« AnteriorContinua »
branch. It was not difficult to give an aspect of treasonable practices to the ceremonies and observances of these Buddhists and their bonzes, who were in some respects violating the first principles of Chinese life, and Topatao availed himself of the justification thus afforded to adopt the most stringent measures against these enemies, as they were considered, of public morality. The commands of the prince were carried into execution. At a blow their temples crumbled to the dust, their holy books were given to the flames, and those who were unable to escape fell by the edge of the sword. In Wei, at least, the errors which had alone brought ruin to the proud dynasty of the Hans would not be tolerated-so ran the exact words of Topatao's edict.
The peace between Topatao and the Emperor did not prove of long duration. In A.D. 450 the former crossed the frontier at the head of one hundred thousand men with the intention of finally humbling the power of the Emperor, and he was the more encouraged to make the attempt because he had recently obtained several successes over the nomadic tribes on his northern frontier. Topatao was destined to disappointment, however, for his good fortune deserted him from the very commencement of this war. Being detained with his whole army for several months before a place of little importance, Topatao saw his own reputation for rapid success wane at the same moment that time was afforded the generals of Wenti to collect their forces. He was glad at length to withdraw his army; baffled indeed in his main object, but still without having suffered any serious discomfiture. The Emperor, encouraged by this sudden change in the complexion of his contest with Topatao, resolved to follow up his success by striking a blow in his turn. His army was ordered accordingly to march in pursuit of the retiring troops of Topatao, and a fresh campaign ensued within the dominions of the Prince of Wei. A sanguinary engagement was fought outside the walls of the town of Chenching, in which, at the close of a doubtful day, the advantage remained on the side of the Imperialists, principally because the Wei general had fallen early in the battle. In a second battle fought with similar result, both sides suffered so heavily that for some time the armies stood face to face in enforced inactivity. Under the influence of this shock both sides endeavoured to come to terms, and the arrangements for the conclusion of peace had been almost concluded when the war broke out afresh, in a final effort to obtain a decisive result for one party or the other.
The only incident in this second campaign that has been preserved for us is the siege of Hiuy, defended by the valiant Tsangchi. Tsangchi defied Topatao to do his worst, and spurned the offers made to him to propitiate that conqueror by a graceful surrender. Tsangchi foiled all the attempts of Topatao to take the fort, and met each device of his opponent with some fresh counter-device of his own. Batteries and mines were freely employed in this celebrated siege, and when Topatao gave it up in despair he had lost twenty thousand of his best men by the sword, and a still greater number by disease. The disgrace was the more keenly felt in that he had publicly sworn to burn Tsangchi, and his retreat was an acknowledgment, patent to all, of his inability to execute his threat. Neither his reputation nor his power was benefited by the senseless and cruel outrages which he committed on the defenceless towns and inhabitants along his line of retreat. The following year Topatao was murdered by some dissatisfied courtiers, and the state of Wei was for several years entirely occupied with its own internal troubles, and forgot to prosecute those foreign enterprises which had once been its principal object.
Wenti's own life was also drawing to a close. His son Lieouchao had formed a party hostile to his father at court, and in A.D. 453 he attacked Wenti in his palace, and slew him with his own hand according to some, or, according to the majority, caused him to be slain before his eyes. The parricide did not long benefit by this deed of blood. Defeated on the field of battle by his brother Lieousiun, he was unable to make good his escape. Lieousiun caused him to be executed with his family, and ascended the throne as the Emperor Vouti. Wenti was only thirty-five years of age when he was murdered, during twenty of which he had been the ostensible ruler of China.
After the termination of the troubles caused by the violence of Lieouchao the Empire was at peace, and the government of Wei, occupied with its own affairs, showed no disposition to interfere with its neighbour. Among the men who had been most instrumental in putting Vouti on the throne was Lieoutan, a member of the Song family, and for several years there were cordial relations between the two; but at last Vouti saw in this young prince, whose great qualities had endeared him to the people, a possible rival, and one who had grown too powerful to be an obedient subject. He, therefore, dismissed him from the court, appointing him to a distant governorship; but Lieoutan was not the man to tamely submit to the slight offered him. He attempted to form a party in the state hostile to the Emperor, and might have succeeded had he been allowed time to complete his arrangements. An army of observation had been sent after him, and at the first sign of an intention to revolt he was attacked and overwhelmed. The defeat and death of Lieoutan secured peace for Vouti's last years. Being an excellent horseman and archer, he gave himself up to the indulgence of his taste for the chase, neglecting, it is to be feared, the important duties of his elevated position. He was also given to excessive eating and drinking, which brought on an attack of apoplexy. He died, after a reign of eleven years, at the early age of thirty-five, leaving to his descendants the troubles of which his own conduct had sown the seeds.
Lieoutsenie, known in history as the Emperor Fiti, or the deposed, succeeded his father at the age of sixteen. Although he reigned less than one year, he gave abundant cause for his brief reign to be remembered in Chinese annals. He began by a wholesale massacre of innocent persons, and throughout his life a minister had only to fall under his suspicions to be sentenced to death. By so reckless and untamed a savage no people in the world, and least of all the Chinese, would long submit to be governed. The enumeration of the atrocities he committed would cause a thrill of horror, but they met with their just requital before his career of infamy had more than commenced. He was murdered by one of the eunuchs of the palace, and his uncle Mingti was appointed ruler in his stead.
Mingti was scarcely less of a barbarian that Fiti. One of his first acts was to murder fourteen of the sons of his brother Vouti, because he feared they might prove formidable rivals to his own branch of the family. But as he had no sons he adopted a child and put it forward as the heir-apparent. In China, where the right of adoption has never been recognized as in India, these supposititious princes have always been regarded with secret disfavour, and the public mind has ever been prone to expect no good from them. In order to give solidity to this scheme of leaving the crown to this boy, Mingti followed up the murder of his nephews by the execution of his brothers, and it is recorded that the inclination to crime left him only with life. He died in the year A.D. 472, and his loss was not lamented by the people.
His adopted son Lieouyu then became Emperor, under the name of Gou Wang, or Fiti the Second. He was not less wicked than either of his immediate predecessors, and his youth placed no restraint upon his criminal propensities. After four years he was murdered by order of Siaotaoching, a general of ability and reputation, and the founder of the next dynasty. Although requested to take the throne, Siaotaoching, whose plans were not
not ripe, ostentatiously refused, thus protesting the purity of his motives and his disinterestedness.
Lieou Chun, or Chunti, a third adopted son of Mingti, was placed on the throne by Siaotaoching, but in two years he was deposed. After his abdication, Siaotaoching consented to become the Emperor Kaoti, of the Tsi dynasty ; but apprehensive of danger from Chunti in the future, he completed his crimes by adding the murder of this child to that of the boy Fiti.
The history of the Tsi dynasty affords neither a more glorious nor a more interesting subject than that of the Songs. During the four years that Kaoti held possession of the throne not much progress was made towards that regeneration of the Empire which had been put so prominently forward in the programme of each military adventurer and aspiring ruler.
It is said of Kaoti that he was more favourably known after his accession for the support he accorded to science than for his military exploits. Beyond the sentiment that, if he were spared to rule the country for ten years, he would make gold as common as earth, history has preserved no record of his achievements as a domestic legislator or as a patron of the fine arts. In this, too, it will be seen that the future was scanned by the excellence of the intentions rather than on the basis of accomplished fact. A lingering war ensued with the King of Wei, and the successful defence of the towns of Chowyang and Kiuchan left the advantage in the hands of the generals of Kaoti. At the most favourable view this was, however, little more than a drawn contest. The Wei troops were foiled in their attempt, but Kaoti dared not follow them into their own territory. The eulogium on the character of Kaoti, who died in A.D. 482, reads exaggerated by the light of what he did, and by the insignificant display made by his successors.
His son Siaotse became the Emperor Vouti, the second ruler of the Tsi family. At this time the boast was made that China had the good fortune to be divided among princes who thought only of the welfare of their subjects. The native panegyrist must have referred to a very brief period, although there is no doubt that the division of the Empire had been followed by less serious consequences than might have been expected. The war with Wei broke out again during this reign, and continued to rage at fitful intervals; but on the whole the Tsis did not get the worst of the struggle. That it was not through their merit may be perceived from the fact that under this prince, the most respectable of the Tsis, it was publicly proclaimed that they had attained supreme power “not by merit, but by force,” and that a dynasty based on that principle could not long maintain the position it had wrongfully acquired. One of the most notable acts of Vouti's reign was to prohibit marriage between families of the same name. This was the revival of an ancient law to that effect, framed no doubt at a time when the intermarriage of bloodrelations had been attended with pernicious consequences. It is probable that a similar evil had arisen in this age through