Imatges de pàgina
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monk, who wished to avenge himself for some slight that had been offered him, he in that year made his way through the Great Wall, and passing the garrison town of Taitong, marched against Taiyuen, the principal city in Shansi. The expedition, in which Kisiang and the Ordus also took part, was a complete success, and the invaders returned with a vast booty to their encampments. Impunity brought increased audacity, and thenceforth the interior of Shansi was not more safe than its borders from the attacks of this daring leader. Kisiang's death, caused by the effects of a debauch, left his brother supreme among all the Tartar tribes, and this event increased their formidable character for war, as it tended to promote union. Despairing of success in the open field, the Chinese hoped to obtain their object by the removal of their principal enemy. A price was set on Yenta's head, and 1000 taels, with an official post of the third rank, was promised to the bold man who should have the courage and the good fortune to slay that formidable chieftain.

This personal threat served only to inflame the animosity of Yenta against the Chinese. In 1542 he again entered Shansi, and inflicted a crushing defeat, as far south as the town of Pingyang, on the garrisons of Honan and Shantung, which had been ordered to march against him. The consequences of this success were most disastrous, for a large territory, which had been prospering by the absence of all strife for nearly two centuries, was handed over to the mercies of a fierce and reckless barbarian. Thirty-eight districts were ravaged by his followers, and the Tartars made good their way back to Mongolia with 200,000 prisoners and an incalculable quantity of plunder. The Chinese historian records that after this expedition Yenta remained quiet for twelve months.

In 1549, Yenta experienced his first reverse in this frontier strife. The encounter took place during one of his periodic raids near the town of Taitong, and Yenta was compelled, after sustaining the attack of superior numbers, to beat a hasty retreat with the loss of some of his best troops. That the reverse was far from being crushing, his return the very next year clearly showed, when his successes were greater THE JAPANESE.

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than ever. On this occasion he marched in the direction of Pekin itself, to which he was resolved to lay siege. The arrival of fresh troops sent from Leaoutung and other provinces to succour the capital compelled him, however, to draw off his force. But he executed his retreat with skill, and succeeded in getting back without having suffered much loss.

Yenta desired for some reasons to come to an amicable arrangement with the Chinese Government, even though he neither expected nor wished the conditions of any understanding to be long observed. But these later years were occupied as much by the discussion of possible terms of peace as by active campaigning, and many thought that the hostility of the Tartar would be disarmed by the establishment of the horse fairs, which he asked for. Yenta kept his paid spies at Pekin, and he numbered among those in his hire Yensong, one of the most trusted of Chitsong's ministers. Yensong's intrigues were discovered, and their author punished with death, and it may perhaps have been in consequence of this that Yenta's overtures were rejected. But no remedy was applied to the evil. The Chinese troops remained uniformly unsuccessful, the Tartars were persistently aggressive, and much of the northern frontier lay desolate.

Meanwhile, a new enemy appeared on the scene to add to the embarrassment and difficulty of the Pekin Emperor. The Japanese had neither forgotten nor forgiven the unprovoked invasion of their country by the Emperor Kublai. It had become with them a traditional justification for any attack they might feel disposed to organize against the Chinese mainland. As soon as the Mongol power was seen to be on the wane, the Japanese began to make descents on the coasts of Fuhkien and Chekiang, and these had continued during the century and a half which the Mings had held the throne up to the time of Chitsong. These attacks were little more than semi-piratical expeditions, annoying enough in their way, but constituting no serious danger. Various precautions were taken to defend the coast. Towers were erected at intervals, and a militia was raised and trained for the purpose of resisting the descents of the Japanese. But no attempt was made to carry on the war on the other element, and the Japanese naval superiority remained uncontested.

While this quarrel was in process of slow development, other and more promising relations had been formed between the two peoples. Both nations, by natural disposition, were keen in the pursuit of trade, and a very considerable commerce had sprung up between them. But this was carried on by smuggling, as all articles were contraband save those imported by the tribute embassy once in ten years. The Japanese traders landed their goods on some of the islands off the coast where the Chinese merchants met them for purposes of trade; and the profits must have been very considerable, as the average value of a ship's cargo amounted to 1000 gold taels. But although they derived many advantages from this traffic, the Chinese appear to have desired to acquire the monopoly of its benefits, and they were not always either fair or prudent in their business transactions with the foreigners. A flagrant act of injustice was the immediate cause of the troubles which arose towards the close of Chitsong's reign, and which continued under many of his successors; and it served to extenuate the unfriendly conduct of the Japanese * during previous years.

The refusal of a Chinese merchant to give a Japanese the goods for which he had paid provoked the indignation of the islanders, who fitted out their vessels to exact reparation for this breach of faith. In 1552 they effected a landing in Chekiang, pillaged the country round Taichow, and maintained themselves in a fortified position for twelve months against all the attacks of the Chinese. They were ill-advised to attempt so obstinate a stand in face of the overwhelming odds that could be brought against them, and they paid the penalty of their foolhardiness by being exterminated. This reverse, if it can be called one, seeing that only a few men

* The Chinese historian, translated by Mailla, describes the Japanese as “intrepid, inured to fatigue, despising life, and knowing well how to face death ; although inferior in number, a hundred of them would blush to flee before a thousand foreigners, and, if they did, they would not dare to return to their country. Sentiments such as these, which are instilled into them from their earliest childhood, render them terrible in battle."

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perished after inflicting vast loss on the Chinese, did not deter other Japanese from undertaking similar adventures, and at the very time when the mariners of England were trying to earn the supremacy of the seas in the school of Hawkins and Drake, another race of islanders was gaining the same celebrity in the Far East.

In the five years between 1555 and 1560,* the Japanese made frequent descents on the coast, and even laid siege to Nankin. But they were beaten off in their last attempt, although all their minor enterprises succeeded, and the Chinese suffered as much at the hands of the Japanese on their eastern coasts as they did from Yenta on the northern borders during the dark days of the reign of Chitsong the Indifferent.

In 1563-4, piratical bands, who have frequently infested the coasts and estuaries of China, had gathered to a head under the leadership of a chief named Hwangchi, and how considerable their power was may be inferred from the fact that they could place one hundred war-ships in line of battle. In face of their flotilla the local garrisons were helpless. The Japanese formed a temporary alliance with them, and in both the years mentioned they jointly made a descent in force on the coast. At first they carried everything before them, but when it came to serious fighting the Japanese found that the valour of their confederates speedily evaporated. The Chinese collected a large army, and attacked the invaders with resolution. Their commander Tsikikwang showed considerable talent, and the Japanese were driven back to their

* In 1553 died, on the Island of Sancian, near Macao, Francis Xavier, the celebrated missionary, who was canonized after his death. He had gone to China for the purpose of converting the Chinese, but died within sight of land and on the threshold of his enterprise. The Portuguese still monopolized the European intercourse-a fact most unfortunate for the happy development of friendly relations with China. "The Portuguese have no other design than to come under the name of merchants to spy the country, that they may hereafter fall on it with fire and sword,” said the Chinese. In 1560 they obtained, however, the loan of the site on which stands their settlement of Macao, and in return for a rent of 500 taels per annum they were allowed to make it their principal station on the coast. The glory and the prosperity of Macao have both long departed.

ships with loss. The pirates also suffered, and their power did not soon recover from the rude shock inflicted by Tsikikwang's activity.

The long reign of Chitsong, which extended over a period of forty-five years, was now drawing to a close; but the general opinion as to his personal qualities and capacity for reigning may be gathered from the fact that memorials were presented to him at this late period of his life and reign on the necessity of his devoting closer attention to affairs of State. The first impulse of the Emperor was to punish their authors, but time brought reflection. At the eleventh hour he might have reformed and become a model prince had his life been spared, but his death shortly afterwards, in 1566, dissipated that prospect. His last will, written on his deathbed, was a confession of fault, and a plea of extenuation to be favourably received by those who would have to judge his place in history. “Forty-five years," wrote the Emperor, "have I occupied the throne, and there have been few reigns as long. My duty was to revere Heaven and to take care of my peoples; yet, actuated by the desire to find some solace for the evils from which I have continually suffered, I allowed myself to be deceived by impostors, who promised me the secret of immortality. This delusion has led me to set a bad example to both my magnates and my people. I desire to repair the evil by this edict, which is to be published throughout the Empire after my death.” The confession of fault is a graceful weakness, or it may be the commencement of better days; but it is an ineffectual remedy for the embarrassments of either an individual or a state.

Chitsong's third but eldest surviving son succeeded him, and assumed the title of Moutsong. At the time of his accession he was thirty years of age, and his first acts showed that he had not been an indifferent observer of the discontent produced by many of his father's acts. He released several mandarins who had been imprisoned for having remonstrated with Chitsong on the folly of his conduct, and he imprisoned those who had encouraged him to persist in his search for the elixir of life. His private character was above reproach, and the promise of his earlier years seemed indicative of

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