« AnteriorContinua »
afterwards, either of chagrin or, more probably, of poison self-administered. After Temudar's death, Baiju's position became more assured, and he may be said to have exercised all the functions of authority.
Fresh conspiracies were formed against the young ruler and his adviser; and Tiechi, Temudar's son, anxious to avenge his father's death, and fearful of the consequences of that father's acts of tyranny, which were becoming better known every day, placed himself at the head of a plot for murdering the Emperor and giving the throne to Yesun Timour, another of the grandsons of Kublai Khan. The plot succeeded better than it deserved. Baiju was murdered in his tent, and Chutepala, after a short reign of three years, shared the fate of his brave companion and faithful minister.
Yesun Timour, who had taken no part in this plot, and who, the instant he received intelligence of the conspirators' plans, had sent messengers to warn Chutepala, was then placed on the throne. But his first measures showed how much he disapproved of the means which had been employed to bring him to the head of affairs. Tiechi and his principal confederates were arrested and executed. Their goods were confiscated to the state, and their families experienced all the suffering held to be their due for having produced such criminals.
The five years during which Yesun Timour occupied the throne were years of peace, and no event occurred of unusual importance. He was the first of the Mongols to set his face against the votaries of Buddhism, and passed several edicts tending to limit the numbers of the Mongol priests or lamas. These precautions against the innovations of an alien religion, and the terrible earthquakes and other dire visitations from which the country suffered, were the only notable events of the reign. His death occurred in A.D. 1328.
Yesun Timour's death proved the precursor of many troubles. His two sons were in turn proclaimed Emperor, but their tenure of power was so brief that they are not recognized Hochila, the banished son of Haichan, was recalled, and, when Yesun Timour's sons had been got rid of, placed upon the throne. Hochila owed his elevation to the
THE GRAND LAMA.
talents of his younger brother, Tou Timour, who gracefully made way for his elder; but he did not long enjoy the privileges of absolute power. Proclaimed in A.D. 1329, he suddenly died in the same year, and it is strongly suspected that his end was hastened by foul means. His brother, Tou Timour, had shown symptoms of regret at having surrendered the power he had acquired, and upon his brother's death hastened to seize the attributes of sovereignty. Tou Timour was the eighth prince of the Mongol dynasty.
The reign of the new ruler, although covering a rather longer space of time, presents as few features of interest as any of the preceding reigns. There is no evidence, unfortunately, throwing light upon the effect these repeated changes in the person of the ruler had upon the opinion of the great mass of the Chinese people. It cannot be doubted, however, that they strengthened the hostile feeling against a foreign domination, at the same time that they showed that the governing race was beginning to forget that the whole fabric of its power depended on the unity that might exist among themselves. These repeated changes in the person of the ruler boded ill for the long duration of Mongol power in China. They showed that the conqueror was becoming oblivious to the fact that the conquered still existed in their millions, and might easily acquire fresh courage.
The most noteworthy event that history has preserved of the reign of Tou Timour is his reception of the Grand Lama of Tibet, who visited his court in the year of his accession. Always a devoted Buddhist, Tou Timour was seized with a frenzy of religious zeal by what he regarded as so auspicious an event, and he issued an order to all his courtiers to bend the knee to the Lama whenever they addressed him. The disdain with which the haughty Mongol soldiers and barons received this order can be imagined. Nor were the Chinese themselves more pleased at the deference shown to the representative of a foreign and always muchhated religion. The President of the Hanlin College boldly refused to concede the mark of honour which the Emperor had wished to enforce.
During the greater portion of this reign an insurrection VOL. I.
prevailed in the south-western provinces of the Empire. In Yunnan and the adjoining parts of Szchuen the rebels expelled the Mongol troops and subverted the existing administration. It required a great effort, and the direction of a large body of troops from other quarters of the Empire, before tranquillity and the authority of the Mongols were fairly re-established. But Tou Timour troubled himself little with this complication, although it threatened his power very nearly, and he preferred to devote his attention to court ceremonies and religious rites. He did not, however, permit his superstition to interfere with his worldly pleasures. His death in A.D. 1332 exercised no perceptible influence on the fortunes of the Mongols, which were now steadily on the decline.
A child was proclaimed Emperor, but dying within a few months of his proclamation, a fresh arrangement had to be made. Tohan Timour, the eldest of the children of Hochila, and at this time a boy of thirteen years of age, was, after some delay caused by the intrigues of an ambitious minister, raised to the throne. Tohan Timour assumed the name of Chunti, and his reign, while being marked by a succession of misfortunes, witnessed the rapid decadence and fall of the Mongol power. At the very beginning of his reign Chunti showed himself a weak and vacillating prince, from whom little good could be expected. The difficulties by which he was surrounded were of the gravest character, for the people were being goaded into desperation by sufferings of no ordinary kind. The annals of the last fifty years of Mongol power contain one long list of terrible visitations, which reached their culmination in the second year of Chunti's reign in a famine, during which it is computed that no fewer than thirteen million persons died.
But the conflict of the elements was a matter of trivial importance in comparison with the storm gathering in the breasts of the Chinese. The people who had not refrained during the prime of Kublai's power, from showing their ineradicable antipathy to their alien rulers, were now, encouraged by the marked deterioration in the qualities of the governing race, to give unequivocal expression to their long-concealed hatred. In the prevailing troubles they saw
SURRENDER OF ARMS.
the clearest token of the anger of Heaven against the conqueror, and anxiously speculated on the prospect of the revolution which was beginning to loom in the near future.
Several attempts were made to depose the young Emperor, and in A.D. 1335 a desperate attack on the palace, headed by some of the chief members of the Mongol family, was only repulsed by the valour and timely precautions of Bayan, a descendant of the great general of the same name. The leaders in this rising were fortunately all captured, and expiated their treason with their lives. Instead of then devoting himself to the task of reforming the evils in the administration, and of mitigating the misfortunes of the people, Chunti turned from the path of duty to follow the course of pleasure, and passed most of his time in the chase. The remonstrances of the censors who strove to perform their duties with care and impartiality failed to show him the folly of his actions, and even the growing dangers which surrounded him only partially roused him to the gravity of the situation.
The first distinct rising on the part of the Chinese occurred in A.D. 1337, when Chukwang, a native of Kwantung, raised a considerable force and proclaimed that the Mongols had ceased to reign. The example thus set was followed in several of the neighbouring provinces. These insurrectionary movements, which were badly organized, and composed to a large extent of the scum of the people, failed to attract any general amount of sympathy or support from the nation. The Mongol troops succeeded, without any great delay or difficulty, in restoring order and in reasserting their master's authority.
In this hour of anxiety the Mongols, afraid of the Chinese officials, and wishing to take precautions in good time, ordered that all arms and horses should be surrendered by the Chinese. It is probable that in seeking to evade a danger they only precipitated the course of events, and that many who were disposed to stand by them found themselves compelled to attach themselves to the national party and to array themselves on the side of those who had resolved upon the expulsion of the Mongols,
The great qualities of one Bayan had contributed as much as any other circumstance to the consolidation of the Mongol power in China ; and by the irony of fate it was reserved for the bad qualities of another of the same family and name to expedite its fall. This later Bayan tyrannized over the people placed under his authority, as might be expected from one who, to strengthen his position at court, had soiled his hands with the blood of an Empress. Showing slight respect for even the person of the Emperor, he cared more for the advancement of his own ends than for the interests of the dynasty. Chunti does not seem to have felt the loss of the functions of government; but when Bayan assumed a more magnificent train than that of the Emperor, and aspired to surpass him in his equipages, the growing power and arrogance of this subject appeared in a more unfavourable light to the last Emperor of the House of Genghis. When his vanity was touched, the crimes of Bayan, which had been long condoned, became heinous in the eyes of Chunti. In A.D. 1340 this too-powerful minister was deposed from his high place by a coalition between his personal enemies and those who wished to restore the Emperor's independence.
During the fifteen years that followed the disappearance of Bayan, Chunti's court was the scene of continual disputes between rival ministers, while, by some strange coincidence, the country suffered from drought and famine, from the overflow of the Hoangho, and from tremendous earthquakes. The insurrections which had at first been composed of mere adventurers were gradually taking a more definite form, and some had even gone so far as to claim that they were fighting for a restoration of the old dynasty. But still the Mongol troops were uniformly victorious, and the Chinese only rose to be repressed and slaughtered by their more disciplined opponents. On the sea, however, the pirate Fangkua Chin bade defiance to the Mongol fleet, which had lost its old efficiency, and captured the generals sent against him. On land, too, the rebels had taken a distinctive sign to mark the popular cause. Their leaders had given out red bonnets as their head-gear, and these became the bond of union between the foes of the Mongol.