Imatges de pàgina

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 an experience and a local knowledge which his side had not possessed in the earlier wars. The proposed plan rested on the assumption that the capture of the strong and important city of Sianyang should form the starting-point in the conquest of the Sungs. This was held to be not only necessary in a military but justifiable in a moral sense, because it had once been in the possession of the Mongols. Sianyang is still an important town on the southern bank of the Han river in the province of Hupeh. At this period it was strongly fortified, the capital of a well-populated and prosperous district, and it also commanded the main road from the province of Shensi. To the south of Tunkwan it completed, on the western frontier, the defences still left in the possession of the Chinese. Its capture proved to be the difficult task which the importance attached to it by the Sungs indicated. But the advantages that would accrue from its fall had not been exaggerated. Sianyang once captured, the navigation of the Han would be at the mercy of the Mongols, who could then devote all their efforts towards making their power supreme on the Kiang river itself. When both these objects were accomplished there would be practically an end to the authority of the Sungs.

In A.D. 1268 Kublai's army, computed to consist of sixty thousand veteran troops, with a large number of auxiliaries, and commanded by two generals, appeared before the walls of Sianyang. They occupied all the surrounding heights, which they fortified, and their entrenched camp extended over a line of ten miles. Having cut off all communications by land, they next took steps for intercepting the supplies sent up the Han river by water ; and this portion of their task was the more difficult because they had to construct their own war vessels. They set themselves to the work with their usual determination, and in a very short time fifty junks of larger build than those used by the Sungs were equipped and ready to contest the passage of the Han river.

Meanwhile, Lieouwen Hoan, the governor of the two cities of Sianyang and Fanching, which communicated with each other by means of several bridges, was holding out with good cheer, neglecting no precaution to improve his position, A GREAT SIEGE. 335

and opposing the Mongol attacks with steady and unflinching courage. Confident in the strength of the place—surrounded by thick walls and a deep fosse—in the number of his garrison, and in the copious supply of provisions stored in the granaries—capable, it was said, of meeting all wants " for a period of ten years"—Lieouwen Hoan met defiance with defiance, and answered threat by threat. Warned by the Mongols of the fate that awaited an obstinate and vain defence, Lieouwen Hoan retorted by threatening to drag their renegade general in chains into the presence of the master he had abandoned. The bitterness of the struggle developed greater intensity underneath the ramparts of Sianyang.

Although the Mongol army was constantly reinforced by bodies of fresh troops, and notwithstanding that Kublai himseif devoted much of his attention to the subject, the siege of this Sung stronghold made very little progress. Several times were his generals compelled to change their position, to extend their lines at one point and to curtail them at another. But still Lieouwen Hoan's fortitude remained unshaken, and Kublai's lieutenants were baffled on every side. The Mongols succeeded in intercepting and driving back, with considerable loss to the Chinese, a flotilla of store ships; but even this success did not bring them nearer a satisfactory result, because Lieouwen Hoan's supplies were still sufficient for all his wants. The siege was beginning to languish, and seemed about to lose the special interest that had attached to it, when at the very same moment Kublai resolved to press it with greater vigour than ever, and the Sung minister, Kiassctao, came to the determination that it was necessary to do something towards effecting its relief. The main power of the two hostile states was therefore converging, by a common impulse, upon the same point . The siege had already lasted three years, and the events about to be described happened in the year A.I). 1270.

Kiassetao placed a large army in the field, but he entrusted the command to an incapable and inexperienced officer named Fanwenhu. The movements of this force were dilatory, and the timidity of the general did not afford much promise of any vigorous attempt being made to succour Sianyang, and drive away the Mongols. Fortunately, there were some braver spirits in the Chinese army than the miserable and pusillanimous personages occupying the highest places in the realm. Litingchi, the governor of Ganlo, a town south of Sianyang, and also on the Han river, was one of the most determined of them, and he resolved to do something towards helping his colleague, Lieouwen Hoan. At this time Fanwenhu's great army was still engaged making its tardy march from the Eastern provinces; but Litingchi, knowing that in war promptitude counts for everything, came to the decision to strike a blow with the small force at his disposal. He collected three thousand men, who devoted themselves to the dangerous but honourable task he proposed to them; and having bade all those depart who did not feel equal to the perilous attempt, he completed his arrangements for throwing into Sianyang this reinforcement, with a large convoy of supplies in which Lieouwen Hoan had informed him that he was deficient.

Several hundred vessels, escorted by this brave band, commanded by Changkua and Changchun, advanced in two divisions down a tributary of the Han, upon Sianyang. The Mongols had impeded navigation by chains and other barriers; but the Chinese war-junks broke through them and forced their way onwards. The Mongols were apparently surprised, but fighting from their superior positions on the heights above the river, they were recovering the ground they had lost when the division under Changchun, devoting itself to destruction for the attainment of a great end, charged, and kept occupied for some hours the whole Mongol fleet. The store-ships escorted by Changkua passed safely on to Sianyang, where they were received with acclamations of profound joy. The relief at this reopening of communication with the outer world, after a confinement of three years, was intense. In their excitement, the garrison forgot the beleaguering foe outside, and threw the gates open as if the Mongols had given up the siege, and were in full retreat for their own northern regions. The iron ring was, however, still tightly drawn round Sianyang, and the disfigured body of the hero Changchun,

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