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A NATIONAL REGRET.
a more prosperous era for China, The shortness of his reign afforded no time for the realization of these hopes and anticipations; but if it did not allow of great achievements being performed, it could not prevent the memory of Moutsong's brief reign passing into a national regret.
At the least this reign would have been remarkable for the settlement of the long-standing dispute with Yenta the Tartar, who, although an old man, had not lost the energy of his youth, and whose reputation among his own race had been established and extended as his experience matured. In 1570 the defection of his grandson, who deserted to the Chinese, roused the apprehension of Yenta, and he presented a formal demand to the Emperor for his compulsory return. The only reply he received was to the effect that he must first restore those Chinese subjects whom he held in his power, and when, after some hesitation, Yenta complied with this condition, his grandson was sent back to him. This successful negotiation proved the precursor of an amicable arrangement between these hitherto bitter foes, and Yenta accepted the title of a Chinese prince, and went through the form of making his submission to the Emperor. This longexisting feud was thus happily settled for this occasion, at all events, if not as a permanent question of frontier policy.
Moutsong was suddenly seized with a malady which proved fatal, and the realm was thus left to be afflicted by a recurrence of those evils from which it appeared to have escaped. Moutsong feared the consequences that might ensue after his decease, and in his last will he implored his officials and subjects to unite in assisting the young heir apparent and in promoting good government. His fears proved only too just, for the long reign of his son Wanleh was to witness the culmination of the misfortunes which had been accumulating for some time.
THE LONG REIGN OF WANLEH.
As the young prince Chintsong, better known in history as the Emperor Wanleh, was only six years old at the time of his father's death, his mother assumed the functions of Regent, and summoned to her council prudent and trustworthy ministers. In this latter respect she showed a laudable resolve to follow and carry on the policy of her husband Moutsong; and if her good sense did not avail to avert misfortune, the result must be attributed more to the impression of weakness produced by the minority of the sovereign, and to an accumulation of foreign complications, than to any shortcomings on her part. The young ruler himself was apparently actuated by the most laudable intentions, and showed himself very desirous of following the advice of men of experience. With touching simplicity he placed his person and the fortunes of his family in the hands of the ministers whom his father had most trusted.
The tranquillity which happily prevailed at the time of Moutsong's death was not disturbed during the first years of the reign of his successor. Yenta, who had been for more than a generation the scourge of the northern frontier of the Empire, had either learnt moderation with growing years, or had found friendly relations with the Chinese authorities to be more profitable than the uncertainties of an arduous war. And with Yenta passive there was no other border chief bold enough to disturb Chinese territory.
The results of this season of tranquillity were soon shown by an increase in the revenue and by a proportionately full
A SOLDIER OF FORTUNE.
exchequer; and, as one of Wanleh's ministers observed, it was only necessary that care should be exercised in the national expenditure to preserve the finances in their flourishing condition. But it does not appear that either Wanleh or any of his ministers possessed the necessary forethought to closely supervise the daily expenditure of the palace and the government, and the gradual accumulation of external difficulties left them little or no leisure to devote to the dry and unattractive precepts of a sound financial policy.
Wanleh had not long occupied the throne when the Miaotze of the Szchuen frontier broke loose from the slight control maintained over them by the local officials, but none of the incidents of this rising have been preserved. A revolt on the part of some military colonies in the North-West assumed larger proportions, and at one time appeared to threaten the security of even the Emperor's seat upon the throne. Popai, a soldier of fortune of Tartar origin, had risen high in the Chinese service, and among the officers to whom was entrusted the onerous task of guarding the north-west frontier few ranked higher than he did. It would seem that Popai's good fortune and distinctions had brought him the envy and dislike of the officers of Chinese race, and, as his position was too secure to be easily shaken, these latter resolved to gratify their spite by injuring those of his relations who were also in the Imperial service.
A slight offered to Popai's son led to a quarrel that soon developed grave proportions, and these aliens, whose example of seeking their fortunes under the auspices of the Mings had been imitated by many of their kinsmen, imagining that there
a scheme afoot for their destruction, took up arms in their own behalf and declared against the Government. This extreme act was committed in a moment of either temper or panic, and was unquestionably ill-judged. Had there been a prudent viceroy at the head of affairs in Shensi, this misconception might have been easily removed, and the ruin of a few brave men averted, with much saving to the exchequer and to the Emperor's peace of mind.
Popai and his followers easily overcame the opposition of the local Chinese officials and their soldiers. They then VOL. I.
exacted a summary revenge on those who had insulted them. After this open defiance of Wanleh's authority, they established their head-quarters at the important and favourably situated town of Ninghia, the capital of a prefecture, and one of the chief cities in Western China at this period. Nor did Popai's success stop with these achievements, for he captured, one after another, all the strong places on the upper course of the Hoangho. This bad news carried dismay to the Chinese Court, which at once ordered the despatch of a large force to Shensi to attack these audacious rebels. Before it reached the scene of action many reverses had been sustained and much suffering had been inflicted on the people. On the arrival of the Chinese troops, however, Popai no longer felt able to keep the open field. He shut himself up in Ninghia, resolved to hold the place to the last.
The Chinese concentrated as much determination upon the capture of Ninghia as Popai did upon its defence. Round its walls were soon collected all the available forces of the Emperor in the North-West; but Popai did not lose heart at the sight of the superior numbers of his foe, although he could find no prospect of succour from without. The siege was prosecuted with both vigour and audacity. Several assaults were delivered, and at one time the Chinese had gained a footing on the rampart. But the besieged showed equal courage, and these desperate attempts to carry the place by storm were all repulsed with great slaughter. The Chinese troops continued to blockade it, and their commander, Li Jusong, foiled in his endeavour to capture the place by the sword, turned his hopes and energies in the direction of ngineering science for the accomplishment of his purpose. In this design he fared better, for by means of a trench or dyke he diverted the waters of the Hoangho against the wall of the town. All the efforts of Popai and his lieutenants to prevent the completion of this work were baffled, and the waters were rolled against the fortifications. The Chinese thereupon promptly delivered their attack, and overcame all resistance. Popai threw himself into the flames of his residence ; but his body was rescued from the fire, and a soldier cut off the head and took it to Li Jusong. This siege had
entailed the loss of many brave lives to the Emperor, but when it closed it left the insurgents completely crushed. The rebellion, which had assumed such formidable proportions under the leading of Popai, thus happily terminated.
This episode in the fortunes of government had hardly closed when a more interesting and a more important complication distracted the attention of the Emperor and his advisers to the opposite quarter of the state. Beyond the sea the Japanese had reached a point of some material prosperity and considerable national greatness; and their growing activity had found a relief in adventures against the Chinese mainland, which have already been mentioned. Wanleh had not been long upon the throne when the career commenced of probably the greatest ruler and conqueror whom Japan has known. He appeared at a moment when the Japanese were in the fit mood to turn a sympathetic ear to any proposal of adventure against either China or any of its dependencies ; and his fame is principally associated with the exploits which he performed when he identified himself with this great national aspiration.
ashiba owed little to fortune. From the condition of slave to an individual of no high rank he raised himself by his own assiduity and resolution to be the despotic ruler of a brave and intelligent people. The story goes that he first attracted the attention of a Japanese daimio, whom the Chinese named Sinchang, by his neglect to pay the obeisance due to his rank. The daimio was on the point of inflicting summary punishment for the slight offered to his person, when Fashiba pleaded his case with so much eloquence that the daimio's attention was soon obtained and his favour won. Fashiba then entered his service, and showed such excellent zeal and discretion in advancing his interests that in a short time he made his chief the most powerful among the lords of Japan. One success led to another, and Fashiba did not rest content until Sinchang had become, by his aid, the virtual sovereign of the country. It was not until after the death of this master and benefactor that Fashiba came forward in person as the arbiter of the nation's destiny; and then, whether instigated by a desire to divert public attention from