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THE FLIGHT OF THE TOURGUTS. 687
proposal, and to seek a fresh home beyond the sphere of their rival's influence. Ayouka took his measures with the necessary vigilance and precaution. Tse Wang Rabdan was on the eve of delivering his attack when he learnt that the Tourguts had fled into Russian territory, and were beyond his reach.
Ayouka had to march with his people across the steppes of the Kirghiz for many hundred miles before he reached the settlements of Russian authority. The movements of this considerable body of people created some alarm, but when the Government of Orenburg realized their intentions, a district between the Volga and the Yaik was allotted as their place of residence. There, as the faithful subject of the Czar, Ayouka lived out the few remaining years of his life, and his son succeeded to his position as chief without possessing the desire to return to his ancestral home by the Hi. For fifty years and more the Tourguts remained the contented dependents of the Russian Government .
The report of Keen Lung's victories reached their settlements on the shores of the Caspian, and they appear to have stirred in their hearts a memory of their own country. The race of tyrannical despots, of whom Tse Wang Rabdan had been not the worst but only the most notable instance, was extinct, and in their place had been established the milder and more just rule of the Chinese Emperor. The Chinese had not neglected to proclaim that the Tourguts would be welcome whenever they pleased to return to their old settlements; and the exactions of the Russian tax-collector and drill-sergeant, which were rendered more severe by the wars with his neighbours in which the Czar was constantly engaged, gave increased weight to considerations of sentiment and patriotic feeling. The Tourguts, however, might long have wanted the resolution to undertake a second journey across Asia, but for an outrage offered to their chief Oubacha, the great grandson of Ayouka. The Russian officials seized his son either as a hostage for his father's good conduct, or as a further recruit for the service of the Czar.
Whatever the motive of the outrage, it decided the Tourguts to no longer hesitate about the return to their native state to which the friendliness of the Celestial Government invited them to come back. Towards the close of the year 1770 they, to the number of several hundred thousand, gathered in their worldly belongings, collected their flocks, and, breaking up their camps, which served them in the place of more permanent dwellings, began their return march to the district they had reluctantly and under the pressure of a great fear quitted half a century before. Eight months were occupied in traversing the region from the Yaik to the Hi, but the local forces were too few, and the means of summoning fresh troops too inadequate to allow the Russians to interfere with their movements or to molest their flight. The Tourguts reached their destination in safety, and became the faithful and peaceful dependents of the Chinese Emperor or Bogdo Khan. Their flight * from east to west, and their return to their old settlements, contribute a picturesque episode to the establishment of Chinese power in Central Asia, and we may attribute their coming back after the proclamation of Chinese authority either to the hardships of Russian rule, or to the greater attractions offered by that of China. Certainly in the eyes of the Asiatics there never has been a more lenient or considerate government established over them than that of the Chinese in times of peace and domestic tranquillity.
The return of the Tourguts ten years after the close of active campaigning in Kashgaria came as if to ratify the wisdom of Keen Lung's Central Asian policy. The sneers and doubts of the timid or the incapable had been silenced long before by the prowess and success of Tchaohoei, but ten years of peace and prosperity had placed in still clearer light than military triumphs the advantages of the able and farseeing policy of Keen Lung. A strong frontier had been secured; the hostile and semi-hostile peoples and tribes of Mahomedan Turkestan had been overawed and converted into peaceful subjects; the reputation of China had been extended to the furthest bounds of the Asiatic continent; and the monarch who had conceived the grand scheme of
* The reader may be referred to De Quincey's "Flight of a Tartar Tribe."
A PERFECT FRONTIER. 689
conquest, and seen how to carry it out, had crowned the glory and durability of his achievements by showing that he knew when and where to stop. In the boundless wastes and intricate passages of the Pamir, in the dizzy heights and impracticable passes of the Hindoo Koosh, and the Kara Tau, he had found the perfection of a frontier. His own immediate territory, the rich provinces of China, were rendered secure against aggression by the strong position he occupied on either side of the Tian Shan, in the remote Central Asian province three thousand miles distant from his capital. His policy had been vindicated by results. He could say that he had effected a complete and lasting remedy of an evil that up to his time had been dealt with for many centuries only by half-measures and by compromise.
VOL I. 2 Y
THE WARS WITH THE BURMESE AND THE MIAOTZE.
KEEN LUNG'S anxieties on the ground of his foreign relations were far from being confined to one quarter. The frontier of Yunnan was as much the scene of disturbance as the borders of Kansuh. The Shan and Karen tribes were by instinct not less addicted to predatory habits than the Mongols and the Eleuths, and behind the former stood the arrogant though feeble courts of Ava and Pegu anxious on occasion to make use of the military services of these clans. The weakness of the Chinese Emperor and the numerous other claims on his attention had long made it a point of policy with him to disregard the unsatisfactory condition of the Yunnan frontier, for the simple reason that his Government had neither the leisure nor the available resources to devote to its effectual and permanent pacification. Successive rulers had been content to leave the problem unsolved as one of the accidents of government, and trusted to the weakness of their neighbours that no serious consequences would ensue. So long as Pegu and Ava remained disunited and antipathetic to each other no cloud of danger threatened the peace of mind of the Viceroy of Yunnan. The corruption of the courts and the effeteness of the dynasties of those two kingdoms corresponded with the decrepitude to which their military power had been reduced by a long period of misrule. The commencement of the eighteenth century found such pretensions as Pegu and Ava possessed to the authority of kingdoms vanishing beneath the incompetence of the ruler and his advisers. From such neighbours China, even at its worst days, had nought to fear.
In the hour of their distress the peoples of Burmah, however, found a champion and reliever in the person of one of those men sent by Providence to scourge and purify a profligate society. Alompra sprang from the people. He belonged to the hunter class which, among a race averse to danger, had been relegated to a position of undeserved contumely and inferiority. He overthrew the Talaing kings of Pegu who had established their supremacy in Ava, and when he had freed his native state he proceeded to expel his foes from their own kingdom. He extended his Empire from the Bay of Bengal to the frontier of China. The tributary kingdom of Assam recognized his might, and the terror of his name penetrated to the Gangetic Delta. Alompra imparted an unknown vigour into a decaying system, and left to his children an authority in the Irrawaddi region which could claim the obedience of its subjects and for a brief space also the respect of its neighbours.
Alompra's successors, surrounded by courtiers who flourished by extolling the virtues and power of their master, allowed themselves to be easily deluded into the belief that they had nothing to fear from the utmost power of China, even if a policy of irritation should result in provoking the wrath of their great but impassive neighbour. The exact details of the origin of the war that broke out have not been preserved, but there is little doubt that it arose from border disturbances which the Burmese authorities neglected to do their part in suppressing. The arrogance of the Court of Ava had been swelled to a higher point than ever by the military successes of Alompra, and when the pretensions of the two haughtiest courts of Asia clashed it was inevitable that a hostile collision should ensue. The greater power possessed by Keen Lung, and the more complete results from the work of administration which he demanded within his frontiers, also contributed to produce a grave complication on the Yunnan border. The successful campaigns in Central Asia had not long closed when Keen Lung gave orders to increase the garrisons in the south-west provinces, and to make general preparations in that quarter in the event of the outbreak of hostilities.