« AnteriorContinua »
THE FALL OF THE SUNGS.
BEFORE the death of Mangu, Kublai had obtained some minor successes over the Sung forces in the province of Houkwang, and when the tidings reached him he did not withdraw his troops from the positions he had seized on the southern bank of the Yangtse-kiang. The excessive confidence felt by the Sungs in the impassability of that river had led them to neglect the defences of their towns in its neighbourhood. Kublai turned their mistake to the best possible advantage. The chief credit of forcing the passage of this river appears to have belonged to Tong Wen Ping, who, having captured some Chinese vessels, filled them with his most determined soldiers, and crossed in face of the Sung army. Kublai promptly reinforced this advanced-guard with his main body, when siege was laid to the important city of Wochow, the capital of the great dual province of Houkwang. The Mongol cavalry carried their raids into the province of Kiangsi, capturing the towns of Liukiang and Chouichow.
But meanwhile the garrison of Wochow held stoutly to its post, and large numbers of troops were fast assembling at Hanyang, the town in the fork formed by the Han and Kiang rivers. Unable to make any impression on the fortifications of Wochow, and apprehensive of the consequences of an abortive assault under the circumstances in which he found himself, Kublai turned a ready ear to the peace proposals sent by Litsong, who was terrified by the appearance of the Mongols in Kiangsi. As a matter of fact, the Mongol army, with a very uncertain command of the passage of the river, and surrounded by numerous and rapidly increasing foes, was in a most dangerous position, out of which the panic of the Chinese alone extricated it. If Mongkong had only lived to have the command at this juncture, Kublai would in all probability never have regained the northern bank of the river he had so adventurously crossed, and the whole fortune of the war might have been changed. But as the event happened, Litsong acknowledged himself a Mongol vassal, paid a large tribute, and forbade his generals to take any offensive steps against Kublai's army. The Mongols withdrew across the Yangtse-kiang, the fame of this expedition and the treaty it produced bringing fresh lustre to their arms. None the less must Kublai's venture against Wochow be pronounced to have been imprudent, and one out of which he came with better fortune than he had any reason to anticipate.
It was fresh from this success—from having made the Sung Emperor a Mongol vassal—that Kublai came to settle as described the question of supremacy with his brother Arikbuka, and when he returned triumphant from Karakoram the thought that was uppermost in his mind was that nothing short of the annexation of the Sung territory would suffice to satisfy his own ambition, and to meet what he considered to be the political necessities of the day. Fresh cause of grievance had arisen between the neighbours. The Sungs sought to evade the terms of the treaty, and went so far as to murder the envoys sent by Kublai to announce his proclamation as Great Khan. This conduct further embittered the contest and rendered the preservation of peace impossible.
During this period Kublai had neglected no means of making himself popular with his new subjects, by many of whom he was already regarded with more friendly eyes than any foreign ruler had ever been, and he had greatly strengthened his position in Northern China by adopting many native customs and by attaching to his person a chosen band of Chinese advisers. But perhaps the most important step he sanctioned was the personal interest he took in promoting Buddhism, and in gaining over to his interests the powerful class of the lamas. There appears to have been in this age a religious indifference, equal in its way to the political and
THE GREAT LAMA. 331
social decay plainly visible outside the vigorous ranks of the Mongols. The Buddhist lamas as a class were alone capable of making a resolute effort for a great and definite object. Sunk to a certain degree in the prevailing apathy, they still possessed cohesion among themselves, and stood apart from the rest of the nation on so many points, that their aid could not but be most useful to any individual knowing how to utilize their services. Kublai took them under his patronage, and they became his most devoted and trustworthy assistants. Prominent among these was a young Tibetan, sprung from a family which during more than six centuries had given ministers to the kings of Tibet; and Kublai, despite his youth, made him the supreme lama, with the title of Pakba Lama. At a later period he sent him back to his own country with seals of office, and under Kublai's patronage he succeeded in making himself not only the chief religious, but the supreme secular authority as well in his own country. This may be considered the first proclamation of a Grand Lama, and it arose from the unbiassed conviction of Kublai, who saw in it a step towards the consolidation of his power. It was made the simpler of execution because Uriangkadai had conquered Western Szchuen and the approaches to the valley of the Sanpu. Scarcely less wisdom was shown in the proclamation granting their liberty to all the men of letters who had been taken prisoners by the Mongols during the long wars of this period. The Chinese were shrewd enough to see that Kublai represented the best traditions in their history, and that he endeavoured to guide his policy in accordance with them, whereas Litsong was typical only of weakness and decay. Fresh troubles had arisen with the people of Corea who, ever tenacious of their liberty, refused to abide by the terms of the treaties imposed upon them by armies that were irresistible so long as they remained. One king had retired to a small island rather than sign his own disgrace, whilst another, although the friend of Kublai, had been seized with the national fervour, and placed himself at the head of the popular movement. But Kublai, knowing well the danger that always lurks in the despair of a people, resorted to
diplomatic means * to gain his end, and his diplomacy fared as well as the arms of his predecessors. Wangtien, the Corean king, became one of Kublai's firmest friends and allies.
No further task stood in the way of Kublai's commencing the final war with the Sungs, who were reverting to the old policy of provocation, which had never succeeded and never could succeed. Kublai was the last man to tolerate wilful acts of hostility. The attack on Uriangkadai's rear-guard had not been forgotten, and other outrages swelled the bill of indictment against the Chinese. The detention of the Mongol ambassador and his suite crowned the mistakes of Litsong's government, and in the last year of that ruler's life Kublai issued a proclamation to the generals of his armies "to assemble their troops, to sharpen their swords and their pikes, and to prepare their bows and arrows," for he designed to attack the Chinese in the coming autumn “both by water and by land.” The task was simplified by the defection of some of the principal Sung officers, who were disgusted and alarmed at the apathy of their king and the shortcomings of his court.
As if to compensate in a slight degree for these losses to the Sungs, Litan, a Chinese general in Kublai's service, revolted against the Mongols. In Shantung, where he had been entrusted with a post of some responsibility, Litan collected a considerable band of troops and put to the sword
* The letter he wrote to Wangtien, the Corean king and his former friend, is well worth quotation, if only in part. “The Empire of the Mongols, founded by my grandsire of glorious memory Genghis Khan, has been so widely extended under his successors that it is composed of almost all the kingdoms enclosed between the four seas, and several even of our subjects possess the title of king, for themselves and their descendants, over vast extents of territory. Of all the countries of the earth there is only yours, beside that of the Sungs, which has refused to submit to us. The Chinese regarded their great river the Kiang as a barrier which we should never be able to force, and I have just shown that belief to be a vain hope. They thought that the valour of the troops of Szchuen and Houkwang, joined to their impassable mountains, would preserve those two provinces for them ; and, behold, we have beaten them everywhere, and hold their strong places. They are at this moment like fish deprived of water, or as birds in the net.”—Mailla, vol. ix. p. 293.
the few Mongol detachments in garrison throughout the province. But his reign of independence was short-lived. Kublai sent fresh troops against him, and, after defending himself in his city with the courage of despair, the hour arrived when he was compelled to surrender. Litan's execution served to show intending rebels the futility of an attempt to shake off Mongol authority.
Meanwhile Litsong's long reign was drawing to a close. Unfortunate in the period in which his fate was set, he was still more unhappy in the ministers he employed. To Kiassetao, more than to any one else, must the final overthrow of the Sungs be attributed, for it was by his order that the Mongol envoys were retained in confinement. His incapacity was undeniable, but he concealed it by an arrogant bearing that silenced if it did not deceive the world. Those who ventured to give the Emperor advice different from the wishes of this magnate were forthwith exiled to the lagoons of Fuhkien ; so that few dared to cross the path of this formidable dictator. In many ways Kiassetao was a worse enemy to Litsong than the Mongols; and Litsong's death must have been a happy release to himself as the clouds were lowering more darkly than ever overhead, after Kublai's announcement of his intention to invade and conquer his territory. Litsong died in A.D. 1264, and his nephew Choki succeeded him as the Emperor Toutsong. One act of the Emperor Litsong deserves record. He conferred on the representative of Confucius the hereditary title of a duke which still exists.
. Several circumstances combined to prevent Kublai, already engaged in the embellishment of Pekin, from carrying out his plan as soon as he had intended. It is possible that he deferred his attack on the Sung kingdom because he saw that each day it was becoming weaker and less able to resist him. Whether he perceived this or not there is no question of the fact, for as steadily as Kublai's reputation for wisdom and for power grew, that of Toutsong not less perceptibly declined. When Kublai at length issued his final instructions for the campaign, they were based on a plan submitted to him by a renegade general of the Sungs. He thus availed himself of