Imatges de pàgina

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 body



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.


HIENTSONG 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 A BLEAK REGION.


manner. This period was one also of almost incessant warfare, not only on the extreme frontiers, but also in some of the more inaccessible districts of the interior. Yet no campaign on a large scale, signalized either by some great triumph, or by some equally decisive reverse, was fought to redeem the memory of these small wars from oblivion. When it has been stated that there were insurrections in Hupeh and Szchuen, seditious movements in Leaoutung and Yunnan, that there were disturbances among the fierce Miaotse, and the tribes of the Tibetan border, enough has been said to illustrate the condition of the country, and to show the vicissitudes of empire. None of these wars attained serious dimensions, and in all the encounters necessary to vindicate the authority of the Government, the arms of Hientsong were crowned with victory. .

One contest, and one alone, threatened to assume a larger aspect, and may fairly claim brief description in this place. In the bleak region round the sources of the Hoangho, where scattered tribes have found it difficult, from the remotest ages, to gain a sustenance for themselves and their flocks, the chief Patan had gathered into his hands some of the power of supreme authority. His town or permanent camp, with its mud rampart, appeared in the eyes of his simple race as good a symbol of kingly power as the more pretentious buildings of the greater capitals seemed to a people of higher culture. The first ruler of Chechen, as this district was called, was quite satisfied to recognize the supremacy of the Chinese Emperor. Patan had been the faithful ally and dependent of the later princes of the Yuen dynasty, and when they were displaced and vanished from the scene he transferred his allegiance without hesitation to the new ruler Hongwou.

Time went on, and the arrangement, which had seemed natural and prudent to Patan and his son, assumed an irksome character in the eyes of the ambitious Mansu, the grandson of the former chief. The Chinese declared that he availed himself of his favourable position to make his town the refuge-place for all the evil-doers on the western borders, and certainly he adopted the attitude of a man who conceived that he had some more profitable and distinguished work to

do than to guide the fortunes and sway the councils of a pastoral tribe. His first collision with the Chinese authorities was caused by a dispute over the collection of the small tribute for which he was liable, and the removal of this difficulty was not facilitated by the existence of a sanctuary controversy. A small body of troops received directions to march against him, but Mansu was on his guard. He succeeded in taking them by surprise, and overwhelmed this detachment in the narrow approaches to his capital. This victory invested his party with a more formidable character than had yet been attached to it, but it also entailed the grave peril of marking him out as an irreclaimable foe of China. Fresh troops were sent against him ; his followers, dismayed by the sight of the extensive military preparations brought to bear on them, deserted him, and at last Mansu himself fell into the hands of his enemy. His fate was intended to act as a warning to any who might aspire to imitate him, and on his arrival at the capital he was forthwith executed as a rebel. Two measures of domestic policy carried out by the Emperor Hientsong attracted considerable notice, and both excited almost universal condemnation. The first of these was the creation of a Council of Eunuchs, into whose hands were placed all matters of life and death. At first it seemed as if this creation of a new administrative body aimed only at humouring a whim of the ruler, and it was not seriously anticipated that this tribunal would exercise much influence over practical affairs. It soon became clear, however, that its functions were more than honorary, and, as a body of troops was specially set apart for the execution of its behests, the new council rapidly became an engine of tyranny. The part taken by its members in the work of administration was most important, and the character of its charter also absolved it from responsibility. No one knew what decrees it passed but none could escape the malice of a private enemy who happened to be a member of this Chinese Star Chamber. During five years this palace conclave was the terror of the land, but at last the public outcry against it became so loud that Hientsong had to suspend its functions, although he still

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