Imatges de pàgina

The example set by Laoutse was carried out in a still more striking and successful manner by Confucius, whose veneration for the past gave him greater claims upon the goodwill of his countrymen than the strict moral and logical rectitude of the Chinese iconoclast . Devoting himself to the study and observance of the ancient rites, his earnestness, combined with simple eloquence, gathered round him a band of disciples, whose numbers steadily increased with the course of years. But the times were unfavourable for men of peace. The reigning princes were at feud with each other and defiant towards their liege lord; and the petty barons and chiefs in their turn paid but scant attention to the behests of their suzerains. The Duke of Loo was compelled by three turbulent vassals to flee from his estates, and with him went Confucius, who held a small post at his court. On the road we are told of the following incident which afforded the philosopher the opportunity of giving expression to a forcible comment on the condition of the country. A woman was found sitting beside the highway weeping, and on being asked the cause of her grief, replied that a tiger had slain her husband, fatherin-law, and lastly her son. "Why, then, do you not remove to another place?" "Because," she replied, "here there is no oppressive government." The philosopher's comment was to the point. "My children, remember this, oppressive government is fiercer than a tiger." At the court of the Duke of Tse, Confucius was accorded an honourable reception; but this proved of short duration, because he incurred the enmity of the chief minister, who soon turned his master against the new-comer. The Duke brought matters to a conclusion by declaring that he was too old to adopt the doctrines of the philosopher.

Of the later career of Confucius at the courts of Loo, Ting, and other nobles, it is unnecessary to say anything here. Both his teachings and his literary labours exercised little influence on contemporary affairs. A later generation had to come before either were appreciated at their just value. The very basis of his philosophy rested on the respect due from the subject to the Emperor, as the representative of the wisdom of the ancients; and this was extremely distasteful to CONFUCIUS. 23

great personages living in open indifference to that authority, and secretly desirous of substituting their own in'its place. Confucius became, therefore, a wanderer from one court to another; and while he preached an ideal government the rulers of the land were engaged in the pursuit of their own pleasure, regardless alike of the national welfare and of the dictates of the morality which Laoutse and Confucius had denned for them with all the force of intellect, the one as a moral obligation, the other as an article of faith and obedience. Confucius strove repeatedly to induce some of the reigning princes to entrust him with responsible posts in their administrations, and on several occasions he succeeded in obtaining his wish. But it was never for any length of time. He always became the object of the hostility of the courtiers, and his fall generally happened very soon after his rise to power. At last Confucius began to despair of success in finding a ruler after his own heart; and, discouraged by years of disappointment, it was with a presentiment of the coming end that he said, "No intelligent monarch arises, there is not one in the Empire who will make me his master. My time is come to die." That very day the event happened which he had foreseen. Such was the end of the career of Confucius, who, if enthusiastic in his advocacy of a model of government that was probably antiquated, was at least earnest in his desire to promote the interests of his country. His example lived after him, and bore better fruit at a later period than it had borne at any time during his life.'

The reign of Kwang Wang closed in B.C. 606, and his brother Ting Wang became Emperor in his place. At this time a contemporary writer exclaimed that, although the dynasty of the Chows had lost much of its ancient lustre, Heaven had not yet rejected it; but even the court chroniclers were constrained to admit that the events happening in the provinces were of greater interest than those occurring at the capital. Ting Wang desired to assert his authority more vigorously than had been done by any of his immediate predecessors, and commissioned one of his ministers, Prince Chantsc, to visit the capitals of the great nobles and to report to him on the manner in which the feudatories governed their states. The object was laudable, but, destitute of the means to carry any reforms into execution, the Emperor had really sent Chantse on a fool's errand. Two of the chiefs received him with a decent show of honour for his master, and of respect for his mission; but Lingkong, the powerful prince of Chin, refused to put on the semblance of sentiments he did not feel. Instead of proceeding to the frontier, as etiquette required, to meet the delegate of the Emperor, Lingkong remained in his capital. Neither guard of honour nor royal lodging was provided for Chantse, who was left to find his way as best he could to the presence of this indifferent potentate. Chantse on his return reported these things to Ting Wang, and recommended vigorous action; but the latter, naturally of a peaceful disposition, was doubly inclined to peace by the want of power. He concealed whatever resentment he felt; and rather than provoke a contest acquiesced in the insult to his person, and the scarcely veiled repudiation of his authority. This conduct may have borne testimony to the goodness of his heart, but it reflected little credit on his character as a ruler, and in the end this abnegation of the privileges and rights of power led to the ruin of his family.

One event alone gave Ting Wang's authority the semblance of being over a united country, and this was a war with the Tartars of the desert. For this purpose he came to a temporary understanding with the Prince of Tsin, himself engaged in an incessant border struggle with these tribes. A small army, sent by the Emperor, co-operated with the local forces. The Prince of Tsin thought the proper solution of the difficulty was to utilize this military demonstration for the conclusion of an advantageous peace; but to Ting Wang's general. Lieoukangkong, the occasion appeared too favourable to be neglected for obtaining a cheap renown. He refused to follow the sensible advice of his ally, and commenced active hostilities against the Tartars. Inexperienced in the mode of warfare necessary for coping successfully with their irregular forces, Lieoukangkong was defeated with heavy loss, and it would have gone hard with the Imperial army but for the timely succour of the Prince of Tsin and the local levies. This disaster dispelled whatever hopes had been indulged of a CHINA'S LIMITS. 25

permanent peace, and the state of affairs on the extreme frontier resumed its normal condition of an armed truce. The remaining years of Ting Wang's reign were peaceful, and his son Kien Wang succeeded him without opposition (B.C 585).

Like his father, Kien Wang was inclined to peace, and left his vassals to follow their own will both in the administration of their territories and also in the settlement of the difficulties which frequently arose amongst them. In his eyes, the sole duty remaining to the Emperor had become the setting of an example which the misfortunes of his family left him incapable of enforcing. He has been awarded the credit of bearing the weight of the crown with the appearance of dignity which titularly it required. What energy there was left to this scion of an ancient race might have been devoted with profit to practical politics, but it was directed instead to the settlement of domestic questions, and to the exposure or the persecution of two religious schismatics.

At this period China did not extend beyond the great river Yangtse-kiang. The region of the barbarians then included all the provinces lying south of that stream. Several centuries before this period an adventurous Chinese prince had penetrated into this country, and founded in the eastern portion of the province of Kiangnan a kingdom known by the name of Wou. It was not for many years afterwards that this independent state was brought into contact with the rest of the Empire, and then only because a disappointed Chinese noble, Ouchin, took refuge there. Ouchin trained the native soldiers on the Chinese principle, and then inflamed the mind of the king by stories of the weakness of his neighbours. The king turned a ready ear to the promptings of his new counsellor. A campaign ensued with the Prince of Chow, and concluded with the conquest of several districts by the Wou army. The general condition of the country corresponded with this incident, and verged on a state of anarchy.

On the death of Kien Wang (b.c. 571), his son Ling Wang succeeded him; and one of the first events of his reign was a campaign entered upon by the Chow ruler for the reconquest from Wou of the territory he had lost. In this he failed with disaster. Several leagues between the great vassals were then formed for the purpose of restoring tranquillity to the Empire; but the laudable object sufficed only to make the prevailing disunion more palpable. The Prince of Wou, on one of these occasions, was formally admitted to be a member of the Empire. Under the auspices of the Emperor, a general pacification of the realm was agreed to by more than twelve of the great princes; but the hostility, ambition, and indifference of the few who remained recalcitrant more than sufficed to disturb the harmony of the arrangement. The Prince of Wou was the next breaker of the national peace; but while examining a fort, to which he was laying siege during the invasion of a neighbour's territory, he met with his death from the hand of a skilful archer. Soon afterwards (B.C. 545) the Emperor himself died, leaving behind him the remembrance of a man whose amiability of character and private virtues had done much towards retarding the fall, if not towards re-establishing the fortunes, of his dynasty. In the words of his own historian, the epitaph might be inscribed on his monument, " His good qualities merited a happier day."

His son, King Wang the Second, succeeded him as ruler. If he had followed in the footsteps of his sire, he might have had the satisfaction of winning back to their allegiance some of the rebellious vassals whose hearts had been touched by Ling Wang's virtuous life. But King Wang wished to follow his own inclination, unfettered by the sense of having to play a consistent part in the eyes of the world. He neglected the small quantity of official work which he was still required to perform, and, shutting himself up in his palace, never thought to glance abroad, in order to learn what was happening among his neighbours, to whom he was, by his position, an object of dislike and envy the instant he ceased to be protected by their fears and respect . The feuds among his nominal subjects continued to rage with unabated fury; and the chronic warfare in the country produced a corresponding thirst for blood among the aspirants to authority in the different principalities. Assassinations, intrigues, and revolutions became the order of the day; and, if the capital of the country enjoyed an exceptional tranquillity, it was because

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