Imatges de pàgina
PDF
EPUB

wants of the people; and when Ganti died, in A.D. 124, he left after him the name of an amiable and conscientious prince.

His son Chunti, who succeeded him, soon became engaged in several small wars, out of which he emerged successfully. The later years of his reign witnessed the outbreak of several rebellions, of which that headed by Mamien was the most formidable. Mamien, aspiring to play a great part, caused himself to be proclaimed Emperor; but his career was speedily cut short, and, being taken prisoner, he suffered the extreme penalty of the law. The only other event of this reign of any importance was the passing of a law that no one should be raised to the magistracy who was less than forty years of age. The contests among men were matched by the conflicts of the elements. To famines there were added earthquakes and landslips on a large scale among the natural phenomena of the time, and Chunti died, it is said, of fright brought on by one of these catastrophes. Of the same age as his father, like him he reigned nineteen years.

To Chunti succeeded his infant son Chongti, and to Chongti another child Cheti, a descendant of the Emperor Changti. The former was always sickly, and died in a few months after Chunti. The latter held nominal authority during one year, when he was poisoned by Leangki, a noble whose ambition forms one of the episodes of the period, and of whom during the next reign more will be heard.

On Cheti's death, Houanti, the elder brother of that unhappy prince, was proclaimed Emperor by the exercise of unwarranted authority on the part of the murderer Leangki. Like most of the ambitious intriguers who have from time immemorial infested the palace of the Chinese ruler, Leangki was not a prince of the blood, but the brother of one of the Empresses. During the long minority which had followed among the Chinese sovereigns after the death of Hoti, the opportunity was afforded this personage of advancing his own interests at the expense of the state. In the palace his word became virtually supreme, and none ventured to question his commands. An incautious phrase on the part of the boy Cheti had cost him his life; and now, under the nominal THE HUN MIGRATION. 113

authority of Houanti, Leangki sought to carry everything before him with a high hand. His intrigues and crimes constituted the gravest danger in the path of the new ruler. Having removed by foul means several of the ministers of whose influence he was most apprehensive, Leangki grew so confident that he ventured on one occasion into the presence of the Emperor with a sword by his side—an act punishable with death. He was at once charged with the offence, and would have suffered the penalty of the law if Houanti had not intervened, and spared his life in consideration of his having placed him on the throne. Leangki, far from feeling grateful for this generous treatment, intrigued against the Emperor, and sought to form a party of his own. His plots were discovered, but, when on the point of capture, he accepted the inevitable, and evaded his just sentence by taking poison. Troubles of various kinds and in different quarters beset the Chinese during this period. The tribes on their borders, constantly stirred up by their own irrepressible energy, and by the spasmodic ambition of their chiefs, again became troublesome, and the consequences of their hostile movements assumed increased gravity because of a growing disposition among them to combine against China. The Sienpi, in Leaoutung, at first carried on hostilities against the Hiongnou, but this quarrel was arranged (apparently by the subjugation of the Huns, part of whom migrated to the West, arriving in Europe at a critical moment, while the rest coalesced with the Sienpi) when they turned their united armies against China. Owing to the skill of the general Twan Keng, and, at a later stage of the contest, of Toanyng and Hoangfoukoue, these tribes were defeated, and the authority of the Emperor was re-established on a firm basis. In the final battle of the war the balance of victory hung in doubt, until Twan Keng, rushing to the front of his army, exhorted his men to charge once more, with the following heroic speech: "Recall to your minds how often before you have beaten these same opponents, and teach them again to-day that in you they have their masters." Houanti's reign was, therefore, one of brilliant military achievement; and when he died, in A.d. 167, there was no symptom that the long term of the Han rule was VOU I. I

approaching its close. Never, indeed, did it appear more vigorously established than when, after a reign of more than twenty years, the fingers of Houanti relaxed the sceptre of his ancestors.

Houanti died without leaving an heir, and a young prince, one of the descendants of Changti, was placed on the throne under the name of Lingti. The eunuchs had, during the previous reigns, been extending their influence, and steadily acquiring the chief posts of authority. Under Lingti their activity increased, and, finding in the Emperor a weak and easily-guided instrument, they aimed at nothing short of a supreme position, when they would be free of all control. The very first act of his reign was to extend his protection to the eunuchs whom the other ministers endeavoured to crush; and it was under the encouragement of Imperial favour that they hatched the plot which made their position more assured than it had ever been. Turning their occupation of the palace to account, they gained possession of the Emperor's person, and while one of their number amused him with sword exercise, the rest, making use of his name, seized their rivals and had them promptly executed. After this bold move no one ventured, for some time, to challenge the authority of the eunuchs.

Lingti was engaged in a war of considerable difficulty and importance with the Sienpi, who had shown a fresh disposition to encroach on the Chinese dominions, and through the courage and ability of his commander, Chow Pow, the contest had a very satisfactory termination for him. By some means the family of this general had fallen into the power of the Sienpi, and when Chow Pow came face to face with the enemy they exhibited his mother outside their camp, threatening to slay her the instant he made any movement. There was a short struggle in the mind of Chow Pow, and then duty to his sovereign and his country triumphed over his affection for his mother. He attacked and defeated the Sienpi, who, however, carried their threat into execution. Chow Pow, infuriated at his loss, offered up hecatombs of warriors in expiation of the crime. It fared ill that day with any foe who crossed the path of a Chinese soldier, but THE YELLOW BONNETS. 115

Chow Pow took his loss so much to heart that he died very shortly after his great victory. The war with the Sienpi was followed by an insurrection fomented by three brothers of the name of Chang, and called that of the Yellow Bonnets. This confederation, like that of the Crimson Eyebrows, did not carry out in practice the admirable precepts with which it started; and after an ephemeral success, Lingti's generals succeeded in defeating its forces, capturing its leaders, and completely crushing the whole movement. Fortunate in those who acted for him, Lingti suffered none of the inconveniences which he fully incurred through his own negligence, and the confidence he reposed in his eunuch courtiers. He died in A.D. 189, after a reign of twenty-two years.

Lingti's death was followed by an interregnum of nearly two years' duration, which witnessed several events of considerable importance. It was during this period that symptoms of the approaching fall of the Hans became more clearly visible. Lingti left by the Empress Hochi a son named Lieou Pien or Pienti, and by the Empress Tongchi another, Lieou Hiei or Hienti. At first the latter found the more favour in his father's eyes, but owing to some shortcomings in his mother he was put into the background, and Hochi's son proclaimed heir-apparent. The eunuchs, and their chief Kien Chow in particular, favoured Hienti ; but Hochi, mainly by the support of her brother, General Hotsin, carried her point, and Pienti became nominal Emperor. Out of this intrigue there arose bitter enmity between the eunuchs and Hotsin, the latter vowing that he would ruin them. He took his measures with great skill, brought troops from the provinces, and undoubtedly had the people at his back ; but on the very day when the time had come to strike, his overconfidence gave the eunuchs a momentary advantage. He entered the palace alone, and was at once slain by them. His comrade Yuen Chow stormed the palace, slaughtered every eunuch on whom he could lay his hands, to the number of ten thousand, and took an ample revenge for the murder of Hotsin. The loss of Hotsin proved, however, irreparable to the cause he represented. An intriguing noble, Tongcho, brother of the Empress Tongchi, seized the reins of power. Yuen Chow was compelled to flee. The Empress Hochi— who had previously got rid of her rival, Empress Tongchi— and her son Pienti were thrown into prison and poisoned. Hochi was powerless in the hands of Tongcho, and her only weapon was to exclaim, "Just Heaven will avenge us." Tongchi's son was proclaimed Emperor as Hienti, and the new reign began in the year A.D. 191.

During the thirty years that Hienti was nominally Emperor he was only a puppet in the hands now of one intriguing minister and again of another, while the country was distracted by the conflicting pretensions of several ambitious princes, each of whom aspired to found a dynasty in succession to the expiring one of the Hans. Prominent at first among these was Tongcho, who had placed Hienti on the throne; but his enjoyment of power proved shortlived. His ambition and love of display brought him many rivals, and when he issued, in the Emperor's name, an order that all those who went to court should doff" their bonnets in his presence, he added fuel to the flame of growing resentment at his pretensions. Prominent among his opponents was Tsow Tsow, who in the end triumphed over him, and obtained the upper .band in the Imperial Council. Tsow Tsow, who to a capacity for intrigue added a knowledge of war, and a personal courage which marked him out as the ablest leader in the country, gradually collected in his hands all the administrative power, and Hienti found that in changing Tongcho for Tsow Tsow he had not become more independent, but had simply altered the name of his master.

If, however, the last of the Hans was powerless in the grasp of his minister, there were others reluctant to acquiesce in the supremacy of Tsow Tsow. Twenty years of constant warfare ensued from this cause, and Yuen Chow, Sunkiuen, and Lieoupi set up rival parties in different portions of the realm. The first-named had himself proclaimed Emperor, but his success fell short of his expectations. His overthrow by Tsow Tsow, and early death, left the three other princes to settle the Empire between them; and although Tsow Tsow was uniformly successful in the field, he had to content himself with one-third of the state. Each of these princes,

« AnteriorContinua »