Imatges de pàgina

so glaring that Yesien imagined that it must conceal some deep-laid stratagem, and accordingly sent one of his officers nominally to discuss the terms on which an arrangement might be concluded, but really to examine the military position. The envoy hastened back as soon as he could to urge Yesien to deliver his attack without delay, as fortune had given the Chinese army into his hands. The Tartar prince acted with the promptitude the occasion required. The Chinese, cooped up in a narrow space and surrounded on all sides, fought with desperation, but with little judgment. They broke in every direction, and were pursued with vigour by the Mongol horsemen. The battle in a few hours became a rout. The Tartars gave no mercy, and more than 100,000 Chinese perished at their hands. Nor had the calamity ceased there. The Emperor himself, the youthful Yngtsong, remained captive to his savage foe, and it seemed but a trifling consolation in the midst of the surrounding misfortune to find that Wangchin had paid with his life the penalty of the ruin entailed by his imprudence and temerity.

Large sums of money were offered for the ransom of Yngtsong, but Yesien was loth to part on easy terms with so distinguished a captive. After his great victory at Toumon, the Tartar chief did not meet with as many successes as he might have anticipated, for the border garrisons stood resolutely to their posts, and at last Yesien resolved to return to the Toula, taking back with him his state prisoner, Yngtsong. His parting message to the ministry at Pekin was to fix the ransom of the Emperor at 100 taels of gold, 200 taels of silver, and 200 pieces of the finest silk.

The departure of Yesien rendered it necessary for the Empress to take steps for the conduct of the administration during the enforced absence of the Emperor. At first there had been only a council of regency, but when it became known that Yngtsong had been conveyed to the north, his younger brother, Chinwang, was placed upon the throne in the year 1450, and he took the style of Kingti. The seven years during which he filled the throne were marked by the consequences of the rude shock which the rout of Toumon had produced throughout the whole country. That single A CAPTIVE EMPEROR. 453

defeat had almost sufficed to undo all the fruits of the policy of previous years, and to even render the task of preserving internal order one of no slight difficulty, so easy a matter is it to destroy compared with the labour required to create.

The eight years during which Kingti ruled in his brother's place were marked by a fierce but intermittent war with the Tartars, during which Yesien carried terror and desolation through the border districts of Shansi and Pechihli. During one of these expeditions Yesien, who carried his imperial prisoner about with him, laid siege to Pekin, but, as his force was composed mostly of cavalry, he was unable to do more than to beleaguer it and make feeble attacks on the gates. The arrival of fresh troops from Leaoutung enabled the Chinese to assume the offensive, when Yesien was glad enough to be able to make an orderly retreat back to his native districts with his captive. Yesien returned on several subsequent occasions; but the Chinese, who had had the good fortune to discover a capable general in Yukien, more than held their own.

The one disturbing element in the situation was the continued captivity of Yngtsong, whom neither the wealth nor the force of China could ransom. A feeling was gaining ground that not much harm would be done were Yngtsong left to his fate, and this was encouraged and strengthened by Kingti, who, having tasted the sweets of power, felt loth to lose them. For reasons which must have had force at the time, but the memory of which has not been preserved, Yesien came to the determination to release Yngtsong, and to permit his return to his country. This decision was suddenly formed, and was little expected by either the court or the people of China, and when the unfortunate Yngtsong reached his native eountry he found none prepared to receive and few to welcome him. His imprisonment had lasted little more than twelve months, but it had continued long enough to provide him with a successor, and to completely change the aspect of affairs at his capital. When he entered l'ekin the few hopes he had entertained of a restoration to the throne were abandoned, and he calmly accepted the apartments assigned him in the palace by his brother Kingti. The shadow of the rout at Toumon still hung heavily on his mind.

But although Yngtsong thus waived all his rights in favour of his brother Kingti, his son had been proclaimed Heir Apparent, and it was generally understood that the succession would lie with him. Having fared so well in his first design of retaining possession of the throne, Kingti not unnaturally turned his attention next to the task of preserving it in the hands of his own branch of the family. In this plan he was on the point of succeeding, although success might have entailed a civil war, when the death of his only son marred his prospects. No other event occurred to redeem the memory of Kingti's brief reign from oblivion, but on his death in 1458 Yngtsong was brought forth from his seclusion and restored to the throne. The hope was indulged that under Yngtsong the national prosperity might revive; for Kingti had been a cold and unpopular ruler, whereas Yngtsong had shown that he possessed virtues and qualities well suited to the fulfilment of the duties of his rank, although, through the evil influence of the eunuch Wangchin, they had been obscured by the faults of his minister and by the catastrophe in the war with Yesien.

Yngtsong's return to power was not followed by any of those remarkable events which his friends had anticipated. He was restored to the throne by an intrigue not very dissimilar to that which had resulted in his temporary deposition, and his reappearance in public life was signalized by his supporters ordering the execution of their rivals. Yngtsong reigned for eight more years, but during these no event of greater moment occurred than the petty intrigues of a court presided over by a prince without force of character or any definite views of his own. At first the object of their lip-loyalty, and then, when their aims had been attained, regarded with indifference, Yngtsong's supporters soon began to either fall away from him or to plot his fresh deposition, for to the stormy petrels of politics a settled state of things is irksome and tranquillity impossible.

One plot among the eunuchs of the palace was on the point of succeeding, and only the faithful valour of the bodyIMMOLATION FORBIDDEN. 455

guard thwarted their plans and put down the seditious movement in blood. Another, promoted by the prime minister, Cheheng, was fortunately discovered in time, and its authors were promptly arrested and executed after being stripped of their rank and honours. Cheheng avoided some of the ignominy of his sentence by taking poison. It was only through such anxieties as these that Yngtsong could make good his claim to reign in China, nor did the condition of the country afford much room for rejoicing, despite the fact that the Tartars left for a season the borders undisturbed. Earthquakes and inundations caused considerable loss to the country, and spread terror among a superstitious people accustomed to see in natural phenomena the measure of their faults and the anger of the celestial powers.

Yngtsong's death occurred in the year 1465, when he was thirty-eight years old, and he left his throne to his eldest son Chukienchin. In his will, which contained nothing else that was remarkable, he ordered that none should immolate themselves on account of his death, and by forbidding this mistaken practice he manifested some fellow-feeling towards his subjects. Yngtsong's later reign did not come up to the expectations formed about it before it began, but, at the least, it was not marked by any disaster similar to that of Toumon. When Yngtsong died, he could fairly say that he left to his children the heritage he had received almost intact, and in nearly the same condition as when he received it.



HlENTSONG promptly gained popular acclamation by the religious manner in which he obeyed his father's last instructions. The prescribed interval of mourning was kept with due observance, and the young ruler selected as his Empress the princess whom his father had designated for him. In great acts, not less than in small ones, he strove to imitate his predecessor, and to copy his virtues without repeating his vices. The harsh treatment and ingratitude shown towards the illustrious Yukien had been one of the darkest spots on the reputation of Yngtsong's later years. Hientsong had both the discrimination and the resolution to remove, so far as he could, this reproach to his family by publicly paying honour to the memory of that minister and general. The ceremony of rehabilitating the character of this worthy man, and of restoring his original honours, was performed with scrupulous exactitude, but in any other country than China this would seem but a useless and unnecessary proceeding. The Chinese have, however, continued to attach importance to this posthumous practice, partly because it may be held a tribute to truth, and also because it must be considered some redeeming feature in the hard conditions of their official service, which bestows comparatively few rewards, and which always calls for severe hardships.

During the twenty-two years that Hientsong occupied the throne, many questions presented themselves for his consideration, and, so far as may be judged, he endeavoured to, and did, fulfil his duties in a creditable and conscientious

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