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have been all the more conspicuous; and it certainly seems that Noorhachu achieved a great exploit when he extended his sway from a small valley of a few square miles over a vast territory including two Chinese or quasi-Chinese provinces, and stretching from the Great Wall to the Amour. If much of his extraordinary success must be attributed to the blunders and folly of his opponents, cannot almost the same be said of every conqueror from the days of Alexander to those of Napoleon? Noorhachu had the strength of will, seldom given to mortals, to know when to stop. His victories are not more remarkable than the vigour with which he made the most of their results, and with which he consolidated his authority in the new possessions that fell into his power. He built up the edifice of his empire step by step, and his successors had to thank him that he sank its foundations very deep in the affections of his own people, and in the possession of a well-trained and valiant army.
Noorhachu was succeeded by his fourth son, who became known in history as Taitsong or Tienming; and the accession of a new prince afforded the opportunity for the resumption of negotiations with the Chinese authorities. Whatever his motives, it seemed that the new ruler was disposed to pursue a more peaceful policy than his father, and a return to the old condition of amicable relations with China was for a moment anticipated by the sanguine. Chungwan alone, who had been rewarded for the heroic defence of Ningyuen by promotion to the rank of viceroy and chief commander, received the protestations and overtures of the Manchu ruler with caution and evident disbelief. There ensued the usual despatch of embassies and the accustomed interchange of compliments on the occasion of the death of a mighty and neighbouring potentate; but no real sentiment of friendship existed behind these empty courtesies. The pretensions of Taitsong, who wished to treat with the Ming Emperor on terms of equality, were quite incompatible with those of Tienki, who still asserted all his claims to supremacy based on a remote antiquity, and on the recognition of no equal authority save that of Heaven itself. The correspondence became warmer as it proceeded, and the open court paid by the chief of the SIEGES OF NINGYUEN. 523
Kortsin Mongols to Taitsong flattered his vanity while it irritated the Chinese. Nor was the situation improved by the announcement that the Manchus were invading and rapidly overrunning the long faithful tributary kingdom of Corea.
Finding that nothing could be gained by a wordy war in which his Chinese opponent enjoyed the advantage, and with a large portion of his army released by the overthrow of Corea, Taitsong resolved on renewing the attack upon Ningyuen, and he threw his whole force against that place in a desperate resolve to succeed. Once, if not twice, he sat down before its walls, and led his picked Manchu veterans to the assault in person. But Chungwan was still there, and Taitsong's efforts ended in his signal discomfiture. Again, for a second time, the campaign closed disastrously for the Manchus, who retired behind the Leaou. The ramparts of Ningyuen constituted a secure bulwark for the Chinese capital, and might have long continued to do so had not Taitsong been seized with one of those brilliant ideas which occasionally flash across the minds of great commanders.
Meantime, the occupant of the Chinese throne had changed. Tienki, of whom nothing else has been preserved save his misfortunes, had never been of robust health, and in 1627 his death made room for his younger brother, who is known to history as Tsongching. Tsongching was destined to be the last ruler of the once-great family of the Mings, and on his head was to descend with tenfold force the retribution for his predecessors' weaknesses and crimes.
THE GROWTH OF MANCHU POWER UNDER TAITSONG.
FOR a brief space it appeared that the Chinese had found in the hour of extremity a bulwark of safety in the fortress of Ningyuen, and the Manchus after their several repulses were beginning to lose heart a little, and to doubt whether Taitsong was a worthy ruler, and able to carry on the schemes of his father. There was no reason why the whole vigour of the Manchu tribe or confederacy should not be shattered and broken to pieces before the walls of a fortress resolutely defended and well-equipped in artillery. Disappointed in his expectations of success by a direct attack, Taitsong was still resolved to succeed, and his hostility towards China was inflamed and increased by his personal antipathy to, and jealousy of, Chungwan. But, like a prudent man, he would no longer waste his strength by throwing his forces against Ningyuen. It was by some higher instinct than mere prudence, if not by a flash of absolute genius, that he came to the determination to ignore Ningyuen and to advance by another route straight on Pekin. Taitsong kept his own counsel, but he gave orders to the chief of the Kortsin Mongols, who had been one of the first to congratulate him on his accession, to get ready his forces by a certain day. Taitsong then raised his own army to the number of 100,000 men, and moved into the districts of the Kortsin, which are situated west of Ningyuen and the Palisades, which "exist only on the map and in the imagination of the Emperor of China." Up to this point nobody knew anything of his design, but when he had gone thus far the necessity for INVASION OF CHINA. 525
further silence was removed. The plan was too bold, for the reputation of China's power was still great, to obtain the general approval even of the Manchus, and all his officers and kinsmen endeavoured to dissuade him from a course of such extreme peril. But Taitsong saw that the time had come to strike a bold blow against the Emperor. In a few years the Ming would recover his lost vigour and overcome the Tartars by sheer weight of numbers. It was, therefore, high time, thought Taitsong, especially as he had as yet done nothing, for him to strike a conclusive blow while the Emperor was bewildered and knew not how to utilize his vast resources. Taitsong pressed on rapidly, and his course was not to be stayed by the counsels of the timid.
The Manchu army,* augmented by the fighting-men of the Kortsin Mongols, advanced rapidly through the Dangan Pass of the Great Wall towards the capital, scattering before it the small bodies of Chinese troops that were alone available to oppose them, and without being delayed for any time by the forts which had been constructed for the defence of this portion of the frontier. Taitsong had forced his way across the mountains and had reached Kichow on the high road to Pekin before Chungwan became aware that he had been outmanoeuvred and that all his defences had been turned. Then he hastened back with all speed, and, having the advantage of the better road, he succeeded in outstripping the Manchus and in throwing himself with a portion of his army into the capital before Taitsong had fully beleaguered it . The Chinese were further reinforced by a body of troops which arrived opportunely from Taitong.
Taitsong issued a proclamation to the people and officials of China, in which he again recited his injuries, and dwelt upon the shortcomings of the Mings. In this document he
• It was about this time that Taitsong first divided the Manchus into corps known as banners. The Manchus proper were divided among the eight banners, and each banner followed its own leader and had a distinct military system. Each banner had a special flag and trumpeter attached. The Chinese who deserted to Taitsong were also arrayed under a single banner, but in their case the arrangement appears to have been one of military expediency rather than of any national significance.—See Mailla, vot x. pp. +12, 494
first made an effort to prepare the public mind for his becoming the successor of their Emperor, for, having dwelt upon the humble origin of Hongwou, the founder of the Mings, he then naltvely demanded whether it were not possible that "Heaven had chosen him to be the master of the Empire and to succeed the Mings." While this manifesto was being gradually circulated through the country, Taitsong took up his position near Pekin. He does not appear to have subjected it to any close investment, but contented himself with concentrating his troops in a single camp and with offering battle daily to the Chinese. His own headquarters he established at Haidsu, a pleasure-house of the Ming princes. The siege languished, and the Tartars would soon have been obliged to beat a retreat from the dearth of provisions, and the gradual increase of the Chinese forces, without effecting any of their objects, when Fortune, which had so often smiled upon their enterprises, came again to their aid. Pekin was not taken, it is true, but the disgrace and ruin of Chungwan were equal to a great victory.
Chungwan, whose reputation and great qualities made him a host in himself, had so well supplied the deficiencies of the Chinese position at Pekin that it looked as if the balance of victory would incline to their side. Taitsong, foiled in the field, resolved to effect his purpose by compassing the ruin of his most formidable opponent, and the machinations of eunuchs who were bitterly inimical to Chungwan greatly facilitated his object. A plot was soon formed between the Manchu leader and a party in the palace to procure Chungwan's disgrace and removal from the command; and it succeeded only too well. The eunuchs found, and availed themselves of, the opportunity to poison the Emperor's ear against the general who was valiantly defending the country from a victorious invader; and, apparently on the theory that the more improbable the charge the more it will obtain a temporary credence, Chungwan was accused of holding secret communications with the enemy. Invited to visit the Emperor on a pressing matter of state, he hastily left his post for the palace, where he was seized and placed in confinement. Nothing more was afterwards heard of this brave soldier, and