Imatges de pàgina
PDF
EPUB

PANCHOW. 107

Kwang Vouti's closing years were marked by, if not an assured peace, at least a respectful truce.

In the year A.D. 57 Kwang Vouti died, after a reign of thirty-three years, leaving behind him a reputation for ability, and for a desire to foster the interests of his people, scarcely inferior to that of any of his race. To his ability as a general much of the credit for the restoration of the Hans was due, and it was not the least meritorious feature of his reign that his moderation helped still more towards restoring the popularity of his family. He never pronounced a sentence of death without regret, and until his offers had been spurned, and his acts reciprocated with treachery, he never treated his adversaries with the sternness always meted out in Eastern countries to a foe. He strove above all things to restrain the ambition of the great, and to govern the country in accordance, not with the interests of the few, but with the necessities of the many. China has had greater rulers than Kwang Vouti, but she has never had one more popular with or better loved by his subjects.

Mingti, the fourth of his sons, was chosen to succeed this ruler (A.D. 57), and during his reign of eighteen years gave general satisfaction to his subjects by his wisdom and clemency. The clouds which had so thickly obscured the horizon had to a great extent cleared off, and although there were troubles in the neighbouring kingdoms, only the echo of them penetrated into China. The strength of the Hiongnou had greatly declined in consequence of divisions in their own camp, and a few successes obtained in the Kokonor region by a general named Panchow, who will play a prominent part in the history of the next reign, sufficed to bring the whole of the bordering tribes to their knees. With the exception of this war, in which the Chinese strength was only partly engaged, Mingti's reign was one of peace. Prominent among the great works to which he devoted his attention and surplus wealth, was that of regulating the course of the Hoangho, which had proved a perennial source of destruction to the adjoining provinces. Mingti caused a dyke thirty miles in length to be constructed for the relief of the superfluous waters, and so long as this great work was kept in repair we hear no more of the overflowing of the Yellow river. Mingti, if not indulging in war, took steps to promote the efficiency of his troops. He restored the military exercise, and rendered it incumbent on all to practise the use of the national bow. Devoted to literature, he still spared time to impress on his generals the precepts of Mayuen, whose daughter Machi he had married. When Mingti died, in A.D. 75, the Hans were firmly reseated on the throne. All rebels had been either vanquished or brought into subjection, and from Corea to Cochin China, from Kokonor to the Eastern Sea, there were none but loyal subjects or contented vassals of the Emperor.

The most remarkable event in the reign of Mingti was certainly the official introduction into China of Buddhism, which, although often opposed by subsequent rulers, bitterly hated by all the followers of Confucius, and treated with dislike and indifference by the people as a foreign invention, made good its position in spite of every obstacle, and still remains inextricably entwined with the religious customs of the nation and the state. In consequence of a dream that appeared to Mingti, and interpreted to him as meaning that he had seen the supernatural being worshipped in the West, under the name of Fo or Buddha, the Emperor sent envoys into India, or Tianchow, to learn what they could about this new teacher, and if possible to bring back his law. In this they completely succeeded; and although some rumours of Buddhism, and of the teachings of Sakya Muni, appear to have penetrated into China at a much earlier period, it was not until the first century of our era was far advanced that, at the invitation of a Chinese ruler, Buddhism made its formal entry into the country, and took its place among the creeds in which it was held permissible for rational men to put their faith.

On Mingti's death his son Changti, not eighteen years old at the time, became Emperor, and his reign also was one of tranquillity scarcely disturbed by the noise of war. Neither civil brawl nor foreign strife marred the even tenour of his days. It is true that when he assumed authority the embers of a quarrel were still smouldering on the north-western A CONVICT ARMY. 109

frontier, and that the occasion was afforded a Chinese commander to show resolution of no ordinary kind in defending the town entrusted to his charge against an overwhelming force of the Hiongnou. This satisfactory incident was the only exception to prove the rule. Changti, under the guidance of his adopted mother, Machi, the daughter of the great Mayuen, and one of the finest female characters in Chinese history, turned his attention to peaceful pursuits, and by reducing taxation and regulating the imposts, sought to advance the best interests of his people.

The only war in which China was concerned, even indirectly, during this reign, was one in the country west of Shensi. Panchow, reluctant to lose the fruits of previous success, solicited Changti's permission to continue his operations on his own resources, and his request was conceded. Panchow was joined in his enterprise by Siukan, a high official, who obtained permission to recruit an army for this service from pardoned criminals—a force for the first time used in these western wars, but to be frequently employed at later stages of history down to the present day. About this time the Hans were further afflicted by the growing power of the Sienpi, a people established in the western portion of Leaoutung. Between the Sienpi in the north, and Panchow in the south, it fared badly at this time with the Hiongnou ancestors of the Hun devastators of the Roman Empire. One of the last acts of Changti's short reign was to sanction the sending of the tribute from Cochin China by land instead of by sea, as had hitherto been the practice; and for this purpose one hundred thousand taels were expended in the construction of a road to that country. Changti died in the thirty-first year of his age, deeply lamented by a people whom he had governed with prudence and justice (A.D. 88).

Changti was followed by his son Hoti, a child of only ten years; and while his reign was on the whole peaceful, it witnessed one of the most remarkable campaigns ever engaged in by China, but which, occurring at a very great distance bom the centre of her power, raised scarcely a ripple on the surface of Chinese affairs. Hoti's mother became Regent, but her brother attempted to wrest, and for a time succeeded in doing so, the governing power out of her hands. As soon as the Emperor reached an age when he was capable of ruling for himself, he evinced qualities of greatness and of virtue that won for him his subjects' hearts. During his reign the eunuchs, who afterwards proved a still greater source of trouble and difficulty, asserted themselves in the administration, and obtained some of the highest offices in the state through the ability of their chief, Ching Chong. Hoti died, A.D. 105, after a reign of seventeen years, which would have been uneventful but for the deeds of Panchow, now to be described.

During the previous reigns Panchow had warred with unvaried success in the region west of China Proper. Some small kingdoms and numerous tribes had been brought into subjection, and Panchow had spread the terror of his name far beyond the limits of his actual conquests. Several years before Hoti ascended the throne, Panchow is stated to have conquered the city of Kashgar, and to have extended the Chinese Empire to as far west as the Pamir; but when Changti died and the youthful Hoti became ruler, Panchow, the veteran general and foremost of Chinese subjects, was able to order things more after the fashion of his own heart. With a largely increased army he made his position in Eastern Turkestan, or Little Bokhara, the stepping-stone for greater triumphs in the kingdoms beyond that state. It is said that in the course of this later campaign, which doubtless covered several years, he reduced fifteen kingdoms, and reached the Caspian, or Northern Sea, as the Chinese called it . This barrier, which he meditated crossing, was represented to him by the inhabitants to be so formidable and of such extent that he abandoned the design he had conceived of carrying his master's dominions beyond its borders. The difficulties which he and his army had overcome in their long march across burning deserts, lofty mountain ranges, and mighty rivers, and through innumerable enemies, afforded every reason for supposing that the Caspian could not retard a host whose progress had up to that been irresistible. The peoples on its borders were fully cognizant of this, and they invested it accordingly with terrors that it did not possess. Panchow's THE ROMAN EMPIRE. in

army remained for some time encamped in this quarter, when commercial relations are believed to have been established with the Roman Empire, or the great Thsin, as it was called by the Chinese. It is instructive to know that the Parthians and their neighbours placed obstacles in the way of this intercourse through their country because they found that their own trade suffered in consequence. Panchow has always been represented as having undertaken these wars from mere love of military ambition, and it would be significant to learn that his object was of so practical a character as the coercion of the peoples of Western Asia for purposes of trade. In most cases the desire to advance personal interests is found to be a more potent motive-power than the mere love of fame. After concluding this brilliant expedition Panchow returned to China, where the veteran died in his eightieth year, trusted by his sovereign, and, in no extravagant sense, the popular idol.

Hoti was succeeded by his son Changti, only ten days old when his father died, but he expired within the same year.

Ganti, son of the Prince of Tsingho, a brother of Hoti,

then became the choice of the people, or rather of the Palace,

and was proclaimed Emperor in the year A.d. Io6, when he

was only thirteen years of age. Hoti's widow was named

Regent during his minority, and wielded the executive power

for almost the whole of his reign of nineteen years. Long

after Ganti attained years of discretion the Empress-Regent

evaded the representations made to her to surrender her

position. No remarkable events occurred during this reign,

which proved singularly barren of interest. The Regent,

wisely recognizing that the borders of the Empire had been

extended further than its strength could permanently sustain,

contracted its limits, and relaxed the hold that had been

obtained over numerous vassal princes. Internal peace was

the better preserved, and the ravages of a pirate named

Changpelou were checked and their perpetrator executed,

after a career of successful impunity of more than five years.

Famines and other grave visitations had brought suffering to

the Chinese and anxiety to their rulers; but on the whole

the Regent showed herself well able to provide for all the

« AnteriorContinua »