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Its last bulwark thus removed, Hwangti's army overran the province of Chow. The capital Hantan was sacked, and the prince with his family became prisoners only to experience the severity of their foe. Before the year B.C. 228 closed, the large and once powerful kingdom of Chow had become a province of the fast-rising Chinese Empire. Hwangti had now the opportunity to turn his attention to another quarter. Residing at his court was Prince Tan, heir of the ruler of Yen, whom, "either out of settled policy or from whim," Hwangti flagrantly insulted. Tan, burning with revenge, fled the court, and proceeded to instruct an assassin who was instigated to murder Hwangti, by the hope of thus meriting the title of "liberator of the Empire." The plot nearly succeeded. The assassin was admitted into the presence, and was on the point of drawing his poniard, when the movement caught the quick eye of the king. In the scuffle Hwangti got the better of his assailant, and with one blow of his sabre severed his leg from his body. Tan's plot thus failed, but it was a narrow escape. The details of this plot afford proof of the terrible earnestness and resolution of the Chinese character. Kinkou the assassin, perceiving the difficulty of obtaining an audience with the Emperor, induced Fanyuki, on whose head Hwangti had placed a price, to commit suicide so that he might the better disarm any suspicion. Fanyuki, believing that Kinkou would thereby be able to play the part of his avenger, slew himself. There are few instances in history of a spirit of revenge having inspired so desperate an act without the possibility of any personal gratification.
Hwangti soon discovered that Tan was at the bottom of this plot, and thereupon gave orders to his general, Wang Pen, to overrun and subdue the territories of Yen—orders which were faithfully carried out . The ruler of that state, in order to avert the coming storm, executed his son Tan, and sent his head to Hwangti, while he himself fled into the wilds of Leaoutung. The same year witnessed the not less decided triumph of his arms over the forces of Wei, the capital of which was stormed, and the unfortunate ruler sent to Hienyang for execution. Thus did the work proceed briskly of uniting the Chinese under a single will. The times needed a policy BIG BATTALIONS. 43
of blood and iron, and they had produced the man. Of the great principalities there now only remained Choo, but the task of subduing it was more formidable than any yet attempted. It had to be undertaken, however, if the design was to be completed. Extensive preparations were made for this war, and the Emperor applied to his generals for their opinion as to the number of troops necessary to employ against Choo. One general, named Lisin, anxious at the same time to distinguish himself and to say what he thought would be agreeable to his master, offered to undertake the enterprise if two hundred thousand men were placed at his orders. Wang Tsien, on the other hand, the Nestor of Chinese commanders at this period, and the father of Wang Pen already mentioned, said that not fewer than six hundred thousand men would suffice.
The opinion of the former pleased Hwangti better than that of the latter, and, reproaching Wang Tsien as a dotard, he entrusted Lisin with an army of the strength he had specified. Lisin and his lieutenant, Moungtien, at once invaded the province, and overcame the first line of resistance in the border cities; but their adversary was not less skilful than they were, and, attacking them by surprise, inflicted a severe defeat upon them. More than forty thousand men are said to have perished during the battle and the pursuit; and the splendid army of the Tsins was driven in utter confusion back into its own country. History does not preserve any record of the fate of Lisin; but it may be assumed that, if he did not fall in the battle, he never dared to appear afterwards in the presence of the enraged Hwangti.
Lisin's promises had for the moment been more agreeable, but they had been falsified. It remained only to have recourse to the experience and more sober judgment of the veteran general Wang Tsien. Appealed to by the iovereign who, only a few months before, had called him » dotard, Wang Tsien, despite his infirmities and years, consented to take the command on the condition that an army of not less than six hundred thousand men was collected and placed at his disposal. This vast host having been assembled by the energy of the Emperor, ably assisted by the minister Lisseh, the doubt very intelligibly suggested itself to the mind of the general whence the supplies necessary for it were to come. Wang Tsien addressed himself to Hwangti on the subject, and the latter's reply is noteworthy: "Do not let that disquiet you, I have provided for everything. I promise you that provisions shall rather be wanting in my own palace than in your camp."
The general proved himself to be as skilful in leading his troops as the Emperor had shown himself in collecting them and in providing for their wants. In a great battle, which shortly ensued between the rival hosts, we are told that Wang Tsien, availing himself of a false movement made by the enemy, threw their army into confusion and drove it from the field. After this victory, the principality was subjected by Wang Tsien, who placed garrisons in the strong cities. The members of the ruling family were sent to Hienyang, where they shared the fate of many of their peers. The complete subjugation of Choo was followed by the annexation of Yen, and also of the smaller provinces of Tai and Tsi. In this latter task Wang Pen assisted his father.
These later triumphs completed the task which Hwangti had set himself. The independent kingdoms into which the Chinese Empire had been parcelled out were destroyed, their dynasties were exterminated, and their territories became the possession of the Tsins. Over and above all, the leading idea of the unity of the Empire had been realized. It only remained for Hwangti to reap the reward of his valour, prudence, and good fortune, and by some formal act place the seal to his great achievement.
His first measure was to change his name and style from his patronymic Ching Wang to Tsin Chi Hwangti, which signifies the first sovereign Emperor of the Tsins. Not free from the personal vanity of mortals, he sought, by this highsounding title, to perpetuate the memory of his reign, which an impartial observer will always admit could afford to stand on its own merits; but the Court chroniclers of his own country were the more indignant with him because he strove thereby to put himself on a pedestal apart from, if not superior to, that occupied by the semi-mythical patriarchs THE PALACE OF DELIGHT. 45
and heroes of the first two dynasties. For this assumption of superiority, as well as for the indifference he showed to established etiquette, Hwangti incurred the hostility of the lettered classes, and his subsequent acts embittered rather than mollified their feelings. During his lifetime they could not refrain from expressing how much their sentiments were shocked by his acts, and after his death their rage was indulged uncontrolled. Nevertheless, Hwangti had accomplished his wish. He ruled a united China, and the people had peace.
Like most Chinese rulers, he patronized astronomy and revised the calendar. Undeterred by opposition, he abolished many useless ceremonies, striving to attain the practical in all things with the least possible outlay—these measures being intensely unpopular among the officials, accustomed to attend to the minutest forms, and to act on every occasion in obedience to precedent . The embellishment of his capital should not be lost sight of among his other undertakings. One of his first edicts was to the effect that, as the people had no longer any apprehension on the score of civil war— "peace under his reign being universal"—all weapons should be sent to Hienyang, where was stationed the elite of his army as well as the national arsenal. It was written, and it is not difficult to understand why such was the case, that "the skilful disarming of the provinces added daily to the wealth and prosperity of the capital." The Hall of Audience in the palace was ornamented with twelve statues, made from the spoil of his numerous campaigns, and each of these weighed twelve thousand pounds. Outside the city he constructed another palace, on a vast scale, or rather a scries of palaces, with magnificent gardens attached, and this became known as the Palace of Delight . The character of the Emperor revealed itself more clearly in the fact that ten thousand men could be drawn up in order of battle in one of its courts.
Hwangti at once divided the Empire into thirty-six provinces, and, when the preliminary arrangements had been completed, he made preparations for visiting the possessions which, the first time for centuries, recognized a common master under his sway. One of his ministers suggested that he should divide the provinces among his children and blood relations by bestowing fiefs upon them. The suggestion did not find favour in the eyes of the Emperor, and showed that the man who made it had but very faintly perceived the significance of his master's policy. Lisseh had little difficulty in exposing the evils of such a course, and in an eloquent address described the troubles the people had to endure from a divided country. The Emperor put the question in a nutshell when he said, "Good government is impossible under a multiplicity of masters." Governors and sub-governors were then appointed in each of the provinces, and the organization thus drawn up exists, with very few modifications, at the present time, a work alone sufficient to stamp Hwangti as a great ruler.
During the Emperor's journeys throughout his dominions the main features of the country and the condition of the people came under his eye. Recognizing that one of the best ways to increase the prosperity of his people was to improve the means of communication between one part of his Empire and another, the Emperor gave orders that highroads should be laid down in all directions. His attention was the more drawn to the matter because in the East it is the custom when a great man visits a district to repair all the roads in it, and Hwangti, while enjoying the benefit of this rule, knew that, outside his line of march, the roads were of a very different description from those which had been hastily prepared for his arrival. Wishing to see with his own eyes, he may even have diverged from his route for the purpose of observing the naked reality. His own words sum up the situation: "These roads have been made expressly for me, and I am indeed well satisfied. It is not just that I personally should benefit by a convenience of which my subjects have more need than I can have, and one also which I can procure for them. Therefore I decree that roads shall be made in all directions through the Empire." The autocrat's orders were carried out, and the grand roads still remain, often, indeed, in ruins, but two thousand years after his death, to testify to the splendour of his genius.