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parison with the great struggle which was going on in the North with the Manchu Tartars, and which was to give a fresh turn to the destinies of China. We have to consider this important contest in detail ; but although it began while Wanleh was still reigning, the other final incidents of his reign may be here briefly summed up.
One of the principal sources of anxiety to Wanleh's ministers was that, having no legitimate children, he had postponed the selection and proclamation of an heir. In 1590 he had been entreated to recognize one of his illegitimate sons as his heir, but his inclinations did not point in that direction. He accordingly rejected the proposition. Eleven years later the popular feeling on this subject had become so strong that Wanleh did not feel able any longer to run counter to it, more especially as there was then no hope of the Empress having a son. In 1601, therefore, Wanleh proclaimed Chu Changlo, the eldest of his children, Heir-Apparent, and on the second, whom he secretly favoured, he conferred the title of Prince Fou Wang. This act of decision did not, however, bring the Emperor that domestic peace for which he may have hoped.
The Prince Fou Wang, whose ambition had been raised by his father's preference for him, did not conceal the dissatisfaction with which he regarded an arrangement that consigned him to a place of secondary importance. His party was composed of men who felt little scruple as to the means they employed to compass their ends so long as they were attained ; and the Prince Fou Wang himself appears to have been an accomplished intriguer. He doubled the guards attached to his person, and he spread abroad calumnies about his brother. At last he caused a proclamation to be issued affirming that the Emperor had only chosen Chu Changlo as his heir in consequence of the importunities of the ministers. This announcement excited great agitation, and the ministers insisted on its authors being discovered and punished. Accordingly, Wanleh published an edict to the effect that they should be dealt with according to their deserts, and without regard to either their quality or rank. Several arrests were made, and one courtier, although his innocence
was clearly established, was executed ; but the real culprits escaped. In 1615 an accident revealed the truth, and the ambitious schemes of Fou Wang and his mother, the Queen Chingchi, were laid bare. Even Wanleh's partiality could not overlook so flagrant a wrong, and all the guilty would then have been punished with death but for the intervention of Prince Chu Changlo. To the man whom above any one else they had desired to injure, they owed their lives and the condonation of their crimes.
Wanleh continued to reign until the year 1620, when he died as much from the consequences of mental distress as from any bodily ailment. The perils which had beset him from the first days of his accession to the throne had culminated in the invasion of the Manchu Tartars, and when he died he left his realm exposed to the assaults of its northern foe. The standards of the enemy, to use the words of the historian of the dynasty, were already metaphorically, if not actually, at the gates of his capital. Several emperors of the Ming family, indeed, ascended the Dragon Throne before the final overthrow of the reigning house was completed, but with Wanleh's death a formal invitation to the Manchus to invade the country as conquerors was issued.
Were there no other event to mark out the reign of Wanleh as a distinct epoch in history, the first introduction of Europeans into the country in a character independent of the Government would suffice. Then began that contact with the nations of the West which has resulted in the present vast commercial intercourse of China with the foreigner, and which has not, as yet, proved destructive to either the institutions or the power of this Empire. That intercourse has now been freed from many of the restrictions which hindered its development, and will yet attain proportions far in excess of those that it has reached. Its origin has been recorded, and the description of its growth will afford one of the most difficult problems in connection with the modern history of the country. We have again to turn our attention to the consideration of that Tartar invasion which was to be marked by another transfer of the ruling power, and which was followed by the accession to the throne of the family that now guides the destinies of the Chinese Empire.
When the Mongols overthrew, in the thirteenth century, the Kin dynasty in Northern China, many of the fugitives retired northwards into the solitudes beyond Leaoutung, where they found themselves secure from pursuit. With the loss of imperial title and position, they lost also the name which their great conqueror Akouta had given them, and resumed the earlier one of Niuche, by which Chinese writers had been in the habit of designating them. The Niuche occupied most of the country stretching from the Chinese province of Leaoutung to the Amour on the north, and their settlements dotted the banks of the Songari and the Usuri. The Niuche were divided into innumerable small clans, none of which possessed either great numbers or much authority; and their management presented to the Chinese officials few of the difficulties that were of such frequent occurrence in their dealings with the Mongols or any other of the Central Asian tribes. Of these small clans, only that which was ruled by the ancestors of the Manchu (the clear) family claims our consideration ; but upon its success the other clans assimilated themselves with it, and became merged in the military confederacy headed by Noorhachu.
The clan which was destined to rise to so lofty a pinnacle of power originally occupied a small district on the Soodsu stream, situated some thirty miles east of Moukden. The principal camp or stockade — for, after all, it was little more of this family was in the valley of Hootooala, which lies below the Long White Mountains and between the
A SINGULAR BIRTH.
Soodsu and Jiaho streams. The scene has been praised for its rugged beauty; and from the description of this remote valley, protected on three sides by water, and on the fourth by the heights of a lofty range, we can imagine that it was well adapted to be the cradle of a race of conquerors.
In many respects it corresponded with the original home of the Mongols on the upper course of the Amour, but its two radical differences were that it was on a much smaller scale, and that it was close to the Chinese frontier. The valley of Hootooala was as much the object of the veneration and affection of the Manchus as that of the Onon had been of the Mongols.
In this particular district, which was surrounded by numerous others of similar character, there appeared as chief, about the middle of the fourteenth century, when Hongwou was busily engaged in his war with the Yuens, a man whose name has been handed down to us as Aisin Gioro. Aisin Gioro was to the Manchus all that Budantsar had been to the Mongols. He is said to have owed his birth to a singular and miraculous intervention of Providence. A magpie had dropped a red fruit into the lap of a maiden of the Niuche, and she having eaten of it conceived a son, who became Aisin Gioro. Calumnious writers have affirmed that this mythical hero was nothing more than a runaway Mongol, but at all events there is no question that he ruled as lord in the small and secluded valley of Hootooala. Five generations in descent from him came the old chief Huen, or, as his friends more boastfully called him, the Emperor Chintsu, and during Wanleh's life he ruled over the same territory, of which the dimensions may be inferred from the fact that its length did not exeeed twelve miles. This state preserved amicable relations with the Chinese, who did not exact any tribute from it, and who allowed its inhabitants full and free commercial intercourse during the time of the fair or market held at Neuchang
In the year 1559 an heir was born to the son of this chief Huen, whose name was destined to rise high on the list of great conquerors as Noorhachu. Great anticipations were formed as to the glorious future in store for this boy. His VOL. I.
personal appearance was remarkable, his strength enormous, and his determination of character attracted attention from an early age. When he was nineteen, his step-mother gave him a small sum of money and sent him out into the world to gain his fortune, but her sympathy having been won over by his exceptional talent, she speedily repented of her harsh
She wished him to return to her house, or at the least to accept further assistance; but he resolutely refused to avail himself in any way of her aid.
Feuds existed among these Manchu clans, and contests between them were far from infrequent. But it was not until the close of the sixteenth century that this inter-tribal strife attracted the attention of the Chinese, and then apparently it was as much in consequence of the importunity of one of the combatants as from any interest taken in this trivial matter. About this period, too, the ambition to unite the scattered clans and to weld the Manchus, or more properly the Niuche, into a single confederacy began to take form in the minds of several of these petty chieftains; and we may feel sure from his subsequent acts that such schemes were not foreign to the mind of the young Noorhachu. Neither his youth nor his opportunities allowed him to take the lead in this enterprise, and, indeed, his first appearance on the scene of public affairs was as the opponent of the man who took the initiative in the national cause.
In 1583, a chief named Nikan Wailan, or Haida, who ruled over a small district south of Hootooala, induced the Chinese commander in Leaoutung to assist him in an attack upon one of his neighbours. The Chinese appear to have also had some grievance against the victim of this onslaught, and lent a small body of troops with the greater readiness for the purpose of his chastisement. The main object of their undertaking having been thus successfully performed, the Chinese soldiers would have been withdrawn, but that Nikan succeeded in persuading them to remain to assist him against another of his neighbours, whose overthrow he also meditated. Now it happened that this neighbouring chief had married the cousin of Noorhachu, and when the news of the approaching army of invasion reached Hootooala, the old chief Huen