Imatges de pàgina
PDF
EPUB

occupation of Central Asia and the consequent disappearance of all possibility of a repetition of the Eleuth invasion. But after this popular ebullition the policy of the Celestial authorities so far underwent a change that they no longer confined their efforts to obtaining the sympathetic support of the Dalai Lama. They resolved to assert their right to have a supreme voice in the nomination of the Gyalpo or Regent, and by always filling that office with a creature of their own to secure the support of the principal civil functionary as well as of the great spiritual head of Tibet. The policy was astute, and proved successful. From that time to the present the Gyalpo has been the nominee and creature of the Chinese, to whose cause and views he stands fully pledged. One of the first objects to which the Chinese turned the undisputed supremacy they thus acquired was to effect the expulsion of the small Capuchin colony which had resided at Lhasa for nearly half a century.

The cause and the justification of the presence of the Chinese in Tibet were, as has been said, the danger from foreign aggression which beset a people unaccustomed to war and without an army. The sense of security that arose after the destruction of the Jungarian power contributed to give an appearance of unreality to the Chinese occupation, and so long as events favoured the supposition that the Manchu garrison was unnecessary, there was a distinct element of weakness in the hold of the Emperor upon this dependency. The people of Tibet pined for complete independence, and the Lamas resented the interference of the Chinese Ambans. It is impossible to say whether the connection would have been long maintained in face of these causes of disagreement; but the sudden advent of an unexpected danger to the people of Tibet came to prove the necessity of, and the advantage to be derived from, the protection extended over their country by the Emperor of China. This new peril appeared from an unexpected quarter, and both its gravity, while it lasted, and the important consequences which followed, call for detailed notice of its origin and attendant circumstances.

South of the Himalayan range, but independent of the authority of either the Mogul or the British, there existed at THE GOORKHAS. 703

this time several small hill-states or kingdoms, of which the principal and most important was that known as Nepaul. The Nepaulese enjoyed complete independence under a native dynasty, but the strength derived from a happy union soon departed when the state became subdivided into three separate and hostile kingdoms. The kings of Khatmandu, Bhatgaoo, and Patan, thought of little else than of indulging their mutual antipathies and rivalry; and although each was sufficiently strong to preserve his own independence, not one of them could impose his yoke upon either of his neighbours. In the year 1760 the reunion of the country appeared as remote as ever, when the King of Bhatgaon, threatened by a combination between his two rivals, entreated the assistance of the chief of an insignificant but warlike clan situated in the west of Nepaul and known by the name of Goorkhas. With the assistance of the Goorkhas the King of Bhatgaon repulsed the attack of his neighbours and signally triumphed over them. Indeed, so great was his success that it looked as if he might be able to subject to his yoke the whole of the Nepaulese valleys. The Goorkha chief Prithi Narayan, having performed his part of the compact, soon showed that he was not only master of the situation, but that he had views of his own on the subject of the future of Nepaul.

Prithi Narayan began his career by supporting one of the rival kings, but the ease with which he overthrew the others led him to conceive the ambitious task of retaining what he had won. Availing himself of their dissensions, and making an appeal on larger grounds than had yet been employed by any of the national leaders for the support of the peoples of these valleys, Prithi Narayan, backed by his band of hardy and warlike Goorkhas, soon made himself the undisputed master of the country from Kumaon to Sikhim. Before the year 1769 the Goorkha chief had overcome all his adversaries, and the three representatives of the ancient Newar kings were either slain or fugitives in India. The movement which had been begun by the English for the support of the native dynasty was suspended, and the fortunes of Nepaul passed into the hands of a military caste which regarded commerce with contempt and strangers with dislike.

Had the Goorkhas rested content with their achievements, it is possible that their views on questions of external policy would not have possessed much practical importance; but their ambition and spirit of aggression soon constituted a disturbing element along the whole of the Himalayan range. Not only did they put a stop, by the severity of their custom dues, to the once flourishing trade that had been carried on between India and Tibet through Nepaul, but they took no measures to prevent the raids which began after their advent to power on their borders, and which very soon excited the displeasure and apprehension of the authorities of Tibet. It was not, however, until more than twenty years after the establishment of Goorkha power that this border strife attained the serious proportions and resulted in the overt acts of hostility which attracted the attention of the then aged Emperor Keen Lung.

In the year 1791 the Khatmandu Durbar suddenly came to the resolution to invade Tibet. The apparent indifference of the Chinese to the requests sent from Lhasa for support in checking the audacity of the Goorkhas is said to have contributed to strengthen the belief that the Pekin Government would not intervene for the protection of this state, while the, no doubt, greatly exaggerated reports of the wealth to be found in the lamaseries and temples of Tibet afforded a powerful temptation for a race of needy if courageous warriors to essay the enterprise.

The Goorkha army was, therefore, ordered to assemble for the purpose of invading the territories of its northern neighbour. With a force computed to number eighteen thousand men, the Khatmandu general entered Tibet, having crossed the Himalayas by the lofty passes of Kirong and Kuti, and advanced by rapid marches into the country. The Tibetans were unprepared for war and ill-able to make any determined resistance against this sudden invasion. The Goorkhas carried everything before them, and captured the second town of the state, Degarchi, with its vast lamasery of Teshu Lumbo, the residence of the Teshu Lama, who ranks next to the Dalai Lama. This achievement having been thus satisfactorily performed, the Goorkhas halted in their INVASION OF TIBET. 705

movements, and wasted many precious weeks in counting their spoil, and in asserting the rights of a conqueror.

The approach of the Goorkha army had carried terror into the midst of an unwarlikc population, and the Tibetans, without giving thought to the possibility of resistance, fled on all sides. In this emergency the one hope of the people lay in prompt assistance from China, and petitions were sent to Pekin representing the urgency of the situation and imploring aid before it should be too late. Keen Lung had not felt disposed to send troops to restore tranquillity at so remote and little known a spot as the Nepaulese border, in order to put an end to the petty raids which are natural to a frontier adjoining an uncivilized or warlike race; but it was quite a different thing to hear that a portion of his dominions had been invaded, and that those who called themselves his subjects, and who looked to him for protection, should be suffering under the sword of a wilful aggressor. He at once sent orders for the despatch of all available troops from the South-VVest to Lhasa, and his preparations for war were made on a large scale. The aged ruler was roused by the outrage committed against his dignity and country to one of those fits of energy which had previously enabled him to settle several of the most difficult and complicated questions that had perplexed his predecessors.

Within a few months the Chinese army assembled in Tibet had reached the large number of seventy thousand men, with several pieces of light but serviceable artillery; and the Goorkhas, awed by this formidable array, began to take steps for a return to their country. The quantity of spoil which they carried off was so vast that it greatly delayed their march, and time was thus afforded the Chinese to gain upon and to attack them before they had reached the southern side of the passes. The Chinese commander Sund Fo, or Thung Than, conducted the operations with remarkable skill and vigour, and his manoeuvres compelled the Goorkhas to risk a battle north of the Himalayas in the hope of being able by a victory to secure their unmolested retreat .

In accordance with their usual practice the Chinese drew up a list of the conditions on which they would refrain from VOL L 2 Z

prosecuting the contest, and these included the surrender of all the spoil taken at Teshu Lumbo, and of the person of a renegade lama, whose tale as to the wealth in the Tibetan lamaseries had been the original cause of the war. It is almost safe to assume that the Goorkhas were also requested to promise better conduct for the future, and to recognize the suzerainty of China. The Goorkhas, accustomed to success by an unbroken succession of victories, haughtily replied that they would not consent to any one of these conditions, and that they defied the Celestials to do their worst.

The Goorkhas took up a position on the plain of Tengri Maidan, where the Chinese commander found them in battle array. The Chinese at once delivered their attack, and after a desperate encounter, of which, unfortunately, no details have been preserved, they compelled the Goorkhas to abandon the field and much of their spoil, and to hasten their retreat to Nepaul. The vigour shown by the Chinese in the pursuit proved that their losses could not have been severe, and before the Goorkhas gained the Kirong they were attacked a second time and defeated. The Goorkhas experienced great difficulty in making their passage across the Kirong pass, and had to abandon most of their baggage and spoil in order to march the more rapidly. The Chinese did not slacken their ardour in following up the advantage they had obtained, and pressed hard upon the traces of their defeated enemy.

The Goorkhas became demoralized under this unflagging pursuit, and their resistance more faint-hearted. Defeat followed defeat. The forts in the mountains commanding the narrow roads and defiles by which admission could alone be gained into their State, were captured one after another without long delaying Sund Fo's army. At Rassoa, half-way between Daibung and the Kirong, the Goorkhas defended the passage over a chasm for the space of three days; but here, too, their despair did not avail to alter the decision of previous encounters. Although the losses of the Chinese had been very severe, not only during these frequent combats, but also throughout the passage of the snowy range, they had practically overthrown their opponents when they succeeded in concentrating an effective army of about 40,000

« AnteriorContinua »