Imatges de pàgina

of the army, and the most skilful of the generals, of Topasse during seven months, and when at length Houlao surrendered, the conquerors won nothing but a pile of ruins. Topasse died shortly afterwards from the hardships he had endured at, and the chagrin caused by, this siege ; but at all events he has secured a durable place in history by the magnanimity, not often met with in Asian annals, which he evinced in the honourable reception he accorded the gallant Maotetso.

This disastrous war was the only event which marked Chowti's reign of one year. From the first it had been plain that he possessed neither the capacity nor the desire to govern his people well. He gave himself up to amusement, and neglected all public business. The nobles and great officials thought that it would be better to check his course with as little delay as possible, and with Tantaotsi at their head they deposed him, putting his brother in his place. Knowing well that there was no safety for themselves or for the nation in a deposed prince who preserved the desire for power, they secretly caused Chowti to be put to death, thus relieving themselves from further apprehension on that score.

Although profiting by their deed, one of the first acts of Wenti, the new ruler, was to punish the murderers of his brother. In this has been seen an instance of fraternal affection; but perhaps it might be taken with more truth as showing the fears of the ruler, who saw in the persons of these deposers and executors of a king the ever-present wardens of the people's rights. This act, which was viewed at the time as to be commended rather than condemned even by those who had applauded the fall of Chowti, so fickle a thing is the public mind, did not prevent Wenti's reign beginning under the fairest auspices. On his side there appears to have been the best intentions, and as to the people, their hopes led them to augur the things which they most desired.

Topasse, of Wei, had been succeeded by his son Topatao, a man not less capable or ambitious than his father. In A.D. 426 he resolved to attack and, if possible, conquer the dominions of Hia, which had just lost their ruler; and with that object he despatched a large army across the Hoangho



under the command of Hikin, the same general who had conducted the siege of Houlao. At first the career of this army was unopposed. Town surrendered after town at the mere sight of the invader, and the troops of Hia never ventured to meet those of Hikin in the field. It was only when Hikin had advanced to a considerable distance from his base, and began to suffer from the want of provisions, that the Hia forces rallying took fresh courage, and ventured to engage the invaders of their country. Hikin was obliged to confine himself to his camp, which he fortified to the best of his military knowledge, and there he prepared to offer a stout resistance. The day arrived, however, when his stock of supplies was completely exhausted, and the soldiers had no alternative between surrender and cutting their way through the enemy. In these straits Hikin's fortitude did not shine with so bright a glow as that of Gankiai, who scouted all idea of surrender, and led a fierce attack upon the beleaguering army. In this battle the army of Wei was completely victorious, and Gankiai had the honour of taking the Prince of Hia prisoner with his own hand. Gankiai received all the credit of this victory, which irritated Hikin so much that he resolved at all hazards to perform some brilliant action which should eclipse the feat of his colleague whose name and deed were now on the tongues of all men. Partly no doubt by his own carelessness, and also through his tyrannical treatment of the soldiers in contravention of the regulations in force at all times in the Chinese army, which disgusted every one under his command, Hikin failed in his great design. Instead of surpassing Gankiai by a fresh victory, he demonstrated the marked superiority of that officer by incurring a defeat. He marched on Pingleang, the Hia capital, as a conqueror, but it was only as a prisoner that he could obtain admission.

The next year to that which witnessed this campaign against Hia saw the Wei troops engaged in an arduous war against the Gewgen Tartars. There was little fighting, as these tribes retired into the desert on the approach of the regular troops; but, such as it was, it was wholly in favour of Topatao, now the most powerful prince in China, and



a much greater personage than the Song Emperor himself. Indeed, so completely did he overshadow the nominal ruler of the Empire that a collision between them sooner or later was seen to be inevitable, and each had been long preparing himself for the struggle. It was Wenti who first threw down the glove, but Topatao showed no hesitation in picking it up.

The great province of Honan, lying south of the Hoangho, and to the north-west of the Song capital (Nankin), had been overrun and annexed by Wei in the course of the campaign in the reign of Chowti. Wenti resolved, in A.D. 430, to attempt its reconquest. For that purpose he assembled an army of fifty thousand men, and concluded a defensive and offensive alliance with Hia against the common foe. Before ordering the advance of his army, part of which was to be conveyed in boats up the Hoangho, Wenti sent an embassy to the court of Topatao, requesting him to hand over all that part of Honan which lies south of the Yellow River. Topatao's reply was dignified and to the point. “I was not out of my teens when I heard it said on all sides that Honan belonged to my family. Go and tell your master that if he comes to attack me or mine, I shall defend myself; and even if he succeed in seizing this province, I shall know how to retake it as soon as the waters of the Hoangho are frozen." The war forthwith commenced, but in accordance with sound strategy Topatao withdrew his garrison from southern Honan, and stationed his army on the northern banks of the Hoangho. The ostensible object of the war was therefore obtained without a blow. It only remained for Topatao to put his threat into execution with the advent of winter.

Taoyenchi, Wenti's general, made all the necessary preparations for the defence of the territory which he had so speedily subdued, and the need of fortified places was soon shown by the activity of Topatao's lieutenants. The valiant Gankiai, entrusted with the chief command in the. field, sought an early opportunity of adding to his reputation The occasion soon offered itself, for one of the Song generals ventured to pass over the Hoangho, when his detachment was attacked by Gankiai with a superior force, and cut to



pieces. Gankiai then crossed the river at an unguarded spot, and obtained several successes over the Song generals. The effect of these victories was enhanced by a severe defeat inflicted about the same time by Topatao in person on the army of the Prince of Hia. Very few months after the first declaration of war the formidable league against the kingdom of Wei had failed to achieve any permanent success. The victories of the war had been to the credit of Topatao, and Wenti could only console himself by making the most of the hold he had secured over southern Honan, which each day was slipping more completely out of his grasp.

In this emergency Wenti entrusted a fresh army to Tantaotsi, a general who had taken a foremost part in the deposition of his predecessor.

essor. Sent

Sent to repair the faults of the other Imperial generals, Tantaotsi was fortunate in finding an early opportunity of accomplishing his task. In the district watered by the Tsiho he fought no fewer than thirty combats with uniform success, and it was only the want of provisions that compelled him reluctantly to order the withdrawal of his troops. The army of Topatao hung constantly on his rear, and all the knowledge of the Imperial general was required to bring his outnumbered force scatheless from the ordeal. The Wei army then again crossed the Hoangho, and re-occupied Honan. Topatao had fulfilled his promise. Honan, momentarily lost, had been won back, and Wenti's great effort had had no other result than to exhaust his strength and waste his resources. Topatao was relatively the stronger by the overthrow of the military power of both Hia and the Songs; and, having annexed the greater portion of the former kingdom, his victorious army stood ready to meet any opponent and to give law to fresh regions. The reputation of this great success went abroad among the nations, and embassies came from distant parts of Asia to express to Topatao the foreign opinion of his achievement. There was at this time a prevailing impression that in the kingdom of Wei the ancient glories of China were about to revive.

At the court of Wenti the gloom was in proportion to the gravity of the situation. A war, in which many thousands of lives and an infinity of treasure had been expended, closed without result. The enterprise had been commenced for the acquisition of a definite object, and the people looked forward to the rewards of victory with a full appreciation of their value. By as much as Wenti's policy had been granted popular support and approval on the assumption that it would prove successful, by not less was it condemned, and repudiated when it was seen to have resulted in hopeless failure. The national rejoicings had been turned into lamentations, and in place of garlands on the temples, the cypress and the myrtle decked the tombs in memory of those who had fallen beyond the Hoangho. Wenti assuredly felt the full bitterness of his experience, for to him, more than to either his generals or his subjects, it meant anxiety and danger. In several quarters of his dominions pretenders to his throne put themselves forward, and the significance of their act was increased by the circumstance that they all claimed to represent the family of the Tsins. And as if the dangers and anxieties of his position were not sufficient, Wenti, by his own rash and illjudged act, aggravated them by executing Tantaotsi, the only man who had shown any skill or met with any success in the war with Topatao of Wei!

The martial instincts of the two peoples having been indulged, and no immediate inducement remaining for either to again tempt the fortune of war, both Wenti and Topatao devoted themselves, we are told, to the interests of science. The study of history was encouraged in the dominions of Wenti-of that history which was the most expressive commentary on his acts and their crushing condemnation. He also ordained that no magistrate should remain in the same office for a longer period than six years, a measure calculated to secure popular support, and to advance the interests of the people. Topatao was in no way behind Wenti in his endeavours to benefit his people, but he varied the monotony of domestic legislation by the exciting persecution of the Buddhists within his dominions. These had made many converts, and were permeating with their theories every class of society. Against them Topatao resolved to employ all the weapons in his power, and to exterminate them root and

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