Imatges de pàgina


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 <how. 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 T ait song in the same rank as Carsar, 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.


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 thirtyyears 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 THE EMPRESS WOU. 189

that it would be prudent to sweep them from her path while yet Kaotsong's passion was warm. At her command they cast these unhappy women into a vase filled with wine, having previously cut off their hands and feet. As it has been tersely put, the Empress Wou willed it, and Kaotsong could only obey.

The new Empress then turned all her attention to the

thwarting of the plans formed for her overthrow by numerous

enemies. Her son was proclaimed heir-apparent, and those

among the magnates who were either hostile to, or lukewarm in,

her interests were deposed from their positions and cast into

prison, where the steel or the cup very soon freed Wou from

apprehensions on their score. Her next object was to assume

some of the functions of supreme authority. At first she put

herself forward merely as assisting the Emperor in his great

labours, and, being quick in comprehending the questions of

state that were brought before the Council Board, and deft

with her pencil in the cabinet, Kaotsong found her ready wit

of great use in grappling with difficulties for which he was

incapable of suggesting a remedy. Empress Wou showed no

common tact in the skilful manner in which she led the

Emperor on from one concession of authority to another,

until at length Kaotsong virtually retired from the position of

Emperor, preserving indeed the rank, but leaving in his wife's

hands the reality of power. The Empress Wou continued

absolute ruler of the Empire until her death, more than forty

years after the time when Kaotsong resigned his power into

her hands.

While such was the course of events at the capital, there had been much of interest and importance happening on the widely extended frontiers of the Empire. The foreign relations of the country resolved themselves under three heads, those with Tibet, with Corca, and with the Tartar tribes of Central Asia and the north-western frontier. The Sanpou who married the Princess Wencheng died the year after Taitsong, and, during Yaotsong's reign, his grandson was King of Tibet . The relations between the Chinese government and this tributary state were not as satisfactory as they had been in the time of Taitsong. The new Sanpou, a young and warlike prince, carried on several wars with his northern and eastern neighbours who were also dependent on the Chinese. His measures were crowned with success, and the kingdom of Tibet was gradually extending its limits over a wide area, including several districts bordering on the frontier of China Proper. This was very distasteful to the Chinese, who wished all the country to the west of their territory to remain parcelled out among petty potentates, who should always be in a state of greater or less importance, and as often as possible knit by a common tie to the Chinese Emperor. The successes and warlike character of the Tibetan ruler threatened this state of things ; and a correspondence of a recriminatory character was carried on between the Singan authorities and the Sanpou of Tibet. In A.D. 670 the dispute reached such a pass that a Chinese army was sent to inflict chastisement on the ambitious ruler who was fast uniting the Himalayan regions under his sway, but it fared badly at the hands of the mountaineers. Defeated in two battles on the Shensi frontier, Kaotsong's general was compelled to beat a hasty retreat into Szchuen. A truce appears to have been then arranged, for a Tibetan envoy is found the following year at Singan, whither he had brought presents or tribute from his master.

The truce proved short-lived. Encouraged, no doubt, by his success, the Sanpou resumed with greater vigour than before his inroads into the neighbouring states. In A.D. 678 a large army, computed to exceed one hundred and fifty thousand men, was directed to invade Tibet, but again the Tibetans were victorious. Only the relics of one division of this great force succeeded in regaining China, while the second had to fight its way back, making good its retreat by its own valour. After this reverse, the Chinese were only able to guard the frontier, and had to leave the Tibetans to their own devices. The Tibetans were repulsed in several attacks on the frontier posts, and the death of their ruler, who was succeeded by a child, predisposed them still more strongly in favour of peace.

The Imperial arms had been attended with better fortune in the direction of Corea, where the task left unfinished by CONQUEST OF COREA. 191

Taitsong was completed by the generals of his son. In A.d. 658, and again in A.d. 660, the Chinese won several battles over the Coreans, and an expedition sent by sea in the latter year effected the conquest of Baiji, the eastern portion of the peninsula. During the ten following years the Chinese carried on a bitter struggle with the inhabitants of Baiji and the patriotic King of Kaoli, who called in the Japanese to his assistance. The Empress Wou threw all her energy into the struggle, and fitting out fleets and fresh armies, concentrated the whole strength of the Empire in overcoming the opposition of the Coreans. The allied forces of the Japanese and the Coreans were defeated in four separate encounters, and the fleet in which the Japanese had crossed the sea was almost totally destroyed. The flames of four hundred of the best war junks of Ycddo lit up the Northern Sea, and it is doubtful if any of the expedition returned to Japan to tell the tale of their defeat. In A.D. 674 the King of Sinlo, having shown great pusillanimity in assisting the Chinese, who came as his allies, was deposed, and his territory was incorporated with the Empire; and from this time for a period of nearly sixty years little is heard of Corea. It remained a Chinese possession, and its people, not forgetting the tradition of their freedom, set themselves to the task of recovering the material prosperity which had been lost during a century of desperate strife. The Chinese government had accomplished its purpose at immense sacrifice, and it may be doubted whether it derived any adequate advantage from its costly victory.

In Central Asia the Chinese authority was maintained at its full height . Souting Fang obtained several decisive victories over the Turks in Western Asia, and in the commotion caused by the campaigns of the Arabs in the countries of the Oxus and the Jaxartcs, the Chinese Viceroys in Kashgar adopted an observant attitude towards the belligerents. They claimed to be the arbiters of the question, but peace did not result from their arbitration. The ruler of Persia demanded at this period their assistance against the fanatical warriors issuing from Arabia with the Koran in one hand and the scimitar in the other; but Kaotsong was

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