Imatges de pàgina

the realm ; and, although in all his acts there was conspicuous a kingly capacity seldom surpassed, the fame of Kaotsou has assumed an attenuated form in comparison with that of his greater son. Indeed while he lived it was not very different. The annals of Kaotsou are chiefly of interest because they contain some of the noblest deeds of Lichimin, afterwards the great Taitsong. The wisdom of the father was eclipsed by the splendid qualities of the son, and it has been transmitted to us in only a reflected sense through the great achievements of the latter. Had Kaotsou lived at another period he would have been handed down to posterity as an able ruler whose successors should aspire to emulate him. As it is, the Chinese historian records as his most meritorious action the prudence which induced him after a nine years' reign to abdicate in favour of his son.

Kaotsou established his capital at Singan, the ancient Changnan, and his son Lichimin, on capturing Loyang, the metropolis of the Souis, caused Yangti's great palace to be destroyed. It was with the moral reflection—"so much pomp and pride could not long be sustained, and ought to entail the ruin of those who indulged them rather than attend to the wants of the people”—that Lichimin ordered this magnificent pile to be reduced to ashes; but it would be a mistake to see in this measure only the act of a Vandal. The Souis had fallen, and the Tangs were rising upon the ruin of that family; but some formal expression of the change was needed. Neither Kaotsou nor Lichimin would wreak their vengeance on the members of the fallen dynasty. The destruction of the building which typified the greatness of the Souis sufficed for all practical purposes, and leaves the reputation of the Tangs free from those moral stains which sully the shield of most Chinese rulers. The capture of Loyang was only one achievement among many. Wherever Lichimin marched victory went before him. His banners flaunted in the breezes of the northern states, and a great Turk confederacy beyond Shansi felt the weight of the military prowess of the young general. Within four years (A.D. 624) of his assisting in placing his father on the throne, Lichimin was able to announce that he had pacified the realm. Rebels



had been vanquished, and foreign foes compelled to sue for peace; while the people rejoiced at having obtained a ruler capable of governing them without resorting to the arbitrary expedients of the despot.

Lichimin did not go without his reward for the brilliant successes he obtained in the field. His return to Singan recalls the description of the triumphs of the conquerors of ancient Rome. Dressed in costly armour, with a breast-plate of gold, Lichimin rode into his father's capital at the head of his victorious troops. Ten thousand picked horsemen formed his personal escort, and thirty thousand cuirassiers followed, in the middle of whom appeared a captive king of the Tartars. The spoils of numerous cities, accompanied by the generals who had failed to defend them, were there to grace the triumph of the conqueror. Just as Marcellus or one of the Scipios filed up the Sacred Way when bringing to the Imperial city the plunder of Gaul or of Carthage, did Lichimin proceed to the Hall of his Ancestors, where he apprised the shades of his progenitors of the success which had attended his arms. Having rewarded his principal officers, and accorded their lives to the defeated, Lichimin was feasted in presence of his army by the Emperor, who gave no stinted meed of praise to the son who had rendered such valiant and opportune service both to himself and to the country. The rejoicings of that eventful day, which beheld the popular ratification of the new government, closed with the proclamation of a general amnesty to all, and of a diminution in the taxes; and it still stands out as one of the most remarkable turning-points in Chinese history,

Lichimin's brothers envied while they could not emulate his greatness. His elder brother, unable to appreciate the generosity of character which had impelled him to advise his father to proclaim him heir-apparent, intrigued against him, resolving in the first place to undermine his position at court, and in the next to take his life. Kaotsou's mind was warped by the wiles of this intriguer against his favourite son, who fell into disgrace, and at one time thought of leaving a court which was as little congenial to his tastes as it was full of danger to his person. The course of history might have been changed, had Lichimin not discovered the quarter whence these hidden shafts were directed against his person and his reputation. His brothers, afraid of his influence with the people and the army, formed a plot for his murder, but their scheme was divulged. The blow which they had intended for Lichimin was turned upon themselves, and their death left this prince the incontestable heir to the throne. He demonstrated his worthiness for the position by the moderation he evinced towards those who had been the keenest partisans in his brothers' cause; and Wei Ching, the ablest of them all, lived to become in later years the most trusted adviser of the man whose death he had plotted.

The same year (A.D. 626) which witnessed these intrigues and 'the proclamation of Lichimin as heir-apparent, also beheld the retirement of Kaotsou from public life. It may well have been that it was something more than the alleged reason of weight of years that induced this prince to quit the throne at a time when there seemed to be nothing for him to do except to enjoy his hard-won triumph, and that the force of public opinion compelled him to resign the charge of the administration to his son. The transfer of authority was effected in the most regular manner, and with the necessary formalities. Kaotsou expressed his sovereign determination to seek the charm and relaxation of private life, and Lichimin refused to accept a charge for which he said his capacity was inadequate. But when these courtly phrases had served their turn, Lichimin felt constrained to obey the paternal command. Kaotsou descended from the throne, and Lichimin became Emperor under the style of Taitsong. The greater reputation had absorbed the less, and, having long wielded the executive power, Taitsong, by the voluntary retirement of his father, assumed the position to which his personal qualities gave him every right. Kaotsou lived nine years after his deposition, long enough to witness the most remarkable of his son's achievements, and the complete consolidation of his dynasty on the throne.

The first acts of the new ruler showed that he would rest satisfied with no partial degree of success in the task he had set himself to accomplish. It was his first and principal



object to give the Chinese the benefit of a government which was national in its sympathies and its aims. He had to revive the old sentiment that the Chinese were one people, and that the prosperity of the realm, and the stability of the ruling powers equally depended on the tranquillity and sense of security which should generally prevail. To him also it seemed a matter of the first importance to extend the influence of the Chinese among the neighbouring states, for he knew that by so doing he would alone succeed in preserving what had been won. The surrounding tribes from Corea to Kokonor, and from Tibet to Tonquin, were the inveterate enemies of the Chinese, and nothing but the vigilance of the frontier authorities, and the strength of the border garrisons, could avail to keep them at a respectfu distance from the centres of Chinese prosperity. Constantly changing both in name, and perhaps sometimes in race, these nomads were at all times the same relatively to the Chinese. What in the history of this island the Picts and Scots were to the Romans, or the Welsh to the Normans and the first Plantagenets, that were the Huns and the other Turk and Tartar clans to the Celestials. Taitsong fully grasped this fact, and during the whole of his reign he was engaged in a never-ceasing struggle with one or other of his restless neighbours. The result in each case may appear to have been small, and the balance of victory often doubtful; but on the whole the policy was successful. It gave peace to a vast region which for several centuries had been disturbed by all the horrors of war, and thus rendered desolate. Whereas the Great Wall of Tsin Hwangti had failed to secure a permanent result, the activity and foresight of Taitsong accomplished the practical object more efficiently, and with more decisive consequences.

The very year of Taitsong's accession hostilities with these turbulent neighbours broke out on a large scale. They had been vanquished in several encounters a few years before; but, like the snow of early winter, they had melted only to come together again. Scarcely seated on the throne, Taitsong found himself called upon to repel the onslaught of a hundred thousand fierce and implacable assailants. VOL. I.


This horde, for it would be a mistake to apply the term "army” to most of the expeditions fitted out against China in the regions of Central Asia, carried everything before it on this occasion up to the neighbourhood of the capital ; and, although Taitsong haughtily refused to comply with the terms proposed by a Tartar envoy for an arrangement, it does not appear that he drove them back by force of arms. It is recorded that he advanced at the head of a few hundred horsemen to the outside of their encampment, and reproached their leaders with their duplicity and want of faith. The effect of his words is represented to have been electrical. Descending from their horses, the Tartar generals, struck by his majestic air, acknowledged their faults, and promised to amend their ways. A subsequent meeting took place on the Pienkiao bridge over the Weichoui River, where peace was concluded and the Tartars retired. On this occasion the vows of friendship and the other stipulations of the treaty were sworn over the body of a white horse offered up to the deity who presides over the relations of neighbouring states.

Having thus repelled or turned aside this hostile invasion, Taitsong devoted most of his attention to the organization of his army,* and to the improvement of the military knowledge of his officers. Many defects existed in the former, and the state of the latter was at a low ebb. Chinese armies had at the best, up to this point, been little more than a raw militia, and in their constant struggles with their Tartar neighbours it had always been an admitted fact that the Chinese soldier was the inferior of his opponent. Taitsong esolved to remedy this defect, and to make the Chinese soldier individually the match for any antagonist he would be likely to have to encounter. In this he had to first overcome the bitter opposition of the lettered classes, who

* The following description of Taitsong's army is extracted from Pauthier's work : “ The military was drawn up after a new fashion. It was divided into 895 corps of the same name, but of three different ranks. Those of the superior rank consisted of 1200 men each, those of the intermediary of 1000 men each, and those of the inferior of 800 men each.” This force gave an approximate total of 900,000 men ; 634 of these regiments were retained for service within the frontier, and to the 261 remaining was allotted the task of guarding the western frontiers.

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