Imatges de pàgina

like the Chinese, the high personal character and strict morals of Wei Wang shielded him from the censure which would otherwise have been bestowed upon him. Wei Wang seems to have acted on the sound principle of looking after his own affairs, for the story is still preserved of how he rewarded the services of an honest and capable governor, although all the court gossips were engaged in vilifying him because he refused to bribe them, and of how on the other hand he punished an incompetent governor whose praises were sung by all the courtiers, whom he paid heavily for their good word. Within seven years Li Wang's inglorious reign closed, and his brother Hien Wang ruled in his place. No change occurred in the character of the times. The reign of the latter, although Emperor for nearly half a century, was remarkable neither for the personal ability of the prince, nor for the acts carried out under his direction.

The most, indeed the only, remarkable event of this period was the steadily increasing power and military vigour of the Prince of Tsin, who on several occasions overthrew large armies sent by his neighbours to harass his borders. Three princes eventually combined their forces against him, but at the battle of Chemen, where sixty thousand men are stated to have been slain, they had to confess a more skilful general and a braver army. Shortly after this great victory the Prince of Tsin died, but his son and successor, Hiaokong, proved himself well able to take care of the interests committed to his charge. At a general council, summoned early in his reign, he announced to his followers that it would be his first object to raise the glory of his House to a still higher pitch than ever before, and to assist his purpose he proclaimed his want of the services of the most enlightened minister of the day. He obtained his wish in the person of Kongsunyang, who,' banished from his own state, took service under him and devoted his best talents to the advancement of the Tsins. He drew up, and his master enforced, principles of government and a code of administration which, in the course of a short time, made Tsin the most powerful and bestgoverned kingdom in the country. The consequences of the reforms he introduced were, we are told, that thefts and MENCIUS. 33

assaults were no longer to be met with, that idleness vanished from amongst the people, and cowardice from the ranks of the soldiery, at the same time that the officials cast aside their former avarice and negligence.

Among those who beheld the steadily increasing power of the Tsins with feelings the reverse of those of pleasure was the Prince of Tsi, who considered the foremost place in the country to be his right; and the further progress of the Empire resolved itself into the rivalry of these two families. An interval of peace followed, but it was recognized on all sides that it was only the precursor of the inevitable struggle. Each potentate was actively engaged in developing his resources and in training his army for the day of battle. A change had in the meanwhile taken place in the affairs of Tsin, where, owing to the death of Hiaokong, the able minister Kongsunyang had lost his influence. His rivals supplanted him in the council of the new prince, and he himself found it prudent to seek safety in flight. Failing in his attempt he was brought back to the capital, and neither the long years of past service nor the promise of future assistance could save him and his family from death and disgrace. If his career had been marked by an unscrupulous zeal for the advancement of the interests of the Tsins, as evinced by his treacherous conduct towards his old teacher Kongtse Niang, there was nothing in it to justify the ungrateful and foolish manner in which the new Prince Hwei Wen Wang treated him. The reforms which he had carried out survived his death to the benefit of the family for which he had toiled so long and with such striking assiduity.

During this reign flourished Mencius, the third great original Chinese thinker. Of noble birth, being closely connected with the princes of Loo, he had from an early age devoted himself to the study of virtue and morals. An ardent follower of Confucian doctrine, he had arrived at the conclusion that good government was not only in itself the t-.rst of public virtues, but also the most pressing want of China. When he visited the Court of Wei, he was asked whether he would not toil zealously for the interests of that prince. His reply was, " How comes it that you speak of VOL. I. D

interests? It is only necessary to think of virtue and to practise it." It is scarcely necessary to add that such unworldly wisdom as this was not very palatable to the ambitious ruler of Wei. Mencius continued advocating measures which had a sound moral basis, but little attention was paid to him during his lifetime.

Another philosopher, Soutsin by name, whose proffer of service had been rejected by the Prince of Tsin, took a different course. Finding that devotion to pure ethics only led to his being treated with contumely, he entered the arena of politics, and, travelling from one court to another, devoted all his energy to the forming of a league among the princes of the Empire against the Prince of Tsin, who had received his overtures with expressions of scorn. The last years of Hien Wang's reign witnessed these schemes for the overthrow of one of the feudatories, but even if success had attended them there could have been no change in the relative position of the Emperor. Hien Wang's long reign closed at last, and he left to his son the unmeaning legacy which he had himself inherited from his father (B.C. 320). Of that son Chin Tsin Wang, whose brief reign extended over no more than six years, little need be said. The only change in the country—and it was one affecting its future much more nearly than the mere record of the daily events at the capital—was the steadily growing power of the Tsins, whose authority was extending eastwards and southwards into the heart of the Empire. Neither the league of princes, nor the military prowess of their neighbours appeared able to retard their progress. One of their statesmen asserted at this time that "their country was not sufficiently large, and its people not rich enough" for their ambition.

Nan Wang, the next and, strictly speaking, the last of the Chow Emperors, succeeded his father in B.C. 314; and the death of Mencius occurred in the earlier years of his reign. But the most important circumstance attending the accession of the new ruler was that the Prince of Tsin then perceived that the time had arrived for putting into effect the ulterior schemes which had so long slumbered in the background. The heritage of the Chows was ripe for division among the THE PRINCE OF TSIN. 35

numerous claimants; but, if he could overthrow all these candidates, he would be in the position of its sole heir. The first year of Nan Wang's reign saw the Prince of Tsin victorious over his neighbours, laughing to scorn the threats of a league no sooner brought together than dissolved, and mustering larger armies than at any previous time for the execution of his military enterprises. Nor was the policy he pursued for the purpose of advancing the object he had in view less astute than the means he possessed for enforcing it were formidable. Setting one prince against another by promises lavish to excess, but which could be either broken or left unfulfilled as most convenient, he was always able to bring a preponderance of force into the field. He employed against his neighbours and fellow-princes the very weapons which a wise Emperor would have used against himself, and in the end their efficacy was shown by complete success.

The natural consequence of this aggressive policy, carried out in an able and uncompromising manner, was that many ruling families, which had been in possession of their territories for centuries, were deposed, and in many instances also exterminated. About this time the Prince of Tsin, Hwei Wen Wang, died, and his son Wou Wang only ruled for a few months, when another son, the celebrated Chow Siang Wang, became the leader of the fortunes of this kingdom. In his hands the family policy acquired still greater force than before, and, casting aside all reserve, he offered sacrifice to the Lord of Heaven, with those formalities which were the peculiar privilege of the Emperor. The minister of a neighbouring potentate gave expression to the prevalent opinion when he said that the Prince of Tsin was " like a wolf or a tiger who wished to draw all the other princes into his claws that he might devour them." The struggle between the two states of Tsin and Tsi continued with varying fortune during most of the years of the long reign of Nan Wang; but in this instance, as in every other, final victory rested with the former.

For more than fifty years Nan Wang had remained a passive witness of the progress of these events, when suddenly, without any apparent reason, urged by some demon of unrest, he in his old age issued invitations for a league against the Tsins. On this reaching the ears of Chow Siang Wang, he at once marched an army against the capital. Nan Wang, incapable of offering any resistance, surrendered himself without a blow, and became the dependent of his conqueror. After enjoying the glorious title of Emperor of China during fifty-nine years, he sank into the insignificant position of a vassal of the King of Tsin—a sphere which appears to have been the more suited to his talents. The facts are so expressive in themselves that it is unnecessary to add, as the Chinese historians do, that he died covered with ignominy.

Thus came to the end, which had been so long foreseen, the third dynasty established in China. The virtues and the great qualities which had made its first Emperors the benefactors of their race had departed before the House had reached its manhood. The dislike of the people to break with associations intimately connected with the dawn of their political history, and, in a much stronger degree, the fact that the Empire had split up imperceptibly into principalities or kingdoms, practically independent, and each responsible to its subjects without any intervention on the part of a central authority, sufficed to put off the fall of a dynasty, which as a participator in practical affairs had long ceased to exist. The course of the history of China during three centuries would have been barren of profitable inquiry, but that they witnessed the feudal system at its height, the labours and writings of Laoutse, Confucius, and Mencius, and the steady growth of the military power of the Tsins, who were the first, of whom we have tangible knowledge, to discover and carry out a great idea in establishing a supreme and dominant administration over the inhabited portion of Eastern Asia. Brief as was their rule comparatively with the eight centuries and a half during which the Chows bore sway, they left behind them clear and creditable evidence of their capacity for government, whereas to impartial observers it must seem that the Chows accomplished very little indeed. It was their misfortune to have lived too long, and their apparently interminable old age brought to the record of their history many vices and weaknesses with scarcely a redeeming virtue.

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