Imatges de pàgina
PDF
EPUB

his proclamation he caused him to be assassinated. Thus closed, with the extinction of the race, the career of the illustrious family of the Tangs. It had given twenty Emperors to China during a period of nearly three centuries, and some of these conferred benefits upon the country which endured long beyond the fall of their family. In the great Taitsong" it may boast the greatest ruler, taken all in all, that ever guided the destinies of the Chinese race; and whether we consider the extent of the mission with which it was entrusted, or the manner in which its duties were performed, we can only hesitate before comparing any other reigning House with it. In Chinese history the part played by the Tangs is unique, unless the present reigning dynasty should equal or eclipse it; and, although their fall clearly shows how much the descendants of Kaotsou and Taitsong had forgotten the art of government, the record of their prowess, of their conquests, and of the benefits of their domestic administration yet remains to excite our wonder and admiration. From Cochin China to Tokharistan, from Corea to the Persian frontier, there was not a people or a state which did not regard the Empire of the Tangs as the great military and civilized Power of Asia. India did not escape the influence of the spell, and the impetuous Arabs abstained from insulting the borders of a potentate whom they could not but respect. The tradition of China's power and wealth remained, but the richest legacy left by the early Tangs to those who occupied their seat in after times was that no ruler can be held to be great who is not just, and that, although his first duty is to his own people, his justice is imperfect if it does not also include other peoples and nations besides his own. Taitsong saw and acted upon this truth, thus making it the brightest wreath in the laurels of the Tangs.

* We reluctantly give him precedence over Keen Lung, the fourth of the Manchu rulers, who must, in our opinion, be placed next. Tsin Hwangti, Han Vouti, Kublai Khan, Ming Taitsou or Hongwou, and Kanghi are all worthy of a place immediately following, but close to, these two Emperors.

[ocr errors]

CHAPTER XVI.

FIVE SMALL DYNASTIES.

The Later Leangs, Tangs, Tsins, Hans, and Chows.

It very soon became evident that Taitsou had accepted a task for which he did not possess the necessary strength. His authority was not recognized outside a portion of Shantung and the whole of Honan, while his assumption of the Imperial title had made him an object of hatred to the other governors, who regarded him as a person defrauding them of their lawful right . Several went so far as to call themselves Emperors, and to adopt the ceremony held by custom to accompany that high dignity; but the greatest danger was threatened by Likeyong, who did nothing. His policy was to wait upon the course of events, and not to strike until he saw where the blow might be best delivered. The impetuosity of his son Litsun-hiu urged him to break this prudent resolve, and to adopt the advice that it would be better to strike before Taitsou could consolidate his position.

An alliance between Likeyong and Yeliu Apaoki, a powerful Tartar chieftain in Southern Mongolia, who had subdued many tribes and a large tract of country, threatened Taitsou with a danger which might have proved fatal. Fortunately for him, Yeliu Apaoki, although the first to propose it, was not sincere in his engagement with the Prince of Tsin, and made counter proposals to Taitsou. This double-dealing saved the new Emperor from a grave peril, while it enabled the Khitan Apaoki to consolidate his own power, and some years later to assert his supremacy in the Empire. Encouraged by this diplomatic victory, Taitsou came to the conclusion that his best plan would be to declare war upon the Prince of Tsin without giving him the time for forming fresh alliances. He despatched a force, therefore, to lay siege to the town of Loochow, taken from him only a few years before. This place was gallantly and, in the end, successfully defended against him; but the most interesting event of the year was the death of Likeyong. Litsun-hiu was recognized as his successor, and the struggle for power was resumed with greater vigour and determination than ever.

Litsun-hiu resolved to give lustre to his name by effecting the relief of Loochow, being, as he said, not without a hope that Taitsou might relax some of his attention to the war in consequence of Likeyong's death. This belief proved well founded, and Litsun-hiu effected the relief of this city by winning a brilliant victory over the Imperialist army besieging it. On receiving the disastrous news, Taitsou exclaimed, "Likeyong is not dead; he lives again in his son." The war continued during the remaining years of Taitsou's life. In A.D. 911 Litsun-hiu won another battle on the banks of the Yeho, when he captured the enemy's camp, and a large quantity of his baggage.

This crushing blow produced an effect upon the mind of Taitsou from which he never recovered, and the bitterness of defeat was intensified by the knowledge that he had no one to fight his battles save himself, or to carry on the work which he had barely commenced. On several occasions he showed the old distrust of his most intimate and confidential advisers, few as they were; and to the end he remained isolated and apart from both the desires of the people and the ambitious objects of his own followers. His death was brought about by other causes than those of war and turmoil. His eldest son, whom he had provoked, slew him in a moment of passion, thus cutting short a career which had throughout its whole length been one of confusion and restlessness. The parricide did not long enjoy the fruits of his crime, for a brother, constituting himself the avenger of his sire, attacked FABIAN TACTICS. 225

and slew him in turn. Having accomplished this act of stern justice, he ascended the throne as the Emperor Moti.

Meanwhile Litsun-hiu was pushing his advantages in the north-west. He had turned aside in his career against the Leangs to attack the Prince of Yen, who, after a feeble resistance, was made prisoner, and executed because he had refused to accept the terms previously offered him. Having protected his flank by this movement, Litsun-hiu resumed his operations against the Emperor. Moti put fresh forces in the field, and endeavoured to defend his dominions against the invader. His army was, however, ill able to engage in a serious struggle with the well-trained and hardy troops of the Prince of Tsin; and his general, Liusiun, recognizing this fact, wished to avoid a pitched battle. Moti disapproved of his tactics, and sent him an imperative order to engage the enemy without further delay, anxious, perhaps, that the agony of suspense as to his fate should be speedily removed.

Liusiun's better judgment urged him to continue his Fabian tactics, but his council of war was unanimous in favour of decisive action. The result proved the accuracy of his views, for he was beaten with heavy loss in a pitched battle, by one of Litsun-hiu's lieutenants. This battle was fought in the year A.D. 916, and it would have decided the contest had not Yeliu Apaoki, the Khitan king, entered the dominions of the Prince of Tsin at the head of a large army. He defeated Litsun-hiu's generals in several encounters, and captured some of his strongest cities; but before the close of this campaign the Tartar was compelled to retreat into his own territory. Litsun-hiu, whose attention was momentarily distracted by this incursion, again turned all his strength against Moti.

The winter of the year A.D. 917 was exceptionally severe, and the Hoangho was frozen over in sufficient strength to admit of the passage of an army. The Prince of Tsin crossed it without accident at the head of his infantry and cavalry, and carried by storm the small forts held by the Emperor in this quarter. In the following year he collected the largest army that had yet followed his banner, and proclaimed his intention of seizing the Empire. Moti made VOL. I . Q

strenuous preparations to defend his throne, and placed a large army in the field. But fortune was against him, and not to be propitiated. On the field of Houlieoupi, where twenty thousand of his best troops were slain, his army was routed mainly by the superior skill of Litsun-hiu, who, losing his best general early in the day, headed his men in person. In a second battle he followed up this success, when the result was not less favourable to his side. Making sure of the passage of the Hoangho by the construction of two forts, he advanced towards Moti's capital, driving the remnants of his beaten army before him, and receiving the surrender and congratulations of those who already saw in him their new ruler. His movements were again delayed for a short space by a fresh incursion on the part of the Khitan ruler; but he did not suffer these diversions to turn him from his main object. In A.D. 923 he laid siege to Moti's capital, and that prince, seeing that his ruin was inevitable, ordered one of his officers to put an end to his existence, thus terminating also the brief reign of the Later Leangs, who had only maintained the position seized by Chuwen for the short space of sixteen years. Some months before this event Litsun-hiu had proclaimed a new dynasty, and he gave it the name of the Tang because he declared it to be his ambition to renew the glories of that family. He took the name of Chwangtsong.

Chwangtsong's reign proved of short duration. After overthrowing the Leangs and setting the seal to their ruin by the desecration of their ancestral tombs the new ruler sent an expedition into Szchuen, which he subdued. He gratified his martial tastes by instituting military games and by resorting to a personal display not in accordance with the condition of the state. At the same time he proved to be avaricious, and parted reluctantly with his money for objects of public utility. Chwangtsong proved himself to be rather a splendid barbarian than a wise ruler. His most congenial element was the battlefield, and the camp of armed men. When engaged on any expedition he slept on the bare ground and shared his soldiers' fare; but in his new capital, surrounded by the unknown luxury and wealth of a southern court, his great qualities degenerated like those of Hannibal at Capua. For

« AnteriorContinua »