Imatges de pàgina

service of protecting the western frontier. This scheme was found to answer admirably, and may be considered the first occasion on which the Chinese government incorporated in its army a military force composed of an alien race. Some few years after this decree (about the year B.C. 166) the Tartar king headed a great expedition into China. The invaders were computed to number nearly one hundred and fifty thousand horsemen, and for a considerable distance within the frontier they carried everything before them. On the approach of an army sent by the Emperor they adopted sound tactics and retreated with their booty. Eight years later they renewed the attempt, on two occasions, with equal success, but in the meantime Lao Chang, their chief, had died. He was succeeded by his son Kiunchin. The Chinese forces appear to have been ill-suited for coping with them and the Tartars harried the country almost to the gates of the capital.

The chagrin produced by these disasters told heavily on the health of an Emperor always desirous of his people's happiness and welfare. After ruling the Empire wisely and with beneficial results to his subjects during twenty-three years, Wenti died (B.C. 156) at the early age of forty-six, leaving to his son who succeeded him a brilliant example of a prince who set the public weal high above the gratification of his own personal pleasure. If there had been any doubt as to the triumph of the Hans proving permanent or ephemeral, the virtue of Wenti decided the point, and the later Emperors of his House following very much in his footsteps, the Han dynasty took its place as one of the most popular which ever ruled the Chinese nation.

Wenti's son on ascending the throne assumed the name of Hiaokingti, or Kingti, and in his first acts he closely imitated his father. Probably this must be attributed as much to the advice of his experienced ministers as to his own disposition. It is certain that while in the first days of his reign he remitted taxes, and extended the merciful consideration of new sovereigns to criminals undergoing the penalty of the laws, he very shortly afterwards imposed a fresh tax, and one, moreover, which had been waived by A CHINESE STRAFFORD. 73

Wenti. This caused some discontent; but, on the other hand, his moderation in the dispensation of the law, and the further alleviation of the penalty of flogging, which Wenti had substituted for mutilation, secured him the favourable opinion of the mass of his subjects. On the whole, Kingti proved himself a weak if an amiable prince. On one occasion, however, his irresolution cost the life of one of his most devoted and skilful ministers. A league of princes had been formed for the purpose of advancing private ends that need not be particularized, and Chaotsou, the wisest of the Emperor's ministers, had been selected as the special object of their enmity. It was said that, were Chaotsou executed, the rebels would disperse, and in a weak moment Kingti sacrificed Chaotsou, just as Charles the First abandoned Strafford. Of course the rebels were only encouraged by this unwise concession to their illegal action, and raised their demands because of this evidence of the weakness of the king.

Kingti then sent a large army against them, and attacked the forces of the rebel princes from three sides; and his commander succeeded by a series of skilful manoeuvres in shutting them up in their camp. In the struggle which then took place craft met craft, and at length the rebels, fighting with all the courage of despair, strove to cut their way through the ring of enemies around them. At first their onset was successful, but the Chinese reserves coming up, the whole army was destroyed. All the princes, save one, were either slain or sent as prisoners to Changnan, where they were executed. The remaining years of Kingti's reign were uneventful. The Tartars did not greatly disturb the border, and when Kingti died (in B.C. 141) he left the record of sixteen more years of almost unvaried tranquillity to the history of the period. The Chinese nation had turned these years of peace to the best use, and were at this time in a high state of prosperity and material strength. By the successful intrigues of his mother, Lieouchi had been, some years before Kingti's death, proclaimed heir-apparent in preference to his elder brother, Lieouyong, and now on his father's riVcease he became Emperor by the name of Hanwouti, or VoutL

When Vouti began his reign he was only sixteen years of age, but one of his first resolutions was to raise his country to a higher point of splendour than it had yet reached, and he took the opportunity of inviting the opinion of the ministers and other learned men as to the means to be employed for the attainment of his object. The gist of their observations may be taken as expressed in the line that " the principles of Government did not consist in fine words or studied speeches, but in actions." Vouti's efforts towards consolidating his government were retarded and thrown back by the intrigues of his mother, who was a patron and supporter of the Taouist sect, and several of his foremost ministers, having incurred her resentment, were either executed or dismissed the service of the state. Five years afterwards the Empress-mother died in consequence, it would appear, of injuries received during a great fire at the palace, and then Vouti reinstated some of these ministers in their former offices.

Vouti's first anxiety was caused by the outbreak of a war between two Chinese princes, and, when the weaker appealed to him for assistance against the aggressive neighbour, his ministers gave opposite counsel as to whether the request should be complied with or refused. One minister, dwelling on the well-known turbulence of the people of Yuei—the modern Fuhkien—insisted that it would be foolish for the Emperor to take part in a quarrel from which he could reap no advantage. Another, Chwangtsou, took, however, the opposite view, and pointed out that the Emperor could not be considered the father of his people if he turned a deaf ear to the entreaties of the weaker of his subjects. Convinced by this latter argument Vouti resolved to extend his protection to the afflicted, and entrusted the operation to Chwangtsou in person. On the approach of the Imperial troops the aggressors retired into the difficult country behind the marshes and lagoons of Fuhkien, where Chwangtsou conceived it to be prudent to leave them undisturbed. The campaign could only be considered in the light of a failure were it to conclude without securing permanent safety for those who had suffered from the incursions of the men of Yuei, and Chwangtsou accordingly obtained the sanction of the Emperor to their AN APPALLING CALAMITY. 75

transfer to a district further removed from the borders of Fuhkien. The subjection of Yuei was left for a later day.

The country had in the meantime been afflicted by a great catastrophe, bringing in its train a famine, and such suffering to millions, as is only known to the packed populations of China and India The mighty river Hoangho, which is, or ought to be, to the provinces of Northern China what the Kiang is to the south and centre, burst its banks, and flooded for hundreds of miles the flat low-lying country of Shensi and Kansuh. In face of this appalling calamity the utmost effort of man could accomplish little, and when the waters had abated the population fell victims to the dearth which ensued. Since that time the overflowing of the Hoangho has been periodic, and from some cause, which has never been thoroughly ascertained, that splendid river has never performed the useful functions that might be expected from it. Its gigantic course is clearly traceable on the map, but in the reality of fact it lies across Northern China deprived of half its strength and all its utility.

The surrender of the Prince of Nanyuei, and his recognition of the Emperor's authority have been already described. He was in some way threatened at this time by the turbulent people of Yuei, whose raids have been referred to, but instead of at once taking up arms for their chastisement, he asked the Emperor for advice and assistance. The local governors were instructed to take the necessary steps to comply with this demand, and the Prince of Nanyuei was encouraged to proceed to extremities. There is some reason for taking the view that these measures were put into force as a cloak for the design Vouti had formed of incorporating Yuei with the Empire. His true mind seems reflected in the following sentence from a memorial of the day: "that although Yuei never has belonged, it beyond doubt should belong to the Chinese Empire." The doubts suggested in another very able memorial, " Is the conquest of these barbarians worth the loss of the many thousand faithful subjects, which it must inevitably entail?" were never seriously discussed, when the object before the government was the acquisition of a kingdom. The I'rince of Nanyuei cast aside his inactivity the instant he found that Vouti approved of his entering the field, and marched his troops into Yuei simultaneously with the advance of the Chinese generals. The war was brought to a speedy and a bloodless conclusion. The people of Yuei refused to oppose an invader who was resolved to crush all resistance regardless of loss, and the brother of the king, playing the part of the most devoted patriot, slew the ruler, and sent his head to the Chinese commanders. Peace then ensued, on the footing of Yuei becoming a tributary province, over which Yuchen, the fratricide, was placed in authority.

In the sixth year of Vouti's reign (b.c. 135) the Tartar king sent an envoy to ask for a Chinese princess in marriage, and to express a desire for the continuance of the truce between the peoples. These periodical missions had as often as otherwise proved the precursor of war ; but whatever the result, the main object of their mission had generally been granted. But a new feeling was springing up among Chinese statesmen on the subject of the Tartars. Their experience had taught them that however much the desert chiefs might promise to keep the peace, they had not the power, and perhaps not the inclination, to restrain the impulse of their followers, and they were at last beginning to recognize that no useful purpose could be served by closing their eyes to their experience, and by assuming •improbabilities because pleasing. So it was that in the Grand Council assembled by Vouti for the consideration of the request of the Tartar king, the party advocating the rejection of the demand, and the adoption of stringent measures against the Tartars, took up a bolder position; but the time had not yet come when their views were to prevail. The bold policy of Wang Kua, who had had personal experience of the state of affairs on the Western border, "of destroying them rather than to remain constantly exposed to their insults," was not yet to be accepted, and the Tartars were granted one more opportunity of shaping their action towards the Chinese on a friendly basis. The difficulties of a campaign in the wilds of Central Asia appeared to the peaceful Chinese to be insuperable, and as yet their experience had not afforded them any reason to believe that the subjection of the Hiongnou could be accomplished.

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