Imatges de pàgina
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AMAZONS. 137

fortress, but included a park and pleasure grounds as well. The most striking and original of their customs was the band of Amazons, who were specially attached to the person of the ruler. These were mounted on excellent Tartar horses, and dressed in the magnificent fashion that becomes the bodyguard of a great ruler. These luxuries, and this imitation of Sardanapalus would have been more natural, and less exposed to censure, if there were not the unanswerable contemporary criticism recorded in history that the people were ground down under the oppression of their rulers, and that the poverty of the country formed a striking contrast to the luxury and dissipation of the court. Among all the rulers who divided China between them there was not one of any worth as regards public spirit. They were all adventurers in one sense of the word, enjoying the day and reckless of the morrow. The Chinese moralist in his disapprobation of a standard of living and of governing so far removed from his maxims has had to create a semi-mythical princedom of Ching, where at least the ancient virtues and sobriety of life were practised during these dark ages of Chinese history.

When the boy Kangti died, after having held possession of the throne for two years, his son, an infant named Moti, was elected his successor. During the life of this young ruler his mother held the reins of authority, and, as if in mockery of the rampant evils in the state, the chronicles contain nothing but the record of how much the qualities and virtues of this prince were in excess of his years. The trite observations of these sciolists did not add much to the removal of national evils, and the golden promise of the ruler's younger days afforded no remedy for a crisis pregnant with danger to the permanent interests of the nation.

The skill of a general named Hwan Wen shed lustre on the military annals of Moti's reign. He defeated in a pitched battle the army of the Prince of Han, who had in turn become the victim of the corruption of the age. Very soon the disintegrating causes at work in the region brought under a tingle sway by the ability of the Lieou family clearly revealed themselves, and the formidable military power which had been created in the north, and which threatened to destroy the Tsins, was dissolving again into its component parts. The revival of military capacity among the lieutenants of the Emperor, and the skill of Hwan Wen in particular, enabled the Tsins to profit to a great extent from the disunion and strife prevalent among the chiefs of Han, who all wished to be first, and have precedence of the others. So it was that in A.D. 352 the proud edifice erected by Lieouyuen and his son Lieousong fell finally to the ground, and the great family which had contested on equal terms with the Tsins disappeared from its place among the rulers, and became practically extinguished. It must not be assumed that all the advantage of this change went to the Emperor, for two new principalities, those of Yen and Chin, rose on the ruins of the Han domination.

At the age of sixteen Moti began to reign for himself, and continued to do so during the three remaining years of his life. The successes of Hwan Wen continued, and tended to restore the fading reputation of the Emperor. Moti's death arrested the career of progress, and the short life of his successor, Gaiti, did not make the prospect of the Tsins any the brighter. When Gaiti died, after holding the sceptre during four short years, his brother Yti, or Tiyeh, succeeded him. The general Hwan Wen, whose abilities had been an element of strength to his predecessors, was seized by the demon ambition, and deposed Yti after he had occupied the throne for five years. In Yti's place Hwan Wen put Kien Venti, but he accepted the charge with hesitation. Fearful of the responsibility, and trembling at the prospect of danger, Kien Venti was out of his sphere on the Dragon Throne. It was indeed a happy release for him when he was removed from a world of care and uncertainty. There is no knowing what part Hwan Wen meditated playing in the regulation of the affairs of the state at this critical juncture; but a greater power than his will intervened, and after a short illness he died from the effects of a prolonged debauch.

Kien Venti was followed, A.d. 373, by his son Ssemachangming, a boy of ten years old, who on his assumption of the supreme dignity took the proud name of Vouti. His reign showed a considerable revival of power, and when Foukien, AN EMPEROR SMOTHERED. 139

the principal of the northern rulers, threatened to overrun his territories, Vouti marched boldly to encounter him, and obtained a brilliant success over his opponent. After his defeat, Foukicn's own partisans turned upon him and caused him to be strangled in his residence. Vouti appears to have thought that with this achievement he had done sufficient, and retiring to his palace gave himself up to an unbridled course of pleasure. Having offered a slight to one of his wives, she took summary vengeance for the wrong by smothering, under a bed, her lord and master whilst in a state of intoxication. So died the Emperor Vouti the Second after a reign of twenty-five years, which beheld one victory on a large scale that might have been made the stepping-stone to greater results.

The twenty-two years of his son Ganti's reign would have been devoid of interest and importance were it not for the first appearance of the man who was to regenerate the Empire and to raise China, if only for a brief space, from the abyss into which she had descended. In the north a new enemy showed themselves in the Gcwgen Tartars, and in the south the daring expeditions of the pirate Sunghen spread terror and desolation along the banks of the great rivers which were the scene of his activity.

The Gewgen, or Juju, as they were sometimes called, occupied the same relative position to the Emperor that the Hiongnou and Sienpi had previously, and at this time their military vigour being at its height, they succeeded in establishing their own authority on the northern skirts of the Empire. Their chief, Chelun, assumed in A.D. 402 the higher title of Kohan, or Khakhan, a name which eight centuries later acquired terrible significance in the hands of the Mongols.

It was at this conjuncture that a man named Lieouyu, a child of the people, raised himself from the class in which he was born by evincing capacity of no common order. Deserted by his parent through poverty, he was brought up on the charity of others, and from his earliest years was remarkable for his quickness in learning. The necessity of making his livelihood compelled him for a time to follow the humble trade of shoe-making, but he chafed at the monotony of his occupation. Feeling within him the instincts of a soldier, he seized the first opportunity to adopt the profession of arms, in which he showed such proficiency that he was at once entrusted with a small independent command. It was against the pirate Sunghen that he earned his first laurels. During three years he was constantly engaged in opposing, and sometimes in forestalling, the descents made by that leader. The credit of Sunghen's final overthrow does not indeed belong to Lieouyu, but it was he who first broke the reputation of the pirate, and shattered his power by repeated successes. After this introduction to military life, Lieouyu's promotion was rapid. He led the Emperor's armies on numerous occasions; and, having overthrown a formidable rebel named Hwanhiuen in a battle which was fought with a smaller force both on land and on water, Ganti could only manifest his sense of the high service rendered by nominating him commander-in-chief of all the forces of the Empire.

Lieouyu showed no falling-off in either ability or energy, because he had attained the summit of a soldier's ambition. Marching from one province to another, he repressed sedition and restored the blessings of a settled rule; and was fast giving reality to the theoretical claims of the Emperor to obedience. In the course of his expeditions he came into contact with Topa, Prince of Wei, a district north of the Hoangho. This prince having refused permission to Lieouyu's troops to march through his territory incurred his resentment. Lieouyu forced the passage of the Hoangho, routed the army of Wei, while one of his lieutenants marched on Changnan, the capital of the newly-formed principality of Chin. The expedition against Changnan was commanded by a resolute officer named Wangchinou, who, having conveyed his force as far towards its destination by water as was possible, caused his ships to be cast adrift . Addressing his soldiers, he said: "We have neither provisions nor supplies; and the current of the Weiho bears away from us the barks in which we came. But let us beat the enemy, and while covering ourselves with glory we shall regain a hundredfold everything we have lost. If on the other hand we are conquered, death for us all is THE CHINESE CROWN. 141

inevitable. To conquer or to die, that is our lot; go and prepare yourselves to march against the enemy." The result of the campaign was in proportion to the fortitude of the commander. Changnan surrendered, and the Prince of Chin was executed as a rebel. Lieouyu arrived hard upon the heels of his victorious troops, and made preparations for extending still further his conquests. At this moment he was recalled to the capital, and his further advance was suspended. During his absence Changnan and all the recent conquests were lost, and a great reverse was inflicted on the arms of the Empire. In this year Lieouyu, dissatisfied with the conduct of Garni, who had only raised him to the third rank among princes, as Prince of Song, caused the Emperor to be strangled, and named his brother successor under the style of Kongti (A.D. 418).

Kongti reigned less than two years, being then deposed by the man who had set him up. The change was effected in the most formal manner. Kongti resigned a position which he felt incapable of retaining, and the ambitious Lieouyu assumed what he had long coveted. In a field they erected a scaffold, and on it they placed a throne, from which Kongti descended to give place to the Prince of Song. Before the assembled thousands of Kienkang, and in the presence of the great officials, Kongti then paid homage to Lieouyu *; and in this act the dynasty of the Tsins reached its consummation. Their rule had extended over one hundred and fifty-five years. and there had been fifteen Emperors of the name ; but on the whole no family with less pretensions to the right of government has ever lorded it over the docile people of China. The impression they leave on the mind is as vague and indistinct as the part they played in the history of their age (AJX 420).

• Tbe Emperors of China wore and still wear a cap or crown with twelve pendants. The assumption of this crown formed the principal portion of the coronation service. Its shape was peculiar. Round in the front, U was straight behind, and was ornamented with one hundred and forty-four precious stones. The pendants consisted of strings of pearls, four of which hung over the eyes lor the purpose, it was said, of prevent~<£ the Emperor seeing those who were brought before him for trial. See " Mailla," voL iv. p. 69.

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