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AN EMPEROR SMOTHERED.
the principal of the northern rulers, threatened to overrun his territories, Vouti marched boldly to encounter him, and obtained a brilliant · success over his opponent. After his defeat, Foukien's own partisans turned upon him and caused him to be strangled in his residence. Vouti appears to have thought that with this achievement he had done sufficient, and retiring to his palace gave himself up to an unbridled course of pleasure. Having offered a slight to one of his wives, she took summary vengeance for the wrong by smothering, under a bed, her lord and master whilst in a state of intoxication. So died the Emperor Vouti the Second after a reign of twenty-five years, which beheld one victory on a large scale that might have been made the stepping-stone to greater results.
The twenty-two years of his son Ganti's reign would have been devoid of interest and importance were it not for the first appearance of the man who was to regenerate the Empire and to raise China, if only for a brief space, from the abyss into which she had descended. In the north a new enemy showed themselves in the Gewgen Tartars, and in the south the daring expeditions of the pirate Sunghen spread terror and desolation along the banks of the great rivers which were the scene of his activity.
The Gewgen, or Juju, as they were sometimes called, occupied the same relative position to the Emperor that the Hiongnou and Sienpi had previously, and at this time their military vigour being at its height, they succeeded in establishing their own authority on the northern skirts of the Empire. Their chief, Chelun, assumed in A. D. 402 the higher title of Kohan, or Khakhan, a name which eight centuries later acquired terrible significance in the hands of the Mongols.
It was at this conjuncture that a man named Lieouyu, a child of the people, raised himself from the class in which he was born by evincing capacity of no common order. Deserted by his parent through poverty, he was brought up on the charity of others, and from his earliest years was remarkable for his quickness in learning. The necessity of making his livelihood compelled him for a time to follow the humble trade of shoe-making, but he chafed at the monotony of his occupation. Feeling within him the instincts of a soldier, he seized the first opportunity to adopt the profession of arms, in which he showed such proficiency that he was at once entrusted with a small independent command. It was against the pirate Sunghen that he earned his first laurels. During three years he was constantly engaged in opposing, and sometimes in forestalling, the descents made by that leader. The credit of Sunghen's final overthrow does not indeed belong to Lieouyu, but it was he who first broke the reputation of the pirate, and shattered his power by repeated successes. After this introduction to military life, Lieouyu's promotion was rapid. He led the Emperor's armies on numerous occasions; and, having overthrown a formidable rebel named Hwanhiuen in a battle which was fought with a smaller force both on land and on water, Ganti could only manifest his sense of the high service rendered by nominating him commander-in-chief of all the forces of the Empire.
Lieouyu showed no falling-off in either ability or energy, because he had attained the summit of a soldier's ambition. Marching from one province to another, he repressed sedition and restored the blessings of a settled rule; and was fast giving reality to the theoretical claims of the Emperor to obedience. In the course of his expeditions he came into contact with Topa, Prince of Wei, a district north of the Hoangho. This prince having refused permission to Lieouyu's troops to march through his territory incurred his resentment, Lieouyu forced the passage of the Hoangho, routed the army of Wei, while one of his lieutenants marched on Changnan, the capital of the newly-formed principality of Chin. The expedition against Changnan was commanded by a resolute officer named Wangchinou, who, having conveyed his force as far towards its destination by water as was possible, caused his ships to be cast adrift. Addressing his soldiers, he said : “We have neither provisions nor supplies; and the current of the Weiho bears away from us the barks in which we came. But let us beat the enemy, and while covering ourselves with glory we shall regain a hundredfold everything we have lost, If on the other hand we are conquered, death for us all is
THE CHINESE CROWN.
inevitable. To conquer or to die, that is our lot; go and prepare yourselves to march against the enemy." The result of the campaign was in proportion to the fortitude of the commander. Changnan surrendered, and the Prince of Chin was executed as a rebel. Lieouyu arrived hard upon the heels of his victorious troops, and made preparations for extending still further his conquests. At this moment he was recalled to the capital, and his further advance was suspended. During his absence Changnan and all the recent conquests were lost, and a great reverse was inflicted on the arms of the Empire. In this year Lieouyu, dissatisfied with the conduct of Ganti, who had only raised him to the third rank among princes, as Prince of Song, caused the Emperor to be strangled, and named his brother successor under the style of Kongti (A.D. 418).
Kongti reigned less than two years, being then deposed by the man who had set him up. The change was effected in the most formal manner. Kongti resigned a position which he felt incapable of retaining, and the ambitious Lieouyu assumed what he had long coveted. In a field they erected a scaffold, and on it they placed a throne, from which Kongti descended to give place to the Prince of Song. Before the assembled thousands of Kienkang, and in the presence of the great officials, Kongti then paid homage to Lieouyu *; and in this act the dynasty of the Tsins reached its consummation. Their rule had extended over one hundred and fifty-five years. and there had been fifteen Emperors of the name; but on the whole no family with less pretensions to the right of government has ever lorded it over the docile people of China. The impression they leave on the mind is as vague and indistinct as the part they played in the history of their age (A.D. 420).
* The Emperors of China wore and still wear a cap or crown with twelve pendants. The assumption of this crown formed the principal portion of the coronation service. Its shape was peculiar. Round in the front, it was straight behind, and was ornamented with one hundred and forty-four precious stones. The pendants consisted of strings of pearls, four of which hung over the eyes for the purpose, it was said, of preventing the Emperor seeing those who were brought before him for trial. See " Mailla,” vol. iv. p. 69.
THE SONG AND THE TSI RULERS.
WHEN Lieouyu assumed the Imperial dignity in the year A.D. 420, and proclaimed himself by the name of Kaotsou, the founder of the Song dynasty, China was still as a house divided against itself. Six kingdoms had been established within the borders of the northern provinces, and each aspired to bring its neighbour to its feet, and to figure as the regenerator of the Empire. As none of them were formidable, their weakness at least constituted an efficient defence against each other, and when all were decrepit there was safety in an incapacity for offence. The new ruler did not possess the means of giving reality to his pretensions of authority over these states, to which his own did but add a seventh competitor; and, although the fact is disguised as much as possible, the Songs were never more than one ruler among many, and their government always that of only a small section of the Chinese nation.
As the general of the later Tsins Kaotsou had shown great skill, and obtained many successes ; but during his brief reign the opportunity did not present itself of following them up by any further triumph. The only event of any importance was the murder of the deposed Emperor Kongti, and this circumstance is chiefly invested with interest for the reason that Kongti refused "to drink the waters of eternal life," because suicide was opposed by the principles of his religion. This is the first, and indeed the only, instance in history of a Chinese ruler violating the custom of the nation by declining to acquiesce in the inevitable. Kongti was thereupon
murdered in his palace by the guard in whose custody he had been placed.
Kaotsou enjoyed possession of the throne for no than three years. That he possessed many sterling qualities is not to be denied. His frugality and attention to his duties were most worthy of being commended ; and the courage which he evinced on the field of battle was well calculated to have produced great results in an age more remarkable for the practice of chicane than for the manifestations of the qualities of a soldier. His kindness and devotion to the fostermother who had nourished him, and who had lived long enough to see Kaotsou on the throne, were most exemplary, and received the eulogium of his countrymen. On the other hand, he was unfortunate in not coming to the front until well advanced in life, and the prudence obtained only with the experience of years made him loth to endanger what he possessed by striving to attain the wider authority with which, when a younger man, he would alone have rested satisfied.
The reign of the next Emperor Chowti, Kaotsou's eldest son, would not call for notice were it not for the deeds of the northern kingdom of Wei, the ruler of which saw in the death of Kaotsou a favourable opportunity for resuming the operations suspended through fear of the military skill of that prince. The glimpse that is obtained of Topasse, the king of Wei, shows him to have been a man of exceptional talent and energy. At the great council of war, which he held on the eve of the invasion of the Song territories, he propounded the question whether the enterprise should be begun by attacking some fortified place or by overrunning the open country. The former course was adopted mainly on the advice of Hikin, and under the command of this leading general of the period several successes were obtained by the Wei troops. It was not, indeed, until they appeared before the walls of Houlao, a small fortress defended by a brave officer named Maotetso, that their career was in any degree arrested. Topasse sent his best troops to the assistance of Hikin, and came in person to encourage his army with his presence ; but Maotetso relaxed in no degree the vigilance with which he defended his post. His skill and valour baffled the flower