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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.
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 Hochiwho had previously got rid of her rival, Empress Tongchiand 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 hand 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, THE LAST HAN.
Tsow Tsow, Sunkiuen and Lieoupi, became at a later period the founder of a dynasty, and when Tsow Tsow died his position was inherited by his son Tsowpi. This event occurred in the year A.D. 220 ; whereupon Hienti, apprehensive of violence, abdicated in favour of Tsowpi. Hienti retired into private life as Prince of Chanyang, thus terminating the brilliant dynasty of the Hans which had ruled China for more than four hundred years with splendour and wisdom. Their triumphs in war, and the remarkable progress in material welfare made by China under their guidance, had raised the nation to the first rank among the peoples of the world. Chinese armies had marched under their banners across the continent of Asia, Yunnan had been made a Chinese province, Cochin China and Leaoutung vassal states; while the face of the country had been covered with populous cities and great public works—roads, canals, bridges and aqueducts—which still remain to testify to the glory of the Hans.
THE fall of the power of the Hans, and the disappearance of the main line of their dynasty in the mass of the people, whence five centuries previously it had sprung, left China split up into three independent kingdoms known as the period of the Sankoue. This fact not proving palatable to subsequent native historians, the acts of these three states have been classed together, and treated as if relating to one kingdom under the heading of the sixth dynasty. There can be no question that during this period, which extended over less than half a century, there were three distinct governments in China; and, as many subsequent events were clearly attributable to the occurrences of this time, it is necessary to unravel as best we can the intricacies of the mutual relations and foreign policy of the three contemporary and rival rulers. The first of these was known as the Later Hans, and held possession of the modern province of Szchuen, with the capital at Chentu. Although exercising authority over a smaller extent of territory than either of the others, this family of the Later Hans, on account of its semi-royal descent, is the one which the court historians have since striven to alone recognize. The second, that of Wu, comprised five of the southern provinces, with a capital at Wuchangfoo at one period, and at Nankin at another, and maintained its independence down to a later date than the Hans. The third, the kingdom of Wei, far larger in extent and including the most populous districts in China, embraced all the central and northern provinces, with a capital at Loyang, the recognized metropolis of the Empire.