Imatges de pàgina


acts of his reign were connected with the domestic legislation of his people, and with the translation into the Kin tongue of the Chinese classics. His death in A.d. I 189 was a serious loss to his people, who unanimously accorded him the next place after Akouta among the great men of their race. He was the first who showed himself to be something more than a mere soldier, and to perceive the truth of the aphorism that war is only a justifiable necessity as a means to a worthy end. He was succeeded as Emperor of the Kins by his grandson Madacou, who preserved during his brief reign the salient features of Oulo's policy.

Hiaotsong's son and successor took the name of Kwangtsong. During his short reign of five years he was Emperor in little more than in name. His wife, the imperious Lichi, asserted her influence over him, and exercised more practical authority than he did. The course of events during this reign was of an uninteresting character, and the attention of the public was monopolized by petty squabbles in the palace and between men of letters. Whether from ill-health or natural timidity and sluggishness is not exactly known, but Kwangtsong soon satisfied his inclination for playing the part of king. In A.D. 1194 he abdicated in favour of his son, and retired into private life, without apparently a single regret at the change in his position. During this short reign the Kins also enjoyed peace under the rule of their sovereign Madacou.

The new Sung ruler took the name of Ningtsong, and his first task was to restore the administration, so far as he could, to the position it occupied before Kwangtsong's unfortunate reign. It was not until Ningtsong had reigned nearly ten years that he found time to look abroad and see how his neighbours were faring. The spectacle he beheld was encouraging, and seemed to warrant a belief that the Sungs might now recover everything they had lost during long and disastrous wars. The Kin power was shaken to its base, and tottering towards its fall. The great Mongol Genghis Khan had already struck shrewd blows against its reputation and its strength. Its military vigour was fast becoming a tradition. The army was discontented and ill-paid, and the people retained no affection for an alien government the instant it lost the strength to make itself respected. Something of this untoward result must no doubt be attributed to the shortcomings of Madacou, but it was mainly due to the natural progress of decay in an institution that had attained a height far in excess of its innate strength.

Ningtsong would have been more than human if he had paid no heed to the tales brought him concerning the decadence of the Kins. Having suffered them to obtain a hold on his imagination, he allowed himself to drift into a war with his neighbour. Contrary to all expectations, the Kins were the victors, and Ningtsong was glad to conclude a peace by the ratification of existing treaties, and by the execution of the minister on whose advice he had declared war. Madacou died shortly after this event, leaving the throne to his cousin Chonghei, a descendant of the great Oukimai. This campaign was fought in the year A.D. 1208, and the last triumph to be obtained over the Sungs cast a parting gleam of glory round the name of the Kin or golden dynasty.

At this point the old rivalry of the Kins and Sungs sinks into insignificance before the advent of the new power of the Mongols. The main feature in Chinese history now becomes the steady growth of the confederacy of the great Genghis, and the petty events of the Sung capital assume an appearance of triviality in face of the great occurrences and startling changes beyond the northern borders. The Kins, by reason of their position, were the first to feel the effect of the martial vigour of the Mongol tribes; but the Sungs had eventually to succumb to the same force. Ningtsong's reign had little more than commenced when this new element asserted itself in the affairs of China.

[ocr errors]


The Mongols were originally only one small clan among the numerous tribes bordering on the Chinese Empire. They had little to distinguish them from their neighbours in the vast region between the provinces of Pechihli, Shansi, Shensi, and Kansuh on the one side, and the great river Amour or Saghalien on the other. They were all alike—shepherds, hunters, and robbers, varying their pursuits with their needs or their whims, and with the season of the year. But for Genghis Khan, it is probable that they would never have been anything more than one of the pests of the settled populations within their reach, and even the supreme ability and good fortune of that conqueror failed to make them the dominant power in China. It was reserved for his grandson Kublai to crown the Mongol triumph by the most brilliant of all their successes; but the extraordinary rise of this race to power is not to be lightly dismissed, more especially as it forms a subject of exceptionally varied and striking interest.

In the strip of territory lying between the Onon and the Kerulon rivers, both affluents of the Amour, may be found the cradle of the Mongol race. This retreat, almost impenetrable to outside attack, and containing within itself all the necessaries for a frugal people, was no unfit abode for the ancestors of a race destined to exercise a world-wide sway. When they first issued from their own valleys in the ninth century as a portion of the great horde of the Shiwei, they attracted notice by their more than common courage and physical strength, earning either then, or perhaps in some VOL. I. U

earlier raid against their neighbours, the title of Mongol, or "the brave." They were included by the Chinese with the rest of the tribute-paying clans beyond the northern confines, and from the ninth to the eleventh century their history presents no point of special interest. Doubtless they were not unrepresented in the ranks of those hordes which troubled the border officials of the Emperor, and which in time produced the various dynasties whose careers have already been described. At some remoter period it is possible that the Mongols were merely a section of the Hiongnou, and Genghis claimed descent from the Royal House of that celebrated people. It is not at all improbable therefore that Attila and Genghis, the two great conquerors specially known as the Scourges of God, came of the same stock, and represented one of those races which had been cast out by the civilization and millions of China.

Budan-tsar, in the tenth century, was the immediate progenitor of the House of Genghis. He it was who first conquered the district between the Onon and the Kerulon, and who laid the seed of Mongol power. Vested by popular fancy with an abnormal origin, Budan-tsar consolidated his power by the human means of decision of mind and energy in action, and in the first proclamation he issued to his followers there is perceptible a confidence in himself that augured well for the success of the undertaking he began. "What," said he, "is the use of embarrassing ourselves with wealth? Is not the fate of men decreed by Heaven?" The object he desired to accomplish was not so much the accumulation of riches, by the plunder of cities and the devastation of provinces, as it was the founding of a free and vigorous community. He succeeded in his design, and Budan-tsar struck the first blow for Mongol greatness, and laid the foundation of its future power deep into the ground.

In the twelfth century Budan-tsar's descendant Kabul Khan was the recognized chief of the Mongol tribe. It had been foretold to him that his descendants were to exercise Imperial authority, and his attitude towards the Emperor of Northern China was apparently dictated by such pretensions. In the year A.D. 1135 we know that he had begun to molest THE FATHER OF GENGHIS. 291

the Kin frontier, and the Emperor Hola had in consequence been compelled to send an army against him. Kabul had in the reign of the wise Oukimai, visited the Kin capital, where he showed an independence of demeanour that would have led to his condign punishment, but for the forbearance of that ruler. After his return from this visit he showed an increased feeling of bitterness towards the Kins, and Hola had to send his general, Hushahu, to bring him into subjection. The Kin general is supposed to have set out on his expedition in A.D. 1135, but his progress was slow. He suffered much from scarcity of provisions, and was at length compelled to retreat, when the Mongols not only pressed him hard, but inflicted a crushing defeat on his army in the neighbourhood of Hailing. In A.D. 1139 a stronger army was sent against Kabul, but eight years later the war remained undecided. The result had been favourable to the Mongols, who were fast making themselves the heirs of the Kins. They had been joined by several of the neighbouring tribes, and Kabul Khan had refused to accept a lower style at the hands of the Kin authorities than that of Great Emperor of the Mongols. The surrender of twenty-seven fortified places was a still more expressive testimony to his growing power.

The task commenced by Kabul was worthily continued by his son Kutula or Kublai. This warrior was long a popular hero among his people, who delighted in the recital of his marvellous deeds. He too won several battles over the Kins, with whom the bitterness of the struggle had been intensified by the capture and execution of some of the members of the Mongol ruling family. His nephew Yissugei may be regarded as his successor; and in his youth Yissugei had learnt the meaning of defeat, when his father and a detachment of the clan had been overwhelmed by a neighbouring and rival people. On this occasion Yissugei had proved himself a good soldier, fighting bravely in the face of superior odds. The war with the Kins went on without cessation during these years, although only scant notice of it has been preserved. It is significant of the character of this new power to find it stated in the Kin history that the Mongols were being joined by many Khitans and Chinese.

« AnteriorContinua »