« AnteriorContinua »
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.
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
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 A DESPERATE STRUGGLE.
the stern game of war he preferred the spectacle, for the camp the luxury and pleasant ease of the palace.
If their leader was forgetful of his former prowess, the fierce soldiers who followed his banner did not rest satisfied with what had been achieved. They panted for fresh triumphs, and thought the tranquillity of the life of citizens but a poor exchange for the excitement of the soldier's career. When some of his old energy returned to him, his soldiers were disaffected, and several of his rivals were preparing for a fresh outbreak in the struggle for power. It is probable that he would have triumphed over his difficulties even at this late stage, but that a desperate party among his soldiers resolved to precipitate the crisis. It was while he was in his palace at Loyang, whither he had led his army for the purpose of meeting one of his opponents, that the bad feeling among his soldiers broke out in a flame. The news was suddenly brought to him that a party of conspirators was forcing the gates. Buckling on his armour, he placed himself at the head of his immediate attendants, and hastened to defend the entrance, at the same time sending an order for the immediate despatch of his cavalry from outside the town. Its commander refused to obey, and Chwangtsong was left to his fate. No record has been preserved of that stubborn fight at the gate of the palace of Loyang, but we may safely imagine that it was worthy of the earlier reputation of Litsun-hiu. Deserted by his oldest officers he fought on with a mere handful of men, checking the rush of the hundreds of his assailants. The result remained doubtful, until an arrow struck the Emperor in the head, when he was carried into the interior of the palace by a faithful follower. The Empress sent him a cup of sour milk, which was no doubt poisoned, as Chwangtsong died immediately after taking it. Chwangtsong was only thirty-five years of age when this event occurred, and there cannot be a difference of opinion that a remarkable career was thus cut short. His old adversary, Yeliu Apaoki, the Khitan king, expressed great grief at his death. He himself died the same year, and was succeeded by his son.
Troubles broke out in several directions, and might have assumed grave proportions but that Lisseyuen, Chwangtsong's adopted brother and best general, took steps to remove them. He executed such of the rebels as he could seize, and banished the Empress, who was more than suspected of having poisoned her husband, and who was discovered in the act of plundering the palace. But he refused the dignity of Emperor which they wished to confer upon him, and while the troubles continued he styled himself simply Governor of the realm. Having restored some appearance of order, he retracted his refusal, and mounted the throne under the title of Mingtsong (A.D. 926).
During the ten years of his tenure of power Mingtsong was continually engaged in wars with either domestic or foreign enemies, but he managed to find time for the promotion of science and the encouragement of men of learning. The great art of printing was first discovered and turned to practical use during his reign, more than five centuries before Caxton and the printing presses of Germany.* His principal successes had been obtained over the Khitans, who were the most troublesome of neighbours, but their losses were so severe that they were fain to accept the terms accorded them. Mingtsong showed a desire to propitiate them by releasing several of their officers whom he had made prisoners, although he was warned that the knowledge they had acquired in China would be turned against himself. Mingtsong thought the risk on this account preferable to a perpetuation of the hostile feelings between the peoples.
In A.D. 933 he fell dangerously ill, and troubles arose in his own family on the question of the succession. One son absolutely appeared in arms in the palace, and Mingtsong was constrained to order summary steps to be taken for his punishment. Distressed at this act, Mingtsong's malady assumed an intensified form, and he died very shortly afterwards, leaving behind him the reputation of a wise and peace-loving prince.
* The exact date of the first printing press, in which wooden blocks were used, is uncertain; but it was probably about this period that it was first generally employed. The celebrated publication commonly called the Pekin Gazette, was nearly two centuries older, as it certainly existed in the reign of the enlightened Mingti of the Tangs (A.D. 713-756).