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Unfortunately the situation was grave, and required acts, not intentions. Lieouyuen and his son Lieousong, with their pretensions to the Empire, and their established authority, were steadily encroaching towards the south, and their course was not be stayed by either the virtues or the promises of the Emperor. Lieouyuen aud his generals advanced to a considerable distance south of Leaoutung before their career was momentarily arrested by Wangsiun, the general who thirty years before had constructed the fleet on the Yangtse for the conquest of Wu. But the same year which beheld this ray of hope for the Tsins also witnessed the appearance before the gates of Loyang of a large and victorious army under the King of Han. On this occasion indeed it was repulsed, but the wave was only checked, not rolled back. The next year Lieouyuen resumed the war, which he conducted with not less success than moderation. Several fortresses were taken, and one great victory ushered in the new campaign, which again closed with a repulse of the Han troops under the walls of the capital. The Tsin general on this occasion skilfully availed himself of the division of his opponent's army into two bodies by a river to crush one with superior numbers. But this was only a single success.
Elsewhere the Han troops had been completely victorious, and they only withdrew for the purpose of making a more decisive advance on the next occasion.
Lieouyuen's death, and his desire to leave his throne to an elder son, threatened the newly-formed Han kingdom with serious trouble, for Lieousong, who had taken so prominent a part in the wars of the period, refused to forfeit what he held to be his right. Fortunately for the cohesion of his people he proved strong enough to make good his pretensions, and, having slain his two elder brothers and their chief partisans, he caused himself to be proclaimed King of Han. These changes occupied the greater portion of the year A.D. 310. In the following year he resumed the enterprise against Hwaiti, and marched his armies on Loyang. On this occasion the capital of the Tsins fell to its northern conqueror, and Hwaiti fled from his palace in disguise. He was discovered and brought back to grace the triumph of the victor. Having
pillaged Loyang, and executed Ssemachuen, the heir-apparent, Lieousong's general carried off Hwaiti to Pingyang in Shensi, his master's capital. There Hwaiti was placed under strict surveillance, and his distressed people chose as governor of the Empire during his absence his second son Ssematoan, and concentrated their shattered forces at Mongching in Kiangnan (Kiangsu and Anhui). These preparations, and the union which at last came in the face of disaster, did not deter the warriors of Han from prosecuting their incursions against the defenceless people of Tsin. The same year that beheld the surrender of Loyang and the carrying-off of Hwaiti to Pingyang, witnessed the capture and sack of Changnan, where several of the princes of the reigning House were taken and forthwith executed.
After two years' captivity, Lieousong resolved to rid himself of the presence of his prisoner Hwaiti, and he availed himself of the opportunity of a defeat inflicted upon his troops by a neighbouring Tartar chief, to offer the greatest insult in his power to this representative of fallen majesty, and then to crown the outrage with his murder. Dressed in black, the Tsin Emperor waited at table on his Tartar conqueror, and then on a flimsy charge, of which not a tissue of proof was afforded, he was led to execution. Upon the news reaching Changnan, the ministers proclaimed, A.D. 313, Ssemaye, Hwaiti's next brother, Emperor under the style of Mingti. The new monarch brought no change to the waning fortunes of the Tsins. During the four short years of his reign the troubles in the Empire became worse instead of better, and when he had been three years on the throne the Han generals again appeared before Changnan, which had partly risen from its ruins, and captured it after a show of resistance. Mingti was conveyed to Pingyang in the same manner as Hwaiti, and after a year's imprisonment, during which he was subjected to numerous indignities, he also was executed. For the second time in the course of a few years was the melancholy spectacle afforded of a Chinese Emperor being compelled to perform menial services for the amusement or glorification of a barbarian potentate.
To Mingti succeeded four Emperors, whose reigns, extending over a period of twenty-eight years, call for no detailed description. Yuenti removed his capital from Changnan to Kienkang, the modern Nankin, thus obtaining a temporary immunity from insult. In the same year the Han king Lieousong died, leaving to his son Lieousan the dominions which had been won by his own intrepidity. Lieousong's great qualities are clearly shown by what he accomplished. He was the first of the foreign rulers to engage in a war with, and to defeat the Chinese with their own weapons.
His death, however, brought numerous troubles upon his people. Lieousan reigned only a few weeks, and an ambitious minister endeavoured to establish his personal authority.. It was not until the next year that the general Lieouyao succeeded in restoring order, when he was proclaimed King of Han. In the confusion, the capital, Pingyang, had been sacked, and the seat of government was then transferred to Changnan. The unsettled state of the country during this period may be accurately inferred from the frequent changes in the place of the capitals. Shortly after his removal to Changnan, Lieouyao altered the name of his family from Han to Chow; and as if to proclaim his hostility to the Chinese he placed Mehe, the celebrated king of the Hiongnou, at the head of his ancestors. Fortunately for the Tsins this formidable northern Power split up into two parts, each hostile to the other, and thus afforded a brief breathing space to the Emperors who nominally governed China. Of this Mingti the Second strove to avail himself as best he could, but he only lived three years to give effect to a policy which aimed at restoring his authority through profiting by the weakness and disunion of his opponents.
Although not recognized as Chinese sovereigns, the Han kings of the north ruled over large districts of the Empire, and included among their subjects a majority of Chinese by race and associations. They copied as closely as they could the practices of the greater Emperors, and their palaces and court ceremonials were in exact imitation of what prevailed at the capital under the great Hans. In one palace we are told more than ten thousand persons resided, and in China in those days the palace was not only a barrack and a
fortress, but included a park and pleasure grounds as well. The most striking and original of their customs was the band of Amazons, who were specially attached to the person of the ruler. These were mounted on excellent Tartar horses, and dressed in the magnificent fashion that becomes the bodyguard of a great ruler. These luxuries, and this imitation of Sardanapalus would have been more natural, and less exposed to censure, if there were not the unanswerable contemporary criticism recorded in history that the people were ground down under the oppression of their rulers, and that the poverty of the country formed a striking contrast to the luxury and dissipation of the court. Among all the rulers who divided China between them there was not one of any worth as regards public spirit. They were all adventurers in one sense of the word, enjoying the day and reckless of the morrow. The Chinese moralist in his disapprobation of a standard of living and of governing so far removed from his maxims has had to create a semi-mythical princedom of Ching, where at least the ancient virtues and sobriety of life were practised during these dark ages of Chinese history.
When the boy Kangti died, after having held possession of the throne for two years, his son, an infant named Moti, was elected his successor. During the life of this young ruler his mother held the reins of authority, and, as if in mockery of the rampant evils in the state, the chronicles contain nothing but the record of how much the qualities and virtues of this prince were in excess of his years. The trite observations of these sciolists did not add much to the removal of national evils, and the golden promise of the ruler's younger days afforded no remedy for a crisis pregnant with danger to the permanent interests of the nation.
The skill of a general named Hwan Wen shed lustre on the military annals of Moti's reign. He defeated in a pitched battle the army of the Prince of Han, who had in turn become the victim of the corruption of the age. Very soon the disintegrating causes at work in the region brought under a single sway by the ability of the Lieou family clearly revealed themselves, and the formidable military power which had been created in the north, and which threatened to destroy
the Tsins, was dissolving again into its component parts. The revival of military capacity among the lieutenants of the Emperor, and the skill of Hwan Wen in particular, enabled the Tsins to profit to a great extent from the disunion and strife prevalent among the chiefs of Han, who all wished to be first, and have precedence of the others. So it was that in A.D. 352 the proud edifice erected by Lieouyuen and his son Lieousong fell finally to the ground, and the great family which had contested on equal terms with the Tsins disappeared from its place among the rulers, and became practically extinguished. It must not be assumed that all the advantage of this change went to the Emperor, for two new principalities, those of Yen and Chin, rose on the ruins of the Han domination.
At the age of sixteen Moti began to reign for himself, and continued to do so during the three remaining years of his life. The successes of Hwan Wen continued, and tended to restore the fading reputation of the Emperor. Moti's death arrested the career of progress, and the short life of his successor, Gaiti, did not make the prospect of the Tsins any the brighter. When Gaiti died, after holding the sceptre during four short years, his brother Yti, or Tiyeh, succeeded him. The general Hwan Wen, whose abilities had been an element of strength to his predecessors, was seized by the demon ambition, and deposed Yti after he had occupied the throne for five years. In Yti's place Hwan Wen put Kien Venti, but he accepted the charge with hesitation. Fearful of the responsibility, and trembling at the prospect of danger, Kien Venti was out of his sphere on the Dragon Throne. It was indeed a happy release for him when he was removed from a world of care and uncertainty. There is no knowing what part Hwan Wen meditated playing in the regulation of the affairs of the state at this critical juncture ; but a greater power than his will intervened, and after a short illness he died from the effects of a prolonged debauch.
Kien Venti was followed, A.D. 373, by his son Ssemachangming, a boy of ten years old, who on his assumption of the supreme dignity took the proud name of Vouti. His reign showed a considerable revival of power, and when Foukien,