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THE GLORIES OF CHINA. 147
pieces. Gankiai then crossed the river at an unguarded spot, and obtained several successes over the Song generals. The effect of these victories was enhanced by a severe defeat inflicted about the same time by Topatao in person on the army of the Prince of Hia. Very few months after the first declaration of war the formidable league against the kingdom of Wei had failed to achieve any permanent success. The victories of the war had been to the credit of Topatao, and Wenti could only console himself by making the most of the hold he had secured over southern Honan, which each day was slipping more completely out of his grasp.
In this emergency Wenti entrusted a fresh army to Tantaotsi, a general who had taken a foremost part in the deposition of his predecessor. Sent to repair the faults of the other Imperial generals, Tantaotsi was fortunate in finding an early opportunity of accomplishing his task. In the district watered by the Tsiho he fought no fewer than thirty combats with uniform success, and it was only the want of provisions that compelled him reluctantly to order the withdrawal of his troops. The army of Topatao hung constantly on his rear, and all the knowledge of the Imperial general was required to bring his outnumbered force scatheless from the ordeal. The Wei army then again crossed the Hoangho, and re-occupied Honan. Topatao had fulfilled his promise. Honan, momentarily lost, had been won back, and Wenti's great effort had had no other result than to exhaust his strength and waste his resources. Topatao was relatively the stronger by the overthrow of the military power of both Hia and the Songs; and, having annexed the greater portion of the former kingdom, his victorious army stood ready to meet any opponent and to give law to fresh regions. The reputation of this great success went abroad among the nations, and embassies came from distant parts of Asia to express to Topatao the foreign opinion of his achievement . There was at this time a prevailing impression that in the kingdom of Wei the ancient glories of China were about to revive.
At the court of Wenti the gloom was in proportion to the gravity of the situation. A war, in which many thousands of lives and an infinity of treasure had been expended, closed without result. The enterprise had been commenced for the acquisition of a definite object, and the people looked forward to the rewards of victory with a full appreciation of their value. By as much as Wenti's policy had been granted popular support and approval on the assumption that it would prove successful, by not less was it condemned, and repudiated when it was seen to have resulted in hopeless failure. The national rejoicings had been turned into lamentations, and in place of garlands on the temples, the cypress and the myrtle decked the tombs in memory of those who had fallen beyond the Hoangho. Wenti assuredly felt the full bitterness of his experience, for to him, more than to either his generals or his subjects, it meant anxiety and danger. In several quarters of his dominions pretenders to his throne put themselves forward, and the significance of their act was increased by the circumstance that they all claimed to represent the family of the Tsins. And as if the dangers and anxieties of his position were not sufficient, Wenti, by his own rash and illjudged act, aggravated them by executing Tantaotsi, the only man who had shown any skill or met with any success in the war with Topatao of Wei!
The martial instincts of the two peoples having been indulged, and no immediate inducement remaining for either to again tempt the fortune of war, both Wenti and Topatao devoted themselves, we are told, to the interests of science. The study of history was encouraged in the dominions of Wenti—of that history which was the most expressive commentary on his acts and their crushing condemnation. He also ordained that no magistrate should remain in the same office for a longer period than six years, a measure calculated to secure popular support, and to advance the interests of the people. Topatao was in no way behind Wenti in his endeavours to benefit his people, but he varied the monotony of domestic legislation by the exciting persecution of the Buddhists within his dominions. These had made many converts, and were permeating with their theories every class of society. Against them Topatao resolved to employ all the weapons in his power, and to exterminate them root and THE BUDDHISTS. 149
branch. It was not difficult to give an aspect of treasonable practices to the ceremonies and observances of these Buddhists and their bonzes, who were in some respects violating the first principles of Chinese life, and Topatao availed himself of the justification thus afforded to adopt the most stringent measures against these enemies, as they were considered, of public morality. The commands of the prince were carried into execution. At a blow their temples crumbled to the dust, their holy books were given to the flames, and those who were unable to escape fell by the edge of the sword. In Wei, at least, the errors which had alone brought ruin to the proud dynasty of the Hans would not be tolerated—so ran the exact words of Topatao's edict.
The peace between Topatao and the Emperor did not prove of long duration. In A.D. 450 the former crossed the frontier at the head of one hundred thousand men with the intention of finally humbling the power of the Emperor, and he was the more encouraged to make the attempt because he had recently obtained several successes over the nomadic tribes on his northern frontier. Topatao was destined to disappointment, however, for his good fortune deserted him from the very commencement of this war. Being detained with his whole army for several months before a place of little importance, Topatao saw his own reputation for rapid success wane at the same moment that time was afforded the generals of Wenti to collect their forces. He was glad at length to withdraw his army; baffled indeed in his main object, but still without having suffered any serious discomfiture. The Emperor, encouraged by this sudden change in the complexion of his contest with Topatao, resolved to follow up his success by striking a blow in his turn. His army was ordered accordingly to march in pursuit of the retiring troops of Topatao, and a fresh campaign ensued within the dominions of the Prince of Wei. A sanguinary engagement was fought outside the walls of the town of Chenching, in which, at the close of a doubtful day, the advantage remained on the side of the Imperialists, principally because the Wei general had fallen early in the battle. In a second battle fought with similar result, both sides suffered so heavily that for some time the armies stood face to face in enforced inactivity. Under the influence of this shock both sides endeavoured to come to terms, and the arrangements for the conclusion of peace had been almost concluded when the war broke out afresh, in a final effort to obtain a decisive result for one party or the other.
The only incident in this second campaign that has been preserved for us is the siege of Hiuy, defended by the valiant Tsangchi. Tsangchi defied Topatao to do his worst, and spurned the offers made to him to propitiate that conqueror by a graceful surrender. Tsangchi foiled all the attempts of Topatao to take the fort, and met each device of his opponent with some fresh counter-device of his own. Batteries and mines were freely employed in this celebrated siege, and when Topatao gave it up in despair he had lost twenty thousand of his best men by the sword, and a still greater number by disease. The disgrace was the more keenly felt in that he had publicly sworn to burn Tsangchi, and his retreat was an acknowledgment, patent to all, of his inability to execute his threat. Neither his reputation nor his power was benefited by the senseless and cruel outrages which he committed on the defenceless towns and inhabitants along his line of retreat. The following year Topatao was murdered by some dissatisfied courtiers, and the state of Wei was for several years entirely occupied with its own internal troubles, and forgot to prosecute those foreign enterprises which had once been its principal object.
Wenti's own life was also drawing to a close. His son Lieouchao had formed a party hostile to his father at court, and in A.D. 453 he attacked Wenti in his palace, and slew him with his own hand according to some, or, according to the majority, caused him to be slain before his eyes. The parricide did not long benefit by this deed of blood. Defeated on the field of battle by his brother Lieousiun, he was unable to make good his escape. Lieousiun caused him to be executed with his family, and ascended the throne as the Emperor Vouti. Wenti was only thirty-five years of age when he was murdered, during twenty of which he had been the ostensible ruler of China.
THE DEPOSED. 151
After the termination of the troubles caused by the violence of Lieouchao the Empire was at peace, and the government of Wei, occupied with its own affairs, showed no disposition to interfere with its neighbour. Among the men who had been most instrumental in putting Vouti on the throne was Licoutan, a member of the Song family, and for several years there were cordial relations between the two; but at last Vouti saw in this young prince, whose great qualities had endeared him to the people, a possible rival, and one who had grown too powerful to be an obedient subject . He, therefore, dismissed him from the court, appointing him to a distant governorship; but Lieoutan was not the man to tamely submit to the slight offered him. He attempted to form a party in the state hostile to the Emperor, and might have succeeded had he been allowed time to complete his arrangements. An army of observation had been sent after him, and at the first sign of an intention to revolt he was attacked and overwhelmed. The defeat and death of Lieoutan secured peace for Vouti's last years. Being an excellent horseman and archer, he gave himself up to the indulgence of his taste for the chase, neglecting, it is to be feared, the important duties of his elevated position. He was also given to excessive eating and drinking, which brought on an attack of apoplexy. He died, after a reign of eleven years, at the early age of thirty-five, leaving to his descendants the troubles of which his own conduct had sown the seeds.
Lieoutsenie, known in history as the Emperor Fiti, or the deposed, succeeded his father at the age of sixteen. Although he reigned less than one year, he gave abundant cause for his brief reign to be remembered in Chinese annals. He began by a wholesale massacre of innocent persons, and throughout his life a minister had only to fall under his suspicions to be sentenced to death. By so reckless and untamed a savage no people in the world, and least of all the Chinese, would long submit to be governed. The enumeration of the atrocities he committed would cause a thrill of horror, but they met with their just requital before his career of infamy had more than commenced. He was murdered by one of the