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FALL OF THE EUNUCHS.
Chaotsong did not long preserve the decorous attitude which had marked his first days of power. His excesses roused a feeling of hostility towards himself that had hitherto been absent, and these reached their climax when, in an ebullition of temper, he slew several of his guard and of the ladies of the palace. This outrage, although committed by the Emperor, led to the forming of a plot against his person by the eunuchs, who resolved to depose a ruler who was in constant opposition to their views. The plot was carried out with great daring and success. The Emperor, the Empress, and the principal members of their suite, were confined in an inner apartment of the palace, where they were strictly guarded. Chaotsong's infant son was proclaimed in his stead, and the eunuch Lieou Kichou wielded the authority and dispensed the favours of the new government. This act of audacity was more than even the ministers and officers of a decaying dynasty would tolerate, and the eunuchs, afraid to get rid of the Emperor, were very soon in their turn overpowered and compelled to release their prisoner. Chaotsong's return to power was followed by the passing of severe edicts against the eunuchs, who were deprived of all their administrative functions. At the very moment, therefore, when they thought they held final success in their grasp, the eunuchs were nearest their fall. From this point they lost their importance as a factor in the crisis which may be considered to have gone on from the fall of the Tangs until the rise of the great Sung dynasty.
When Likeyong retired into his government in Shensi, he left the field clear for Chuwen, an ambitious general who had played a prominent part in all the disturbances since the rising of Hwang Chao. Originally a lieutenant of that able but unscrupulous leader, he had abandoned him to throw in his fortunes with those of the Emperor Hitsong as soon as he discovered that his success was not likely to prove more than transient. A keen rivalry had existed from the first between this personage and Likeyong, in whom Chuwen saw the principal obstacle to his attaining the supreme power which he coveted. On Likeyong's retreat, after effecting the relief of the Emperor, Chuwen commenced his preparations for the final step on which he was resolved. Filling all the principal offices with his own creatures, he courted popularity, at the same time that he removed possible rivals by persecuting the eunuchs, whose extermination he ordered and carried out with such severity that “only thirty old men and children” were spared. Soon after this event Chuwen was created Prince of Leang
In A.D. 904 Chuwen compelled Chaotsong to leave Singan and take up his residence at Loyang, where he felt more secure and better able to attain the objects he had before him. In view of his growing power Likeyong himself lost courage, and feared that his intervention would only provoke a greater catastrophe. Chaotsong entreated his former deliverer and other Chinese governors to come to his assistance; but none ventured to stir in his behalf. This unhappy prince endeavoured also to free himself from the chains in which his tyrant had placed him, by offering him a poisoned drink, but Chuwen was too wary to be thus entrapped. When Chaotsong reached Loyang his doom was sealed. Treated with the outward form of respect, he was without power, and in the hands of a man who regarded him as an obstacle in the path of his ambition. For a few months he was suffered to live, and then he was brutally murdered by order of Chuwen. The excuse put forward was that some mutinous soldiers committed this act ; but, if Chuwen wished the tale to obtain credence, he took a very bad way—although he executed his own son as the murderer—to effect his object. He invited all the princes of the Tang family that were at Loyang to a grand banquet-held on the borders of a lake—and when he had feasted them, a body of soldiers appeared upon the scene, and threw all the guests into the water. Nor did his barbarity cease with this act. Because "there is no peace for the wicked,” he deposed all the officials, and executed many of them, distrusting their fidelity, although they were nearly all of his own creation. He persecuted after a similar fashion the highest officers in the state, and on the advice of a minister, who told him that if any serious danger could come to him from any class it would be from them, he caused them to be condemned and led in chains to the banks of the
A TURK CHIEF.
Hoangho, where they were drowned. Such acts as these show in the clearest light the probability of Chuwen's guilt in the case of Chaotsong's murder.
Chuwen put Chao Siuenti, one of the youngest sons of the deceased Emperor, on the throne ; but he, seeing that he must prove another victim to his unscrupulous ambition, resigned the hollow office after a nominal reign of two years' duration. During that brief period he was not responsible for the acts committed in his name. Chuwen's sole fear arose from the power of Likeyong, who maintained an observant attitude within his own dominions; but in A.D. 906 that chief, on the recommendation of his son, placed an army in the field, and wrested the town of Loochow from him. Chuwen, alarmed at this reverse, returned to Loyang, where the closing events in the drama of the fortunes of the Tang family obscure, for the moment, the interest in the struggle between the two great rivals, Chuwen and Likeyong the Turk.
It was after this campaign that Chao Siuenti resigned the insignia of power to Chuwen. The transfer of authority was effected with all necessary ceremony. Chuwen accepted the will of the people, and Chao Siuenti recognized the force of circumstances and the decree of fate. The change came at a critical moment, for there were clouds on the horizon for the new ruler to dispel if he could. In the north-west there were defeats to avenge and retrieve, and in the interior much discontent and little confidence prevailed. Chuwen was accepting a great responsibility, and it was doubtful whether he possessed the strength necessary to meet it.
His own attached followers saw no reason to confide in his friendship, and they did not support him with the staunch and implicit trust of those who know that the victory of the leader will be not more in proportion than the triumph of the men who follow and who make his fortune. Chuwen founded a dynasty, and took the great names of Taitsou Hwangti ; but in the very birth of the new power there were perceptible the seeds of an early decay.
Chao Siuenti did not long survive his abdication. It was no part of Chuwen's programme that he should remain a standing danger to his administration, and in the year following his proclamation he caused him to be assassinated. Thus closed, with the extinction of the race, the career of the illustrious family of the Tangs. It had given twenty Emperors to China during a period of nearly three centuries, and some of these conferred benefits upon the country which endured long beyond the fall of their family. In the great Taitsong it may boast the greatest ruler, taken all in all, that ever guided the destinies of the Chinese race; and whether we consider the extent of the mission with which it was entrusted, or the manner in which its duties were performed, we can only hesitate before comparing any other reigning House with it. In Chinese history the part played by the Tangs is unique, unless the present reigning dynasty should equal or eclipse it; and, although their fall clearly shows how much the descendants of Kaotsou and Taitsong had forgotten the art of government, the record of their prowess, of their conquests, and of the benefits of their domestic administration yet remains to excite our wonder and admiration. From Cochin China to Tokharistan, from Corea to the Persian frontier, there was not a people or a state which did not regard the Empire of the Tangs as the great military and civilized Power of Asia. India did not escape the influence of the spell, and the impetuous Arabs abstained from insulting the borders of a potentate whom they could not but respect. The tradition of China's power and wealth remained, but the richest legacy left by the early Tangs to those who occupied their seat in after times was that no ruler can be held to be great who is not just, and that, although his first duty is to his own people, his justice is imperfect if it does not also include other peoples and nations besides his own. Taitsong saw and acted upon this truth, thus making it the brightest wreath in the laurels of the Tangs.
* We reluctantly give him precedence over Keen Lung, the fourth of the Manchu rulers, who must, in our opinion, be placed next. Tsin Hwangti, Han Vouti, Kublai Khan, Ming Taitsou or Hongwou, and Kanghi are all worthy of a place immediately following, but close to, these two Emperors.
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FIVE SMALL DYNASTIES.
The Later Leangs, Tangs, Tsins, Hans, and Chows.
IT very soon became evident that Taitsou had accepted a task for which he did not possess the necessary strength. His authority was not recognized outside a portion of Shantung and the whole of Honan, while his assumption of the Imperial title had made him an object of hatred to the other governors, who regarded him as a person defrauding them of their lawful right. Several went so far as to call themselves Emperors, and to adopt the ceremony held by custom to accompany that high dignity; but the greatest danger was threatened by Likeyong, who did nothing. His policy was to wait upon the course of events, and not to strike until he saw where the blow might be best delivered. The impetuosity of his son Litsun-hiu urged him to break this prudent resolve, and to adopt the advice that it would be better to strike before Taitsou could consolidate his position.
An alliance between Likeyong and Yeliu Apaoki, a powerful Tartar chieftain in Southern Mongolia, who had subdued many tribes and a large tract of country, threatened Taitsou with a danger which might have proved fatal. Fortunately for him, Yeliu Apaoki, although the first to propose it, was not sincere in his engagement with the Prince of Tsin, and made counter proposals to Taitsou. This double-dealing saved the new Emperor from a grave peril, while it enabled the Khitan Apaoki to consolidate his own