Imatges de pàgina

on the Chinese Emperor, and acquiesced in the installation of Champa as Prince of Hami. Peace was thus given to a region which the ambition of Hahema had threatened to disturb.

The rest of Hiaotsong's reign was uneventful so far as its external relations went, but an insurrection on the part of the natives of Hainan* called attention to a remote portion of the Empire which seldom received much notice from the magnates of Pekin. The blacks of Hainan, as they were designated, had had the misfortune to be placed under the authority of a governor who ground them down with harsh usage, and when, on some rumour of his tyranny reaching the ears of his superiors, he was removed, his successor continued with still greater violence the course he had adopted. The Hainanese, unable to make their plaints in any form likely to receive attention at the capital, began to plot how they might effect their deliverance from an oppression which weighed so heavily upon them, and they found a popular chief in the person of Founancha, ready and willing to lead them against their Chinese masters. In the disturbances that followed in consequence of this effort towards freedom, the small Chinese garrison was unable to do much towards the maintenance of order, and the natives under the leadership of Founancha long baffled the attempts made to reduce them to subjection. It is possible that the struggle might

* The island of Hainan is of very considerable importance. It is attached to the province of Kwantung. At present little is known of the actual condition of this island, but its mineral wealth is believed to be considerable. Timber forms its staple trade. The Chinese authority was first established there in B.C. 111 by General Lupoteh, but for many centuries it has been a reality only in a few districts adjoining the coast. The capital is Kiungchow, and it is also the principal seaport. The inhabitants are divided into three races—the Chinese, the Shuli, who appear to be a cross between the natives and the Celestials, and the Shengli, Black Li, or aborigines, referred to above. The population is estimated at about two and a half millions. Hainan, which in the past has often been a mere piratical nest and a source of trouble to the Chinese Government, is probably destined to play a considerable part in the development of European trade with China (see, for an interesting description of Hainan with references, vol. xi." Encyclopædia Britannica," 9th edition, 1880).



have continued for an indefinite period had not the Chinese raised a corps of native troops who were able to engage the Hainanese insurgents on more equal terms. This plan of proceeding answered extremely well, and when Founancha was slain in a skirmish his followers either disbanded or gave in their formal surrender.

With the pacification of Hainan the last important event of Hiaotsong's reign is recorded. That prince was still young, but his strength appears to have been feeble, and it had long been evident that his end was approaching. His death occurred in A.D. 1505, when he was only thirty-six years of age, and he left the throne to his son, who became the Emperor Woutsong. It is difficult to form a clear opinion as to the character of these princes of the House of Ming, who succeed each other on the stage of history without performing any deed calculated to impress the mind or to inspire the pen. Hiaotsong showed something of the care a great prince should exhibit towards his people by providing public granaries in which corn could be stored for years of dearth and famine. Into these each district of ten hamlets was obliged to send annually a quantity of grain until there were stored up 100,000 bushels in each granary. The wisdom of this precaution was undoubted, and in a land in which large provinces are so frequently desolated by famine, as is the case in China, the people had good reason to laud the forethought of their ruler.

The reign of Woutsong proved prolific of misfortune both for the prince and also for the nation. His accession to the throne served as the signal for a clique of courtiers to begin machinations which had the double object in view of advancing their own fortunes and of gradually usurping the functions of the sovereign. Eight eunuchs figured in the front rank as the leaders of this seditious movement, but Liukin was the most prominent of them all. To his ambitious mind the part even of chief minister appeared small and scarcely worthy of his claims, and, while feigning to be content with a position which left him the dispenser of the Emperor's favour, he was really plotting how to oust Woutsong and the Ming dynasty, and to place his own family on the throne. These VOL. I.

2 H

schemes long failed to arouse the suspicions of a too-confiding prince, but they very soon attracted the indignation of the people.

They also served to stir up ambitious dreams in the breasts of some who without an example of infidelity would have been satisfied to remain the dutiful subjects of the Emperor. In Szchuen the latent dissatisfaction found vent, as has often been the case in that great province, in a popular rising, but elsewhere throughout the country-at Nankin and in Shensi in particular—the Emperor's uncles took the lead in intrigues for the deposition of Woutsong. Of the fortunes of these cabals, and of the practical result that followed, it will suffice to briefly say that Liukin was on the eve of attaining his objects, when a quarrel with some of his confederates led to the divulgence of his plans and to his immediate arrest. In his palace proof was found, in the vast quantity of treasure and of military weapons he had collected, of the ambitious plans which he had entertained. His execution put an end to the designs of this Chinese Wolsey.

The Emperor's relatives, the princes of Ting and Ganhoa, did not stop their preparations because of this purification of the palace. The Prince of Ning was first brought to reason by one of Woutsong's lieutenants, and then his kinsman of Ganhoa was likewise reduced to a sense of good order. Within a very short period of the time when the machinations of Liukin and the ambitious plans of these princes threatened both the disintegration of the Empire and also the ruin of the Ming family, internal tranquillity was restored by the Imperial troops. Woutsong owed the recovery of his authority more to his good fortune than to the excellence of his arrangements. His natural indifference seems to have prevented his realizing the gravity of the danger to which he had been momentarily exposed, and from which he had been happily rescued.

The insurrection on the part of the common people in Szchuen, of which little had been thought at the time, proved more formidable and difficult to put down than the plots of courtiers and the agitation of self-seeking potentates, for in their case they were actuated by a real grievance and by an



overpowering sense of wrong. The inhabitants of that province, who have long been remarkable for their courage and love of liberty, qualities which they may have derived from their native soil, famed alike for the beauty of its scenery and for its productive character, collected in considerable force in the northern valleys, and bade defiance to the local authorities. Fresh troops had to be brought from the neighbouring provinces, and a large army was placed in the field before there seemed to be any good ground for believing that the insurgents would be dispersed. Even when assailed by an overwhelming force, they withdrew into the neighbouring province of Kweichow sooner than make their formal surrender to the officers of an unjust prince. In Kweichow they were joined by the Miaotze and others, but as soon as it was seen that depredation represented their principal object they were doomed. Never again did they become formidable, and the embers of this once popular rebellion were gradually and effectually stamped out.

The errors of the Government entailed a punishment still nearer home. In the metropolitan provinces of Pechihli and Shantung bands of mounted robbers collected, and they became, under the designation of Hiangma, the terror of a large tract of country, covering hundreds of square miles. Pekin itself was not safe from insult and attack. In 1512, Liutsi, their principal leader, pillaged its suburbs, and for a moment it looked as if he were about to secure the person of the Emperor and to become the arbiter of the state.

A large army arrived opportunely from Leaoutung, and Liutsi was compelled to retire. Having thus held complete success almost within their grasp, the Hiangmas lost ground as rapidly as they had gained it. Reverse followed reverse, and the same year which beheld Pekin imperilled also saw the final overthrow of Liutsi and the complete dispersion of his band.

Although these numerous troubles might well have suggested caution in his actions to Woutsong, his last years were marked by much of the recklessness of the earlier ones. In defiance of the strict etiquette of the Chinese Court, he passed his later days in expeditions beyond the northern frontier,

which partook of the double character of hunting tours and of forays against the Tartars. Memorial was presented after memorial in the hope of inducing the monarch to see the error of his ways, but he regarded the matter from his own point of view, and was not to be turned from his path. A fresh revolt on the part of the Prince of Ning failed to disturb his serenity, but the energy with which he devoted his attention to its repression showed that he was at least resolved not to omit any measure of precaution in grappling with his enemies. A short time after this incident Woutsong was seized with a malady which proved mortal. His death, in the fourteenth year of his reign,* was the signal for much confusion, as he neither left children nor had he selected an heir. The consequences of the misfortunes which distracted the realm, but which left his position and equanimity undisturbed, were to be reaped by his successors.

The most important event by far of Woutsong's reign was the arrival at Canton of the first European who landed on the shores of China. Raphael Perestralo sailed from Malacca to China about the year 1511; and in 1517 Don Fernand Perez D'Andrade, a Portuguese officer, arrived off the coast with a squadron, and was favourably received by the Canton mandarins. He visited Pekin, where he resided for some time as ambassador. The commencement of intercourse was thus effected in a most auspicious manner, and it might have endured, but that a second Portuguese fleet appeared in Chinese waters and committed there numerous outrages and acts of piracy. Upon this D'Andrade was arrested by order of Woutsong, and after undergoing six years' imprisonment was executed by command of the Emperor Chitsong in A.D. 1523. The termination of the first act in the history of intercourse by sea between China and Europe was therefore less favourable than its commencement had promised.

« AnteriorContinua »