Imatges de pàgina

A RALLY. 389

In A.D. 1352 the first important success of the war was obtained at Kiukiang, when a Mongol detachment was annihilated. The principal of the rebels, Sinchow Hoei, assumed the title of Emperor, and followed up his success at Kiukiang by a rapid advance into Chekiang, when he menaced the famous city of Hangchow. The Mongol forces, hastily assembled from all quarters, proceeded to engage this army, and in a great battle recovered everything that had been lost. But for the continued successes of Fangkua Chin the Mongols would have retrieved whatever they had suffered, and on all sides. In A.D. 1354 there was a fresh outbreak; but the measures adopted by Toto, Chunti's minister, proved so effectual that the Mongol position may be said to have been at this point as much assured as it had been at any time since the commencement of this internal struggle.

Toto had barely succeeded in restoring some degree of order to the condition of affairs in the realm when he found himself the object of Chunti's suspicion and disfavour. A rival named Hama, who owed his fortune to Toto, and doubtless felt “the debt immense of endless gratitude,” had maligned him during his absence fighting the enemies of the state, and succeeded in inducing Chunti to sign a warrant for his dismissal and arrest. When Toto returned, therefore, to the capital it was only to receive an order for his banishment. Hama completed his perfidy by sending Toto the poisoned cup, usually the portion or the solace of the unfortunate minister. With Toto disappeared the last possible champion of the Yuen or Mongol dynasty.

The country had been in a distracted state for a long time, and the Chinese, who had been brooding over their wrongs, had now for twenty years been accustomed to the spectacle of slaughter, and become hardened to the bitter struggle for their emancipation. But they had not yet combined. Their efforts had hitherto been spasmodic and disunited. Their principal leaders had shown themselves little better than brigand chiefs. With each fresh effort, however, their courage was rising higher, and their action acquiring greater method. Union was fast displacing disunion, and their untrained levies were learning discipline in the field and under the hard master defeat. The discord among the Mongols, and the murder of their greatest leader further increased the prospect of an auspicious result. The occasion for throwing off the Mongol yoke had evidently arrived, and it only needed that the time should produce the man.



The prevailing disorders, which revealed the full extent of the people's misfortune, attracted, among many others, into the ranks of those fighting under the national ensign a simple individual named Choo Yuen Chang. Originally he had taken the vows of a priest, and entered a monastery ; but now he cast aside his religious garb to follow the more congenial pursuits of a soldier. Enlisting as a private, his zeal and attention to his duties soon caught the eye of his commander. Raised to the rank of an officer, he speedily found occasion to show that in enterprise and personal valour he was equal to every emergency. His first feat was the capture of the town of Hoyan-an exploit in itself sufficiently creditable ; but when he saved the inhabitants and their possessions from the rapacity of his ill-fed and badly paid soldiers, he showed not only higher qualities, but also a truer perception of the necessities of the time than had yet been evinced by any other of the Chinese leaders. Choo was the first to inspire his countrymen with a belief in their capacity to substitute, without much trouble, a stable Government of their own in place of the decrepit and expiring dynasty of the Mongol. By proving that the maintenance of order and the preservation of life and property did not necessarily depend on the measures taken by the reigning Emperor, Choo dealt a most forcible blow at the reputation of the House of Genghis-in fact, the only blow still required to ensure its fall.

At first Choo had to content himself with a very subordinate part in the contest, for a claimant had been put forward to

both the sympathy and the allegiance of the Chinese people in the person of a youthful member, pretended or real, of the Sung family. The Mongol Court had always feared the dormant affection to that native house more than the innate love of independence in the hearts of the people; and now it concentrated all its force upon the work of crushing this' particular movement. Its ends were attained. Army was sent after army to oppose this royal claimant and his general, Lieou Foutong; and, although the struggle proved stubborn, the Mongol authority was completely reasserted. In face of these successes, Chunti and his ministers conceived that they had every reason to congratulate themselves on a safe and satisfactory issue from the crisis. This hope was soon found to be delusive. They had in reality been wasting their strength and resources in grappling with what, in comparison with the increasing reputation and power of Choo, was a danger of very minor importance. In A.D. 1356, Choo made himself master of the city of Nankin, and thus obtained a hold on some of the wealthiest provinces in the country. His policy continued to be marked by the same moderation that had characterized the acts which first brought him into notice. He proclaimed that his sole wish, for the realization of which he was prepared to spare neither his life nor any exertion whatever, was to restore to the people their lost independence, and to revive their ancient form of government. The success which attended his military operations attracted to his side the young and the daring ; but the stability of his position was rendered the more assured because the more serious sections of the nation were won over to his party by a fertility of resource equal to every difficulty, and by the prudence with which the fruits of victory were turned to the attainment of noble and praiseworthy objects. Almost before the Mongol Court realized the danger likely to arise from the operations of this particular leader, Choo had gathered into his hands the power and influence which enabled him to become its destroyer. From his post of vantage on the Yangtse, Choo succeeded in expelling the Mongol garrisons from most of the towns in Kiangsi, and, on their expulsion, in establishing an efficient

[merged small][ocr errors]

form of administration of his own. The overthrow of the Mongols did not cause the friends of peace and order those doubts as to what would thereafter ensue that nearly always suggest themselves at a time when the form of the existing institutions is undergoing a forcible change. But this confidence was only felt in those districts which were the scene of Choo's exploits. Elsewhere, Chinese patriots were only an euphemism for Chinese brigands. Ravaged regions, sacked towns, and the usual horrors of war proclaimed throughout the rest of China that the Chinese and their Tartar conquerors had met in a last death-struggle out of which the one or the other must issue finally vanquished. The question briefly put was, whether the natives would tolerate any longer a foreign and a much-hated race as rulers.

The growth of Choo's power proved slow but sure, and the districts subjected by him did not throw off his authority. In the north, particularly in the provinces of Honan and Shansi, other leaders made indeed more rapid progress. One of these had seized the city of Kaifong, and some had carried their raids through Leaoutung to the frontier of Corea; but they were all regarded with feelings more of apprehension than of love by the mass of the nation. Choo alone was considered to be working for the welfare of the people, and this reputation for sincerity and public spirit served to bring over to his side all those smaller leaders who could not hope to reach the highest place. Prominent among these was the pirate Fangkua Chin, whose naval exploits had exalted him to the rank of a national hero and made him a power for good or evil on the great river Kiang. In 1358 he sent an embassy to Choo, proposing an alliance for the emancipation of their country from the foreign yoke. He promised to place all his forces at the disposal of Choo, and in token of good faith sent one of his sons as hostage to Nankin.

Choo again showed himself well able to turn the opportunity to the best advantage. Having entertained this mission in a becoming manner, he returned the son to his father, saying that where expressions of friendship were sincere, hostages would be unnecessary. Fangkua Chin appeared greatly touched by this act of magnanimous

« AnteriorContinua »