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DANGEROUS CABALS. 257
under the Sungs. To the same period also belongs the introduction of the influence of the learned into the practical work of the administration. The historians named, and others, including the minister Fang Chung Yen, combined together to carry their views into execution, and as they were united among themselves, their influence was very great, and made itself felt on all important questions. Complaints were made by the courtiers to the Emperor against this body of critics, whose pencils were always ready to denounce measures not approved of by them, and to point out the shortcomings of ministers. At one time Jintsong seemed disposed to discourage, if not to repress, the activity of this body, because "men in the public service should not form a party amongst themselves." Ginyang Sieou, one of the most elegant of Chinese writers, replied to this covert censure in a treatise which has been preserved. The line of argument which he adopted was ingenious, pointing out that the results of their association were good and beneficial for the nation, and that it was not to be confounded "with dangerous cabals formed for an unworthy object." The peace enjoyed during the last twenty years of Jintsong's reign cannot be held to have been turned to an unworthy purpose when we find that the arts and literature were held in such repute, and produced so many illustrious men.
In A.D. 1063, Jintsong died, having occupied the throne during more than thirty years. His virtues were greater and more transparent than his abilities; but, if he failed to perform any striking achievement, or to leave any deep impression in history, he succeeded in the not easy task of gaining the affection of his subjects, and the esteem of those who served under him.
The short reign of his nephew Yntsong, his successor, requires but brief description. Hl-health compelled him at first to resign the reins of government into the hands of the Empress-mother, who proved herself well able to administer public affairs, and when he resumed the discharge of his duties he devoted his time rather to the relaxation of study than to the cares of his office. His principal object was to provide Ssemakwang and other writers with appropriate tasks VOL. I. S
for their talents, and to profit by discussion with them. Had he lived he might have shown that he had turned their counsels to good account, but his death in A.D. 1067, after a reign of four years, cut short his career, and left only the promise of what might have been.
Yntsong's son, Chintsong the Second, succeeded him, and soon showed that in many ways he was disposed to depart from the peaceful policy of his two predecessors. The necessities of the country, which had been long suffering from a scarcity produced by the want of rain, imposed fetters on his inclination, and the advice of his mother further influenced him in adopting the prudent course of running as little risk as possible in foreign expeditions. Meanwhile the army was losing its efficiency through the long period of inaction that had followed the last war, and the country did not possess the services of a general capable of leading a large force in the field. The peaceful inclinations of these rulers produced beneficial results for the time being; but they were in the end to entail dire consequences, and great national misfortunes.
The young monarch became the tool of a clique which endeavoured to compass the disgrace of Hanki, the chief minister of the two preceding rulers, and they succeeded so far in their designs that he felt compelled to resign his office. On the occasion of his retirement, he was asked whether one of his rivals was a proper person to succeed him. He replied, with candour, that he might possibly be of service in the Hanlin College, but that he had not had the necessary experience for the highest office of all. When Hanki was warned of the danger his candour entailed, he made the following noble reply, "A faithful subject ought ever to serve his prince with all the zeal of which he is capable. Good or bad fortune depends on Heaven, and, when we have done what we ought, should fear prevent us from continuing in the path of well-doing?" None the less for the excellent advice of the retiring sage, Chintsong gave the chief post in the ministry to this untried official, whose enactments excited so much discontent among the people, and such opposition in the palace, that they had to be withdrawn. The ascendency which he obtained over the mind of the young monarch was A SOCIAL REFORMER. 259
so great that, although banished from court on several occasions, he was always recalled and entrusted with some fresh office. Wanganchi—such was the name of this clever and unscrupulous minister or charlatan—was one of the most remarkable men who have figured in the history of his country. Although denounced as an impostor, he might, if he had met with better success in his plans, have been handed down to posterity as one of the great Chinese reformers and national benefactors.
Wanganchi is described as a man of great attainments and much original power of thought . He compiled a cyclopaedia, and wrote commentaries on the classical writers; and he did not scruple to imitate the practice of many who came before and after him, and pervert the sense or strain the words of his author to extract a hidden meaning for adding some corroborative evidence in favour of his own views. Like all reformers, he drew a picture in sanguine colours of the consequences that would ensue from his proposals, and his enthusiasm at times carried the whole force of public opinion round to his side. But his schemes were Utopian. "The State," he declared, "should take the entire management of commerce, industry, and agriculture, into its own hands, with the view of succouring the working classes and preventing their being ground to the dust by the rich." During his term of office, these views were carried into execution. The poor were to be exempt from taxation, land was allotted to them, and the seed-corn provided. Every one was to have a sufficiency; there were to be no poor, no over-rich. The masses expected that their chosen minister would confer on them the greatest benefits, and the least discomfort entailed by human existence. China was to rejoice in an ideal happiness, because the people were to possess the main advantages of life which were stated to be plenty and pleasure.
These dreams were rudely dispelled by the reality. Although tribunals were appointed to direct and supervise the operations of the peasant proprietors, and although theoretically—man being assumed to be a perfect machine, unbiassed by passion or sordid motives—the scheme should have proved successful, and should have conferred great benefits on the people, it as a matter of fact produced none of these results, and was an unqualified failure. In Shensi, where it was most extensively put into practice, the cultivated land became greatly reduced in area and impoverished in quality, not merely through the unskilful treatment of the small holder, but also on account of the dislike inherent in man to protracted labour for which he does not see an immediate return. The statesman-historian, Ssemakwang, showed sounder judgment and a more accurate estimate of human nature than his rival when he denounced these views as chimerical. But as men are swayed by their hopes, and as the statesman, whose argument is based on what the future —painted in his own brilliant colours—may bring forth, must always have the advantage over, and attract more sympathy than, those who dwell on the merits of the past and oppose change, Wanganchi triumphed over the sage Ssemakwang, and long had the great majority of his countrymen at his back. It was only when it could no longer be denied that his schemes had proved abortive, and that his regulations were mischievous, that he lost the sympathy of the public which had sustained him in his contest with the learned classes headed by Ssemakwang. The royal favour supported him for a short time longer, and then came his fall. He survived his disgrace ten years, dying in the year A.D. 1086, when a new ruler had succeeded his patron Chintsong. He protested to the end that his scheme was sound, and admitted of practical application; but he does not appear to have been wronged in being styled the Chinese Socialist or visionary and speculative minister of the eleventh century. His fortunes proved scarcely less fluctuating after his death than they had been during his life. In the year following his decease the Empress Regent prohibited, under penalty of dismissal from the public service, the use of his commentaries, which had been in vogue. Twenty years later his name was placed in the Hall of Confucius, on the ground that since Mencius there had been no one to compare with Wanganchi—a privilege of which the Emperor Kintsong deprived his memory in A.ix 1126, when Wanganchi's name finally disappeared from the public records.
DREAD OF THE TARTARS. 261
Chintsong's last acts were to divide his dominions into twenty-three provinces, and to receive from the hands of the great historians the works upon which they had laboured for nearly twenty years. His death occurred in A.D. 1085, when he left peaceable possession of his dominions to his son Chetsong. Chintsong had studiously followed the example of his predecessors, and, whatever his original inclination for war may have been, he had repressed his martial instincts and given China eighteen more years of undisturbed peace. The Tartars of Leaoutung had made a further advance, and seized the cities which Chitsong of the later Chow dynasty had wrested from them. This accession of territory was far from being unimportant, and instead of solving the frontier question, added rather to the growing gravity of the situation.
As Chetsong was only ten years of age, the Empressmother assumed the functions of government as Regent, and during her life the country rejoiced in a tranquillity which was the direct consequence of her wise administration. Her virtues were those which commended themselves most to her countrymen, who in their gratitude compared her reign to the semi-mythical period of perfection when Chun and Yao were the patriarchal rulers of a contented people. But even she dared not provoke a war with the Tartars. In A.D. 1090 they restored a few officers and soldiers taken prisoners during previous expeditions, but in turn insisted, under the threat of hostilities in the event of refusal, on the surrender of four fortified towns in the province of Shensi. The threat sufficed, and the towns were handed over to these insatiable opponents. The same year witnessed floods on a tremendous scale in the provinces of Chekiang and Kiangnan, when it is computed that nearly one million persons perished. The Regent's death, two years after this calamity, left Chetsong alone to cope with the dangers of his situation on his own resources. There were great questions to be dealt with at home, and the periodical visitations, now of drought and again of floods, were a constant source of anxiety to the ruler and of loss to the people, while on the northern frontier the war-cloud caused by Tartar ambition and military vigour was steadily assuming larger proportions.