« AnteriorContinua »
FANGKUA CHIN. 397
pronounced of their enemies; he alone knew how best it could be attained. The difficulties which he had to overcome before he felt ready to grapple with the forces of Pekin were far from being few or trivial. A rival leader in the southern provinces, Changsse Ching, who represented the hopes of a numerous and desperate band of adventurers, threatened his position in the rear, and the dispersion of this faction was the essential preliminary to any operations north of the Yangtsekiang. Having accomplished this task, Choo found himself brought face to face with a new and unexpected difficulty in the momentary defection of his ally, the piratical leader Fangkua Chin. This personage had not been as sincere in his protestations of friendship and zeal as had at the time appeared to be the case. Personal pique led him to break away from the alliance with Choo, and to enter into another arrangement with Koukou, the adopted son of Chahan Timour, who, after taking a certain part in the affairs of Pekin, had been dismissed by Chunti from all his employments, and was now a desperate and dangerous man, striving to make a second fortune out of the troubles of the time. The promptness of Choo's measures foiled the plans of his enemies. Before they could draw their strength to a head, Choo's generals were in possession of Fangkua Chin's cities, and that chief had been compelled to seek safety in an island of the sea. Seeing the hopelessness of the cause, Fangkua Chin threw himself on the generosity of his conqueror, and sank into obscurity at Choo's court . With the removal of these perils, Choo was left free to concentrate all his attention and strength on his forthcoming struggle with the Mongols.
In 1366, therefore, Choo gave orders to his troops to prepare for a general campaign, and at the same time issued a proclamation to the Chinese people telling them that the hour had arrived for casting off the foreign yoke which had pressed heavily upon them for almost a hundred years. The proclamation was calculated to inspire the people with courage, and the effect of Choo's eloquence was made complete by the sight of his well-drilled and well-led soldiers. Three armies left Nankin at the same time, each charged with a distinct mission. The two first were instructed to subdue the three provinces of Fuhkien, Kwangsi, and Kwantung. The notice of their approach, the mere sight of their banners, sufficed to attain their object. In the course of a few weeks the authority of the Mongols had been swept away for ever from three of the great provinces of the Empire. The people hailed the name of their deliverer with acclamations of joy, and many hastened to swell the ranks of the army to which had been entrusted the more difficult task of reconquering the northern provinces. Of the fate of the Mongol garrisons in the south history has left no record, a silence which by many will be considered more expressive than words.
Meanwhile, the third or great army, numbering 250,000 men, and consisting mostly of cavalry, was in full march for the northern capital. Choo did not at first place himself at the head of this force, as his own warlike disposition undoubtedly prompted him to do, but he entrusted it to his favourite general Suta, who showed a skill and an aptitude for command that fully justified his leader's selection. In the autumn of the year 1367 Suta crossed the Hoangho and advanced in the direction of Pekin. Very little resistance was offered; and the Mongol garrisons, discouraged by a long succession of reverses, retreated on the approach of the national army. One officer, bolder than the rest, attempted to effect a diversion from the side of Tunkwan; but his scheme, though ably conceived, failed in the execution. After this no further opposition was encountered until the province of Pechihli had been entered, and by that time the result of the campaign being more or less assured, Choo set out from Nankin to place himself at the head of his troops. At Tongchow, Pouyen Timour made a vigorous defence; but the town was forced to surrender, and the commandant either died of his wounds or committed suicide. A few days later Pekin, whence Chunti had fled, was carried by storm in face of the desperate resistance of a small portion of the Mongol army. These gallant defenders of the imperial city, headed by Timour Pouhoa and several of the civilian ministers, were cut down to the last man. The enterprise of Choo was virtually crowned with success by the capture of Pekin and TIMOUR. 399
the flight of Chunti. The war with the expelled Mongols still went on, but China was then emancipated from the Tartar yoke. The description of these later campaigns belongs to the reign of Hongwou, not to the career of the adventurer Choo Yuen Chang.
The expulsion of the Mongols from China, after they had exercised supreme authority in it for almost a century, marks the close of the history of that remarkable people as a great national power. After the death of Kublai, their decay proved rapid. Not one of his descendants or successors seemed capable of reviving the earlier glories of the family. Possessing, almost to the end of their struggle with the numerous champions of Chinese liberty, the best army in the country, their own divisions and incapacity as rulers prevented their turning this superiority to any advantage. They also showed, by their indifference to the growing power of Choo, an inability to realize the situation, which would alone convict them of grave short-sightedness. While a formidable military power was being formed at their very doors, they remained inactive, or still worse, they further enfeebled themselves by indulging personal rivalries and petty ambitions. The last page in the history of Mongol power in China is unworthy of its mighty past. At the very moment when the conqueror was being vanquished by the conquered, the great Timour, descendant in the sixth degree of Genghis, was about to begin in Western Asia that marvellous career of triumph which emulated, if it could not surpass, that of the greatest of the Mongols. This fact makes it clear that the old Mongol spirit was not yet extinct; but it had certainly departed from that section of the family which had established itself in China.
With the fall of the Mongols a brighter era began for the Chinese, whose aspirations had been repressed under a foreign rule, and the qualities shown by Choo during those years when he was moulding the national will to his purpose did not, fortunately, become less conspicuous after he mounted the throne, as the first of the Mings with the style of Hongwou. It was generally felt that a more auspicious epoch was on the point of commencing, and that the ancient glories of China were about to be revived in the form most agreeable and palatable to the nation. The incubus of a foreign domination had been cast off, and a great people could rejoice in the prospect raised by so satisfactory an achievement. The advent of the Mings to power was effected in the way most calculated to ensure the durability of their tenure, and the affection of the people was won by the fact that their new prince had conferred upon them the greatest of all the benefits which can be rendered by individuals to communities—the attainment of freedom.
THE REIGN OF HONGWOU.
With the capture of Pekin, and the despatch of an army into the north-west, under the command of his able general Sut.i, Hongwou had the leisure to take a careful survey of his position. The Mongols were then in full retreat for their northern solitudes, but the situation was still pregnant with difficulty. In this events were but following the usual course of human affairs; for it has been often demonstrated how much easier it is to destroy than to create. To expel the foreigner and revive a form of national government was a task which appealed generally to the good-will and support of the nation ; but it by no means followed that the endeavour to place Hongwou on the throne would meet with the same support, or attain a similar degree of success. The first years after the storming of Pekin were, therefore, passed by Hongwou in considerable anxiety; but the prudence which had marked all his proceedings when in a minor capacity continued to characterize his acts as supreme ruler. He began his career by attaining a great and striking success, and he showed how deserving he was of the prize he had won by his subsequent wisdom and moderation.
The first proclamations he issued were those in honour of his parents and ancestors, which attract and receive the approval of the Chinese. Having indulged his own personal feelings and gratified the popular sentiment, Hongwou next turned his attention to reward those who had so far assisted him in his enterprise. The generals were recompensed with titles and pecuniary grants for their faithful service; but as VOL. I. 2D