Imatges de pàgina

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



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 unwarlike 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-West 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 maneuvres 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. I.

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


707 men on the southern side of the Himalayas. The Goorkha capital, Khatmandu, lay almost at their mercy, and it was in nothing short of sheer desperation that the Goorkhas assembled near the village of Nayakot on the Tadi stream, for the purpose of making one last effort to defend their principal city and the seat of their Government.

It is impossible not to admire the resolution with which the Goorkhas defended themselves against the foe, whose righteous indignation they had incurred by their own wanton aggressiveness. Within twenty miles of their capital, after having suffered a succession of defeats that would have demoralized any ordinary army, they made a final stand against their persistent and ruthless antagonist. The Chinese advance was momentarily checked by either the valour of the Goorkhas or the strength of their position; and it was only when Sund Fo, resolved to conquer at any price, turned his artillery against his own troops, and thus compelled them to charge, that the resistance of the mountaineers was overcome. The fire of the Chinese guns was sustained on the mass of combatants until the Goorkhas had been swept over a precipice into the stream of the Tadi. Many Chinese, of course, perished, but even in the numbers slain the greater loss fell upon the Goorkhas.

After this crushing overthrow the Goorkhas gave up further idea of resistance, and sued for peace. Indeed, they had no alternative, unless they were prepared to lose their independence as well as their military reputation. The Chinese general, having assured the attainment of his main object by the destruction of the Goorkha army, was not disinclined to accept the ample concessions offered by the Khatmandu authorities. His own losses had not been slight, and he was anxious before the advent of winter to recross the lofty mountains in his rear. When, therefore, the Goorkha embassy entered his camp, Sund Fo granted peace on terms which were humiliating, but which were still as favourable as a people who had themselves invited so crushing a defeat could expect. The Goorkhas took an oath to keep the peace towards their Tibetan neighbours, to acknowledge themselves the vassals of the Chinese Emperor, to send

a quinquennial embassy to China with the required tribute, and lastly to restore all the plunder that had been carried off from Teshu Lumbo. On these terms being accepted and ratified, the Chinese army retired to Tibet in two divisions, and such was the effect of this memorable campaign that the Goorkhas still pay tribute to China, still keep the peace on the Tibetan border, and are still enrolled among the nominal vassals of Pekin. Although the main provisions of this treaty are known, its exact phraseology and terms have never been ascertained—the vanity of the Khatmandu Court refusing to make known what Chinese pride and independence have kept a State secret at Pekin.

The results of this campaign were to greatly strengthen the hold of the Chinese Government upon Tibet, for the people of that country felt they owed to the intervention and protection of China alone their escape from their formidable aggressors. Not only did Keen Lung then avail himself of the opportunity to largely increase the local garrison, but he felt able to assert his authority more emphatically than before in the councils of the Dalai Lama. On the other hand, the ruling lamas recognized the necessity of Chinese protection, which the people were henceforth content to accept as a fixed condition in their political being.

In their distress the Goorkhas had applied for assistance to the Governor-General of India against the Chinese, and their request, like a previous one from the Tibetans, had been refused. A mission, however, was sent, under a British officer, Captain Kirkpatrick, to draw closer the ties of friendship with Khatmandu, and to negotiate a treaty of commerce. The Chinese commander appears to have misunderstood the part taken by the East India Company, and when he returned to Pekin it is said that he inveighed against the English for their duplicity in assisting “the robbers” of the Himalaya. In consequence of his representations the Chinese took increased precautions to prevent commercial intercourse between India and Tibet, and the Khatmandu Durbar, irritated by what it considered the desertion of the English, seconded their object by adopting a policy scarcely less exclusive than that of the Chinese. The passes through

« AnteriorContinua »