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Tartars did not in the eyes of the inhabitants represent a force sufficient to inspire them with such fear of the Manchu power as to induce them to remain true in the allegiance they had sworn in deference to the name and ability of Wou Sankwei. They therefore threw off their new yoke, and, gathering confidence from their meeting with no resistance, swarmed like bees round Singan, where they expected to crush the only practical vestige of Tartar authority in the province. Appearances seemed to favour their hopes, for the Manchus were few in number, and the prospect of aid was remote. The insurgents counted on the co-operation of the inhabitants of the town in their efforts to expel the foreigner ; but for some reason the citizens of Singan refused to repose much faith in the insurgents, and attached themselves instead to the cause of the Manchus. A corps of five thousand men was formed from their ranks; the assaults of the enemy were repulsed, and, with the arrival of fifty thousand fresh troops from the capital, the insurgents were obliged to hastily disband. The Manchus pursued them with bitterness to their hiding-places, and most of them perished by the sword.
The rising in Shensi, thus happily repressed, proved but the prelude to a graver insurrection in Shansi, where the Manchu authority had been early set up, and where it seemed to be securely established. In this instance the revolt was due to the perpetration of an outrage, and not to any outburst of national antipathy as had been the case in Shensi.
In 1649, Chuntche being then fourteen years of age, Ama Wang sent an embassy to the principal Khan of the Mongols for the purpose of procuring a wife for the young Emperor. Motives of policy were at the root of this decision, for the alliance of the Mongols was of the first importance to the Manchus. A prince of the ruling family was charged with the mission, and while the preliminary negotiations were in progress he took up his quarters at Taitong, which was still held by Chinese troops under a governor of their own race named Kiangtsai. The followers of the Manchu prince conducted themselves in the town with arrogance, and acted towards the inhabitants in utter disregard both of the laws of
humanity and of the pacific proclamations which their master had repeatedly issued. Their insults culminated in an outrage of a heinous and inexcusable character. A young girl, the daughter of one of the most influential citizens of Taitong, was being led through the streets in honour of her wedding-day, when several of the ambassador's comrades with their attendants interrupted the procession and carried off the bride. So daring and unheard-of an outrage in the light of day shocked the sedate and well-conducted Chinese, and a cry was at once raised that those guilty of the crime should be punished with all the rigour of the law.
Kiangtsai himself took the lead in pressing this demand upon the. Manchu prince; but, unfortunately for Chuntche, his ambassador was himself a libertine, and made light of the offence of his boon-companions.
Then it was that Kiangtsai resolved to exact a terrible revenge. The Chinese were summoned from all quarters to massacre the few Tartars in the place, and in a few hours not a Manchu survived save the ambassador himself, who only succeeded in escaping by a rapid flight and the swiftness of his horse.
Although this extreme act might have been condoned at Pekin in consequence of the provocation received, Kiangtsai did not after this massacre feel safe in adopting any other course than one of pronounced hostility to the Manchus, and the proximity of the scene to the capital showed him how necessary it was to take immediate steps to render his position as strong as circumstances would permit. Having slain, in defiance of the sacred laws of hospitality, those who were living under his protection, Kiangtsai saw no safe course except to declare irrevocable war against the Tartars. He expressed his defiance of the ruling power in the most emphatic terms, and many rallied to his faction in the hope that this boldness, to which they had grown unaccustomed, might meet with its deserved success. But Kiangtsai saw clearly that his own resources would not suffice to enable him to cope with the Manchus, and he naturally turned to his neighbours to ascertain which amongst them could best afford him the support he needed. Of these the Mongols were by far the most powerful, and to their principal Khan he sent a messenger praying for assistance to oppose the arms of Chuntche, and to restore to China the native rule she had lost.
The Mongols had given in their adhesion to the authority of the Manchus long before the latter had placed an emperor on the throne of Pekin, and we have just seen how anxious Chuntche's advisers were to rivet that alliance by the marriage of their boy ruler with a princess of the desert. The tragic occurrence at Taitong had interrupted the progress of the embassy, and left the road clear for Kiangtsai to make his own propositions in the camp of the Mongols. The overtures of the Chinese rebel were received with favour, and the Mongol chieftain gave a promise of help against his late ally, whose success may have aroused his jealousy, while he was still ignorant of the friendly wishes of Ama Wang. In face of so grave a peril as the alliance of Kiangtsai and the Mongol tribes, the activity of the Regent was conspicuous. While he was collecting a large army with which to chastise the insolence of the rebel, he despatched an ambassador with a large suite and a magnificent display of presents to the Mongol camp to repeat the friendly proposal of the former envoy. The Mongol gave but slight heed to his plighted word when he scanned the jewels and rich silks of the Emperor, and at once acceded to the request of the Regent. The good understanding between these allies was restored, and the Mongols remained strictly neutral during the progress and suppression of the rising at Taitong.
Meanwhile Kiangtsai had been called upon to bear the first shock of the Manchu attack, and the unexpectedness of his success in the field seemed to warrant a belief that his power was greater than it appeared. Before the first Manchu levies marched against him he had assumed the title of Prince of Han, a name more dear than any other to the Chinese, and had given out that he aspired to be the restorer of the Empire. His conduct in the field soon showed that he possessed many of the qualities necessary to establish his right to the proud name and functions he had assumed.
The Manchus were fully impregnated with the doctrine of striking hard and quick; and a strong detachment was
ordered to march without delay against Taitong. Kiangtsai left the fortress to meet his assailant, but it was to a wellconceived stratagem rather than to the numerical superiority of his troops that he trusted for victory. Kiangtsai caused a number of waggons to be specially prepared containing canisters filled with powder, and concealed from view, and these he sent forward under the charge of a guard as if they contained the baggage of the army. The Manchus fell eagerly on what they conceived would prove a rich prize, and the Chinese abandoned their waggons with precipitation when they had fired the train. The explosion which ensued cost many a Tartar his life, and threw the whole army into a state of disorder and alarm. Then it was that Kiangtsai delivered his attack with his whole force, and before the Manchus had time to recover from their panic he had succeeded in driving them from the field with a computed loss of 15,000 men. The Manchus soon collected in fresh strength, and reinforced by more troops from Pekin, they advanced to again dispute the palm of superiority with Kiangtsai. The details of this second encounter present no feature of special interest, but the result was to confirm the previous decision. The baffled Manchus had to beat a hurried retreat, while the authority and reputation of Kiangtsai advanced to a higher point than before.
So grave did the possible consequences of these defeats appear, and so rapidly was the power of the rebellious Governor of Taitong increasing, that the Regent, Ama Wang, resolved to take the field in person, and to proceed against him with the best troops he could collect. Matters had reached such a critical pass that it was felt that, unless the Manchus wished to be greeted by a general insurrection throughout Northern China, it behoved them to put down the Taitong rising with the least possible delay. Ama Wang came to the decision to strike promptly, yet he had the prudence to act with due caution in face of an opponent whose confidence had been raised to a high point by two successes in the field. The armies on both sides exceeded 100,000 men, but Ama Wang foiled all Kiangtsai's endeavours to precipitate a general action.
The want of supplies, or the fear of losing the place by a coup de main, induced Kiangtsai, after two long months of useless campaigning, to retire to Taitong, where he flattered himself that an enemy who feared to attack him in the open would never venture to assail him. In this anticipation he was soon proved to be mistaken, for Ama Wang at once proceeded to invest him in his fortress, and to prevent either ingress or egress. Then Kiangtsai realized the error he had committed, for there remained to him no alternative between either fighting at a disadvantage in endeavouring to cut his way out, or to remain cooped up until the want of food should compel him to surrender. The results of previous victory were thus sacrificed, and a blunder in tactics transferred all the advantages to the side of the Manchus.
Kiangtsai came to the decision, with commendable promptitude, after he perceived the predicament in which he was placed, to cut his way through the beleaguering forces with the greater portion of his army, and the rapidity with which the Manchus were drawing up their lines of circumvallation left him no leisure for much deliberation. He addressed an inspiriting harangue to his followers, and then led them out to the attack. Such was the impetuosity of their onslaught that after four hours' fighting the Manchus were driven from their first entrenchments, which remained in the possession of the Prince of Han's soldiers. The Chinese were as much elated as the Manchus were depressed by this initial success, and for the moment it looked as if final victory would incline to the side of the former. A single incident served to change the fortune of the day. Kiangtsai had placed himself at the head of his men to lead them to the attack of the other positions remaining in the hands of the Manchus, when he was struck in the head by an arrow. The death of Kiangtsai carried confusion throughout the ranks of the Chinese, who, at once abandoning all they had won after such desperate fighting, retired in irretrievable confusion into Taitong. The Manchus, delighted to see the backs of a foe who had opposed them so valiantly, pressed them hard, and in a few hours the fortress of Taitong was in their power, and the faction which had attained such