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A HUN CHIEFTAIN. 59
son's assassination when thus forestalled in his intention. Tonghou sent to demand from him a favourite horse, which Mehe sent him. His kinsmen advised him to refuse compliance, but he replied, “What I would you quarrel with your neighbours for a horse?” Shortly afterwards Tonghou sent to ask for one of the wives of the former chief. This also Mehe granted, saying, “Why should we undertake a war for the sake of a woman P” It was only when Tonghou menaced his possessions that Mehe took up arms. Then Mehe collected his followers, dispersed that prince's army, captured and executed his opponent, and took possession of his camps and pasture-grounds. Among the Hiongnou the authority of Mehe became generally recognized, and all the scattered clans followed his banner to the war. Mehe's successes followed rapidly upon each other. Issuing from the desert, and marching in the direction of China, he wrested many fertile districts from the feeble hands of those who held them; and while establishing his personal authority on the banks of the Hoangho his lieutenants returned laden with plunder from expeditions into the rich provinces of Shensi and Szchuen. He won back all the territory lost by his ancestors to Hwangti and Moungtien, and he paved the way to greater success by the siege and capture of the city of Maye, thus obtaining possession of the key of the road to Tsinyang. Several of the border chiefs, and of the Emperor's lieutenants, dreading the punishment allotted in China to want of success, went over to the Tartars, and took service under Mehe. The Emperor, fully aroused to the gravity of the danger, assembled his army, and placing himself at its head, marched against the Tartars. Encouraged by the result of several preliminary encounters, the Emperor was eager to engage Mehe's main army, and after some weeks' marching and manoeuvring, the two forces halted in front of each other. Kaotsou, imagining that victory was within his grasp, and believing the stories brought to him by spies of the weakness of the Tartar army, resolved on an immediate attack. He turned a deaf ear to the cautious advice of one of his generals who warned him that “in war we should never despise an enemy,” and marched in person at the head of his advanced guard to find the Tartars. Mehe, who had been at all these pains to throw dust in the Emperor's eyes, and to conceal his true strength, no sooner saw how well his stratagem had succeeded, and that Kaotsou was rushing into the trap so elaborately laid for him, than by a skilful movement he cut off his communications with the main body of his army, and surrounding him with an overwhelming force, compelled him to take refuge in the city of Pingching in Shensi. With a very short supply of provisions, and hopelessly outnumbered, it looked as if the Chinese Emperor could not possibly escape the grasp of the desert chief. In this strait one of his officers suggested as a last chance that the most beautiful virgin in the town should be discovered, and sent as a present to mollify the conqueror. Kaotsou seized at this suggestion, as the drowning man will catch at a straw, and the story is preserved, though her name has passed into oblivion, of how the young Chinese girl entered into the plan, and devoted all her wits to charming the Tartar conqueror. She succeeded as much as their fondest hopes could have led them to believe ; and Mehe permitted Kaotsou, after signing an ignominious treaty, to leave his place of confinement and rejoin his army, glad to welcome the return of the Emperor, yet, without him, helpless to stir a hand to effect his release. Mehe retired to his own territory, well satisfied with the material results of the war and the rich booty which had been obtained in the sack of Chinese cities, while Kaotsou, like the ordinary type of an Oriental ruler, vented his discomfiture on his subordinates. The closing acts of the war were the lavishing of rewards on the head of the general to whose warnings he had paid no heed, and the execution of the scouts who had been misled by the wiles of Mehe. The success which had attended this incursion and the spoil of war were potent inducements to the Tartars to repeat the invasion. While Kaotsou was meditating over the possibility of revenge, and considering schemes for the better protection of his frontier, the Tartars, disregarding the truce that had been concluded, retraced their steps, and
pillaged the border districts with impunity. In this year (B.C. 199) they were carrying everything before them, and the Emperor, either unnerved by recent disaster or appalled at the apparently irresistible energy of the followers of Mehe, remained apathetic in his palace. The representations of his ministers and generals failed to rouse him from his stupor, and the weapon to which he resorted was the abuse of his opponent, and not his prompt chastisement. Mehe was "a wicked and faithless man, who had risen to power by the murder of his father, and one with whom oaths and treaties carried no weight.” In the meanwhile the Tartars were continuing their victorious career. The capital itself could not be pronounced safe from their assaults, or from the insult of their presence.
In this crisis counsels of craft and dissimulation alone found favour in the Emperor's cabinet. No voice was raised in support of the bold and only true course of going forth to meet the national enemy. The capitulation of Pingching had for the time destroyed the manhood of the race, and Kaotsou held in esteem the advice of men widely different from those who had placed him on the throne. Kaotsou opened fresh negotiations with Mehe, who concluded a treaty on the condition of the Emperor's daughter being given to him in marriage, and on the assumption that he was an independent ruler. With these terms Kaotsou felt obliged to comply, and thus for the first time this never-ceasing collision between the tribes of the desert and the agriculturists of the plains of China closed with the admitted triumph of the former. The contest was soon to be renewed with different results, but the triumph of Mehe was beyond question.
The weakness thus shown against a foreign foe brought its own punishment in domestic troubles. The palace became the scene of broils, plots, and counter-plots; and so badly did Kaotsou manage his affairs at this epoch that one of his favourite generals raised the standard of revolt against him through apparently a mere misunderstanding. In this instance Kaotsou easily put down the rising, but others followed which, if not pregnant with danger, were at the least extremely troublesome. The murder, by order of the Empress, during a reception at the palace, of Hansin, to whose aid Kaotsou mainly owed his elevation to the throne, shook confidence still more in the ruler, and many of his followers were forced into open rebellion through dread of personal danger. What wonder that, as he has said, "the very name of revolt inspired Kaotsou with apprehension.”
The southern provinces of China, which had been brought under the sway of Hwangti, were at this time welded into an independent state called Nanhai. The Hans had been unable to extend their authority over this region, and Kaotsou had no choice save to recognize the existence of an independent kingdom which it was extremely doubtful if he could overthrow. An envoy was sent by the Emperor to the capital of its prince, and his tact enabled him to obtain what the Chinese Emperor might flatter himself as being a recognition of his supreme authority. His ambassador on this occasion was a well-known man of letters named Loukia, and it was his representations which did most towards bringing his class into greater favour at court. Loukia, indeed, composed a work for the special purpose of bringing Kaotsou round to enlightened ideas, and this undoubtedly exercised considerable influence on his views. In B.C. 195 we find him going out of his way to visit the tomb of Confucius, to whom he offered homage in an elaborate ceremony. This, it is expressly stated, was only an act of policy. He left it for his successors to perform the same office to the great philosopher as a tribute of belief.
During the last campaign in which he was engaged—that against Kingpou, one of his old companions and supporters -he revisited his natal spot, where he gave a grand banquet to his army. After the feast, he took a musical instrument and sang in praise of the love of one's country. No truer meed has been rendered by Western poet to the necessity of patriotism than that contained in the impromptu tribute of this Chinese ruler. “Oh, my friends! how delicious the feeling we experience when after long absence we revisit our native land! The joy of battle, the charm of glory and of earthly grandeur, nay, even the title of Emperor or of
King, contains nothing so seductive ; they cannot, in a wellregulated mind, stifle the love of country. The land which first nourished us has sacred claims to our gratitude. My dear fatherland! the cradle of my fortunes, it is my fondest wish that you shall possess me after my death, and that my tomb may attest how much I loved you."
Shortly after this event, it became evident that the Emperor, borne down by anxiety and disturbed at the feuds with his earlier friends, was approaching his end, and one of his favourite wives made great efforts and intrigued among the nobles in order that her son should be selected the heir. But fortunately for the Empire, Kaotsou was aware of the evils of a disputed succession, and turning a deaf ear to her entreaties, his eldest son Hiao Hoeiti was proclaimed heirapparent. A few months before his death, Kaotsou had his first and only quarrel with the faithful Siaoho, whom on this occasion he cast into prison. Promptly advised of the injustice of his suspicions and the harshness of his treatment, he released and restored him to his former dignities, giving expression to the noteworthy sentiment that "there was nothing humiliating in the rendering of a merited act of justice."
The Emperor's indisposition had before this act of reparation assumed a grave character. The man who boasted that he "had conquered the Empire from his saddle,” was lying sick to death, because he refused all mortal aid, saying that "If Heaven wish me to die or live, it will inspire me what to do." His last act was to name the best officer for carrying on the government, and to instruct the Empress Liuchi what was to be done after his death, showing in those arrangements all the ability and knowledge of men which were his chief characteristics; while with his latest breath he revealed the weak side of his character by declaring that all remedies for himself were useless, and by forbidding any one to mention them to him. He died in the fifty-third year of his age, having reigned as Emperor during eight years.
The close of his reign did not bear out all the promise of its commencement; and the extent of his authority was greatly curtailed by the disastrous results of the war with the