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THE SUNG DYNASTY.
The Reunion of the Empire.
Chow KWANG YN* took up the task which the death of Chitsong had left half finished and incomplete ; and it was his good fortune to complete it. The country prayed for peace, and was anxious to give all the support it could to a man acting for its interests. Public spirit had become extinct during the years when the Empire had been the lottery of soldiers, and when ruler succeeded ruler with a rapidity which was in itself the strongest inducement to the ambitious to advance their claims. Chow Kwang Yn had therefore in the first place to raise the public spirit, and to show incontestably that he had other ends in view than the mere attainment of power. In short he was a patriot. It was the independence of the Chinese Empire for which he fought, and, although some of the credit is due to Chitsong as having paved the way to success, it was by his own unaided abilities that the Sung ruler attained the great object of his life.
The people hailed his advent to power with acclamations
* Chow Kwang Yn, unlike most of the soldiers who had risen to power during these years, was a Chinese by birth. He had distinguished himself greatly in the wars carried on by Chitsong for the restoration of the Empire. On one occasion it may even be said that his presence of mind saved the day in the battle at Kaoping. He was born in a village near the modern Pekin, of which place, then a small town called Yeoutou, several of his relations had been governors. His father had succeeded to an office which had almost become hereditary in his family. Chow Kwang Yn served his earlier years in the guards, and is represented as having been of majestic appearance.
WHO MORE WORTHY?
of joy. Signs were seen in the heavens proclaiming that it was the will of God that he should rule over the Empire, while his devoted soldiers adopted a more trenchant argument when they pointed to their swords. 'The Empire is without a master," they said, “and we wish to give it one. Who is more worthy of it than our general ?” The first acts of the new Emperor proclaimed the man. A general pardon was granted to all, and a proclamation was issued to the whole Empire, and sent into provinces defiant towards the Imperial authority, ordering the observance of the laws, and the preservation of domestic peace. At the same time Chow Kwang Yn gave his dynasty the name of the Sung, declared red to be the Imperial colour, and himself assumed the style of Taitsou.
He then restored to the lettered classes the privileges of which they had been deprived during the previous troubles, and, although not a learned man himself, encouraged learning by all the means in his power. He took these steps not for the advantage of any particular section, but for the general welfare of his people, believing that knowledge must be good, and its extension beneficial to the best interests of the nation. He made the happiness of the greatest number the chief object of his policy, and boasted that the meanest of his subjects might approach him at all times and at any hour. For this purpose he had the doors and gates of his own palace left open both during the day and at night, wishing to show that his house resembled his heart," which was open to all his subjects." To the reform of his military organization he devoted not less attention than he did to domestic affairs. He drew up a system of examination for entrance into the army and for promotion in its ranks, which was practical and well adapted to the end in view. From officers it required some unequivocal proof that they were physically capable of performing their duties, and that they possessed some acquaintance with military subjects. Taitsou showed not less attention to the interests of the soldier, with whose privations he had all the sympathy of an old campaigner.
By the confidence of success perceptible in everything that he undertook, the founder of the Sungs had disarmed many of his adversaries, who dreaded an overthrow that appeared inevitable. Several governors sent in their formal submission, while others who had entertained the idea of rebellion banished it from their minds. The area included within the provinces of such governors as these was far from representing the full extent of the Empire, and it was both for the conquest of the districts held by foreign tribes and rulers as well as for the complete pacification of those within his immediate sphere that Taitsou drew his military strength together, and added to its efficiency by every means in his power.
The first and the most serious danger arose from the aggressions of a potentate in the north, named the Prince of Han, who had entered into an alliance with the Leaous or Khitans. A war was on the point of commencing with these allies when Chow Kwang Yn's attention was called away by Chitsong's death ; but he had hardly settled the most pressing matters when it threatened to break out afresh. The Prince of Han refused to recognize the new regime, and drew closer the bonds of friendship with the Tartar prince of Leaoutung. He won over to his side the governor of the important border city of Loochow, thus precipitating the conflict, for Taitsou saw that it behoved him to strike at this confederacy before it should assume larger and more dangerous proportions. He accordingly sent several bodies of troops in the direction of Loochow, and, in A.D. 960, he took the field in person, at the head of a large army. Having inflicted a severe defeat on the rebel's army in the field, near the village of Tsechow, where several of the Han officers were slain, Taitsou had the satisfaction a few days later of entering Loochow itself, which had been seized by one of his lieutenants. The governor in despair saved his honour by perishing in the flames of his own residence. The Emperor returned to his capital after this success, remarkable alike for its rapidity and completeness; but he had hardly done so when his attention was called away to a rising within his own dominions.
Li Chongsin had shared with the Sung Emperor in earlier days his military career, and when the change was effected in the dynasty he was confirmed in his governorship by his
ISLE OF HAINAN.
former comrade. But Li Chongsin cherished dreams of a higher ambition, and he thought he saw in this formidable northern rising a favourable opportunity for asserting his own position as an independent prince. Taitsou's rapid success undeceived him as to the feasibility of his enterprise, but yet it was not sufficiently rapid to prevent his revealing the design he had entertained. Taitsou's measures in face of this new danger were prompt and adequate. Taking the field in person with a small but select body of troops, Taitsou advanced by forced marches on Kwangling, where he arrived when Li Chongsin least expected him. Li Chongsin, seeing that resistance would be futile, also set fire to his palace and perished in the flames. Having thus satisfactorily disposed of two difficult questions, and checked the pretensions of two rivals, Taitsou obtained more leisure to carefully survey his position, which was one still calling for much tact, courage, and fertility of resource.
About this time the Niutchin Tartars, a tribe in Western China, came to Taitsou's court with presents of horses and pledges of good service. He received them favourably, and granted them the island of Chamen, probably Hainan, as a place of residence, where they should be exempt from liability for service on public works. In this voluntary surrender, imitated by several of the western tribes and peoples, may be seen a formal acknowledgment of the progress the Sung ruler was making towards accomplishing the reunion of the Empire.
The most important act of this period of his reign was undoubtedly the decree taking from the provincial governors the power of life and death which they had hitherto possessed. Henceforth it was ordered that no criminal should be executed without the Emperor's express sanction, and that a statement of every case should be sent to him for consideration ; for, said he, “as life is the dearest thing men possess, should it be placed at the disposal of an official, often unjust or wicked ?” The effect of this act was not only beneficial to the people, but it was followed by consequences tending to strengthen the position of the Emperor. Not merely was it a change in favour of the personal liberty of the subject, but it had the effect of promoting the influence of the ruler by restricting the power of his viceroys. It became the chief object of Taitsou's policy to undermine the power of the semi-independent princes who remained, and to turn them into governors holding office at his command. The whole purpose of his life was to sweep away these states within the state, and to again place on a firm foundation the central authority of the Emperor. There was also involved in this the old disputed point whether the succession to vacant governorships rested with the ruler, or whether it was to be hereditary in the family of the occupant. On the way in which this principle was settled depended more than upon any other circumstance the tranquillity of the Empire. Taitsou had not to wait long before the occasion offered of carrying his new resolution into execution.
The condition of these principalities represented in miniature the state of the Empire under recent dynasties. The prince or governor had in his conduct to his liege lord set an example which his own subordinates were not backward in imitating. The chief of a small district, especially if it contained a fortified town, aspired to independence, which in his eyes meant the possession of a standing army, and the right to wring as much money as he could out of the pockets of those placed under him. The conflict of rival pretensions was unceasing, and led to a strife between those who had and those others who wished to have, which was apparently endless. Taitsou remained a vigilant observer of these quarrels, prepared to intervene whenever the opportunity offered of reasserting the claims of the state. In Honan and Kiangnan there had been a contest of authority, and while in the former it had gone hard with the governor, who had been reduced to extremities by one of his vassals, in the latter the viceroy had successfully maintained his position, and was fairly on the way to establish an irresponsible and independent government of his own. against these that Taitsou resolved to act without further delay. His measures were taken with such secrecy and promptitude that he attained his ends without encountering any resistance.
The army he placed in the field was of