Imatges de pàgina
PDF
EPUB

PATERNAL RESPECT. 657

none. It was very shortly after the departure of Metello that Yung Ching took steps of marked severity against several officials who were said to be Christians, and exposed for the first time in a public document his contempt for the religion of the foreigners. Strange as it may seem, he connected in this formal indictment Christianity with Buddhism, and expressed his final astonishment at the fact that any of his subjects should be so misguided as to "be ready to shed their blood in such a cause."

It was not until the year 1732, towards the close of Yung Ching's reign, that the inimical sentiment of both the people and the Government towards the foreigners again revealed itself in open acts; and then Canton, the second city of importance in the Empire so far as the Christians were concerned, was the scene of these measures of national antipathy or repressive legislation, according as we may feel disposed to regard the question. At one moment the situation appeared to be pregnant with danger for the Europeans, as Yung Ching, influenced by the views expressed even by the Canton mandarins—who had been more sympathetic, from selfish motives it is true, towards Europeans—was on the point of giving an order for their expulsion without exception from the Empire, when in a moment of indignation he summoned the missionaries into his presence in order to read them a homily on their want of paternal respect . He appears to have been informed by some of his ministers that the Christian religion did not enjoin filial obedience, which of course shocked his understanding. When, however, the missionaries in defending themselves pointed out that it was one of their first and principal laws, Yung Ching was too just and enlightened a man to persist in his threats as soon as he found that he had been working on a fallacy and that his argument was untenable. From that time to his death, in 1735, the missionaries had nothing worse to complain of at his hands than his passive indifference to their presence. So far as notice of them by either the Emperor or the Court went, they might just as well, indeed, have quitted China and returned to their own countries. The arrival of recruits being interdicted, it was only a question of time until they should VOL. I. 2 U

all die and disappear from the scene of their labours. It was also a question, as the event showed, of the duration of Yung Ching's own life.

When Yung Ching ascended the throne, the wars which had long disturbed the Western Marches were far from being concluded. Kanghi's successful campaigns had given security to the Khalkas, and had asserted the predominance of Chinese influence at Lhasa; but they had not availed to curb the growing power and pretensions of Tse Wang Rabdan. The last few years of Kanghi's reign had been saddened by military reverses, and although there was no relaxing in the energy of the steps taken towards their retrieval, yet, with the absence of the Emperor and with no worthy successor for the intrepid Feyanku, the result had not corresponded either with Kanghi's hopes, or with the greatness of the effort made.

Tse Wang Rabdan, although unable to attempt so distinct a trial of strength with the Chinese Emperor as his relative Galdan had done, continued his attitude of more or less open defiance, and his acts of aggression were numerous and frequently successful in their objects. The general opinion, certainly, was that Yung Ching would carry on these operations with renewed vigour, and that he would seek to exact a speedy and complete satisfaction for the reverses that marked, but could not dim the lustre of, his father's latest years. Yung Ching's policy disappointed these natural expectations. He was essentially a man of peace, caring nothing for the socalled glory of foreign wars and costly expeditions, and declaring that his proper province was to attend solely to the wants of his own people. Instead, therefore, of despatching fresh armies into Central Asia he withdrew those that were there, leaving the turbulent tribes of that region to fight out their own quarrels and to indulge their petty ambitions as they might feel disposed. The policy in this matter * which

• Here may be briefly summarised the closing scenes of the career of Tse Wang Rabdan, the most powerful of Jungarian monarchs. We have seen the success with which he had intervened in Tibet and operated against Kanghi. His paramount authority was generally recognized throughout Eastern Turkestan or Little Bokhara, where he had stepped in successfully to advance the interests and establish the authority of a chief called DanieL His career was cut short by his murder in 1727, and

A LAST AUDIENCE. 659

Yung Ching began with the first day of his reign was continued until the hour of his death.

Yung Ching's death occurred suddenly. On the 7th of October, 1735, he gave audience to the high officials in accordance with his usual custom, but feeling indisposed he broke off the interview earlier than on ordinary occasions. The same evening his indisposition assumed a grave character, and in a few hours he had ceased to live. The loss of their Emperor does not appear to have caused any profound sentiment of grief among the masses, although the more intelligent reeognized in him one of those wise and prudent rulers whose tenure of power promotes their people's happiness. Rumours were spread about to his disadvantage and to the detriment of his private character; but an impartial consideration of his reign shows them to have possessed little or no foundation in fact . During the thirteen years that he ruled we find him ever anxious to promote the public weal and to alleviate the sufferings of his people. Whether it was in matters of State, or of his private conduct, he seemed equally mindful of the dignity of his position and of the fame of his family. Without aspiring to the eminence of his father, he left a name for justice and public spirit that entitles him to rank high among the sovereigns of China who have deserved well of their country. Even his attitude towards the Christians was dictated by a firm belief in the necessity of limiting the intercourse of his people with the Europeans, and of curtailing the growing influence of the latter. Yung Ching had always placed the

his power passed to his son Galdan Chereng. Galdan Chereng was the monarch of the Jungarians during the whole of Yung Ching's reign and the first years of that of his successor. Sir H. Ho worth (" History of the Mongols,* vol. i. pp. 646-9) gives a very interesting account of the relations that subsisted between Tse Wang Rabdan and his neighbours the Russians. So far back as the year 1714 .1 scheme was laid before Peter the Great for the annexation of the country of Little Bokhara. The prime motive put forward fur this act was the gold said to be contained in this reputed El Dorado. The Russians went so far towards the realization of their designs as to send a force of nearly 3000 men down the Irtish. The conquest of Yarkand was their immediate object . The expedition was assailed on all hands by the Calmucks and compelled to retreat. The attempt was renewed several times at later periods, but without success.

public interests in the foreground of his conduct, and whether rearranging the order of the official classes, or compiling the history of his family, or providing for the wants of his people we find him equally true to his principles and not less ardent than consistent in carrying out the dictates of his conscience. Yung Ching left three sons, but, as none of these had been formally declared heir-apparent, the eldest was placed upon the throne by general consent. The result proved the choice to be singularly happy, for the young prince, who was the fourth of the Manchu rulers to ascend the throne of China, has earned an imperishable place in history as the Emperor Keen Lung.

[ocr errors]

CHAPTER XLIV.

KEEN LUNG'S EARLY YEARS.

WHEN Yung Ching's sudden death left a void in the seat of authority, there was none probably more surprised at the first consequences of that event than the young student, who was summoned from the interior of the palace to take his place as the responsible head of affairs. For although the eldest of Yung Ching's sons, he was not the off-spring of the Empress, and the custom of imperial succession was too uncertain to justify confidence in the recognition of his claims. Keen Lung had been brought up by his father in the pursuit of literary knowledge, and his skill and proficiency in the field of letters had already been proved before Yung Ching's death. But of public affairs, of the work of administering a great Empire, Keen Lung knew literally nothing. He was a student of books rather than of men, and he had to undergo a preliminary course of training in the art of government before he felt himself competent to assume the reins of power. When it has been said that Keen Lung was more fully persuaded of this fact than anybody else, it will be understood how great must have been his merit and strength of character to have realized wherein he was deficient to fulfil the duties of his onerous post . Few princes of his years, born in the purple, have ever had the profound sagacity to admit their shortcomings, and still less the prudence to take efficacious steps to supply them. Keen Lung's first act was to appoint four regents to show him how to rule. The very edict, however, which entrusted them with so much authority

« AnteriorContinua »