Imatges de pàgina


with the stoicism of the philosopher concealing the chagrin of the new-comer, remarked, "Is it not from Heaven, and not from court notables, that I have received the crown? What reason, then, induced this miserable personage to commit suicide?" Loyalty to an old race or an expiring cause is in most cases unintelligible to the reformer who imports and represents the ideas of the new era.

The main interest of this period continues to centre in the fortunes of Wei rulers. This great northern state was immeasurably superior to that which held together round the Imperial authority at Kienkang (Nankin), and even when broken up into two divisions, each of the fragments was more vigorous than the united realm of the Leang rulers. Yet at the time when the Leangs were first established on the throne the causes which brought ruin to the Tartar family of the Topas or Yens were already in operation. It was not, however, until after the close of Vouti's first war that they revealed themselves in even a partial degree. Throughout Vouti's long reign, the ruler of Wei was practically the arbiter of China's destiny. It was to his court that foreign embassies went, and he regulated the relations with the Tartar and other tribes from Corea to Tibet .

In A.D. 503 the first collision in the long wars, which extended over nearly half a century, occurred between the troops of Wei and those of the new Emperor. In this, as in most cases afterwards, the successes were obtained by the former, although on one occasion the governor of one of Vouti-s cities had the courage to leave the gates of his fort open in order to restore confidence by showing how little he feared the foe. But this was the sole exception to the otherwise unchequered good fortune of the great Northern Power. The campaign of the following year was chiefly remarkable for the brave defence of a strong place by the wife of its commandant. Chouyang had been entrusted to the charge of Ginching, one of the most skilful lieutenants of the Wei ruler; but during the temporary absence of that officer with a portion of the garrison, Vouti-s generals, learning that Chouyang was denuded of many of its defenders, seized the favourable opportunity and appeared before the walls at the head of a large armySo rapid were their movements that they succeeded in carrying all the outer defences without a blow. At this stage, when the place was almost in their grasp, Mongchi, the wife of Ginching, appeared upon the ramparts, and restored the sinking courage of the garrison. The progress of the Wei troops was checked, and Mongchi made all the necessary preparations for undergoing a siege in form. The inhabitants were armed and the defences of the gate strengthened, and by promise of reward as well as by the inspiration of her presence, Mongchi imbued every man in the garrison with her own resolute spirit. Her fortitude was duly rewarded by the sight of the withdrawal of the baffled army under the Imperial generals. Her husband Ginching had in the meanwhile won a great victory in the field, but had been compelled to abandon the siege of Chongli in consequence of the flooding of his camp by the overflow of the river Hoaiho. Elsewhere, too, the Wei generals were equally successful, and the campaign closed for the year with unrelieved disaster for the arms of Vouti.

During the ensuing winter internal troubles threatened a disruption of the Wei state, and it appeared doubly necessary for its prince to maintain his reputation by a successful foreign war. In the spring his troops resumed hostilities with the Imperialists, and in the numerous encounters which took place more than fifty thousand men were computed to be slain on the side of the latter. Vouti's generals lost all heart, and feared to come out of their positions. Their opponents composed in doggrel rhyme * a challenge, taunting them with being afraid to cross swords with them; but neither the sneers of the foe nor the desperate nature of their position could induce them to issue from their entrenchments and assume the offensive. The Imperialists were glad

* This challenge was: "They took the head of a dead person and decked it out in a widow's cap, and carried it round the camp chanting the following ditty : ' Neither the young Siao (Siaohong, the Imperial general) nor the old Liu (Liu Singchin, a minister) is to be feared; no other was formidable, save the tiger of Hofei (Weijoui, the only successful Imperial general).'"—" Mailla," vol. v. p. 225.


to make their escape during the night by availing themselves of a heavy fall of rain.

In A.D. 507 the struggle was renewed with increased fury. V-outi put an army of two hundred thousand men in the field, and entrusted the command to Weijoui, the only one of his generals with any name for success. Yuenyng, the Wei general, began operations by laying close siege to Chongli, which two years before had thwarted the efforts of Ginching. Chongli was a strong place, well fortified according to the ideas of those days, and protected on two sides by the Hoaiho. When Yuenyng sat down before it with an army of three hundred thousand men it was not considered probable that it could stand a long siege, and in order to precipitate its fall Yuenyng sent a portion of his army across the Hoaiho and surrounded it on all sides. The garrison held out bravely, and foiled the desperate attempts made to storm the place; and meanwhile Weijoui was approaching with rapid strides. Yuenyng began to entertain doubts of the result, but he trusted to the bridges he had thrown across the Hoaiho to enable him to come to the assistance of the corps south of the river, should Weijoui attempt to overwhelm it . So he still clung to his lines when the relieving force was announced to be close at hand.

Weijoui had taken in the situation at a glance. He saw the fatal weakness in the long line of circumvallation of his over-confident opponent, and that it was only necessary to destroy the bridges to entail the practical destruction of his force. He accordingly collected vessels, which he filled with combustibles, and sent them during the night up the river with the tide against the bridges upon which the safety of Yocnyng's army depended. The result answered his most sanguine expectations. The morning found the Wei army divided into two portions without any means of communication between them, and the southern division in the power of the overwhelmingly superior army of Weijoui. The Inperial army assaulted the lines with the greatest eagerness, and the whole of the southern division of the Wei army was either put to the sword or drowned in the waters of the Hoaiho. Weijoui and his lieutenant, Tsaokingsong, followed up this brilliant feat by attacking the portion north of the river, and after a stubbornly contested battle, succeeded in driving it from the field. More than two hundred thousand men perished, and their standards and baggage became the spoil of the conqueror. This brilliant victory compensated for several years of disastrous warfare, and checked the successful career of the ambitious Prince of Wei. The credit for this triumph was due exclusively to Weijoui, who showed great skill and a profound knowledge of the art of war. Had Vouti followed his advice in other matters, the character of his reign might have been raised, and he might have given solidity to his rule.

Although implored by his general to follow up this advantage, Vouti determined to refrain from further action, and to rest upon his laurels. In order to obtain time for his religious devotions, Vouti refused to avail himself of the golden opportunity for advancing his own interests. Having shattered the military power of his chief adversary, he called off his troops, and permitted him to recover from a shock which, had it been followed up, would have been attended with fatal consequences. Several years of peace ensued after the battle of Chongli, and during these Vouti devoted some attention to the education and internal government of his subjects. At this period a statement showing the number of towns over which he ruled was published, and, according to this, there were twenty-three towns of the first rank, three hundred and fifty of the second, and one thousand and twenty-two of the third within his dominions.

At this time it is stated that Vouti distributed rewards among his generals, who had gained fresh laurels in a war with a rebel force, and endeavoured to promote the welfare of his people by studying their wants, and by mitigating the code of punishment in use. This may be considered the brightest period in Vouti's long reign, the time when he had not yet become the slave of a superstition, which was as violent in its expression and as ineradicable in its nature as that of Philip of Spain*

* Like Charles V., Vouti retired to a monastery of Buddhists, and A HEROINE. 161

Meanwhile, the internal affairs of the Wei kingdom had not been very tranquil or prosperous. Yuenkio had been succeeded in A.d. 515 by his son Yuenhiu as king of Wei; but the reality of power was held by his wife Houchi, an ambitious woman of considerable capacity. In a short time she went the length of absolutely setting her husband aside, and of ruling herself, in the name of an infant son. Houchi was an ardent devotee of Buddhism, and the new sect under her protection speedily regained the ground it had lost during the persecution of Topasse. One of her first acts was to declare war upon Vouti ; but the result did not answer her expectations. Her principal army was defeated; and, had it not been for the brave defence of Tsetong by Lieouchi, the wife of the commandant, the war would have been marked by nothing but disaster. When the Imperialists appeared before the place, Lieouchi put herself at the head of the troops, and made all the preparations for defending it to the last extremity. After the siege had continued for some days, she discovered that one of her lieutenants was playing the traitor. She invited him to a general council of her officers, when she accused him of treason. On his admitting the justice of the charge, she severed his head from his body with a blow of her own sword. After this no one in the garrison of Tsetong entertained treasonable correspondence with the besiegers. Lieouchi showed not less judgment than courage in all her measures. Her garrison depended for water on a single well, which the enemy succeeded in cutting off. Lieouchi at once took steps to supply the want by collecting rain water in

bound himself to abide by their practices. When the magnates of the Court came to request him to return to his duties, the priests refused to permit his departure until a large sum of money was paid in the form of a fine. It was proposed to destroy the temple and put its inmates to the sword ; but Vouti peremptorily forbade it, and ordered the payment of the money. Two years after this episode, in A.D. 529, Vouti again went into seclusion for the purpose of acquiring an intimate acquaintance, be said, with the doctrines of Buddha. He shaved off his hair and beard, and remained several days in a cell, and the earnest entreaties of hu ministers barely availed to recall him to a sense of the weakness aad imprudence of his conduct. He again had to pay a heavy fine to escape from the incarceration which he had voluntarily imposed upon himself.


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