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It was not until the year 1768, when Alompra's grandson Sembuen occupied the throne, that the Chinese troops began the invasion of Burmah, which had been imminent for several years. Keen Lung entrusted the conduct of this war to a favoured officer, the Count Alikouen, whose experience in the field had, however, been so slight that many raised a cry that Fouta should be recalled from his enforced retreat and placed in the principal command.* But the Emperor was fixed in his resolve, and it was under Count Alikouen that his troops marched for the invasion of Burmah. The Chinese advanced guard, computed to consist of some 50,000 men, crossed the frontier and took up a strong position between Momien and Bhamo. The Burmese troops advanced in greater force to expel it from the camp, which the Chinese commander had fortified. The result of this action is not known, but both sides claim it as a great victory. The approach of the main
* The valiant Fouta after the close of the campaigns in Central Asia returned to Pekin, where, however, he failed to sustain as a courtier the reputation he had gained as a soldier. Fouta was a member of the Solon tribe, and his appearance has been painted in the following words, which serve to bring the bluff character of the plain simple-minded soldier before us:—" Fouta had been brought up in Tartary among his compatriots, the Solon Manchus, and like them he had passed his youth in inuring himself to the fatigues of the chase and to military exercises. He had not contracted that easy air and that suppleness to be acquired only at a court, where he always appeared embarrassed. Frank and incapable of disguising his thoughts, and even slightly rough, he would have chosen to have been rather the last of soldiers than the first of courtiers. The tents, a camp, soldiers, those were what he needed, and then nothing was impossible to him. To support the greatest hardships, and rudest fatigue; to endure the extremes of thirst and hunger; to march by night or by day across arid deserts, or marshy places; to fight, so to speak, at each step as much against the elements as against man,—these are what he was seen to perform during the course of a war which had added to the number of the provinces of the Empire the vast possessions of the Eleuth. The Emperor had said on one occasion to an envoyboasting of his master's artillery, 'Let him make use of these cannon, and I shall send Fouta against him.' His end did not correspond with the promise of his brilliant prime. Accused by an official of having appropriated some Government horses for his own use, he was recalled to Pekin, where he was sentenced to death. This was commuted to the deprivation of all his ranks and titles and to a state of permanent confinement. Keen Lung refused to pardon Fouta with a persistence strangely disproportionate to the trivial offence."
THE BURMAH WAR. 693
Chinese army compelled the Burmese to retire, and the scene of war was shifted from the Chinese frontier to the valley of the Irrawaddi.
The Chinese commander, Count Alikouen, established a strongly fortified camp at Bhamo, where he left a considerable detachment, while with the greater portion of his army, said to number more than 200,000 men,* he marched on Ava. So far as numbers went the superiority still rested with the Burmese king, whose military position was further improved by his well-trained band of elephants and by the natural difficulties of the region of operations. Yet notwithstanding these obstacles, and that Alikouen did not evince any exceptional capacity in the field, the Chinese remained masters of the greater portion of the upper districts of Burmah during the space of three years.
Although no decisive engagement appears to have been fought, the Burmese were obliged, after this protracted occupation, to sue for peace on humiliating terms The King of Ava was so irritated at the poltroonery of his general, in having concluded an ignominious but probably inevitable treaty, that he sent him a woman's dress. But he did not dare to repudiate the action of his officer; and the Chinese army was withdrawn only after having obtained the amplest reparation for the wrong originally inflicted on a Chinese subject, and a formal recognition on the part of the ruler of Ava of the supremacy and suzerainty of the Emperor of China. This campaign resulted, therefore, in the addition of Burmah to the long list of Asiatic kingdoms paying tribute to Pekin.
The war with Burmah was followed by a more protracted contest with the Miaotze tribes, who, secure in their difficult mountain regions, had long bidden defiance to the Chinese authorities, and proved a source of constant trouble and danger to the settled inhabitants of the provinces of Kweichow and Szchuen. When the Emperor Keen Lung ascended the throne these people had just inflicted a severe reverse
* This number was probably greatly exaggerated by the vanity of the Burmese, who also claim most of the encounters as victories. The terms of peace clearly show how far these pretensions are justified by the facts. upon the Imperial troops, and, although no steps were immediately taken to retrieve it, the fact had not been forgotten. There appears to be little doubt that the Miaotze were not alone to blame for this unsatisfactory state of things, and that much of their turbulence and misconduct should rightly be attributed to the provocation offered them by the local mandarins both civil and military.
The Miaotze recognized the authority of tribal chiefs and heads of clans. They were by nature averse to agricultural pursuits, and chafed at the restraints of a settled life. Their courage and rude capacity for war enabled them to hold and maintain a position of isolation and independence during those critical periods which had witnessed the disintegration of the Empire and the transfer of power from one race to another. Each successive wave of conquest had passed over the face of the country without disturbing their equanimity or interfering with their lot. The Miaotze remained a barbarian people, living within the limits of the Empire but outside its civilization, and the representatives of some pre-historic race of China. When Keen Lung mounted the throne their position was practically unchanged, and their late success seemed even to warrant the supposition that their independence was more assured than at any previous period. Nothing happened to disturb this persuasion until the year 1771, when Keen Lung had ruled the Empire for more than thirty-five years.
In that year the Miaotze had broken out in acts of disorder on a larger scale than usual, and whether incited to commit these depredations by the pressure of want or by the arrogance of the Chinese officials, there is no question that the area of their raids suddenly became extended, and that the Chinese troops met with further discomfiture Whereas the Miaotze of Kweichow had hitherto been the most turbulent, it was on this occasion their kinsmen of Szchuen who carried their defiance to a point further than the Emperor could tolerate. Orders were, therefore, issued for the prompt and effectual chastisement of these hillmen, and troops were despatched against them for the purpose of reducing them to obedience. The troops marched, but THE MIAOTZE. 695
their valour proved of little avail. The Miaotze were victorious in the first encounter of the war, and it was made evident that in order to subjugate them a regular plan of campaign would be requisite.
Rendered over-confident by these preliminary successes, the Miaotze completed by an outrage the defiance they were resolute in showing towards the Emperor. They murdered the two officers he sent to their capital to negotiate, and they completed the insult by tearing up the letter which Keen Lung had condescended to write to them. The excessive pretentions and ambition of the Eleuth princes had compelled Keen Lung to take up the settlement of that question and to prosecute it with vigour. Success beyond precedent had attended his efforts, and established the wisdom of his policy of "thorough." The outrages committed by the Miaotze led him to the conclusion that similar energetic action in this quarter might very possibly be followed by results as satisfactory and as conclusive as those that had been attained in Central Asia. Just as he had decreed the annexation of a vast region beyond Gobi for reasons of state, he now ordered from scarcely less weighty causes the destruction of the Miaotze.
The Miaotze of Szchuen inhabited the mountainous region in the north-west corner of that province, which skirts a remote portion of Tibet. Their two principal settlements were known, from the names of streams, as the Great Golden River and the Little Golden River districts. The occupation of these settlements became the principal object with the Chinese Emperor, for he well knew that, when these hillmen were deprived of the only spots capable of sustaining themselves and their flocks, they would be obliged to recognize his authority and to accept his law without murmur. It only remained for Keen Lung to select some competent commander to give effect to his wishes, and to carry out the military scheme upon which he had resolved. The necessity for exercising care in such a choice had been shown by the tardy and meagre results of Alikouen's campaign in Hurmah, but either the etiquette of the court or the dislike of the Emperor prevented the recall of Fouta, whose great capacity rendered him the fittest leader for the post. Keen Lung's choice fell upon Akoui, by birth one of the noblest of the Manchus, and, as the result was to show, of talent equally conspicuous.
When Akoui reached the scene of operations he found that the gravity of the situation had been increased by the excessive confidence of those in command. One of the lieutenants of the border had worsted the Miaotze in an engagement, but, carried away by the ardour of pursuit, he allowed himself to be enticed into the mountains, where his detachment was destroyed almost to the last man. Akoui had, therefore, to devote all his attention to the retrieval of a defeat that might easily have been avoided. Several months were occupied in collecting the necessary body of troops, and a sufficient quantity of supplies for their use during a campaign that might prove of some duration in a barren region where means of sustenance were almost unprocurable.
The district of the Little Golden River formed the first object of Akoui's attack. The Chinese troops advanced in several bodies, and the Miaotze, assailed on all sides, were compelled to precipitately evacuate the territory. In less than a month the first part of Akoui's task had been successfully performed, and the Little Golden River settlement became incorporated with the province of Szchuen and accepted the Chinese law.
The second portion of his undertaking proved infinitely more arduous, and the Miaotze collected all their strength to defend their possessions round the Great Golden stream. The king or chief of the Miaotze was called Sonom, and, undaunted by the overthrow of his neighbour, he prepared to defend his native valleys to the last extremity. So resolute and unanimous were the Miaotze to fight to the death in defence of their last strongholds, that they refused to listen to any terms for a pacific arrangement, and even the women took up arms and joined the ranks of the combatants. The advance of the Chinese troops was slow, but being made systematically there could be no doubt that it would prove irresistible. The narrowness of the few passes, the natural