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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 recognized 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 same 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 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.
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. Howorth (“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 a scheme was laid before Peter the Great for the annexation of the country of Little Bokhara. The prime motive put forward for 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.
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 L'ung.
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
expressly limited its application to the period of mourning, extending over four years; but as a measure of precaution against illicit ambition, he made the office terminable at his discretion.
Keen Lung began his reign with acts of clemency, which seldom fail to add a special lustre to the character of a sovereign. His father had punished with rigour many of the first princes of the court, simply because they happened to be connected with his family; and he had been in the habit of making use of his antipathy to the foreign heresy as a cloak to conceal private animosities and personal apprehensions. Keen Lung at once resolved to reverse his predecessor's policy on this point, and to offer such reparation as he could to those who had suffered without valid cause. The sons of Kanghi and their children, who had fallen under the suspicion of the Emperor Yung Ching, were released from their confinement and restored to the rank* from which they had been deposed. The young Emperor was so far fortunate in that instead of harbouring vindictive feelings for their long imprisonment they felt the warmest gratitude towards him as their benefactor and rescuer, to the splendour of whose reign some of them afterwards greatly contributed. The impression made on the public mind by this admirable moderation was scarcely less favourable, and the sentiment became generally expressed that a reign which began so auspiciously could hardly fail to prove a benefit and blessing to the people at large.
The restitution of their rights and privileges to these personages, whose former sympathy with the Christian
* Taitsou, or Noorhachu, had in the early days of his power divided the members of his family into two branches, distinguished from each other by the colour of their girdles or belts. To himself and his direct descendants he reserved the use of the yellow girdle, while to his brothers and their heirs he awarded a red girdle. The principal distinction between these different branches of the family was that, whereas the former could be made Regulos, the latter could not. On this occasion some of those, e.g. the descendants of Prince Sourniama, who experienced the clemency of Keen Lung, although entitled to wear the yellow and enjoy all its privileges—which appear to have consisted of free quarters and an allowance from the State--were only restored to the rank of the red girdle.—See Mailla, vol. x. p. 454, and vol. xi. p. 517.
CHRISTIANITY PROHIBITED. 663
missionaries had been marked and notorious, revived the hope among the latter that the evil days of persecution were at an end, and that they would be received back into such favour with the new Emperor as they had enjoyed under the wise Kanghi. These hopes were destined to rude disappointment, as the party hostile to them remained as strong as ever at Court, and the regents were not less prejudiced in their case. Keen Lung's own opinion does not appear to have been very strong one way or the other, but it is probable that from being so thoroughly versed in Chinese literature he was imbued with more or less prejudice against foreigners. When the subject was placed before him by his regents he sanctioned their suggestion of an order prohibiting the practice of Christianity by any of his subjects, and ordaining the punishment of those who should obstinately adhere to it. The foreign missionaries themselves were ordered to confine their labours to the secular functions in which they were useful, and to give up all attempts to propagate their creed. The restoration to their natural positions of the Manchu princes, who had formerly regarded the Christians with a favourable eye, was not followed by that return of the foreigners to favour which had been anticipated. The young Keen Lung showed himself disposed on this point to continue and carry out the policy of his father. Ten years after Keen Lung's accession to the throne these persecutions still continued, and, indeed, they had developed a fresh and more serious phase, for in the year 1746 several Spanish missionaries were arrested and tortured, those who had given them shelter were strangled, and all who had shown or expressed sympathy with either their persons or their religion suffered different degrees of punishment. The province of Fuhkien was again the principal scene of these outrages, but it is possible that the local officials were impelled to commit acts of greater severity by the knowledge of what their own countrymen had suffered at Manilla. The example set by the Viceroy of Fuhkien found faithful imitators among the other governors throughout the country, and a general outcry was raised against both the teachers of the oreign religion and their converts. The Emperor himself