Imatges de pàgina

eunuchs of the palace, and his uncle Mingti was appointed ruler in his stead.

Mingti was scarcely less of a barbarian that Fiti. One of his first acts was to murder fourteen of the sons of his brother Vouti, because he feared they might prove formidable rivals to his own branch of the family. But as he had no sons he adopted a child and put it forward as the heir-apparent. In China, where the right of adoption has never been recognized as in India, these supposititious princes have always been regarded with secret disfavour, and the public mind has ever been prone to expect no good from them. In order to give solidity to this scheme of leaving the crown to this boy, Mingti followed up the murder of his nephews by the execution of his brothers, and it is recorded that the inclination to crime left him only with life. He died in the year A.D. 472, and his loss was not lamented by the people.

His adopted son Lieouyu then became Emperor, under the name of Gou Wang, or Fiti the Second. He was not less wicked than either of his immediate predecessors, and his youth placed no restraint upon his criminal propensities. After four years he was murdered by order of Siaotaoching, a general of ability and reputation, and the founder of the next dynasty. Although requested to take the throne, Siaotaoching, whose plans were not ripe, ostentatiously refused, thus protesting the purity of his motives and his disinterestedness.

Lieou Chun, or Chunti, a third adopted son of Mingti, was placed on the throne by Siaotaoching, but in two years he was deposed. After his abdication, Siaotaoching consented to become the Emperor Kaoti, of the Tsi dynasty ; but apprehensive of danger from Chunti in the future, he completed his crimes by adding the murder of this child to that of the boy Fiti.

The history of the Tsi dynasty affords neither a more glorious nor a more interesting subject than that of the Songs. During the four years that Kaoti held possession of the throne not much progress was made towards that regeneration of the Empire which had been put so prominently forward in the programme of each military adventurer and aspiring ruler. INTERMARRIAGES. 153

It is said of Kaoti that he was more favourably known after his accession for the support he accorded to science than for his military exploits. Beyond the sentiment that, if he were spared to rule the country for ten years, he would make gold as common as earth, history has preserved no record of his achievements as a domestic legislator or as a patron of the fine arts. In this, too, it will be seen that the future was scanned by the excellence of the intentions rather than on the basis of accomplished fact. A lingering war ensued with the King of Wei, and the successful defence of the towns of Chowyang and Kiuchan left the advantage in the hands of the generals of Kaoti. At the most favourable view this was, however, little more than a drawn contest. The Wei troops were foiled in their attempt, but Kaoti dared not follow them into their own territory. The eulogium on the character of Kaoti, who died in A.D. 482, reads exaggerated by the light of what he did, and by the insignificant display made by his successors.

His son Siaotse became the Emperor Vouti, the second ruler of the Tsi family. At this time the boast was made that China had the good fortune to be divided among princes who thought only of the welfare of their subjects. The native panegyrist must have referred to a very brief period, although there is no doubt that the division of the Empire had been followed by less serious consequences than might have been expected. The war with Wei broke out again during this reign, and continued to rage at fitful intervals; but on the whole the Tsis did not get the worst of the struggle. That it was not through their merit may be perceived from the fact that under this prince, the most respectable of the Tsis, it was publicly proclaimed that they had attained supreme power "not by merit, but by force," and that a dynasty based on that principle could not long maintain the position it had wrongfully acquired. One of the most notable acts of Vouti's reign was to prohibit marriage between families of the same name. This was the revival of an ancient law to that effect, framed no doubt at a time when the intermarriage of bloodrelations had been attended with pernicious consequences. It is probable that a similar evil had arisen in this age through the falling-off in the population of the districts which preserved the closest resemblance to the old system.

Vouti died in A.D. 493, and his infant grandson Siaochao succeeded him for a short time. In the following year he was murdered by Siaolun, brother of Kaoti, the founder of the dynasty, and having paved the way to power by further atrocities Siaolun threw aside all hesitation, and ascended the throne under the name of Mingti. On the throne Mingti showed no transcendent ability, and, although his reign witnessed another abortive attempt on the part of the Wei ruler to extend his kingdom, the Tsis could not compare for power or for the enlightenment of their policy with their northern neighbours. About this time the Weis changed their capital from Pingching to Loyang, and their family name from Topa (Lord of the Earth) to Yen (Yellow), of whom more will be heard at a later period. Mingti's last years witnessed a revival of the cruel acts by which he had won his way to power, so that when he died, in A.D. 498, it was felt that there was more cause for rejoicing than for grief. His assassination of the general Siao-y, who had done most for the defence of the state against its northern assailants, was the culminating act of his career, and brought about eventually the fall and extirpation of his race.

Of the two last rulers of the Tsis little need be said. Paokwen, Mingti's son, ruled for two years under that name, or as Hwen Hu, and on his deposition and murder his brother Siaopaoyong enjoyed the titular rank of Emperor as Hoti for a few months. Neither possessed any real power, and, as both were mere youths, they could offer only a faint opposition to the astute general, who was urged on to effect their ruin partly by a desire for revenge and partly by the promptings of an insatiable ambition. This general's name was Siaoyen, and his one passion was to exact the most ample vengeance from the ruling family for the wrong done him by the barbarous murder of his brother Siao-y. The success of his operations, the crowds of soldiers who flocked to his banner, the general support accorded him by the people, all encouraged him to proceed to the bitter end with the enterprise he had begun. In the face of this semi-popular movement, WINE NOT GOLD. 155

loyalty to the Tsis became a crime, and the punishment for fifty years of misgovernment and tyranny descended with irresistible force on the persons of two youths, who had hardly assumed the responsibility of government before they found that they and their race were condemned beyond the prospect of reprieve.

The dynasty which had, as we were significantly reminded, established itself by force and not by merit, reached the close of its brief career in the murder of Hoti in the year A.D. 502. They sent that unfortunate prince, whose life had been spared, a quantity of gold, and the irony of the present brought his altered circumstances home to him. "What need have I of gold after my death?" said he, "a few glasses of wine would be more valuable." So they brought him what he asked, bottles of the strong wine of the country, and he drank himself into a stupor, when he was strangled with the silken cord of his robe—an end not inappropriate for the last of a race which had shut its eyes to the necessities of the people, and which had always sought the shortest road to unscrupulous and uncontrolled authority.



The Leang; the Chin; and the Squi.

SlAOYEN was a cadet of the reigning family of Tsi, but, aspiring to mark out a distinct track for himself in history, he took the dynastic name of Leang, of which he was the founder, and the personal style of Vouti. He experienced no great difficulty in overcoming the opposition of several disappointed rivals, and his wise moderation disarmed the enmity of many who stood on the verge of pronounced hostility. Vouti then devoted most of his attention to the administration of public affairs rather than to the possibility of extending his authority over the neighbouring states. His action was not, perhaps, marked by as much prudence and knowledge of the world as might have been expected from one who had risen to a lofty eminence by his own talents. His abolition of capital punishment was attended, as may well be believed, by a great increase in the amount of crime, and Vouti was soon obliged to suspend his well-meant but very injudicious experiment . This and other steps tending in a similar direction were probably taken with the view of making his person popular, and although condemned by the Tribunal of History, they may have had the desired effect. Unsatisfactory and inglorious as the rule of the Tsis had been, there were still those who remembered the fallen House with regret. One minister, sooner than eat the bread of the new Emperor, starved himself to death, whereupon Vouti

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