Imatges de pàgina


During the remaining years of Taitsong's reign the Tartars carried on incessant hostilities with the Chinese, inflicting immense loss upon the peaceable inhabitants of the border districts. They turned also upon the Coreans, who had made some show of combining with the Emperor, but who now averted the penalty by making an abject surrender to their formidable neighbours. The ill success of this foreign war was, no doubt, a strong inducement to many within the realm to put forward their complaints, and to air grievances which were more imaginary than real. "A man of the people" came forward in Szchuen as the redresser of public wrongs, and gave the authorities considerable trouble for many years. Taitsong was compelled to largely increase the garrison, and to carry on regular warfare in the mountainous districts of that province before the strong arm of the law was fully reasserted. Having clearly shown that violence and the breach of civil rights are not the way to obtain fresh privileges, Taitsong took steps to provide a remedy for the small grievance of which an ambitious and self-seeking agitator had sought to avail himself for the advancement of his own interests.

No glimmer of success in the war with the Tartars lit up the last years of the reign of Taitsong. They were still victorious and defiant, when his last illness seized this able ruler, who had governed China during twenty-two years with wisdom and moderation. The failure of his wars with the Tartars must, we think, be attributed to the exceptional ability of the Tartar Yeliu Hiuco, who vanquished every opponent he was called upon to meet. But Taitsongs reverses in the wars with the Tartars cannot blot out his success in Pehan, and the skill he showed in maintaining peace within the limits of his wide-strctching dominions. Like the modern strategist, he sought to direct the movements of a campaign from his palace, and on several occasions it would appear that his arms suffered a reverse because his generals had not adhered to his instructions. It is, however, as a wise administrator, and as a prince anxious to promote the best interests of his people, that he most deserves to be remembered.

Chintsong, Taitsong's third son, succeeded him; and the surrender of a rebel who had availed himself of Hiuco's victories to revive the pretensions of the Hans, afforded a favourable promise of a peaceful and satisfactory reign. But certainly a more important event was the death of Hiuco, to whom the Chinese historians ungrudgingly allow the foremost place among the generals of the age. When the long-standing quarrel between the two neighbours again came to the arbitrament of arms, the loss of this wise commander was regretted, and felt as much by his people as it was rejoiced in by the Chinese. The Tartars were the first to resume hostilities, but when they did so it was with such little skill that they were repulsed without difficulty by one of the border governors. Chintsong proceeded in person to the frontier with a large army, and on his approach the Tartars thought it prudent to retire.

His attention was then called away to Szchuen, where the late insurrection had broken out afresh, principally through the mistakes made by the officials left in charge of the province by Taitsong. This disturbance entailed further bloodshed, and the inhabitants had suffered much from the horrors of civil war before Chintsong succeeded in re-establishing order in this vast dependency. Having restored internal tranquillity, all Chintsong's thoughts turned on peace, and he set himself the task of reforming the administration in which great changes had been rendered necessary by the indiscriminate appointment of incompetent individuals to the ranks of the mandarins, or salaried officials. In one day he is said to have either suspended or removed from their posts one hundred and ninety-six thousand of these servants of the State!

But the Tartars of Leaoutung were not disposed to leave undisturbed so easy a prey as they had found the Chinese border provinces to be, and their incursions became daily more daring and more successful. So discouraged were the Chinese generals by their long ill fortune that they feared to encounter their opponents in the field, and their panic infected the court. In the year A.D. 1004 the Chinese ministers were so far discouraged by the failure of the war with Leaoutung EMPEROR'S PROPER PLACE. 249

that they brought forward in council a proposition for the withdrawal of the court from Pienchow or Kaifong, to either Chentu or Kinling. The chief minister, Kaochun, firmly opposed this view, saying that those who originated it were worthy of death, and that the proper place for the Emperor was at the head of his army in the field. Chintsong, who appears to have been of a mild and vacillating character, was won over to the bolder course by the arguments of this minister, but his own timidity represented a permanent obstacle to the carrying-out of a resolute policy. The arguments of Kaochun were always at hand, and in the end carried the day in the struggle going on in Chintsong's mind. The Chinese army crossed the Hoangho in force, with Chintsong at its head. Although the two forces, between whom there was so long a list of previous encounters to decide in favour of one or the other, were now face to face, no action took place. Both sides were disposed to grant a peace without appealing to a conclusive judgment . The Tartars surrendered several towns which they had captured, and the Chinese promised them an annual allowance in silk and money as an indemnity for the expense they had been put to in invading their dominions.

Chintsong had now occupied the throne for seven years, and fhey had been years of war; but during the remaining eighteen years of his life the Empire enjoyed a profound peace, when the wealth and prosperity of the nation developed at a rapid rate. But if the consequences of his love of peace were beneficial in many ways, there was little estimable in the change which came over the character of Chintsong after his return from this expedition. One of his first acts was to disgrace the minister Kaochun, who had done such good service in that war, and to deprive him of his high offices, because it was represented to him by one of that minister's enemies that he had committed a breach of etiquette in concluding a treaty of peace under the walls of a town. In deference to a silly superstition, the Emperor banished from his court the only man capable of giving him prudent and disinterested advice. After this Chintsong's downward course was rapid. He gave himself over to the most childish practices, and became the slave of those persons who flourish on the credulity of mankind. The last fifteen years of his reign afforded the melancholy spectacle of the man who decides the most important events of his life by appealing to a chance of which we cannot possess the key, and by referring to accidents and other fortuitous circumstances which can have nothing whatever to do with the everyday duties and difficulties of life. Chintsong became the bondslave of the spiritualist and fanatic of his time, and some of the Chinese commentators have given his reign a special significance by making it the starting-point in the decline of the original worship of Changti, or the great God of Heaven.

Little need be said of the sottish practices by which Chintsong placed himself on a level with the least respectable of his subjects. He left the council-hall of the noble and the wise to have intercourse with the adventurer and the charlatan, and in the magician's chamber he found greater pleasure than in the fulfilment of the duties of his position as ruler of a great people. This falling-off in his manner of living was accompanied by an inevitable decline in his moral character. When he neglected and turned his back on his duties he took the first downward step in his career, and when he sought to make up for the deficiencies of his conduct by appeals to prodigies and other miraculous tokens as evidence of the manner in which he was fulfilling his public task, he completed the retrogression he had made in the opinion of all honourable men. His death, in A.D. 1022, closed his reign, which in the commencement had given promise of exceptional brilliance; and in a spirit which we may take either as the height of satire or as the expression of affection, they buried with him the books which were said to have fallen from heaven, and which had been the primal cause of the deterioration in his character, and of the consequent stultification of his reign.

The reigns of these three Emperors, Taitsou, Taitsong, and Chintsong, covering a period of rather more than sixty years, or one longer in duration than the tenure of power by the five preceding dynasties, are remarkable in themselves EMPIRE REUNITED. 251

as witnessing the revival of the Emperor's authority, and also what may be called the reunion of the Empire. The wars with the Tartars of Leaoutung were not as successful as they should have been, and the danger from that quarter continued until it assumed larger and graver proportions in the hands of the Kins. With that exception the Sungs were successful on all sides, and they conferred many benefits on the people of China, which they again raised to the rank of a great Power. The surest test of the progress made by the nation in material well-being is afforded in the official census already more than once mentioned. In the year A.D. 1013 Chintsong ascertained that there were among his subjects nearly twentytwo millions of men occupied in agriculture alone, and when it is remembered that these included neither women nor children, nor those employed in other pursuits, it appears to be a moderate estimate to say that the population of the Sung dominions exceeded one hundred millions. This unimpeachable fact is the strongest evidence in favour of the excellence of the administration of the first three Emperors of the Sung family. When Taitsou came to the front he found the reputation of the Empire sunk to the ground, and only the name of China's greatness remained. By restoring its unity he did much towards repairing the folly of previous rulers, and if it was not destined that the Sungs should raise the country to as high a point as it had attained under the great Tsins, Hans, and Tangs, they may certainly claim to have restored to it the blessings—long unknown—of internal peace and good government.

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