Imatges de pàgina

seven combats. But when Erchu Jong took the field in person, Chingkingchi's fortune vanished, and he was compelled to beat a hasty retreat. All the towns that had surrendered were abandoned, and the results of the campaign completely lost. It was at this moment that Erchu Jong formed the ambitious scheme of reuniting the Empire. “ Wait a little while," he said to his most trusted colleague, “and we shall assemble all the braves from out our western borders. We will then go and bring to reason the six departments of the north, and the following year we will cross the great Kiang, and place in chains Siaoyen, who calls himself Emperor." Such was the intention of Erchu Jong, the great hunter, and the best general within the bounds of China. There is no doubt that he would have carried out this ambitious and noble scheme had his life been spared; but it was not to be. Erchu Jong had become too powerful a subject not to have bitter enemies at court, and these intrigued so successfully against him that they obtained the prince's sanction to his murder. Invited to the palace on a pretext, Erchu Jong was slain in the Hall of Audience. Thus passed away the man who had done more than any other of the age towards advancing the best interests of the country, which were represented by the one word-union.

The death of Erchu Jong was the signal for fresh strife in the dominions of the Wei ruler, and before it closed the proud kingdom founded by the Tartar family of the Topas was split up into two parts, each inveterately hostile to the other. At the head of one of these stood Kao Hwan, an ambitious and successful general, of whom it may be said that he desired, with less capacity, to emulate the deeds of Erchu Jong

It was soon after these great changes in Wei that Vouti dreamt a dream which he was weak enough to accept as possessing a practical meaning. There appeared to him a vision of persons offering him the long-coveted province of Honan, and he at once ordered his troops to march into it for the purpose of taking what he believed a supernatural power decreed should be his. The result falsified the anticipations of his credulity. His army was defeated in the field and



driven back in confusion across the frontier. With the collapse of his military preparations the edifice of his schemes of extension of dominion fell to the ground. Frequent disaster left little or nothing of the Imperial dignity, and all his contemporaries saw in it was the spectacle of an aged prince, broken in power as in health, hastening to an inevitable fall.

The final blow was struck by Heou King, one of Vouti's vassals, who had shaken off the authority of his suzerain. In A.D. 549 he published an indictment of the ruler and appeared before the walls of the capital. The slight resistance offered by Vouti's body-guard was soon overcome, and the monarch was helpless in the hands of a turbulent soldiery and their leader. Borne down by the weight of more than eighty years, Vouti deplored his present weakness and the errors which had brought it to pass. “It was I who raised my family, and it is I who have destroyed it. I have no reason to complain," was his truthful comment on the ruin with which he saw that he and his were threatened. He did not long survive the closing catastrophe of his reign. During forty-seven years he had governed his portion of China with justice and a fair show of success; but the surrender of his capital and person to a successful soldier was the death-knell of all his hopes. The chagrin told on the shattered constitution of the octogenarian, and in a few days he found relief for all his troubles in "the eternal sleep.” The Chinese historians descant on what Vouti might have been, but it seems to us that in this they leave themselves open to the charge of ingratitude. As the ruler of that part of China which they have identified with the Empire, Vouti appears to have been the greatest and most praiseworthy prince in those years of trouble and littleness which intervened between the disappearance of the Hans and the advent of the great Tang dynasty.

Vouti was more correct than perhaps he expected to be when he said that he had destroyed his family. His third son, Wenti, succeeded him, but he was only a cypher in the hands of Heou King. After a short reign of less than three years Wenti was murdered by his minister, who was in turn

attacked by his victim's brother Siaoy. Siaoy, assisted by Chinpasien, a semi-independent chief, drove Heou King from power, and, on his being taken prisoner, this dethroner of kings was executed, and his body exposed in the streets of Kienkang. Siaoy was placed on the throne as the Emperor Yuenti, but he was not more fortunate than his predecessors. After three years Chinpasien revolted, besieged his ruler in the capital, and bore down all opposition. Seeing further resistance to be hopeless, Yuenti surrendered to his enemy. Before doing so he broke his sword and burnt a library containing a hundred and forty thousand volumes, exclaiming, “ All is over! All my skill in war and letters henceforth becomes useless to me.” His intuition proved right. His surrender was the signal for his death, and his capital was given over to the victorious soldiery to plunder.

The last of the Leangs was Kingti, Yuenti's ninth son. He reigned only two years when he also was murdered by Chinpasien, Prince of Chin, who became Emperor, and the founder of the next dynasty. The Leangs held possession of the throne for in all fifty-six years, during forty-seven of which Vouti had been ruler. The same year which witnessed the fall of the Leangs also saw the extinction, without a blow, of the Topa family, which had produced the great princes Topasse and Topatao, and which had ruled over Wei during one hundred and fifty years.

Chinpasien gave his dynasty the name of Chin, from that of his principality, and took the usual name of Vouti. Chin Vouti did not long enjoy possession of the throne which he had won. He consolidated his success by suppressing several petty insurrections, and by according terms to one of their principal leaders. His lieutenant, Chowti, restored order for his master in some of the most disturbed districts, and the Chin dynasty appeared to have every prospect of an assured and tranquil existence, when the sudden death of Chinpasien, after a reign of less than three years, threw things again into confusion. Having no children, he had named Wenti, one of his nephews, his successor. This prince reigned eight years,

, but his life proved singularly uneventful. Several attempts were made to revive the Leangs, and Chowti, Chinpasien's



former lieutenant, rebelled against his prince. But all these rebels were defeated, and Chowti's previous services could not save him from the punishment due to one who had broken his oath to his lawful ruler. Wenti was an amiable prince, and, without performing any particularly brilliant act, he gained the affections of his subjects. When he died, in A.D. 567, his son, Petsong, or Ling Hai Wang, became Emperor, but only reigned two years. Petsong was deposed by his uncle.

Suenti, a nephew of Chinpasien, was the next ruler of the Chins. During his reign of fourteen years, the northern kingdom of Chow, which had been formed after the fall of the Topa family in Wei, was gradually extending its dominion over the whole of the country north of the Yangtse-kiang. The king of that state had found no difficulty in annexing the neighbouring kingdom of Tsi, the ruler of which was more given to the pleasures of the chase and the banquet than to the cares of government. He had great taste, we are informed, in the laying-out of ornamental gardens; but the preservation of his life and of his people's independence was a matter in which he showed less proficiency. When the Chow ruler died, his work was carried on by his son's minister, Yang Kien, Prince of Soui, whose reputation soon overshadowed that of the princes on the throne and spread throughout China. Before Suenti's death it was seen that Yang Kien was “the coming man,” and Suenti adopted no measures to avert the peril threatening his family. His devotion to the fine arts and his skill as a musician were most commendable in their way; but the times were such as required sterner qualities for the preservation of existence, both by individuals and by states.

His son, Heouchu, or Chang Ching Kong, succeeded to the throne, but his evil disposition did not take long to reveal itself. He gave himself over to his appetites, and, although nominally sovereign during seven years, it was plain from the first that his power would crumble away at the slightest shock. When his excesses had sufficiently disgusted his subjects, Yang Kien, now become ruler of Northern China, came forward as the deliverer of the oppressed peoples of the

south. His troops crossed the great Yangtse-kiang, entered the capital, and subdued a country which welcomed its conqueror. Heouchu was deposed, and retired into private life, where he survived by twenty-four years the collapse of his own fortune and that of the family of the Chins. Thus terminated, in A.D. 589, the dynasty of the Chins, certainly the least notable of all the families which have ruled in China. In thirty-two years they gave five rulers to the state-none, with the exception of the first, worthy of his position. Undistinguished in themselves, their disappearance from history is remarkable as heralding the reunion of the great Empire, so long divided into independent and hostile states.

Yang Kien assumed the title of Kaotsou Wenti on the consummation of his earthly ambition, and during his reign of fifteen years over a reunited country he gave repeated proof of the possession of great qualities. Under his guidance the power of the Emperor was vested with fresh significance among the neighbouring peoples, and, although not yet restored to the full height it had enjoyed under Tsin Hwangti and Han Vouti, the ancient supremacy of China over all the countries of Eastern Asia may be considered to have been again asserted and established by the founder of the Soui dynasty. His generals on the one hand drove back the Toukinei-or Turks, successors of the Sienpi and Gewgenbehind the desert, and on the other engaged in a war with the King of Corea, who, trusting to the difficult mountain range which serves that country as a barrier, thought it safe to defy the Chinese ruler. Kaoyuen, the sovereign of that remote and little-known kingdom, which, although sometimes overrun by hostile armies, and often averting invasion by a timely surrender, preserved its independence and institutions down to the present age, refused to render to Wenti the tribute which that ruler considered to be his due. After a doubtful campaign, Kaoyuen found it prudent to abandon the position he had taken up, and to accord the Soui prince the compliment which he demanded.

Two of the most important of Wenti's acts in domestic legislation were the bringing of the southern districts of the kingdom under the same law as those of the north,

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