Imatges de pàgina
PDF
EPUB

prince, to whom the eyes of the people turned as Fou Wang's most natural successor, induced the Manchus to grant the city favourable terms by making a prompt surrender. The victory was easily obtained, but the victors sullied their success by a deed of inexcusable treachery. They spared the town and its inhabitants, indeed, but their first act was to execute the Ming prince with whom they had entered into this convention. Many of his officers, we are told, sooner than accept a favour of a people capable of such a crime, put an end to their own existence.

By this successful campaign, in which their losses were of the most trivial character, the Manchus had not merely obtained possession of the second city in the realm, but they had overthrown a rival potentate who had at one time seemed likely to gather round him the national forces. In the hour of distress the Chinese possessed the desire to give their own rulers one more chance of retrieving their reputation before they resigned themselves to the lot of accepting the foreign race who came with the sword in one hand, and the scales of justice in the other. But the events of Fou Wang's brief term of power were not of a character to encourage their hopes, or to strengthen their fortitude. They served only to discredit still further the Ming family, and to convince the intelligent that the best hope of the country lay in as speedy an agreement as possible with the Manchus. When Nankin opened its gates, and the dissolute Fou Wang fled to meet his death in the waters of the Kiang, all hope of the resuscitation of the Ming dynasty as the governing power passed away. It had been given another trial, and had been finally found wanting and condemned.

But even for the discrediting and disappearance of the reigning family the Chinese did not finally abandon all thought of further resistance, and, although with the overthrow of Fou Wang the triumph of the Manchus became assured, the efforts of Chinese patriotism flickered on for many years. A member of the Ming family, Tang Wangwho could, however, trace his descent no nearer to that family than Hongwou, its first Emperor—was the next to assume the leadership of Chinese patriots. He enjoyed in

A DARING SAILOR.

555

the province of Fuhkien the hereditary dignity and estates of Prince of Nanyang. On Fou Wang's death many of the Chinese soldiers and leaders repaired to Tang Wang, who was proclaimed Emperor by them, and who took such measures as he could for continuing the struggle of independence. But even in his camp, and among the small section of the people to which he was able to appeal, there were dissensions and petty jealousies to hamper his movements, and to further detract from the vigour of the national defence in the province of Fuhkien. Nor would the episode of Tang Wang attract more than passing notice, were it not that it was signalized by the naval exploits of Ching Chelong, celebrated himself as a daring captain, but still better known to fame as the father of Koshinga.

When the Manchus crossed the Kiang and occupied Nankin, the Chinese fleet, instead of attempting to oppose them, had put off to sea, and taken shelter in the harbours of Fuhkien. It had originally been led by a relative of Ching Chelong, and when it sought a place of refuge in a region where his influence was supreme it naturally passed under his orders. It was by this fleet and the remnants of other Chinese armies that Tang Wang was proclaimed Emperor in 1645. Hampered in his measures by the want of money and by the presence of several rivals, this prince, rejoicing in his new title of sovereign, could do little towards arresting the progress of the Manchus. While he had been employed in the abortive effort to unite his followers, the Tartars had overrun Kiangsi and Kiangsu. Chekiang had also, after the capture of its capital, passed almost entirely into the hands of another army, and the Tartars had the satisfaction of seeing the resources of the two southern provinces, Yunnan and Kweichow, crippled and nullified by a bitter civil war. When the Manchus were so easily victorious in their more hazardous expeditions there was no valid reason why they should experience greater difficulty in dispersing the ill-led and badly-organized army at the disposal of Tang Wang. The circumstances in which the Chinese leader found himself placed compelled him to assume the offensive, but the attempt ended in disaster. At the first shock of battle his soldiers were put to the rout. Nor was this an isolated

Two Tartar armies advanced southwards through Chekiang in parallel lines, and as they marched they overcame all open resistance, and set up their authority in the towns, the wave of conquest being clearly marked by the shaven heads of the inhabitants.

Ching Chelong constituted, as has been said, the chief prop of Tang Wang's fortunes. Without him it was doubtful if that prince could have kept round his person the force which in appearance was sufficiently formidable ; and it soon became evident that Ching, in thus supporting a scion of the Ming, desired rather to advance his own personal ends than to benefit from pure motives the lately reigning dynasty. The circumstances of the hour were favourable to the indulgence of a lofty ambition, as who could declare what was impossible or unattainable in the troubled waters of the political situation? Ching, therefore, brought all the pressure of his influence to bear on the prince in order to induce or constrain him to recognize as his heir the young man Koshinga, who already gave promise of future ability and greatness. But it is the habit of princes to cling more closely to the privileges of their birth in the hour of misfortune than even in the days of prosperity, and Tang Wang was inflexible on the point that the right of succession could not pass beyond the limits of the family to whom it had been entrusted by the mandate of Heaven. Ching took the rebuff to heart, and his zeal in the cause grew cold ; and he made advances to another competitor for a throne of which the giving away had passed into other hands. The rupture between Ching and Tang Wang was precipitated by the murder of one of Ching's friends, and Ching, vowing vengeance for the wrong, retired to his ships like Achilles to his tent. Thence he proceeded to join his forces with those of the Prince of Loo, another of the Ming rivals. Hardly had he done so than the Manchus assailed the dominions of that potentate. Ching's fleet combined with the land forces in attempting to defend the passage of the Tsien Tang river, which waters the Green Tea districts, and on which is situated Hangchow. Their joint efforts were so far successful that the Manchus were compelled

DEATH OF AN EMPEROR.

557

to ascend the stream as high up as Yenchow, where they were able to pass by a ford. From that moment, however, it was all over with the Prince of Loo. His capital Chowhing surrendered to the Manchus, and then many of his principal officers deserted to their side. Ching himself was not long in imitating their example, and allowed himself to be so much influenced by the lavish promises of the Tartars that he gave in his formal surrender and ranged himself under their standard. Even in this transaction he thought he saw a mode of advancing his own fortunes, and of attaining the ends he had long held in view, for, as he observed, “it is in waters that have been disturbed by a storm that we expect to find the largest fish.” Ching was destined to further and bitter disappointment. The Tartars accepted his offers of fidelity and assistance, and in return protested the greatest respect for his person; but when he paid them a visit they placed him in honourable confinement, and then sent him off without scruple to Pekin. There he was kept a close prisoner, and all the threats and promises of his relations and followers did not avail to secure his release. After waiting some months in inaction his son Ching Chinkong declared eternal war upon the Manchus, and began those raids along the coast which made his name famous at a later day as Koshinga.

Even before this the cause of Tang Wang had expired. When Ching deserted, most of his troops fell away from him, and Tang Wang had no resource save to seek safety by a precipitate flight to the West, where a few supporters of Chinese independence still held out. But the Manchus were not at all disposed to allow their opponent to escape. A body of light cavalry was sent in pursuit, and succeeded in overtaking the unhappy Ming prince in a town in Kiangsi. He avoided capture by throwing himself into a well, where he perished by a miserable and lingering death. His wife fell into the hands of the Tartars, who sent her to Foochow, where she was executed—the natural ferocity of the Manchus again asserting itself and getting the better of the civilization which they had borrowed from the Chinese. Thus easily and rapidly was the Manchu authority set up and established in the maritime provinces of China to as far south as the great territory of Kwantung.

As the Manchus advanced the Chinese retired, but, in order to show their determination to continue the struggle so long as there was an inch of territory to be defended, they set up in Canton as a new Emperor, on the death of Tang Wang, his younger brother Yu Ngao. In the adjoining province of Kwangsi the viceroy had proclaimed an emperor of his own selection in the person of Kwei Wang, a grandson of the Emperor Wanleh. Thus, even in the South, and at their last extremity, the old divisions revealed themselves; and the Chinese remained to the end as a house divided against itself. The Tartars did not delay their invasion of Kwantung, although many rumours had been spread as to both the formidable character of the defences of Canton and the number of the army collected for its protection. Their garrisons in the eastern provinces were concentrated, and placed under the orders of a Chinese commander, with Tartar advisers attached to his person. But even before this army had begun its march the fate of the southern sovereignties had been virtually decided by their own internal disputes and disagreements. The collective forces of the princes Yu and Kwei might have been formidable, but they neutralized each other, and destroyed their respective chances by flying at each other's throats when the formidable invader stood on the very threshold of their states. Before the Tartars had begun any active portion of the campaign, the two armies of these rivals had encountered in a battle marked by all the intense bitterness of civil strife. That representing the cause of Yu was almost annihilated, while the victors had little reason to congratulate themselves from the heavy loss they had suffered. With the way thus cleared for them, the Manchus laid close siege to Canton, which, after a mere show of resistance, surrendered to their arms. The Prince Yu ended his life and ambition under the axe of the executioner.

The capture of Canton gave the Manchus a post of vantage whence they could direct their operations against Kwei Wang with the greater facility and success. they slow to turn to all possible use a position which enabled

Nor were

« AnteriorContinua »