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NOT A MAN IN CHINA.
exercised by the doubts and dangers which beset the Sung ruler. The Kins, full of the exultation of victory, demanded the surrender of all the country north of the Hoangho, and their ambassadors warned the Chinese ministers in no uncertain language that they would be conferring a real benefit on the Sung House by complying without delay or useless opposition. There is a wisdom of the highest character in timely concessions, but few distressed potentates have ever recognized it. The Kin troops proceeded to carry out the plan proposed by their ruler, and Hoeitsong bent before the approaching storm. He resigned his place to his son Kintsong, who was to bear the whole brunt of the danger ; but even by a cowardly abdication Hoeitsong could not escape all the penalty of the acts of weakness and irresolution which had reduced the state to this helpless condition in the face of a powerful foe.
Kintsong endeavoured by a proffer of friendship to arrest the further advance of the Kin army, but his offers were treated with scorn.
The Chinese troops were defeated in several engagements, and failed to defend the crossing of the Hoangho, where a small body of determined troops could have successfully arrested the advance of a host. The Kin general exclaimed, when he found his men marshalled on the southern bank without having encountered any opposition, that “there could not be a man left in China, for if two thousand men had defended the passage of this river, we should never have succeeded in crossing it.” The invaders then continued their march on the capital, from which Hoeitsong fled for safety to Nankin, leaving his son to make the best stand he could against the invader. The Kin general Walipou carried everything before him, and menaced the capital Kaifong ; but the Kins had not yet determined how far they should prosecute their enterprise against the Sungs. There were many among them who considered that the Hoangho marked the proper limit of their sway. Fresh negotiations ensued, and a treaty was concluded, on the strength of which Hoeitsong returned to Kaifong.
But Walipou himself desired above all things to humble
the Sungs by the occupation of their capital, and he refused to abide by the terms of the treaty. Although compelled once to beat a retreat, Walipou returned in greater force, when the armies which the next Emperor Kintsong, encouraged by his previous withdrawal, sent out to meet him were beaten with heavy loss. The Kins then laid close siege to the capital, Kaifong. The garrison, mustering in all seventy thousand men, prepared to defend itself to the last extremity, while fresh troops were ordered from the south. Thirty thousand men arrived from Kwantung, and took up a position near the Tartar camp before Kaifong. There was even some reason for hope that the want of supplies might oblige Walipou to retreat before many months if only the place could hold out for a short period. Such was the view of Prince Kang Wang and of the braver spirits among the Chinese; but his brother Kintsong was altogether in favour of a peaceful settlement and for buying off the national enemy. A successful assault, when the ramparts and gates were captured by the Kins, seemed to justify Kintsong's view, and Kaifong would then have fallen into the hands of the Tartars but that Walipou refused to waste valuable lives in the street fighting for which the Sung generals had made elaborate preparations. Kintsong thereupon proceeded to the Kin camp to arrange the terms of the peace which had become inevitable.
The Tartars, true to their nature, demanded, in the first place, a large sum of money, which Kintsong was weak enough to promise, although he knew well that he could not procure it. When Walipou's followers discovered that there was not much likelihood of their obtaining the spoil, which they had probably in their greed already apportioned, there was so loud an outcry that Kintsong was detained a prisoner and prevented returning to his capital. The late ruler Hoeitsong, and all the members of the Royal House resident at Kaifong, were induced to seek the shelter of the Tartar camp. They were then conveyed into Tartary, where both Hoeitsong and Kintsong died at long intervals. The later triumphs of the Kins are undoubtedly to be attributed to the inadequate measures taken by these two Emperors for the defence of their dominions.
Walipou was not satisfied with the plunder of the capital and the carrying off of almost all the members of the reigning House. He aspired to give China a new dynasty. A creature of the Court was proclaimed Emperor, and enjoyed nominal power while the Kin army was close at hand; but as soon as Walipou retreated he was set aside. The Sung dynasty was restored in the person of Kang Wang, who took the name of Kaotsong, and the condition of the realm reverted to its former footing, with the exception that the Kin state or Empire, as it was justly called, represented a larger and more powerful autocracy than that of the Khitans had been. Henceforth, until their conquest by the Mongols, these two Empires ruled concurrently over China. The Sungs retain in history the exclusive right to the dynastic title, but the Kins continued to represent a more vigorous community, a stronger government, and a greater military power. They would, probably, in course of time have succeeded in extending their authority over the southern as well as the northern provinces which had fallen so rapidly into their grasp, but for the sudden growth of the Mongol power under the brilliant leadership of Genghis Khan and his successors.
The causes of the decadence of the Sungs and of the inability of these later Emperors to oppose the Tartar hordes and armies are sufficiently clear, if they do not absolutely lie on the surface. “For nearly two hundred years," wrote the Empress to Kang Wang, “the nation appears to have forgotten the art of war," and although the virtuous Sungs strove to promote the best interests of the people, they forgot that self-preservation is the first law not only of individuals, but of communities. Ruler succeeded ruler, who made it his chief object to maintain peace, and the state-policy consisted in paying the necessary price to buy off the danger threatened by the neighbouring tribes. Sometimes a young ruler, new to the practices of the court, and desirous of witnessing the parade of war, would depart from precedent and resolve to subdue turbulent races, or to wrest lost provinces from an alien ruler ; but in every case he repented of his freak when brought face to face with the grim reality. He repented the more quickly, indeed, because he speedily found that war is not a game that admits of castle-building with impunity. The long peace had deprived the government of an army ; there were no skilful captains; and the magazines were empty. The Sung Empire was a sham in so far that the sword with which its authority could be alone sustained was brittle, and wielded by a nerveless arm.
It is permissible to detect in the peaceful policy of the Sungs the high state of civilization which they had attained. Had their neighbours been persons of equally pacific dispositions, it is quite possible that the system of buying off inconvenient claims might have continued for an indefinite period; but against Tartar and Turk tribes, lawless marauders and desperate chiefs, it could have but the one result of inflaming instead of satisfying their greed. The Sungs matched their well-known desire for peace, and their skill in that diplomacy of the artful and inferior kind that sometimes has its origin in weakness, and that ever fails to attain durable success, against the ambition, avarice, and consciousness of inherent strength of the northern states; and the result was necessarily a failure. To Akouta and Oukimai, or their general Walipou, the subterfuges of the Sungs appeared in the same light that the arguments of the Roman citizens appeared to Brennus the Gaul.
The absence of that military power which, as a matter of fact, the Sungs never possessed in any large degree, but which is the only solid foundation for the maintenance of independence by any government, left Hoeitsong and Kintsong, during his brief reign of one year, defenceless in the face of a determined foe. Large armies of men were placed in the field, but throughout these later campaigns not one deed reflecting any credit on the arms of China was performed. The incompetence of the eunuchs entrusted with command was rivalled, if not surpassed, by the cowardice and aversion to battle of the men. With such an army, a campaign was really lost before it had begun.
The truth is made more emphatic by the events of this period, that no government can expect to endure which persistently closes its eyes to the first duty it has to perform —the defence of the country or the Empire against an
THE KNELL OF EMPIRES.
It must be prepared to pursue a strong policy, and it must also possess the means to carry it out. It should strive to anticipate and to turn aside or roll back coming dangers, for the first step in retreat when the storm is raging marks the knell of empires. The Sungs failed to see the plain truth, and they fell.
Kang Wang's first act was to order the withdrawal of the capital from Kienfong to Nankin, and, although his qualities were of a higher order than those of most of his predecessors, this retrograde step could only prove, as it did, the beginning of the end of the Sung dynasty.