of all the cultivated country, while the Tartars held their own in the desert. This done, Suta returned to enjoy in peace the honors he had won, and soon after died, at the age of fifty-four years, thirty of which had been spent in war.

The death of the great general did not leave China free from warlike commotion. There were rebellious risings both in the south and in the north, but they all fell under the power of Hongwou's victorious arms, the last success being the dispersal of a final Mongol raid. The closing eight years of the emperor's reign were spent in peace, and in 1397 he died, after an administration of thirty years, in which he had freed China from the last dregs of the Mongol power, and spread peace and prosperity throughout the realm.


Twice had a Tartar empire been established in China, that of the Kin dynasty in the north, and that of their successors, the Mongols, over the whole country. A third and more permanent Tartar dynasty, that of the Manchus, was yet to come. With the striking story of the rise and progress of these new conquerors we are now concerned.

In the northeast of China, beyond the Great Wall and bordering on Corea, lies the province of Liautung. Northward from this to the Amur River extends the eastern section of the steppes, known on modern maps as Manchuria. From these broad wilds the Kins had advanced to their conquest of Northern China. To them they fled for safety from the Mongol arms, and here lost their proud name of Kin and resumed their older and humbler one of Niuche. For some five centuries they remained here unnoticed and undisturbed, broken up into numerous small clans, none of much strength and importance. Of these clans, which were frequently in a state of hostility to one another, there is only one of interest, that of the Manchus.

The original seat of this small Tartar clan lay not far north of the Chinese border, being on the Soodsu River, about thirty miles east of the Chinese city of Moukden. Between the Soodsu and Jiaho streams, and south of the Long White Mountains, lies the valley of Hootooala, a location of rugged and picturesque scenery. This valley, protected on three sides by water and on the fourth by a lofty range of mountains, the whole not more than twelve miles long, formed the cradle of the Manchu race, the narrow realm from which they were to emerge to victory and empire. In a certain respect it resembled the native home of the Mongols, but was far smaller and much nearer the Chinese frontier.

In this small and secluded valley appeared, about the middle of the fourteenth century, when the emperor Hongwou was fighting with the Mongols, a man named Aisin Gioro. Tradition attributes to him a miraculous birth, while calumny asserts that he was a runaway Mongol; but at any rate he became lord of Hootooala and ancestor of its race of conquerors. Five generations from him came a chief named Huen, who ruled over the same small state, and whose grandson, Noorhachu by name, born in 1559, was the man upon whom the wonderful fortunes of the Manchus were to depend. Like many other great conquerors, his appearance predicted his career. "He had the dragon face and the phoenix eye; his chest was enormous, his ears were large, and his voice had the tone of the largest bell."

He began life like many of the heroes of folk-lore, his step-mother, when he was nineteen years of age, giving him a small sum of money and turning him out into the world to seek his fortune. She repented afterwards, and bade him come home again or accept further aid, but the proud youth refused to receive from her any assistance, and determined to make his own way in the world.

Noorhachu first came into notice in 1583. In that year Haida, chief of a small district south of Hootooala, made an attack, assisted by the Chinese, on some neighboring clans. One of these was governed by a relative of the old Manchu chief Huen, who, with his son and a small force, hurried to his aid and helped him to defend his town. Haida and his allies, finding the place too strong for them, enticed a part of the garrison outside the walls, and then fell upon and treacherously massacred them. Among the slain were Huen and his son.

This brutal murder left Noorhachu chief of his clan, and at the same time filled him with a fierce desire for revenge, both upon Haida and upon the Chinese. He was forced to bide his time, Haida gaining such influence with his allies that he was appointed by them chief of all the Niuche districts. This act only deepened the hatred of Noorhachu, who found himself made one of the vassals of the murderer, while many of his own people left him and attached themselves to the fortunes of Haida.

Fortunately for the youthful chief, the Chinese did not strongly support their nominee, and Noorhachu pursued his rival so persistently that the assassin did not feel safe even within his stockaded camp, but several times retreated for safety into Liautung. The Chinese at length, tired of supporting a man without the courage to defend himself, seized him and handed him over to Noorhachu, who immediately put him to death.

The energy and success of Noorhachu in this scheme of vengeance gave him a high reputation among the Niuche. He was still but twenty-seven years of age, but had probably laid out his life-work, that of making himself chief of a Niuche confederacy, and employing his subjects in an invasion of Chinese soil. It is said that he had sworn to revenge his father's death by the slaughter of two hundred thousand Chinese.

He began by building himself a stronghold. Selecting a site in the plain where water was abundant, he built a town and surrounded it with a triple wall. This done, he began the work of uniting the southern clans under his sway, a task which proved easy, they being much impressed by his victory over Haida. This peaceful progress was succeeded by a warlike movement. In 1591 he suddenly invaded the district of Yalookiang, which, taken by surprise, was forced to submit to his arms.

This act of spoliation roused general apprehension among the chiefs. Here was a man who was not satisfied with petty feuds, but evidently had higher objects in view. Roused by apprehension of danger, seven of the neighboring chiefs gathered their forces, and with an army of thirty thousand Niuche and Mongols invaded the territory of the daring young leader. The odds against him seemed irresistible. He had but four thousand men to oppose to this large force. But his men had been well chosen and well trained, and they so vigorously resisted the onset of the enemy that the principal Niuche chief was killed and the Mongol leader forced to flee. At this juncture Noorhachu charged his foes with such vigor that they were broken and put to flight, four thousand of them being slain in the pursuit. A number of chiefs were taken prisoners, while the spoils included several thousand horses and plaited suits of armor, material of great value to the ambitious young victor.

Eight years passed before Noorhachu was ready for another move. Then he conquered and annexed the fertile district of Hada, on the north. In 1607 he added to this the state of Hwifa, and in the following year that of Woola. These conquests were preliminary to an invasion of Yeho, the most powerful of the Niuche states. His first attack upon this important district failed, and before repeating it he deemed it necessary to show his strength by invading the Chinese province of Liautung. He had long been preparing for this great enterprise. He had begun his military career with a force of one hundred men, but had now an army forty thousand strong, well drilled and disciplined men, provided with engines of war, and of a race famed for courage and intrepidity. Their chief weapon consisted of the formidable Manchu bow, while the horsemen wore an armor of cotton-plaited mail which was proof against arrow or spear. The invasion was preceded by a list of grievances drawn up against the Chinese, which, instead of forwarding it to the Chinese court, Noorhachu burnt in presence of his army, as an appeal to Heaven for the justice of his cause.

The Chinese had supinely permitted this dangerous power to grow up among their tributaries on the north. In truth, the Ming dynasty, which had begun with the great Hongwou, had shared the fate of Chinese dynasties in general, having fallen into decadence and decay. With a strong hand at the imperial helm the Manchu invasion, with only a thinly settled region to draw on for recruits, would have been hopeless. With a weak hand no one could predict the result.

In 1618 the Manchus crossed their southern frontier and boldly set foot on the soil of China, their movement being so sudden and unexpected that the border town of Fooshun was taken almost without a blow. The army sent to retake it was hurled back in defeat, and the strong town of Tsingho was next besieged and captured. The progress of Noorhachu was checked at this point by the clamor of his men, who were unwilling to march farther while leaving the hostile state of Yeho in their rear. He therefore led them back to their homes.

The Chinese were now thoroughly aroused. An army of more than one hundred thousand men was raised and sent to attack Noorhachu in his native realm. But it was weakly commanded and unwisely divided into three unsupported sections, which the Manchus attacked and routed in detail. The year's work was completed by the conquest and annexation of Yeho, an event which added thirty thousand men to Noorhachu's resources and completed the confederation of the Niuche clans, which had been his original plan.

The old Chinese emperor was now near his life's end. But his last act was one of his wisest ones, it being the appointment of Tingbi, a leader of skill and resolution, to the command in Liautung. In a brief time this energetic commander had placed the capital and the border towns of the province in a state of defence and collected an army of one hundred and eighty thousand men on the frontier. Two years sufficed to make the province impregnable to Manchu attack. During this period of energy Noorhachu wisely remained quiet. But the Chinese emperor died, and was succeeded by his son, who quickly followed him to the grave. His grandson, a boy of sixteen, succeeded, and the court enemies of Tingbi now had him recalled and replaced by a man who had never seen a battle.

The result was what might have been expected. Noorhachu, who had been waiting his opportunity, at once led his army across the borders (1621), marching upon the strong town of Moukden, whose commandant, more brave than wise, left the shelter of his walls to meet him in the field. The result was a severe repulse, the Manchus entering the gates with the fugitives and slaughtering the garrison in the streets. Three armies were sent to retake Moukden, but were so vigorously dealt with that in a few weeks less than half Tingbi's strong army remained. Liauyang, the capital of the province, was next besieged and taken by storm, the garrison falling almost to a man, among them Tingbi's incapable successor meeting his death. No further resistance was made, the other towns, with one exception, opened their gates, and in a brief time Noorhachu completed the conquest of the province of Liautung.

Only one thing kept the Manchus from crossing the Great Wall and invading the provinces beyond. This was the stronghold of Ningyuen, which a Chinese officer named Chungwan had reinforced with a small party, and which resolutely resisted all assaults. Noorhachu, not daring to leave this fortified place in his rear, besieged it with a strong army, making two desperate assaults upon its walls. But Chungwan, assisted by some European cannon, whose noise proved more terrible to the Manchus than their balls, held out so vigorously that for the first time in his career the Manchu chief met with defeat. Disappointed and sick at heart, he retraced his steps to Moukden, then his capital, there to end his career, his death taking place in September, 1626.

Such was the adventurous life of the man who, while not conquering China himself, made its conquest possible to his immediate successors, who acknowledged his great deeds by giving him the posthumous title of Emperor of China, the Manchu dynasty dating its origin back to 1616. His son, Taitsong, who succeeded him, renewed the attack on Ningyuen, but found the heroic Chungwan more than his match. A brilliant idea brought him final success. Leaving the impregnable stronghold in his rear, he suddenly marched to the Great Wall, which he crossed, and was far on the road to Peking before Chungwan knew of his purpose. At once abandoning the town, the Chinese general hurried southward, and, having the best road, succeeded in reaching the capital in advance of the Manchus. But he came only to his death. Tingbi, the one man feared by Noorhachu, had been executed through the machinations of his enemies, and now Chungwan suffered the same fate, Taitsong, not being able to defeat him in the field, having succeeded in forming a plot against him in the palace.

But Peking, though in serious peril, was not taken. A truce was arranged, and Taitsong drew off his troops—for reasons best known to himself. He was soon back in China, but did not again attack Peking, devoting himself to raids through the border provinces. In 1635 he assumed the title of Emperor of China, in consequence of the seal of the Mongol dynasty, which had been lost in Mongolia two centuries before, being found and sent to him. But Ningyuen still held out, under an able successor to Chungwan, and in September, 1643, this second of the Manchu leaders came to his death. The conquest of China was reserved for a later leader.


Long years of misgovernment in China produced their natural result. Evils stalked abroad while worthless emperors spent their days in luxury at home. The land ceased to be governed, local rebellions broke out in a dozen quarters, and the Manchu invasion was but one event in the series of difficulties that environed the weakened throne. From the midst of these small rebellions emerged a large one before which the Ming dynasty trembled to its fall. Its leader, Li Tseching, was a peasant's son, who had chosen the military career and quickly gained renown as a daring horseman and skilful archer. In 1629 he appeared as a member of a band of robbers, who were defeated by the troops, Li being one of the few to escape. A year afterwards we hear of him as high in rank in a rebel band almost large enough to be called an army. The leader dying after a few years, Li succeeded him in command.

His progress to power was rapid, cunning and duplicity aiding him, for often when in a dangerous situation he escaped by pretending a desire to come to terms with the authorities. Other rebels rose, won victories, and sank again; but Li held his own and steadily grew stronger, until, in 1640, he was at the head of an army of nearly half a million of men and in a position to aspire to the throne of Peking itself. Town after town fell into his hands, frightful outrages being perpetrated in each, for Li was a brigand in grain and merciless at heart. The efforts of the emperor to overthrow him proved futile, the imperial army being sent against him in four divisions, which he attacked and defeated in detail. The court had learned nothing from the failure of similar tactics in the war with Noorhachu. After this pronounced success Li laid siege to Kaifong, an important city which had once been the capital of China. He was twice repulsed, but a third time returned to the siege, finally succeeding through a rise in the Hoang-ho, which washed away the defences of the city, drowned thousands of its people, and left it at the mercy of the besieging troops.

Li's next effort was made against the city of Tunkwan, the most formidable of Chinese fortresses. Situated in the mountains between the provinces of Honan and Shensi, it was strong by position, while the labor of centuries had added enormously to its strength. Here fortune aided him, his army following into the city a fugitive force which had been beaten outside. By this time the rebel chief had made himself so dreadful a record by the massacres and outrages committed in conquered cities that terror began to fill the minds of garrisons, and towns and cities opened their gates to him without venturing resistance.

No longer a mere rebel chief, but master of more than a third of China, and feared through all the rest, Li now assumed the title of emperor, and, capturing every stronghold as he advanced, began his march upon Peking, then a scene of unimaginable terror and confusion. The emperor, who had hesitated to flee, found flight impossible when Li's great army invested the capital. Defence was equally impossible, and the unhappy weakling, after slaying all the women of the palace, ended the career of the Ming dynasty by hanging himself. Li was quickly master of the city, where the ancestral temple of the Mings was plundered and levelled with the ground, and all the kinsmen of the royal family he could seize were summarily put to death. Thus was completed the first phase of a remarkable career, in which in a few years the member of a band of robbers became master of the most populous empire of the earth. The second phase was to be one of a decline in fortune still more rapid than had been the growth of the first. And with it is connected the story of the Manchu invasion and conquest of China.

We have seen in the preceding tale how the heroic Chungwan held the fortress of Ningyuen against all the efforts of Noorhachu, the Manchu chief. After his death Wou Sankwei, a man of equal valor and skill, repelled Taitsong and his Manchus from its walls. This city, with the surrounding territory, was all of Northern China that had not submitted to Li, who now made earnest efforts by lavish promises to win Wou over to his side. But in the latter he had to deal with a man who neither feared nor trusted him, and to whose mind it seemed preferable that even the Tartars should become lords of the empire than that it should be left to the mercy of a brutal robber like Li Tseching.

Wou's position was a delicate and difficult one. The old dynasty was at an end. Those loyal to it were powerless. He had no means of his own enabling him to contend against the great force of Li. He must surrender or call in foreigners to his aid. In this dilemma he made overtures to the Manchus, asking their aid to put down the rebellion and restore tranquillity to the empire,—seemingly with the thought that they might be dispensed with when no longer of use.

Not for a moment did the Manchu leaders hesitate to avail themselves of the promising offer. The man who for years had stood resolutely in the way of their invasion of China was now voluntarily stepping from their path, and even offering them his aid to accomplish their cherished project. The powerful fortresses which had defied their strength, the Great Wall which in Wou's hands might have checked their progress, had suddenly ceased to be obstacles to their advance, and throughout the camps and towns of the Tartars an enthusiastic response was made to the inspiriting cry of "On to Peking!"

Wou Sankwei did not wait for their coming. Li had sent a strong force to meet him, with instructions either to negotiate or to fight. Wou chose the latter, and delivered battle with such energy and success that more than twenty thousand of the opposing force were laid in death upon the field, no quarter being given to the flying host. News of this perilous reverse roused Li to vigorous action. Knowing nothing of the approach of a Tartar army, he imagined that he had only Wou with whom to deal, and marched against him in person with sixty thousand men, the pick of his victorious army.

This large force, perhaps three times the number that the loyal leader could put in the field, reached Wou's station on the river Lanho before the vanguard of the Manchus had appeared. It was obviously Wou's policy to defer the action, but Li gave him no opportunity, making at once an impetuous attack, his line being formed in the shape of a crescent, with the design of overlapping the flanks of the foe. Skilled and experienced as Wou was, the smallness of his force made him unable to avoid this movement of his enemy, who, from a hill where he had taken his station to overlook the battle, had the satisfaction of seeing the opposing army completely surrounded by his numerous battalions. Wou and his men fought with desperate courage, but it was evident that they could not long hold out against such odds. Fortunately for them, at this critical moment a strong Manchu corps reached the field, and at once made a furious charge upon the nearly victorious troops. This diversion caused a complete change in the situation. Li's troops, filled with terror at the vigorous and unexpected assault, broke and fled, pursued by their foes with such bloodthirsty fury that thirty thousand of them were slain. Li escaped with a few hundred horsemen from the disastrous field which was to prove the turning-point in his career.

The delayed Manchus soon after appeared in numbers, and Wou lost no time in following up his signal success. Peking was quickly reached, and there, on the eastern ramparts, the victor was greeted with the spectacle of his father's head on the wall, Li having thus wreaked what vengeance he could upon his foe. It was an unwise act of ferocity, since it rendered impossible any future reconciliation with his opponent.

Li made no effort to defend the city, but fled precipitately with all the plunder he could convey. Wou, marching round its walls, pressed hard upon his track, attacking his rear-guard in charge of the bulky baggage-train, and defeating it with the slaughter of ten thousand troops. Li continued to retreat, collecting the garrisons he had left in various cities as he fled, until, feeling strong enough to hazard another battle, he took his stand near the city of Chingtung. Wou did not hesitate to attack. Eighty thousand Manchus had joined him, and abundant Chinese levies had raised his forces to two hundred thousand men. The battle was fierce and obstinate, Li fighting with his old skill and courage, and night closed without giving either party the victory. But under cover of the darkness the rebel leader, having lost forty thousand men, including some of his ablest officers, deemed it necessary to resume his retreat.

The remainder of Li's career may be briefly told. Wou followed him with unyielding persistency, fighting at every opportunity and being always the victor in these encounters. This rapid flight, these repeated defeats, at length so discouraged the rebel troops that on Li's making a final stand they refused to fight, and insisted on coming to terms with their pursuer. Finding that all was at an end, Li fled to the neighboring mountain region with a small body of men, and there returned to the robber state from which he had emerged. But his foe was implacable; pursuit was kept up, his band lost heavily in various encounters, and at length, while on a foraging trip in search of food, he was surprised in a village by a superior force. A sharp combat followed, in which Li was the first to fall, and his head was carried in triumph to the nearest mandarin.

Thus ended the career of a remarkable man. Whatever the Chinese thought of the Manchus, they could not but detest the cruel bandit whom they supplanted, and who, but for their aid and the courage of a single opponent, would have placed himself upon the throne of China.

Wou Sankwei, having rid himself of his great enemy, now became anxious for the departure of his allies. But he soon found that they had no intention of leaving Peking, of which they were then in full control. At their head was Taitsong's young son, still a child, yet already giving evidence of much sagacity. His uncle, Prince Dorgan,—or Ama Wang (Father Prince), as his nephew called him,—was made regent, and hastened to proclaim the youth emperor of China, under the name of Chuntche. Every effort was made to obtain the support of Wou Sankwei: honors and titles were conferred upon him, and the new government showed such moderation and sound judgment in dealing with the people as to win him to its support,—especially as no Chinese candidate for the throne appeared whose ability promised to equal that of the young Manchu prince.

The Manchus, indeed, were far from being rulers of the kingdom as yet. They held only a few provinces of the north, and a prince of the late native dynasty had been set up in the south, with his capital at Nanking. Had he been a capable ruler, with qualities suited to call Wou Sankwei to his support and enlist the energies of the people, the tide of Manchu conquest would very probably have been stayed. But he proved worthless, and Nanking was soon in the hands of his foes, its officials being spared, but required to shave their heads,—the shaved head and the pigtail of the modern Chinaman being the badge of submission to Tartar supremacy.

A succession of new emperors was set up, but all met the same fate, and in the end the millions of China fell under the Manchu yoke, and the ancient empire was once more subjected to Tartar rule. The emperor Chuntche died young, and his son, Kanghi, came to the throne when but nine years of age. He was destined to reign for more than sixty years and to prove himself one of the best and greatest of the emperors of China.

We cannot close without a mention of the final events in the career of Wou Sankwei, to whom China owed her Manchu dynasty. Thirty years after he had invited the Manchus into the country, and while he was lord of a large principality in the south, he was invited by the emperor to visit Peking, an invitation which he declined on the plea of old age, though really because he feared that Tartar jealousy of his position and influence lay behind it.

Envoys were sent to him, whom he treated with princely courtesy, though he still declined to visit the court, and plainly stated his reasons. The persistence of the emperor at length drove him into rebellion, in which he was joined by others of the Chinese leaders, and for a time the unwisdom of Kanghi in not letting well enough alone threatened his throne with disaster. One by one, however, Wou's allies were put down, until he was left alone to keep up the war. The Manchus hesitated, however, to attack him, knowing well his great military skill. But disunion in his ranks did what the Tartar sword could not effect. Many of his adherents deserted him, and the Chinese warrior who had never known defeat was brought to the brink of irretrievable disaster. From this dilemma death extricated him, he passing away at the head of his men without the stigma of defeat on his long career of victory. In the end his body was taken from the tomb and his ashes were scattered through the eighteen provinces of China, to testify that no trace remained of the man whom alone the Manchus had wooed and feared.


In looking upon a modern map of the empire of China, it will be seen to cover a vast area in Asia, including not only China proper but the wide plains of Mongolia and the rock-bound region of Thibet. Yet no such map could properly have been drawn two hundred years ago. Thibet, while a tributary realm, was not then a portion of China, while the Mongolian herdsmen were still the independent warriors and the persistent enemies of China that they had been from time immemorial. It is to the Manchu emperors that the subjection of these countries and their incorporation in the Chinese empire are due. To-day the far-reaching territory of the steppes, the native home of those terrible horsemen who for ages made Europe and Asia tremble, is divided between the two empires of China and Russia, and its restless hordes are held in check by firm and powerful hands, their period of conquest at an end.

It was to two of the Manchu monarchs, Kanghi and Keen Lung,—whose combined reigns covered more than a hundred and twenty years,—that the subjection of these long turbulent regions was due, enabling China to enter the nineteenth century with the broad territorial expanse now marked on our maps. The story of how the subjection of the nomads came about is a long one, much too long for the space at our command, yet a brief synopsis of its leading events will prove of interest and importance to all who desire to follow the successive steps of Chinese history.

Kanghi, the second Manchu emperor, and one of the greatest of the rulers of China, having completed the conquest of the Chinese themselves, turned his attention to the nomadic hordes who threatened the tranquillity of his reign. He was one of their own race, a man of Tartar blood, and many of the desert tribes were ready to acknowledge his supremacy, among them the Khalkas, who prided themselves on direct descent from Ghengis and his warriors, but had lost all desire to rule the earth and were content to hold their own among the surrounding tribes. They dwelt on those streams which had watered the birthplace of the Mongol tribe, and their adhesion to the Manchu cause kept all the Mongols quiet.

But west of these dwelt another nomad race, the Calmucks, divided into four hordes, of which the Eleuths were by no means content to yield to Chinese or Manchu control. Their independence of spirit might have been of little importance but that it was sustained by an able and ambitious leader, who not only denied Kanghi's supremacy but disputed with him the empire of the steppes.

Galdan was the younger son of the most powerful chief of his tribe. Full of ambition, and chafing at the subordinate position due to his birth, he quarrelled with some of his brothers and killed one of them. Being forced to flee, he made his way to Thibet, where he sought to obtain admission to the ranks of the Buddhist clergy, but was refused by the Dalai Lama on account of his deed of blood. But on his return to the tents of his tribe he found himself in a new position. His crime was forgotten or condoned, and the fact that he had dwelt in the palace and under the holy influence of the Dalai Lama, the supreme religious power in Buddhist Asia, gave him a high standing among his fellow-tribesmen. The influence thus gained and his boldness and ruthlessness completed the work he had in mind. The ruling khan was deposed, all members of his family whose hostility was feared by Galdan were slain, and he found himself at the head of the tribe, whose members were terrified into submission.

His thirst for power now showed itself in encroachments upon the lands of neighboring clans. The Manchus were at that time embarrassed by the rebellion of Wou Sankwei, and the opportunity seemed excellent for an invasion of the district of the Khalkas, firm friends of the Manchu power. He also sent troops towards the Chinese frontier, fear of whom forced many of the tribesmen to cross the border and seek the emperor's aid. Kanghi could then only give them lands within his realm, being too much occupied at home to be able to do more than send spies into the steppes. From these he learned that Galdan had built up a formidable power and that he evidently had in view the subjection of all the tribes.

Kanghi, anxious to settle these difficulties amicably, spent a number of years in negotiations, but his rival showed as much ability in diplomacy as in the field, and succeeded in masking his designs while he was strengthening his position and preparing for open hostilities. Finally, with an army of thirty thousand men, he invaded the country of the Khalkas, and in 1690 took his first open step of hostility against China, by arresting the envoys who had been sent to his camp. This insult put an end to all Kanghi's efforts to maintain peace. The diplomatic movements were followed by a display of military energy and activity, and the whole northern army, consisting of the eight Manchu Banners, the forty-nine Mongol Banners, and a large force of Chinese auxiliaries, was set in motion across the steppes.

Meanwhile Galdan, alarmed by the hostility he had provoked, sought to make an alliance with the Russians, an effort which brought him hollow promises but no assistance. Without waiting for the coming of all his foes, he made a vigorous attack on the Chinese advance force and drove it back in defeat, remaining master of the field. Yet, recognizing that the enemy was far too strong for him, he sent an envoy to Peking, offering concessions and asking for peace. The emperor listened, but the army pushed on, and an attack in force was made upon the Eleuth camp, which was located at the foot of a mountain, between a wood and a stream. The post was a strong one, and the Eleuths fought stubbornly, but they were too greatly outnumbered, and in the end were put to flight, after having inflicted severe loss on their foes, an uncle of the emperor being among the slain. Galdan now, finding that the war was going against him, offered fealty and obedience to the emperor, which Kanghi, glad to withdraw his army from its difficult position in the desert, accepted, sending the chieftain a letter of forgiveness. Thus ended the campaign of 1690.

It was a truce, not a peace. Galdan's ambition remained unsatisfied, and Kanghi put little confidence in his promises. He was right: the desert chief occupied himself in sowing the seeds of dissension among the hordes, and in 1693, finding the Dalai Lama his opponent, took the step of professing himself a Mohammedan, in the hope of gaining the assistance of the Mussulman Tartars and Chinese. Yet he kept up negotiations with the Dalai Lama, with the purpose of retaining the Buddhist support. Meanwhile conflicts between the tribes went on, and in 1695 Kanghi, incensed at the constant encroachments of the ambitious chief, which failed to sustain his peaceful professions, resolved to put an end to the trouble by his complete and irretrievable overthrow.

The despatch of a large army into the recesses of Central Asia was a difficult and hazardous enterprise, yet it seemed the only means of ending the strained situation, and by 1696 a large force was got ready for a protracted desert war, the principal command being given to a frontier soldier named Feyanku, who in the preceding troubles had shown marked ability.

On the eve of the great national holiday of China, the Feast of Lanterns, the imperial court reviewed a section of the army, drawn up in military array along the principal street of Peking. The emperor, surrounded by the principal functionaries of the government, occupied a throne on a raised platform from which the whole scene could be surveyed, while strains of martial music filled the air. The culminating scene in the ceremony took place when Feyanku approached the throne, received on his knees from the emperor's hand a cup of wine, and retired down the steps, at whose foot he quaffed the wine amid the shouts of thousands of spectators. This ceremony was repeated with each of the subordinate generals, and then with the lower officers of the army, ten at a time. Success being thus drunk to the army, Feyanku left the capital to assume the active command in the field, while Kanghi, bent on complete success, set to work to recruit in all haste a second army, which he proposed to command himself.

The whole force raised was an immense one, considering the character of the country to be traversed and the limited resources of the enemy. It marched in four divisions, of which that under Feyanku numbered about thirty-five thousand men. Despite the great distance to be traversed, the desert-like condition of much of the country, and the fact that deficiency of resources cost thousands of lives and forced many detachments to retreat, a powerful force at length reached the borders of Galdan's territory. After a march of more than three months' duration Feyanku pitched his camp near the sources of the Tula, his army being reduced to twelve thousand available men. These were placed in a fortified position within the Mongol camping-ground of Chowmodo.

Meanwhile how was Galdan engaged? He had sought, but in vain, to win the alliance of a powerful Mongol tribe, and had conducted fruitless negotiations with the Russians of Siberia. His only remaining hope lay in the desert barrier which lay between him and his great enemy, and this vanished when the Chinese army made its appearance in his territories, though its success had been gained at a frightful loss of life. The situation of the desert chief had become desperate, his only hope lying in an attack on the advance body of the Chinese before it could be joined by the other detachments, and while exhausted by its long march across the desert of Gobi. He therefore made a rapid march and vigorously assailed the Chinese intrenchments at Chowmodo.

In the interval the Chinese commanders had found themselves in a perilous position. Their supplies had run low, they could not be replenished in that situation, farther advance had become impossible, and it seemed equally impossible to maintain their position. Retreat seemed their only means of extricating themselves from their dilemma, and the question of doing so was under discussion when the sudden assault of Galdan happily relieved Feyanku from a situation which threatened the loss of his military renown. Of the battle that followed we know only that Feyanku remained on the defensive and sustained Galdan's attacks for three hours, when he gave the signal for a charge. The wearied Eleuths soon broke before the determined onset, a disordered flight began, and Galdan, seeing that the day was lost, fled with a small body of followers, leaving his camp and baggage to the victors and two thousand of his men dead on the field.

This victory ended the war. Kanghi, on hearing of it, returned to Peking, having sent word to Feyanku to pursue Galdan with unrelenting vigor, there being no security while he remained at large. The recent powerful chief was now at the end of his resources. He fled for safety from camp to camp. He sent an envoy to Peking with an abject offer to surrender. He made new overtures to the Russians, and sought in a dozen ways to escape from his implacable enemies. But Feyanku kept up the pursuit, ceasing only when word came to him that the fugitive was dead. Anxiety, hardships, chagrin, or, as some say, the act of his own hand, had carried off the desert chief, and relieved the emperor of China from the peril and annoyance which had so long troubled him.

In Galdan died a man who, under more fortunate circumstances, might have emulated some of the famous Tartar chiefs, a warrior of the greatest skill, courage, and daring, a "formidable enemy" to the Chinese empire, and one who, had the government of that empire been as weak as it proved strong, might have gathered all the nomads under arms and overthrown the dynasty.

A few words must suffice to end the story of the Eleuths. The death of Galdan did not bring them to submission, and years afterwards we find them hostile to Chinese rule, and even so daring as to invade Thibet, which Kanghi had added to his empire, they taking its central city of Lhassa, and carrying to the steppes a vast wealth in spoil. Eventually they were subjected to Chinese rule, but before this took place an event of much interest occurred. The Tourguts, an adjoining Kalmuck tribe, were so imperilled by the enmity of the Eleuths that they took the important resolution of migrating to Russia, marching across the Kirghiz steppes and becoming faithful subjects of the czar, who gave them a new abiding-place on the banks of the Volga. Many years afterwards, in 1770, this tribe, inspired by a strong desire to return to their own home, left the Volga and crossed Asia, despite all efforts to check their flight, until they reached again their native soil. For the interesting story of this adventurous flight see Volume VIII.


During the past two and a half centuries the great empire of China has been under foreign rule, its emperors, its state officials, its generals and trusted battalions, being of Tartar blood, and the whole nation being forced to wear, in the shaved head and pigtail of every man from the highest to the lowest, a badge of servitude. The firm position gained by the Manchu dynasty was largely due to the ability of two emperors, Kanghi and Keen Lung, who stamped out the spirit of rebellion in China, added Thibet to the empire, and conquered Mongolia, subduing those restless tribes which for so many centuries had been a sword in the side of the great empire of the East. Their able administration was aided by their long reigns, Kanghi being on the throne for sixty-one years, while Keen Lung abdicated after a reign of sixty years, that he might not take from his esteemed grandfather the honor of the longest reign. Keen Lung died three years afterwards, in 1799, thus bringing up the history of China almost to the opening year of the nineteenth century. His eventful life was largely devoted to the consolidation of the Tartar authority, and was marked by brilliant military exploits and zeal in promoting the interests of China in all directions. It is our purpose here to tell the story of one of the famous military exploits of his reign.

The conquest of Thibet had brought the Chinese into contact with the bold and restless hill-tribes which occupy the region between China and India. South of the Himalaya range there existed several small mountain states, independent alike of Mogul and of British rule, and defiant in their mountain fastnesses of all the great surrounding powers. Of these small states the most important was Nepal, originally a single kingdom, but afterwards divided into three, which were in frequent hostility with one another. West of Nepal was a small clan, the Goorkhas, whose people were noted for their warlike daring. It is with these that we are here concerned.

In 1760 the king of Bhatgaon, one of the divisions of Nepal, being threatened by his rival kings, begged aid from the Goorkha chief. It was readily given, and with such effect as to win the allies a signal triumph. The ease of his victory roused the ambition of Narayan, the leader of the Goorkhas, and by 1769 the three kings of Nepal were either slain or fugitives in India and their country had fallen under the dominion of its recently insignificant and little-considered neighbor.

The Goorkhas differed essentially from the Nepalese in character. They despised commerce and disliked strangers. War was their trade, and their aggressions soon disturbed conditions along the whole Himalaya range. The flourishing trade which had once existed between India and Thibet by way of Nepal was brought to an end, while the raids of the dominant clan on neighboring powers excited general apprehension. Twenty years after their conquest of Nepal the incursions of the Goorkhas into Thibet became so serious as to demand the attention of the Chinese emperor, though no decided action was taken for their suppression. But in 1790 an event occurred that put a sudden end to this supine indifference.

The temples and lamasaries of Thibet were widely believed to contain a great store of wealth, the reports of which proved highly alluring to the needy and daring warriors of the Goorkha clan. The Chinese had shown no disposition to defend Thibet, and this rich spoil seemed to lie at the mercy of any adventurous band strong enough to overcome local opposition. In consequence, the Goorkhas prepared for an invasion in force of the northern state, and, with an army of about eighteen thousand men, crossed the Himalayas by the lofty passes of Kirong and Kuti and rapidly advanced into the country beyond.

The suddenness of this movement found the Thibetans quite unprepared. Everything gave way before the bold invaders, and in a short time Degarchi, the second town of the state, fell into their hands. This was the residence of the Teshu Lama, ranking next to the Dalai in authority, and possessed the vast lamasary of Teshu Lumbo, rich in accumulated wealth, which fell into the hands of the invaders. A farther advance would undoubtedly have given them the chief city of Lhassa, since the unwarlike population fled in terror before their advance, but their success at Degarchi had been so great as to check their march, many weeks being spent in counting their spoil and subduing the surrounding country.

Meanwhile urgent petitions were sent to Peking, and the old emperor, aroused to the necessity for prompt and decisive action, gave orders that all available troops should at once be despatched to Lhassa and vigorous preparations made for war. Within a few months a Chinese army of seventy thousand men, armed with several pieces of light artillery, had reached Thibet, where the Goorkhas, alarmed by the numbers of their opponents, made hasty preparations for a retreat. But their spoil was so abundant and bulky as to delay their march, and the Chinese, who were well commanded, succeeded in coming up with them before they had crossed the mountain passes. The movements of the Chinese commander were so skilfully made that the retreat of the Goorkhas without a battle for the safety of their treasures became impossible.

Sund Fo, the Chinese general, according to the usual practice of his people, began by the offer of terms to the enemy, these being the surrender of all their spoil and of a renegade lama whose tale of the wealth of Thibet had led to the invasion. Probably also pledges for better conduct in future were demanded, but the proud chief of the Goorkhas haughtily refused to accept any of these conditions and defied his foes to do their worst. Of the battle that followed nothing is known except its result, which was the defeat and hasty retreat of the invaders, much of whose baggage was left behind.

The Chinese do not seem to have suffered greatly, to judge from the promptness of their pursuit, which was made with such rapidity that the Goorkhas were overtaken and again defeated before they had reached the Kirong pass, they being now obliged to abandon most of their baggage and spoil. The pursuit continued with an energy remarkable for a Chinese army, the Goorkhas, bold as they were by nature, growing demoralized under this unlooked-for persistence. Every encounter resulted in a defeat, the forts which commanded the mountain passes and defiles were taken in succession by Sund Fo's army, and he still pressed relentlessly on. At a strong point called Rassoa the Goorkhas defended for three days a passage over a chasm, but they had grown faint-hearted through their successive defeats, and this post too fell into the hands of their enemy.

The triumphs of the Chinese had not been won without severe loss, both in their frequent assaults upon mountain strongholds and a desperate foe, and from the passage of the snow-clad mountains, but they finally succeeded in reaching the southern slopes of the Himalayas with an effective force of forty thousand men. Khatmandu, the Goorkha capital, lay not far away, and with a last effort of courage and despair the retreating army made a stand for the defence of the seat of their government.

Their position was a strong one, their courage that of desperation, and their valor and resolution so great that for a time they checked the much stronger battalions of their foes. The Chinese troops, disheartened by the courage with which the few but brave mountaineers held their works, were filled with dismay, and might have been repulsed but for the ruthless energy of their leader, who was determined at any cost to win. Turning the fire of his artillery upon his own troops, he drove them relentlessly upon the foe, forcing them to a charge that swept them like a torrent over the Goorkha works. The fire of the guns was kept up upon the mingled mass of combatants until the Goorkhas were driven over a precipice into the stream of the Tadi that ran below. By this decisive act of the Chinese commander many of his own men were slain, but the enemy was practically annihilated and the war brought to an end.

The Goorkhas now humbly solicited peace, which Sund Fo was quite ready to grant, for his own losses had been heavy and it was important to recross the mountains before winter set in. He therefore granted them peace on humiliating terms, though these were as favorable as they could expect under the circumstances. Any further attempt at resistance against the overwhelming army of their foes might have ended in the complete destruction of their state. They took an oath to keep the peace with Thibet, to acknowledge themselves vassals of China, to send an embassy with tribute to Peking every five years, and to restore all the plunder taken from Teshu Lumbo.

Of the later history of the Goorkhas some words may be said. Their raids into India led to a British invasion of their country in 1814, and in 1816 they were forced to make peace. The celebrated Jung Bahadur became their ruler in 1846 through the summary process of killing all his enemies, and in 1857, during the Indian mutiny, he came with a strong force to the aid of the British, whose friend he had always remained. In more recent wars the Goorkhas have proved themselves among the bravest soldiers in the Indian army, and in the late war with the hill-tribes showed an intrepidity which no part of the army surpassed. The independence of their state is still maintained.


For four or five thousand years China remained isolated from the rest of the civilized world, its only relations being with the surrounding peoples of its own race, notably with the Tartars of the steppes. Then, in the nineteenth century, the wall of isolation suddenly broke down, and it was forced to enter into relations of trade and amity with Europe and America. This revolution did not come about peacefully. The thunder of cannon was necessary to break down the Chinese wall of seclusion. But the result seems likely to prove of the greatest advantage to the so-called Celestial Kingdom. It has swung loose from its moorings in the harbor of conservatism, and it is not safe to predict how far it will drift, but it is safe to say that a few years of foreign war have done as much for it as hundreds of years of peace and isolation.

From time to time in the past centuries Europeans made their way to China. Some were priestly envoys, some missionaries, some, as in the case of the Polos, traders. Afterwards came the Jesuit missionaries, who gained an important standing in China under the early Manchu emperors, and were greatly favored by the emperor Kanghi. After his death a change took place, and they were gradually driven from the land.

The first foreign envoy reached China from Russia in 1567. Another came in 1653, his purpose being to establish freedom of trade. A century later a treaty was made establishing a system of overland trade between Russia and China, and since then a Russian missionary station has existed in Peking. In 1516 came the first vessel to China under a European flag, a Portuguese trader. Others followed, and trade began through Canton and other ports. But the foreign traders soon began to act rather as pirates than as peaceful visitors, and in the end the Chinese drove them all away. About the middle of the sixteenth century a foreign settlement was begun at Macao, on an island near the southeast boundary of the empire, and here the trade grew so brisk that for a time Macao was the richest trading-mart in Eastern Asia. But so hostile were the relations between the Portuguese, Spanish, and Dutch, and so brigand-like their behavior, that the Chinese looked upon them all as piratical barbarians, and intercourse did not grow.

The English had their own way of opening trade relations. A fleet under Captain Weddell came to Canton in 1637, and, as the Chinese fired upon a watering boat, attacked and captured the forts, burnt the council-house, carried off the guns from the forts, and seized two merchant junks. About fifty years afterwards they were accorded trading privileges at Canton and Ning-po.

To England, indeed, is due the chief credit of opening up China to the world, though the way in which it was done is not much to England's credit. This was by the famous—or infamous—opium war. But in another way England was the first to break through the traditional ceremonies of the Chinese court. All who approached the emperor's throne, foreign ambassadors as well as Chinese subjects, were required to perform the kotow, which consisted in kneeling three times before the emperor, or even before his empty throne, and each time bowing the head until the forehead three times touched the marble flooring. This was done by the Russians and the Dutch, but the Earl of Macartney, who came as English ambassador in 1792, refused to perform the slavish ceremony, and was therefore not permitted to see the emperor, though otherwise well received.

The first event of importance in the nineteenth century, that century so vital in the history of China, was the hoisting of the American flag at Canton in 1802, which marked the beginning of American trade with the Celestial empire. From this time the trade of Canton rapidly grew, until it became one of the greatest commercial cities of the world, while its mercantile activity gave employment to millions of natives in all parts of the empire in preparing articles of commerce, particularly tea. It was also of great importance to the imperial government from the revenue it furnished in the way of duty and presents. It is of interest to note, however, that the emperor and his court looked upon these presents as the payment of tribute, and the nations that sent them, unknown to themselves, were set down as vassals of the Chinese crown.

We have now an important feature of the Chinese trade to record. Opium was a favorite article of consumption in China, and its use there had given rise to an important industry in British India, in the growth of the poppy. In the year 1800 the emperor, perceiving the growing evil in the use of opium by his people, issued an edict forbidding its introduction into China. This did not check the trade, its only effect being to convert legitimate into smuggling traffic. The trade went on as briskly as before, the smugglers being openly aided by venal officials not only at Canton but at other points along the coast. By 1838 the disregard of the law, and the quantity of opium smuggled into the empire by small boats on the Canton River, had become so great that the Peking government determined to take more active steps for the suppression of the illicit trade. At this time there were more than fifty small craft plying on the river under the English and American flags, most of them smugglers. Some of these were seized and destroyed, but as the others were then heavily manned and armed the revenue officers declined to interfere with them, and the contraband trade went briskly on.

At length the difficulty reached a climax. Arrests and punishments for the use of opium became common throughout the empire, three royal princes were degraded for this practice, a commissioner with large powers was sent from Peking to Canton, and the foreigners were ordered to deliver up every particle of opium in their store-ships and give bonds to bring no more, on penalty of death. As a result, somewhat more than one thousand chests were tendered to the commissioner, but this was declared to be not enough, and that official at once took the decisive measure of cutting off the food-supply from the foreign settlement. This and other active steps brought about the desired result. Captain Elliot, the British superintendent of commerce, advised a complete delivery of all opium under British control, and before night more than twenty thousand chests of the deleterious drug were surrendered into his hands, and were offered by him to the commissioner the next day.

News of this event was sent to Peking, and orders came back that the opium should be all destroyed; which was done effectively by mixing it with salt water and lime in trenches and drawing off the mixture into an adjacent creek. Care was taken that none should be purloined, and one man was executed on the spot for attempting to steal a small portion of the drug. Thus perished an amount of the valuable substance rated at cost price at nearly eleven million dollars.

We have described this event at some length, as it led to the first war between China and a foreign power. The destruction of the opium deeply offended the British government, and in the next year (1840) Captain Elliot received an official letter to the effect that war would be declared unless China should pay for the goods destroyed. As China showed no intention of doing so, an English fleet was sent to Chinese waters in the summer of 1841, whose admiral declared a blockade of the port of Canton, and, on July 5, bombarded and captured the town of Ting-hai. Various other places were blockaded, and, as the emperor rejected all demands, the fleet moved upon Canton, taking the forts along the river as it advanced. In the end, when an attack had become imminent, the authorities ransomed their city for the sum of six million dollars.

But the emperor did not know yet the strength of the power with which he had to deal, and still continued silent and defiant. The fleet now sailed northward, capturing in succession Amoy, Chin-hai, and Ning-po. Cha-pu was the next to fall, and here the Manchu Tartars for the first time came into conflict with the English. When defeated, great numbers of them killed themselves, first destroying their wives and children. The forts at the mouth of the Yang-tse-Kiang were next taken. Here the governor-general took care to post himself out of danger, but in a grandiloquent despatch declared that he had been in the hottest of the fight, "where cannon-balls innumerable, flying in awful confusion through the expanse of heaven, fell before, behind, and on every side, while in the distance were visible the ships of the rebels standing erect, lofty as mountains. The fierce daring of the rebels was inconceivable; officers and men fell at their posts. Every effort to resist the onset was in vain, and a retreat became inevitable."

The result was the capture of Shanghai. The British now determined on a siege of the important city of Nanking, the ancient capital of China. The movement began with an attack on Chin-Kiang-fu, the "Mart-river city." Here a fierce assault was made, the Manchu garrison resisting with obstinate courage. In the end, of the garrison of four thousand only five hundred remained, most of the others having killed themselves. This victory rendered the capture of Nanking certain, its food-supply was already endangered by the English control of the river, and the authorities gave way. The emperor was now convinced that further resistance was hopeless, and the truce ended in a treaty of peace, the Chinese government agreeing to pay twenty-one million dollars indemnity, to open to British trade and residence the ports of Canton, Amoy, Foo-Chow, Ning-po, and Shanghai, and to cede to the English the island of Hong-Kong, with various minor stipulations.

This war, which was fought with the discreditable purpose of forcing upon China an injurious drug against her will, had nevertheless several very useful results. Other European nations hastened to claim the same privileges of trade that were given the English, and in 1844 a commercial treaty was signed between China and the United States, in the conduct of which a favorable disposition towards Americans was shown. The eventual result was the breaking down of the barriers of intolerance which had been so long maintained, that ancient and self-satisfied government being at last forced to throw open its gates for the entrance of the new ideas of international amity and freedom of commerce.

But much had still to be done before these desirable results could be fully achieved. Hostile relations were not yet at an end, annoying restrictions being placed on the promised intercourse. In 1856 a native vessel flying the British flag was seized by the Chinese, who refused to apologize to the British for the act. As a result, the city of Canton was bombarded and the forts were destroyed. A warlike demonstration was decided upon by Great Britain and France, the first result being the total destruction of the Chinese fleet and the capture of Canton. A revision of the former treaty and the concession of greater privileges were demanded, which China, warned by the lesson of the opium war, found itself obliged to grant.

The English and French, however, refused to treat at Canton, as the Chinese desired, but sailed to the mouth of the Pei-ho, the port of Peking, up which stream their fleets proceeded to the city of Tien-tsin. Here arrangements for a new treaty of commerce and the opening of new ports were made, Russia and the United States taking part in the negotiations. But on proceeding to the mouth of the Pei-ho in 1859 to ratify the treaty, the river was found to be obstructed and the forts strongly armed. The American and Russian envoys were willing to go to Peking overland, in accordance with the Chinese request, but the British and French determined to force their way up the stream and to take as many soldiers with them as they pleased. They attacked the forts, therefore, but, to their disgust, found themselves defeated and forced to withdraw.

This repulse could have but one result. It gave the Chinese for the first time confidence in their ability to meet the foreigner in war. It humiliated and exasperated the English and French. They determined now to carry the war to the gates of Peking and force the Chinese to acknowledge the supremacy of the nations of the West.

The events of this war we can give only in outline. In the summer of 1860 a new attack was made on the Taku forts, troops being landed to assail them in the rear, in which direction no arrangement for defence had been made. As a result the forts fell, a large body of Tartar cavalry, which sought to stop the march of the allies with bows, arrows, and spears, being taught a lesson in modern war by the explosion of shells in their ranks. The capture of the forts left the way clear for a march on the capital, which was at once made, and on the 5th of October, 1860, a European army first came within view of this long-hidden and mysterious city.


The "sublime" emperor, the supreme head of the great realm of China and its hundreds of millions of people, dwells in a magnificence and seclusion unknown to the monarchs of other lands. His palace enclosure within the city of Peking, the "Purple Forbidden City," as it is called, covers over half a square mile of ground, and is surrounded by a wall forty feet high and more than forty feet thick. Within this sacred enclosure the Chinese ideas of beauty and magnificence have been developed to the fullest extent, and the emperor resides in unapproachable grandeur and state. Outside the city, a few miles to the north, lies the Summer Palace, another locality on which the Celestial architects and landscape artists have exhausted their genius in devising scenes of beauty and charm, and which is similarly walled in from the common herd. Beyond the Great Wall, on the borders of Tartary, exists another palatial enclosure, the hunting and pleasure grounds of the emperor, in the midst of an immense forest abundantly stocked with game. To the latter his supreme majesty made his way with all haste on hearing of the rapid approach of the English and French armies. In truth, the great monarchs of the Manchu dynasty had passed away, and the feeble reigning emperor lacked the courage to fight for his throne.

On the 5th of October, 1860, the allied armies of England and France approached the Celestial capital, the officers obtaining their first view of its far-stretching wall from the tops of some grass-grown brick-kilns. On the next day the march was resumed, the French force advancing upon the Summer Palace, where it was hoped the emperor would be found, the English directing their course towards the city, where a Tartar picket was driven in and preparations were begun for an assault in force.

The Summer Palace was found in charge of some three hundred eunuchs, whom Prince Kung, who had left in all haste the evening before, had ordered to make a gallant defence. But the entrance gave way before the impetuous assault of the French, a few of the defenders fell dead or wounded, and the remainder beat a hasty retreat, leaving the grand entrance to the Yuen-ming-yuen, the famous imperial residence, in the hands of the daring and disrespectful "barbarians."

Into the grand reception-hall, which none had heretofore entered except in trembling awe, the irreverent foreigners boldly made their way, their spurred heels ringing on the broad marble floor before the emperor's sacred throne, their loud voices resounding through that spacious hall where silence and ceremony so long had reigned supreme, as the awed courtiers approached with silent tread and voiceless respect the throne of the dreaded Brother of the Sun and Moon.

"Imagine such a scene," says Swinhoe. "The emperor is seated on his ebony throne, attired in a yellow robe wrought over with dragons in gold thread, his head surmounted with a spherical crown of gold and precious stones, with pearl drops suspended round on light gold chains. His eunuchs and ministers, in court costume, are ranged on either side on their knees, and his guard of honor and musicians drawn up in two lines in the court-yard without. The name of the distinguished person to be introduced is called out, and as he approaches the band strikes up. He draws near the awful throne, and, looking meekly on the ground, drops on his knees before the central steps. He removes his hat from his head, and places it on the throne floor with its peacock feather towards the imperial donor. The emperor moves his hand, and down goes the humble head, and the forehead strikes on the step three times three. The head is then raised, but the eyes are still meekly lowered, as the imperial voice in thrilling accents pronounces the behest of the great master. The voice hushed, down goes the head again and acknowledges the sovereign right, and the privileged individual is allowed to withdraw. The scene described is not imaginary, but warranted by the accounts of natives.

"How different the scene now! The hall filled with crowds of a foreign soldiery, and the throne floor covered with the Celestial emperor's choicest curios, but destined as gifts for two far more worthy monarchs. 'See here,' said General Montauban, pointing to them. 'I have had a few of the most brilliant things selected to be divided between the Queen of Great Britain and the Emperor of the French!'"

General Montauban had declared that no looting should take place until the British came up, that all might have their equal share, but the fierce desire of the French soldiers for spoil could not easily be restrained. Even the officers were no better, and as the rooms of the palace were boldly explored, "gold watches and small valuables were whipped up by these gentlemen with amazing velocity, and as speedily disappeared into their capacious pockets." Into the very bedroom of the emperor the unawed visitors made their way, and gazed with curious eyes on the imperial couch, curtained over and covered with silk mattresses. Under the pillow was a small silk handkerchief, with sundry writings in the vermilion pencil concerning the "barbarians," while on a table lay pipes and other articles of daily use. On another table was found the English treaty of 1858, whose terms were soon to be largely modified.

Meanwhile the nimble-fingered French soldiers had not been idle, and the camp was full of articles of value or interest, silks and curios, many of them rare prizes, watches, pencil-cases set with diamonds, jewelled vases, and a host of other costly trifles, chief among which was a string of splendid pearls exhibited by one officer, each pearl of the size of a marble and the whole of immense value.

On Sunday morning, the 7th of October, the orders against looting were withdrawn, and officers and men, English and French alike, rushed excitedly about the place, appropriating every valuable which it was within their power to carry. What could not be carried away was destroyed, a spirit of wanton destruction seeming to animate them all. Some amused themselves by shooting at the chandeliers, others by playing pitch-and-toss against large and costly mirrors, while some armed themselves with clubs and smashed to pieces everything too heavy to be carried, finishing the work by setting on fire the emperor's private residence.

Those who paid more heed to observation than to destruction have given us interesting accounts of the Summer Palace and its surroundings, whose vast enclosure extended from the place where the French entered to the foot of the first range of hills north of Peking, six or seven miles away. Over this broad extent were scattered gardens, palaces, temples, and pagodas on terraces and artificial hills. Some of these were like the one seen by Marco Polo in the palace enclosure of Kublai Khan, being from three hundred to four hundred feet in height, their sides covered with forest-trees of all kinds, through whose foliage the yellow-tiled palace roofs appeared. In the midst of these hills lay a large lake, containing two or three islands, on which were picturesque buildings, the islands being reached by quaint and beautiful stone bridges.

On one side of the lake ran the favorite walk of the emperor and his court, winding in and out for more than two miles among grottos and flower-gardens, roofed in by flowering creepers. Where palaces touched the water's edge the walk was carried past on light but beautiful stone terraces built over the lake. Grandeur was added to the general beauty of the scene by the high mountains of Tartary which rose in the rear.

The work of looting was followed by a sale of the spoil under the walls of Peking, the auction continuing for three days, during which a large quantity of valuable plunder was disposed of. Many of the French officers had acquired considerable fortunes, and numbers of their men were nearly as well supplied. For several days intoxication and disorder prevailed, while the disposition to plunder was extended from the palace to the neighboring villages.

Meanwhile the preparations for an assault on Peking had gone forward. The Anting gate was the point selected, the Chinese being given until the 12th for a peaceful surrender. As noon of that day drew near, the gunners stood by their pieces, a storming party excitedly awaited the order to charge as soon as a breach had been made, and General Napier, watch in hand, timed the slow minutes. Five minutes to twelve arrived. The general was almost on the point of giving the order, the gunners were growing eager and excited, when Colonel Stephenson came galloping hastily up with the news that the gate had been surrendered. In a few minutes more it was thrown open, a party of British marched in and took possession, and the French followed with beating drums and flying flags, forcing the natives back as they advanced.

That afternoon several prisoners were restored to the allies. They proved to have been inhumanly treated and were in a condition of fearful emaciation, while the bodies of several who had died were also given up, among them that of Mr. Bowlby, correspondent of the London Times. This spectacle aroused the greatest indignation in the British camp. A terrible retribution might have been inflicted upon Peking had not a promise of its safety been given if the gate were surrendered. But the emperor's rural retreat lay at the mercy of the troops, and Lord Elgin gave orders that its palaces should be levelled with the ground. The French refused to aid in this act of vandalism, which they strongly condemned,—a verdict which has since been that of the civilized world. But Lord Elgin was fixed in his purpose, and the work of destruction went on.

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