Imatges de pÓgina

the most exacting of her countrymen cannot but admit that she fulfilled every condition that may be demanded from a sovereign. While thus seeking to show her solid claims to the lofty position she had seized, she did not neglect any means of bringing home to the heart of the nation a sense of the great services she had rendered by her wise government. She caused books to be written about her public work and freely circulated, while the ministers of religion were instructed to descant on her numerous virtues, and to point out how indispensable she was to the welfare of the state. By means such as these she maintained her supremacy for more than twenty years after the death of Kaotsong. The one act of weakness committed during her long career was her infatuation for a Buddhist priest, if indeed this is not the invention of her enemies, who have spared no effort to blacken her character. However great may have been the degree of affection she felt towards him, she certainly did not suffer his influence to assert itself in the government of the state.

In A.D. 692 she sanctioned a scheme sent for her approval by the Governor of Sichow, the modern Turfan, for the reconquest of the districts seized by the Tibetans some years before. The scheme was approved, and the territory retaken after a sharp but decisive campaign. Four years afterwards war broke out afresh, and the balance of success was in favour of the Tibetans at first ; but before long the superior skill and numbers of the Chinese told, when the results of the previous campaign were maintained. Early in the eighth century the Tibetans were visited by troubles of their own; their king was killed during an expedition into India, and they found more important matters to occupy their minds than unnecessary and unprofitable disputes with the Chinese.

A new enemy had risen up on the northern frontier in the person of the Khitans, a Tartar people in the region immediately to the north of the province of Shensi, and as these threatened to become very formidable, the Empress found it politic to form an alliance with a Turk chief named Metcho, to whom she sent the patent of a Khan. A treaty



was concluded in A.D. 697, but Metcho proved false to his engagements. He turned against the Chinese the arms he had received for their defence, and ravaged the border districts. On the approach of the Chinese army he retreated, having first put to the sword ten thousand captives taken during his expedition. These frontier wars will serve to show the numerous difficult questions which were constantly attracting the attention, and requiring the consideration of the Chinese ruler.

In the meantime the Empress Wou was suffering from the inevitable malady of humanity. The weight of eighty winters told its tale upon even her vigorous mind and ardent spirit. In A.D. 704 she was confined to her chamber with a serious illness, and her ministers were not admitted to her presence during several months. Her enemies seized the opportunity for which they had been long waiting, and, having slain the principal of her relations, they presented themselves in a body at the palace. Resistance was hopeless, and with a dignity which shines out through the grudging admission of the chronicler of the times, the Empress Wou handed to them the Imperial seal and the other insignia of royalty. She died the next year after what may be called her fall, leaving the mark of her influence clearly imprinted on the history of the period, and standing forth prominently in the eyes of posterity as the woman who ruled the Chinese with a strong hand during more than forty years.

The banished Emperor Chongtsong, who had been living in retirement for twenty years, was brought back and placed upon the throne. But the change of authority entailed no benefit for the people. Chongtsong gave himself up to his own pleasure, and left his wife as much of the task of government as he could. This negligence caused great discontent among those who had risked so much in opposing the Empress Wou with the intention of restoring the Tangs to their just authority. The new Empress and her favourite Sansu, the governor of the palace, ordered things as they chose, until at length the great officials, disgusted with the tyranny under which they suffered, resolved to rid the country of an Emperor and his minions who entertained so poor an

idea of the responsibilities of their station. While this plot was taking form the Empress herself was intriguing for the elevation of her son, and finding that Chongtsong was an impediment in her path, she sent him a poisoned loaf of a kind to which he was very partial. The death of the Emperor precipitated the crisis. The great nobles rose under Chongtsong's brother Prince Litan, and the Empress and her minions were put to death without distinction of sex or person. Litan was placed on the throne, and the people rejoiced in the final triumph of the Tangs over this second attempt to transfer the supreme power to a different family. These events marked the year A.D. 710.

Litan took the name of Joui Song, but as he only reigned two years, his career calls for no detailed notice. The principal event of his life was the selection of a successor. His eldest son Lichingki was held to have incontestably the prior claim, but his next brother Lilongki had proved himself to be a good soldier and a capable general. Joui Song's perplexity was removed by the voluntary abdication of his claims by Lichingki, who said that “in time of peace" the eldest should be allowed to enjoy his rights, but in "a season of great danger" the Empire should fall to the share of the one who was admittedly the abler of the two; so Lilongki was proclaimed heir-apparent, and on his father's abdication in A.D. 712 he became the Emperor Mingti or Hiuentsong.

Mingti began his reign with the best intentions, and a full resolve to hand down his name to history as a second Taitsong. In fact, during his first years of power, he set himself to copy all the acts of that great prince, and never tired of quoting the maxims contained in the Golden Mirror. The reduction which he made in the expenses of the court, and the sumptuary laws which he passed and was the foremost in obeying, were both welcome to a people on whom the hands of the farmers of taxes had recently been heavily laid. He also endeavoured to improve the condition of his army, and by a series of reviews, which combined the character of an inspection with that of a meeting for military games, he encouraged that section of his subjects which contributed most to the maintenance of the Empire. Nor did he neglect the interests



of science. During his reign the study of astronomy, and the observation of natural phenomena, in the earliest ages peculiar to China and Egypt of all countries, were placed on a new and improved basis; while in recognition of his place in literature, quite as much as in his honour as a great religious teacher, Confucius was proclaimed a prince, and also awarded the title, which he would have prized more than the secular dignity, of King of Literature.

Notwithstanding these noble intentions, and the earnest which he gave during his first years of fulfilling them, the long reign of Mingti can only be considered a striking instance of how often acts falsify intentions and protestations. Mingti should have proved a second Taitsong; he was, in fact, nothing more than an illustrious failure. He aspired to re-establish the authority of his family on a sound basis, and some have credited him with success. But the writing of history is, in his case, far too clear to support such a view, for the plain truth is that he brought both the Chinese Empire and the Tang dynasty to the verge of ruin. He appears to have been one of those men who raise their own difficulties, and who, when a simple and straightforward solution of a question presents itself, prefer to turn aside to follow a tortuous way of attaining their ends. It will also be seen that he failed to utilize his great power, and his adjustment of ways and means was neither skilful nor happy in its results.

Very early in his reign his attention was attracted to his relations with his neighbours. Both the Turk tribes and the people of Tibet were the cause of annoyance and danger to his subjects. Neither the one nor the other were inclined to forego their immemorial rights of encroaching on the settled districts, and of plundering the wealthy towns within the Chinese frontier whenever the supreme government seemed unable to act vigorously against them. Despite all Mingti's parade, there was not much apprehension at his power among his neighbours. The charm of the good fortune and invincibility of the Tangs was being dispelled, and the course of events threatened to break it altogether.

In the year A.D. 710 another Chinese princess, by name

Chincheng, had been sent to Tibet as wife to the Sanpou of that time; but it had not brought the good understanding which might have been expected. The Tibetans saw in the weakness of the Chinese garrisons, and the apathy of their commanders a great opportunity, and it is not in human nature to suppose that the highest object of any race, whether it be mere greed of spoil or the promptings of a nobler ambition, can be suppressed by the flimsy considerations produced by a matrimonial alliance. Shortly after the marriage of this princess, the Tibetans obtained the surrender of a large and important district contiguous to the upper waters of the Hoangho, thus touching the Tang dominions on the north as well as on the east. Instead of availing themselves of this new possession for purposes of trade, and for prosecuting friendly relations with the Empire, they made it the base for attacking the Chinese villages and towns in the neighbourhood. Encouraged by success, they ventured to carry out an incursion on a large scale into Chinese territory, and inflicted an immense loss on the unoffending inhabitants of several districts. A Chinese army was promptly raised, succeeded in recovering a great portion of the booty, and drove the Tibetans into their own territory. This was but the beginning of a strife which continued as long as Mingti occupied the throne. The campaign in A.D. 727 was of exceptional bitterness, and varying fortune. The successes obtained in the field by the generals of Mingti were more than compensated for by the quicker movements of the Tibetans, who captured several towns, and generally deprived the Chinese of the reward of victory.

Risings on the part of the Turk tribes, and the pronounced hostility of the Khitan king in the north, further aggravated the situation, and prevented the Chinese devoting all their attention to the chastisement of the Tibetans, as they would have desired. The most fortunate of Mingti's generals was slain in a petty skirmish with a robber clan, and the successors appointed to his place proved deficient in all the qualities required for the situation. But up to the year A.D. 730 the Chinese more than held their own despite the disadvantage of having to attend to other matters, and the treaty concluded

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