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A PEACE-OFFERING. 207
to which they aspired. Their successes at first surpassed their utmost hopes. The forces of the government were driven from the field, the Emperor had to abandon the capital, and seventy princes of the Tang family were executed to show with what object these subjects had appeared in arms. Chutse, the principal of the insurgent chiefs, took all the steps he considered necessary to place himself on the throne, and assumed all the pomp of royalty. But while he was engaged in the pleasant occupation of regulating the affairs of his own palace, the people were rallying to the side of Tetsong. A proclamation, containing at once a confession of faults and a promise of better government in the future, had been issued in his name, and all those who had taken up arms against their sovereign were promised pardon and forgiveness. It was not without a touch of dignity that Tetsong excluded from the royal clemency Chutse, the principal of all his foes, as the man who had murdered so many of his family, and who had desecrated the temples of his ancestors.
The effect of this proclamation was so great that Chutse found himself deserted by the bulk of his supporters, and although he showed valour in the field, he was compelled to seek safety by flight in the direction of Tibet . On the approach of a body of cavalry sent in pursuit, his officers slew him, and sent his head as a peace-offering to the Emperor. Tetsong evinced fresh wisdom in again issuing a general amnesty, and the rebels returned to their homes. Several victories obtained over the Tibetans in A.D. 791-2 added to the returning sense of security, and ten years later this success was repeated against the same foe.
A great many civil wars, and frequent disasters received at the hands of foreign foes, had marked the history of the Tangs for a long period. The benefits originally conferred by its earlier princes were beginning to be lost sight of, and the later rulers seemed to have forgotten the greatness of the mission with which they were entrusted. There could not be much doubt that the continuance of this state of things would be followed by the collapse of the dynasty. Well might the contemporaries of Tetsong declare that the glory of the Tangs had departed, and that it was only a question of a few years when the unworthy descendants of the great Taitsong should take their departure from the scene of history. Already had the eunuchs appeared in the palace, influencing the hand which guided the bark of state, and flooding the public service with their nominees; and with their advent to power the days of the existing administration were numbered. Corruption in the service, distrust and rivalry in the cabinet and at the council board, were not less fatal to the well-being of the state than the timidity in action and irresolution in thought which characterized the acts of these beings, who possessed all the greed of power and of wealth without the capacity of turning them to their legitimate and honourable uses. In the year A.D. 800 Tetsong proclaimed that there were no longer any openly declared rebels, and that the country was pacified; but the canker was eating at the core, for the eunuchs made all state appointments, even to the generals in the field and the governors in the provinces.
Tetsong died in the year A.D. 805, and his son Chuntsong succeeded him. Of this young prince the most favourable prognostications were made, but his ill-health and an incurable disease rendered his tenure of the throne of the shortest duration. He abdicated the same year as that of his accession to power.
It must not be supposed that, because the decline of the Tangs is dated from the accession of Hientsong, the son and successor of Chuntsong, he was in any degree worse than the princes who had immediately preceded him. The fact is that when he came to the throne the shortcomings of the race were commencing to bear fruit in a general complication of difficulties, and the public mind was beginning to grasp the notion that it might be necessary to replace the Tangs with another line of rulers. The reign of Hientsong offers, therefore, an appropriate starting-point in the description of the rapid decline and fall of the great family which had united China and restored its ancient splendour.
The state of the administration had been reduced to such a low pass by the irregularities of the eunuchs that the new Emperor found himself compelled to adopt a more circumspect line of conduct than was either politic or in accordance with his own wishes. The one element of strength in his government consisted in the attention which his chief general Weikiao paid to the interests of the army. The pay and the pensions to the widows and children of those who had fallen in the service of the country were always forthcoming, no nutter to what straits the exchequer might be reduced; and this prudent conduct ensured a stability to the Emperor's authority far in excess of its actual hold on either the affection or the respect of the people. The very first year of his reign witnessed an opportunity for showing how invaluable vtiil was the possession of the strongest military force in the VOI.. L P
country. Lieoupi, a refractory governor in the province of Szchuen, had exceeded the limits of the license necessarily accorded to the viceroys during a period when the Emperor felt very uncertain about the security of his own position. At first Hientsong had striven to keep him within the bounds of good humour by overlooking certain acts in his conduct which he might fairly have condemned, but the condescension of the Emperor only increased the arrogance of the rebellious subject. An army was then sent into Szchuen, and Lieoupi's ambition was summarily cut short. The wisdom of the general sent against him produced a great impression in that province, which again became firmly attached to the Empire.
Several insurrections on a small scale occurred to attract the attention and excite the anxiety of the government; but none of these, with the exception of that of Lissetao, were of sufficient importance to call for comment. This chief set up the standard of revolt in Shantung, where he maintained the semblance of independent authority for some time. Against him in due time an army was sent, and such was its reputation that Lissetao's followers refused to oppose it. Lissetao was taken from his palace to the public square, where he and his two sons were executed as rebels. Successful over the domestic enemy, the Imperialists were not less fortunate against the foreign foes they had to encounter in the Tibetans. The successful defence of the city of Yenchow against a numerous host of those persistent enemies of the Chinese is celebrated in the annals of the period, and their withdrawal, after a relieving force had made a demonstration on their line of retreat, crowned the results of the campaign.
Hientsong may be considered to have been a well-meaning prince of moderate abilities. His partiality for Buddhism was his predominant fault, and in the eunuchs he was too much disposed to see an injured caste. These latter obtained a strong hold over his conduct, and although often warned against these insidious advisers he never profited by the remonstrances frequently addressed to him. On several occasions he even interfered to protect them. Hientsong was also addicted to the superstitious practices then in vogue, and believed in the possibility of extending life to an WINE OF IMMORTALITY. 211
exceptional degree by drinking the elixirs prepared by the quack doctors of the age. On one occasion he suffered from having taken an overdose of the " wine of immortality," and in his exasperation he ordered many of the eunuchs to be executed. He spared a sufficient number, however, to leave avengers for their slaughtered comrades, and, persisting in his potations of the elixir, he found the only immortality in the poison which had been introduced into his draught by the eunuch Chin Hongtsi. This event took place in A.D. 820, when Hientsong had occupied the throne during fifteen years.
His son Moutsong succeeded him, but his indifference to the duties of his post was not concealed from the first day of his assumption of power. The neglect which he showed in taking steps for the detection and punishment of his father's murderers augured ill for the character of his reign ; and his heedless manner, when remonstrated with, created a still more unfavourable impression. The etiquette of the court ordained that, for a deceased ruler, there should be mourning during three years, a regulation which was no doubt only religiously carried out in the case of some prince who had peculiarly distinguished himself. But within a few weeks of his father's murder Moutsong gave a fete on a large scale—an outrage on the ordinary decencies of life. His subjects could without difficulty infer from this conduct the character of their new ruler, and his later acts did not cause them to change their original opinion.
The only event of any importance of the reign was the conclusion of a "sworn peace" with Tibet in the year A.D. 821. The Sanpou of that day sent a special envoy to Singan to propose that by each country " weapons shall be put by." A treaty of peace was concluded on this basis, and proclaimed with every formality, and although small incursions continued to take place, now on one side, now on the other, for some years afterwards, the long struggle between the Tibetans and the Chinese then virtually reached its close. There was a feeling of respect on both sides; and when the intercourse was resumed at a later period, the government of Tibet remembered only the ties which bound it to China, and not the long and sanguinary wars of these two centuries.