Imatges de pàgina
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consideration for the wants of his people demanded. On the other hand, we know that he resorted to gentle pressure to attain his ends rather than to tyrannical violence. When he wished to levy a heavy contribution from a too rich subject, he had recourse to what may be styled a mild joke• sooner than to the thumbscrew or the rack. Nor did he ever allow his anger to carry him into extremes, which he might afterwards have cause to repent. His long reign is singularly free from the executions of prominent princes and officials, which are found so frequently in Chinese history under even the best of rulers; and wherever possible he always tempered justice with mercy. A very short time after his accession one of his ministers fell into disgrace, and lay under sentence of death. But when he bared his breast and exposed the marks of the wounds he had received in saving the life of Kanghi's grandfather, Taitsou, he was immediately pardoned, and found his way back to the confidence of his sovereign.

The frequent illnesses from which Kanghi had suffered during his later years had donf much to undermine and weaken a constitution that had always been considered exceptionally sound and robust. Notwithstanding these reasons for observing simple precautions, he still persisted in the winter of 1722 in following his amusement of the chase in the neighbourhood of Pekin. He was thus employed when his last and fatal illness seized him. In a few hours all was over, and in the evening of the 20th of December, 1722, there passed away all that was mortal of the best and greatest monarch of Asia. On all sides, and from witnesses of different opinions on most subjects, came unanimous testimony f to his worth. Of the magnitude of his services to

• This will be found described at length in note on p. 366 of vol. xi. of Mailla. Briefly it may be thus narrated:—One day Kanghi made this official lead him riding on an ass round his gardens. As recompense he gave him a tael. Then he himself led the mandarin in similar fashion. At the end of the tour he asked how much greater he was than his minister? "The comparison is impossible," said the ready courtier. "Then I must make the estimate myself," replied Kanghi; "lam 20,000 times as great, therefore you will pay me 20,000 taels."

t Pere Parennin, in his letter of the 1st of May, 1723 (tome xix. of

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China and to his own race there could, indeed, be no question. They were conspicuous and incontestable. He had ascended the throne at a time when it seemed that the Manchu conquest, far from giving China the assurance of a settled and peaceful rule, would prove in its main result the perpetuation of internal dissension and of sanguinary strife. The presence of the able and powerful feudatory Wou Sankwei strengthened that conviction, and none dared think when the crisis reached the stage of open war that the youthful prince would more than hold his own, and eventually triumph over the veteran general whose military skill and consistent good fortune had been the theme of admiration and wonder with his countrymen for more than a whole generation.

From his earliest youth Kanghi had given abundant promise of his future greatness; and one story which is preserved of him when about to succeed to the crown is indicative of his firm confidence in himself and his destiny. It is said that, when Chuntche was on his death-bed, he summoned his children into his presence. "Which of you," he said, "feels that he possesses the ability and strength to retain a crown that has been won only so short a time?" All pleaded their youth or their inexperience, except Kanghi, the youngest, in whose vigorous instincts there dwelt the assurance of success. The result more than justified his

** Lettres Edifiantes "), wrote as follows :—" This prince was one of those extraordinary men who. are only met with once in the course of several centuries. He placed no limits to his desire for knowledge, and of all the princes of Asia there never was one with so great a taste for the arts and sciences." And again, " This prince was not put out by the expression of an opinion different to his own—rare, indeed, is it among persons of his rank to tolerate contradiction." Mailla's opinion is not less favourable and not less clearly expressed. He calls him " one of the greatest men who have honoured the throne of China." The following quotation of his personal appearance is taken from Bouvet's " Vie de Canghi:"— "There is nothing in his appearance which is not worthy of the throne he occupies. His air is majestic, his figure excellently proportioned and above the middle height; all the features of the countenance are regular; his eyes bright and larger than is usual with his nation ; the nose slightly curved and drooping at the point; and the few marks left by the smallpox detract nothing from the charm which is conspicuous throughout his person.

confidence in himself, and the Chinese people not less than the Manchu race had reason to congratulate themselves that Kanghi triumphed over his difficulties and succeeded in consolidating his authority. During the sixty-one years of his reign China made rapid strides towards the attainment of perfect material prosperity, and when he handed down his crown to his fourth son and successor, Yung Ching, he left an Empire of vast dimensions thoroughly reduced to a sense of obedience to the Government of Pekin, and prosperous by reason of the assurance of security for all classes, and for all kinds of property. The place of Kanghi among Chinese sovereigns is clearly defined. He ranks on almost equal terms with the two greatest of them all, Taitsong and his own grandson Keen Lung ; and it would be ungracious, if not impossible, to say in what respect he falls short of complete equality with either, so numerous and conspicuous were his talents and his virtues. His long friendship and high consideration for the Christian missionaries have no doubt contributed to bring his name and the events of his reign more prominently before Europe than has been the case with any other Chinese ruler, even in that of his grandson. But although this predilection for European practices may have had the effect of strengthening his claims to precede every other of his country's rulers, it can add but little to the impression produced on even the most cursory reader by the remarkable achievements in peace and war accomplished by this gifted Emperor. The right of these three Chinese rulers to appear in the same rank with the greatest sovereigns of antiquity or of modern times, of Europe or of Asia, cannot be disputed. They showed the same qualities that gain the admiration of mankind in the heroes of Greece and Rome; nor can those few rulers and conquerors to whom by the allowance of all civilized peoples the title of Great is due—Alexander and Caesar, Charlemagne and Alfred, Genghis and Timour, Akbar and Peter, Frederick and Napoleon—be placed in any way above them, whereas in the magnitude and utility of their deeds some of these fell very far short of any one of these Chinese Emperors. Kanghi's genius dominates one of the most critical periods

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in Chinese history, of which the narrative should form neither an uninteresting nor an uninstructive theme. Celebrated as the consolidator and completer of the Manchu conquest, Kanghi's virtue and moderation have gained him permanent fame as a wise, just, and beneficent national sovereign in the hearts of the Chinese people, who will ever cherish and revere his memory as that of a man who was among the best of their monarchs, at the same time that he represented one of the most favourable types of their character.

CHAPTER XLIII.

THE REIGN OF YUNG CHING.

Immediately after Kanghi's death his fourth son, whom he had long designated as his heir, and in whom he fancied that he traced a strong resemblance to himself, was proclaimed Emperor under the style of Yung Ching. In the edict with which he announced to his subjects the death of his father, and his own accession to the throne, he said that on the advice of his ministers he had entered upon the discharge of his official duties without delay, andj without giving up precious time to the indulgence of a grief natural, so far as his personal feelings were concerned, but probably prejudicial to the public interests. Yung Ching was a man of mature age, and could, from the place he had enjoyed in the confidence of his predecessor, assume without any delay the responsibilities and duties of his lofty station. He declared that his main purpose would be to carry on the great administrative work in the same manner as Kanghi, and that he would tread as closely as he could in his footsteps. But while Yung Ching took these prompt steps to place himself upon the throne, and to exercise the attributes of supreme power, several of his brothers whom his elevation had displaced assumed an attitude of covert hostility towards his government, and their demeanour warned him that he would have to exhibit vigilance and energy if he desired to retain his authority. At the same time it appeared evident to the people that Kanghi had selected his worthiest son as his successor, and that China would have no reason to fear under Yung Ching the loss of any of the benefits conferred on the nation by his predecessor.

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