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SUPREMACY OF THE SEAS. 477
perished after inflicting vast loss on the Chinese, did not deter other Japanese from undertaking similar adventures, and at the very time when the mariners of England were trying to earn the supremacy of the seas in the school of Hawkins and Drake, another race of islanders was gaining the same celebrity in the Far East .
In the five years between 1555 and 1560,* the Japanese made frequent descents on the coast, and even laid siege to Nankin. But they were beaten off in their last attempt, although all their minor enterprises succeeded, and the Chinese suffered as much at the hands of the Japanese on their eastern coasts as they did from Yenta on the northern borders during the dark days of the reign of Chitsong the Indifferent .
In 1563-4, piratical bands, who have frequently infested the coasts and estuaries of China, had gathered to a head under the leadership of a chief named Hwangchi, and how considerable their power was may be inferred from the fact that they could place one hundred war-ships in line of battle. In face of their flotilla the local garrisons were helpless. The Japanese formed a temporary alliance with them, and in both the years mentioned they jointly made a descent in force on the coast . At first they carried everything before them, but when it came to serious fighting the Japanese found that the valour of their confederates speedily evaporated. The Chinese collected a large army, and attacked the invaders with resolution. Their commander Tsikikwang showed considerable talent and the Japanese were driven back to their
• In 1553 died, on the Island of Sancian, near Macao, Francis Xavier, the celebrated missionary, who was canonized after his death. He had gone to China for the purpose of converting the Chinese, but died within sight of land and on the threshold of his enterprise. The Portuguese still monopolized the European intercourse—a fact most unfortunate for the happy development of friendly relations with China. '' The Portuguese hare no other design than to come under the name of merchants to sf>? the country, that they may hereafter fail on it with fire and sword," said the Chinese. In 1560 they obtained, however, the loan of the site on which stands their settlement of Macao, and in return for a rent of 500 taeli per annum they were allowed to make it their principal station on the coast. The glory and the prosperity of Macao have both long departed.
ships with loss. The pirates also suffered, and their power did not soon recover from the rude shock inflicted by Tsikikwang's activity.
The long reign of Chitsong, which extended over a period of forty-five years, was now drawing to a close; but the general opinion as to his personal qualities and capacity for reigning may be gathered from the fact that memorials were presented to him at this late period of his life and reign on the necessity of his devoting closer attention to affairs of State. The first impulse of the Emperor was to punish their authors, but time brought reflection. At the eleventh hour he might have reformed and become a model prince had his life been spared, but his death shortly afterwards, in 1566, dissipated that prospect. His last will, written on his deathbed, was a confession of fault, and a plea of extenuation to be favourably received by those who would have to judge his place in history. "Forty-five years," wrote the Emperor, "have I occupied the throne, and there have been few reigns as long. My duty was to revere Heaven and to take care of my peoples; yet, actuated by the desire to find some solace for the evils from which I have continually suffered, I allowed myself to be deceived by impostors, who promised me the secret of immortality. This delusion has led me to set a bad example to both my magnates and my people. I desire to repair the evil by this edict, which is to be published throughout the Empire after my death." The confession of fault is a graceful weakness, or it may be the commencement of better days ; but it is an ineffectual remedy for the embarrassments of either an individual or a state.
Chitsong's third but eldest surviving son succeeded him, and assumed the title of Moutsong. At the time of his accession he was thirty years of age, and his first acts showed that he had not been an indifferent observer of the discontent produced by many of his father's acts. He released several mandarins who had been imprisoned for having remonstrated with Chitsong on the folly of his conduct, and he imprisoned those who had encouraged him to persist in his search for the elixir of life. His private character was above reproach, and the promise of his earlier years seemed indicative of A NATIONAL REGRET. 479
a more prosperous era for China. The shortness of his reign afforded no time for the realization of these hopes and anticipations; but if it did not allow of great achievements being performed, it could not prevent the memory of Moutsong's brief reign passing into a national regret.
At the least this reign would have been remarkable for the settlement of the long-standing dispute with Yenta the Tartar, who, although an old man, had not lost the energy of his youth, and whose reputation among his own race had been established and extended as his experience matured. In 1570 the defection of his grandson, who deserted to the Chinese, roused the apprehension of Yenta, and he presented a formal demand to the Emperor for his compulsory return. The only reply he received was to the effect that he must first restore those Chinese subjects whom he held in his power, and when, after some hesitation, Yenta complied with this condition, his grandson was sent back to him. This successful negotiation proved the precursor of an amicable arrangement between these hitherto bitter foes, and Yenta accepted the title of a Chinese prince, and went through the form of making his submission to the Emperor. This longexisting feud was thus happily settled for this occasion, at all events, if not as a permanent question of frontier policy.
Moutsong was suddenly seized with a malady which proved fatal, and the realm was thus left to be afflicted by a recurrence of those evils from which it appeared to have escaped. Moutsong feared the consequences that might ensue after his decease, and in his last will he implored his officials and subjects to unite in assisting the young heir apparent and in promoting good government. His fears proved only too just, for the long reign of his son Wanleh was to witness the culmination of the misfortunes which had been accumulating for some time.
THE LONG REIGN OF WANLEH.
As the young prince Chintsong, better known in history as the Emperor Wanleh, was only six years old at the time of his father's death, his mother assumed the functions of Regent, and summoned to her council prudent and trustworthy ministers. In this latter respect she showed a laudable resolve to follow and carry on the policy of her husband Moutsong; and if her good sense did not avail to avert misfortune, the result must be attributed more to the impression of weakness produced by the minority of the sovereign, and to an accumulation of foreign complications, than to any shortcomings on her part. The young ruler himself was apparently actuated by the most laudable intentions, and showed himself very desirous of following the advice of men of experience. With touching simplicity he placed his person and the fortunes of his family in the hands of the ministers whom his father had most trusted.
The tranquillity which happily prevailed at the time of Moutsong's death was not disturbed during the first years of the reign of his successor. Yenta, who had been for more than a generation the scourge of the northern frontier of the Empire, had either learnt moderation with growing years, or had found friendly relations with the Chinese authorities to be more profitable than the uncertainties of an arduous war. And with Yenta passive there was no other border chief bold enough to disturb Chinese territory.
The results of this season of tranquillity were soon shown by an increase in the revenue and by a proportionately full A SOLDIER OF FORTUNE. 481
exchequer; and, as one of Wanleh's ministers observed, it was only necessary that care should be exercised in the national expenditure to preserve the finances in their flourishing condition. But it does not appear that either Wanleh or any of his ministers possessed the necessary forethought to closely supervise the daily expenditure of the palace and the government, and the gradual accumulation of external difficulties left them little or no leisure to devote to the dry and unattractive precepts of a sound financial policy.
Wanleh had not long occupied the throne when the Miaotze of the Szchuen frontier broke loose from the slight control maintained over them by the local officials, but none of the incidents of this rising have been preserved. A revolt on the part of some military colonies in the North-West assumed larger proportions, and at one time appeared to threaten the security of even the Emperor's seat upon the throne. Popai, a soldier of fortune of Tartar origin, had risen high in the Chinese service, and among the officers to whom was entrusted the onerous task of guarding the north-west frontier few ranked higher than he did. It would seem that Popai's good fortune and distinctions had brought him the envy and dislike of the officers of Chinese race, and, as his position was too secure to be easily shaken, these latter resolved to gratify their spite by injuring those of his relations who were also in the Imperial service.
A slight offered to Popai's son led to a quarrel that soon developed grave proportions, and these aliens, whose example of seeking their fortunes under the auspices of the Mings had been imitated by many of their kinsmen, imagining that there was a scheme afoot for their destruction, took up arms in their own behalf and declared against the Government. This extreme act was committed in a moment of either temper or panic, and was unquestionably ill-judged. Had there been a prudent viceroy at the head of affairs in Shensi, this misconception might have been easily removed, and the ruin of a few brave men averted, with much saving to the exchequer and to the Emperor's peace of mind.
Popai and his followers easily overcame the opposition of the local Chinese officials and their soldiers. They then VOL I . 2 I