Imatges de pàgina


town situated a short distance north-west of the capital, the Yunnan prince concentrated in a position of considerable strength all his troops, and checked the further progress of the Chinese general. But it was not for long. Fuyuta executed some intricate manoeuvres, of which it would be difficult to indicate the significance, but which had the effect of bringing on a general action. The battle was stubbornly contested, and lasted many hours; and at one time it looked as if one-half of the Chinese army, which was separated from the other by a river, would be overwhelmed before assistance could come to it. Fuyuta's promptitude retrieved the day, and the local forces were driven from the field with heavy loss, leaving 20,000 prisoners in his hands. The fall of the capital followed a very short time after this overthrow of the army, and the Prince of Yunnan fled for refuge to the hills of the Burmese frontier. The remainder of Yunnan was soon reduced to subjection, and these successes were obtained with as little bloodshed and trouble as could have been expected under the circumstances.

But the pacification of this region was not to be completed without a tragical incident. The Chinese soldiers had fought with valour, and their generals had shown moderation towards the defeated, so long as open hostilities continued; but when, after a short period of tranquillity, the inhabitants of certain districts rose up against their authority, and entered the field as rebels, the whole attitude of the Chinese underwent a change. From moderation .and forbearance they passed at once to the extreme of severity, if not of cruelty. The unfortunate and ill-advised insurgents were butchered, and it is estimated that, before tranquillity was restored, 30,ocx> of them had suffered at the point of the sword. Such has always been the Chinese practice. In their treatment of an open foe they have generally shown justice, and sometimes magnanimity; but towards rebels their attitude has always been one of stern and relentless cruelty.

The Empire was now thoroughly at peace, and a succession of favourable seasons greatly promoted the prosperity of the people. Within the limits of the provinces of the country there were none left with either the wish or the power to dispute Hongwou's authority, and the Chinese nation employed itself, with that energy and intuitive skill which are among its principal characteristics, in recovering from the depressing effects of a long season of anarchy and internal strife. And the progress made towards recovery was astonishingly rapid. In contrast with the general happiness and tranquillity of the people, the numerous skirmishes on the remote frontier lose their significance and become merely the ordinary incidents in the daily life of a great governing people.*

The chief, Nahachu, whose raids into Leaoutung have already been mentioned, had again drawn together the Mongol forces in the east, and, having made extensive preparations for a final bid for power, resumed at this conjuncture his operations against the Ming officials in that province. Although it might appear that the danger from this quarter was not of any serious character, yet Hongwou attached sufficient importance to it to induce him to send a large body of fresh troops, under the command of the generals Fongching and Fuyuta, into the province. A desultory campaign, marked rather by a conflict of words than by an interchange of blows, ensued, and in the result Nahachu's followers were dispersed or taken prisoners, while their chief, either by treachery or cajolery, was captured and sent to Nankin. Other successes followed, and the verdict of previous victory was amply ratified by the flight of the Mongol chieftains into the recesses of Manchuria and westwards towards the Tian Shan.

The last eight years of Hongwou's reign were undisturbed by any serious commotion, although a mutiny among a portion of his army, encouraged by an ambitious officer, seemed likely to cause great trouble. The scheme was fortunately divulged in good time, so that the Emperor's measures for the preservation of order were both prompt and effectual. Lanyu, whose share in the campaigns in Leaoutung, to which reference

* The population of China in the year 1394 is given at 16,052,860 households, and 60,545,812 souls. This would not include the inhabitants of the outlying districts and provinces, but it shows how greatly the Chinese people must have suffered from the ravages of these long wars.


has been made, had not been small, but who had allowed himself to be carried away by the promptings of ambition, was arrested and punished with death. He either gratified his pique or satisfied his private animosities by implicating many brave officers and soldiers in his schemes. Lanyu was the most, if not the only one, guilty; but twenty thousand lives were sacrificed to meet what were thought to be the exigencies of the occasion.

The last days of Hongwou's reign were marked by no disquieting events, and although the loss of his eldest son had raised causes of possible dissension by the elevation of a child to the place of heir-apparent, they did not present themselves in any tangible shape during the lifetime of the aged prince, whose long career was now about to close. In 1398 Hongwou's maladies grew worse, and although the skill or attention of his doctors kept him alive for some, months, it was evident to all that his end was near at hand. Under these circumstances Hongwou made all the arrangements for the peaceful transfer of power with calmness and decision. He sent his sons, who were known to covet the throne, to their different posts in the provinces, so that his grandson might succeed him without disturbance or opposition; and having thus ensured, so far as he could, the tranquillity of the realm, he resigned himself to his end. In his will he set forth the reasons which induced him to select his grandson, Chuwen, for his heir; and caused the document to be published before his death in order that the people might know the motives of, and approve, his policy. He lingered until the summer of the year 1398, when he died in the 71st year of his age.

Of the character of the illustrious Hongwou posterity has best been able to form an opinion by the deeds which he accomplished. As described by his great successor, the Kmperor Keen Lung of the Manchu dynasty, he appears to have had most of the virtues and few of the faults of mankind. But we need not attempt here to analyze his character too closely, for we shall arrive at a more just opinion concerning the man by considering his work. To his credit must not only be placed the expulsion of the Mongols, but also the more difficult task of having created in their place a new machinery of government. Not only had he vanquished in innumerable encounters the chivalry of the Mongols, and dispersed, after long and arduous campaigns, the fragments of their broken power, but he had restored the dignity of the Chinese Empire to as high a point as it had reached under Kublai. The virtue of the man was just as conspicuous in his daily life as king, as his courage, fortitude, and military capacity had been as a popular and national leader in the dark days of Mongol despotism. It may be doubted whether China ever possessed a more beloved ruler, and certainly none had a better opportunity of realizing the national wishes and of supplying its wants than he had. Even now, it is asserted, the Chinese look back with secret longing to their favourite Ming dynasty, and the virtues and achievements of Hongwou form the basis of its fame. Hongwou must be placed among the limited number of the great rulers of China who never allowed themselves to be carried away by the magnitude of their successes, and who could meet the reverses of bad fortune with equanimity and resolution. But in the eyes of a civilized community not the least honourable of his characteristics will be held to be his moderation towards his enemies, and the mercy with which he tempered the severity of his country's justice.

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WHETHER the cause is to be attributed to the excellence and forethought of Hongwou's arrangements, to the general tranquillity prevailing throughout the state, or to the solid contentment of the people, the fact remains that Chuwen succeeded his grandfather without encountering any open opposition. He then assumed the title of Kien Wenti. But this tranquillity was soon proved, so far as the domestic relations of the Ming family were concerned, to be hollow and deceptive, and only the lull that precedes the storm. For Wenti's uncles, although banished to their provincial posts, still nursed the ambitious dreams that arose partly from their ;losition and partly from their youth; and the new ruler appears not only to have been aware of their dissatisfaction, but to have credited them with a much higher ambition even than they possessed. As these princes were absent from the capital at the time of the late Emperor's death, Wenti felt obliged, out of ordinary decency, to send invitations to them to attend their father's funeral. Some declined and others accepted the summons, and among the latter, to the surprise of the Court, was the most formidable and ambitious of them all. Ty, Prince of Yen. The prospect of Yen's visit to the capital was far from being agreeable to either Wenti or his ministers. The latter had reason to doubt the friendliness of his intentions, and they stood in much fear of his influence with the army. Wenti dreaded his approach as that of his most daring competitor. A council was hurriedly convened to consider what steps should be taken to meet the threatening

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