Imatges de pàgina
PDF
EPUB

of Taitsong against the aggressor. In Corea, or Kaoli as it was then called, the governing power had about this time been seized by a great noble named Chuen Gaisoowun, who had murdered his sovereign, and when Taitsong's envoy arrived he was treated with contemptuous indifference, and sent back to Changnan without attaining any of the objects of his mission. A large Chinese army was despatched to the frontier and held in readiness to cross it, when Gaisoowun, appalled at the danger which threatened him, sent the required tribute, and promised to abstain from attacking any people under the Emperor's protection. It is evident from other circumstances that Taitsong was more resolved to administer to Gaisoowun a chastisement in accordance with his crimes, than to take him into alliance with the Empire. So it turned out that Gaisoowun's presents were not accepted, and that his envoys were sent back without being granted an audience. Both sides thereupon prepared for the war thus rendered inevitable.

Taitsong himself proceeded to the frontier and assumed the supreme control of the military operations; and Lichitsi was entrusted with the chief command under him. The total force numbered about one hundred thousand regular soldiers, besides auxiliaries, and a flotilla of five hundred vessels cooperated with the main attack from the sea. Taitsong issued a proclamation to the effect that he was coming to punish, not a people, whose interests he claimed to have at heart, but an individual. It was not upon the Coreans that he threatened to bring the plague of war, but simply against the regicide, Gaisoowun.

At first the Imperialists carried everything before them. The towns of Kaimow and Bisha surrendered to them after a show of resistance, and the Coreans saw their line of defence pierced by their more numerous and better prepared enemy. Outside the town of Leaoutung Lichitsi won a very considerable action, defeating a Corean army of forty thousand men, and then laid siege to the place itself. The town, defended by a large garrison, was beleaguered with greater vigour after the arrival of the Emperor, who took an active personal part in the operations. Indeed, it was under his

WAR WITH COREA. 185

immediate supervision that the final assault was conducted, and his own suggestion of firing the gate proved the turningpoint in the day. Under cover of the smoke, the Imperialists forced their way through the breach, and the city was at their mercy. Ten thousand Coreans were slain, and numbers were taken prisoners, while Taitsong admitted a loss of twenty-five thousand men, the flower of his army. Such was the great siege of Leaoutung, the most obstinately contested struggle in which Taitsong had been then engaged. A similar success, purchased at less cost, however, was obtained at Baiyen, and Taitsong, continuing his march, sat down before the walls of Anshu. The crisis of the war was now reached. The main body of the Coreans had long been gathering its strength together, and at this point in the campaign a hundred and fifty thousand men had been collected and sent across the Yaloo river to encounter the Chinese army, which had been reduced to less than fifty thousand men. But Taitsong at once left his position and attacked the Corean army on three sides, driving it from the field with the loss of twenty thousand men, and of a vast quantity of plunder in the shape of spoils of war. Taitsong then turned all his attention to the prosecution of the siege of Anshu, but the garrison resisted with the courage of despair. At one moment it was on the point of surrender, when a successful sortie deprived the Chinese of the advantage they had momentarily gained. After a siege of more than two months, Taitsong found himself compelled, by the want of provisions and the approach of winter, to order a retreat, thus losing the fruits of an arduous campaign, which had, on the whole, been conducted with remarkable success. As the Imperialist army broke up from its quarters, the gallant commandant appeared upon the walls and wished the troops “a pleasant journey.” But even after the failure of his schemes Taitsong was too truly great to indulge any spirit of spite against the people who had so bravely opposed him. Fourteen thousand Coreans remained prisoners in his hands, and he was advised to distribute them as slaves among his soldiers. His heart revolted against the cruelty of treating brave men in this fashion, and he accordingly gave them their liberty, and allotted them

lands within the frontier. Taitsong sent several smaller expeditions against Corea and its defiant Prince Gaisoowun during the last three years of his reign; but, although he meditated renewing his former attack, his life closed without anything having been accomplished towards the punishment of the regicide. The Corean question was left for his successors to grapple with—the one difficulty which had proved more than the power and ability of Taitsong could overcome. Although as a feat of arms the campaign in Corea had been far from inglorious, its untoward conclusion made a great impression on the mind of Taitsong, and after his return he suffered from ill-health and loss of spirit. He saw that his end was approaching, and passed his time in drawing up for the instruction of his son that great work on the art of government which bears the title of the Golden Mirror. His acts were still marked by the clemency and kindly feeling which were his principal characteristics; but it was evident that what he most desired was rest. In A.D. 649, twentythree years after he succeeded his father Kaotsou, his malady assumed a serious form, and the great Emperor disappeared from a scene on which he had played so prominent a part. He was mourned by his subjects with a grief, the sincerity of which cannot be impugned, and several of his generals were so attached to his person that it was with difficulty they were prevented from immolating themselves on his grave. A statue to his memory was placed outside the Northern Gate, or that of the warriors, by fourteen Tartar officers in his service. The envoys from foreign states in the capital put on mourning, and many demonstrated their grief by cutting their hair, or sprinkling the bier of the deceased prince with their blood. Taitsong well deserved these manifestations of his people's love. No ruler of any country has had sounder claims to the title of Great than this Chinese Emperor. His courage, military knowledge, and the genius which is alone given to great captains were of the highest order. He had passed thirty years of his life in the field, and with the exception of the repulse at Anshu had never known the meaning of a reverse. His soldiers, officers and men, loved him and

[ocr errors]

A GREAT RULER, 187

obeyed his slightest bidding, because they found him always studious of their comfort, and willing to incur as great inconvenience and danger as “the meanest peasant in his camp." Yet at the same time he was so far ahead of his age that he endeavoured to mitigate the terrors of war, and on one occasion—ten centuries, be it noted, before Tilly and Pappenheim—ransomed a captured city from his soldiers in order to save its inhabitants from the horrors of a sack. In his administration he legislated for the mass of the people, making his main object the attainment of the following results—the security of life and property, a high state of national prosperity by means of low taxes and the encouraging of commerce, and the spreading of a healthy and enlightened spirit among his subjects by a system of national education. To the end he showed himself as singularly free from the lust of power, as from the love of pomp and idle show. He repressed flatterers, slighted those backbiters who, conscious of their own defects, strive, both then and now, to destroy the merit of others by traducing their worth, and banished from his court the knave, the hypocrite, and the charlatan who had prospered under previous rulers by humouring the human weaknesses of the sovereign. Having given China the blessings of peace and settled government, he appears to have been actuated by the noble desire to bestow upon the neighbouring peoples the benefit of the same advantages, and all his conquests were justified by the motives which led him to undertake them. They were doubly justified by the results that followed. All this and more might be truly said of this great ruler; and it is surely enough to place Taitsong in the same rank as Caesar, and those other great rulers who were not merely soldiers and conquerors, but also legislators and administrators of the first rank. If we candidly consider the civilized and truly Christian spirit of Taitsong it is difficult to find among the great men of the world one with a right to have precedence before him.

CHAPTER XIV.

THE TANG DYNASTY (continued).
Kaotsong to Tetsong.

KAotsong, Taitsong's son and successor, mounted the throne without opposition, and during a reign of more than thirty years he maintained at its height the great Empire formed by his father. In a strict sense this was not due to his own exertions, for early in his reign he gave himself up to the enjoyment of his ease, and entrusted to other hands the task of governing his people. No evil ensued from this abnegation of authority, because it fortunately happened that his representatives proved singularly capable in the administration of public affairs. When Kaotsong had been five years on the throne he resolved to marry the Princess Chang or Wou, one of the widows of his father Taitsong. Princess Wou had retired into a Buddhist convent after the death of her first lord, and Kaotsong encountered the strenuous opposition of his ministers when he announced his intention of bringing her out for the purpose of making her his Empress. Kaotsong was fully determined to have his own way in this matter, and, in A.D. 655, his lawful Empress was deposed to give place to the Princess Wou. Her first acts showed the ascendency she had already acquired over her lover, who soon became a mere tool in the hands of this ambitious woman. Distrusting the influence which the deposed Empress and another of the principal queens might still retain over the mind of Kaotsong, who had allotted these fallen stars apartments in the palace, Wou came to the conclusion

« AnteriorContinua »