Imatges de pàgina

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, Licoukangkong, 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



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 RIVAL FEUDATORIES.


the tyranny was more complete, and also because there was less to tempt the envy of the ambitious. King Wang's reign closed after eighteen years, without any event having happened to give it either interest or importance. His death proved the signal for further disturbances, which seemed likely to produce a general war; but fortunately one faction proved more powerful than its rival, and King Wang the Third succeeded his brother of the same name.

Confucius flourished during the long reign of this Emperor, and whenever entrusted with office, succeeded in introducing good order and a spirit of impartial justice among his fellows. But, as we have before said, these gleams of a happier time were of but brief duration. The elements were too unfavourable even for Confucius ; how much more so were they for weaker men ! The second prince of the Wou family, whose power had been steadily increasing during the last half century, was worsted with heavy loss in a war with another potentate, and lost his life in battle. Two minor dynasties—those of Tsao and Chin—were extinguished during this reign, and their states seized by more powerful neighbours, thus affording the first proof of the inevitable termination of these internecine wars. It only remained for time to show which of the feudatories was to become sufficiently strong to absorb his neighbours and depose the ruling House.


WHEN Confucius was on his death-bed, in the year B.C. 478, the reign of King Wang, the third of the name, was drawing to a close. For forty years that prince had striven to avert the collapse that threatened the dynasty, and to retain in his hands some portion of the authority of his ancestors. To a certain extent, his object had been attained ; the evil day had at least been staved off, and his son Yuen began his reign under fairer auspices than attended his father's assumption of power. If, however, the circumstances of the period are critically examined, it will be seen that this respite was nothing more than sufferance. The central authority was only the shadow of a name; and if the amiability or personal virtue of the sovereign shone by contrast with his contemporaries, and obtained some faint semblance of a forgotten respect, it had no more practical significance than a single rift in a stormy sky. The prince passed away, and his virtues were forgotten. The clouds remained lowering over a House which all the tenderer virtues could not save. Yuen's early acts showed that the teaching of Confucius had found him a willing student. He re-enforced the ancient ceremonies, and proclaimed the re-establishment of the reign of justice and of right. Several of the vassal princes took, with all the old formalities, the oath of fealty; and had Yuen possessed the martial qualities necessary to solve the question by waging war on the recalcitrant nobles, he might have made his reign a turning-point in the history of his country. With his respect for the past he had borrowed

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