Imatges de pàgina



the faithful execution of its provisions was rendered the more certain by the recovery in the very same year of the Emperor Kanghi from a bad attack of fever by means of the medicine and attention of the French missionaries after his life was despaired of by his own doctors. Eight years after this incident Kanghi, who had previously allowed the missionaries to reside within the precincts of the palace, gave them permission to build a church adjoining their place of residence. Not merely did he grant them the site for the proposed building, but he presented each of the missionaries with the sum of fifty golden crowns, or more probably taels, to enable each to subscribe that amount towards the cost of construction. Such princely generosity and consideration have rarely been equalled.

The position of the Christian missionaries was, therefore, not only secure, but also of considerable influence and profit during the greater portion of Kanghi's reign. This unprecedented success—for elsewhere in Asia Christianity made but slow and fitful progress-encouraged the members of the Jesuit order to believe that in the dense masses of China they had found fit and willing subjects to receive the great truths of the simplest and most beautiful of inspired religions. Had there been danger in the path they would not have held back from the adventure, but the very friendliness of Kanghi offered a further inducement to them to attempt it. Every year was marked by the arrival at Canton of recruits for those who were spreading the truths of Christianity, and it became the order of the day at Paris and at Rome to seize the opportunity afforded by the presence on the throne of Pekin of a sovereign sympathetic in his views, and of an exceptionally just cast of mind. The policy was intelligible and would have been sound, had there been any real leaning towards Christianity among the Chinese. As there was none, but only a contemptuous indifference towards "the men from over the sea,” this undue haste and precipitance in snatching at what seemed a prize provoked dangers that might have been averted by a more cautious and circumspect manner of proceeding. Kanghi's friendship alone enabled them to hold their ground, and with each succeeding illness after the

year 1710 it became clearer that no great confidence could be placed even in its much longer continuing. The death of Kanghi, it was feared on the one hand, and confidently expected on the other, would mark the term of Christian prosperity and security in the country, and particularly at the capital.

The predominant feeling of hostility towards the Christians arose not so much from antipathy to their religion as from jealousy of their thinly-veiled assumption of superiority. This sentiment had naturally most force among the officials, who believed that they were ousted from many high posts and offices by the men whom Kanghi's caprice had protected and rewarded. There was a certain amount of truth, too, in their allegations, for some of the highest offices in the state were filled by Christians, which necessarily curtailed the number of places available for the numerous body of the Chinese civil service. The intensity of this feeling was naturally very much increased by each fresh arrival, and although Kanghi remained staunch in his favour, it was clear that the Christians were exposed to many perils, and that unless his successor proved equally sympathetic towards

[ocr errors]

* In 1702 an attempt was made to hamper their movements and to check their liberty by a provincial official, the Viceroy of Chekiang. The edict of 1692 gave the Christians the right to use the churches already built, but said nothing about the construction of new ones. Christian emissaries established themselves at the convenient harbour of Ningpo, and naturally presented a request for permission to build a church. They based their demand on the Edict of 1692, but the Viceroy rejected their petition, saying that there was nothing in it allowing the building of new churches. The matter was referred to Pekin, when a decision was given in favour of the Christians on the grounds that “they have never been the cause of any trouble to the Empire, nor ever committed any reprehensible act, and that their doctrine is not bad.”—Mailla, vol. xi. pp. 305-7. Kanghi's own opinion of the Europeans may here be appropriately quoted :-“Europeans, whom I employ even in the interior of my palace, you have always served me with zeal and affection, without any one having been able up to this to cast the slightest reproach upon you. There are many Chinese who distrust you, but as for myself, and I have carefully observed the whole of your conduct, in which I have never found anything irregular, I am so fully convinced of your uprightness and good faith that I publicly declare that you are deserving of every trust and confidence.”—“ Lettres Edifiantes,” tom. xviii. p. 92.



them all the good work of the previous century and a half would be destroyed.

It was becoming clear also towards the commencement of the eighteenth century that the question of the relations of the Chinese with foreign countries was one that could not be restricted to matters of religion. The Jesuits and their companion orders came to convert a people, who regarded them in return with a certain curiosity, and their efforts with a philosophical scepticism and amusement; but other nations came to trade and to establish themselves in the seaports of the Empire. Canton had already heard the thunder of English guns, the Dutch had played their game of ambition in Formosa and Japan, and the Spaniards had established a powerful, defiant, and inhuman authority in the Philippines. The China seas were covered with the vessels of strange peoples, whose engines of war made them appear as terrible as the unscrupulous nature of their acts showed them to be false of faith and regardless of the manner in which they attained their ends. The question of holding commercial and political relations with such nations as these was, therefore, one of a very different nature to allowing a few useful individuals to reside in the chief city of the Empire. Even Kanghi treated the two matters as being on a totally distinct footing, and his good-will towards the Jesuits did not dispose him to deprecate any the less the development of his commercial relations with European countries. The Manchus were the more inclined to adopt a policy of isolation, because, being themselves a foreign dynasty, they were apprehensive lest some of these formidable Western peoples should seek to imitate what they had accomplished.

In 1716 the trade between Canton and the Philippines had attained considerable dimensions, and the export of rice in particular is stated to have been very large. An Imperial edict, issued early in the following year, prohibited the export of rice, and forbade Chinese vessels to sail for foreign ports. This proclamation, of course, gave fresh courage to all who were secretly inimical to foreign intercourse, and petitions to the throne became frequent for the dismissal of the foreigners, and for the breaking-off of all intercourse with the outer world. One petition, presented by a military officer named Chinmao, who held the principal command of the troops at Canton, was composed of a homily against the vices and selfseeking aims of Europeans. But it seemed to touch a chord of sympathy even in the heart of Kanghi, for the petition was so far favourably received that all the tribunals in conclave assembled called attention to the extent to which Christianity had spread, and demanded the passing of severe measures against its votaries. These were not sanctioned in the exact form in which they were presented; but in 1718, for the first time during Kanghi's reign, restrictions were placed on the practice of the Christian religion. Even before the death of their greatest benefactor, therefore, it was clear that the prosperous days of Christianity in China were numbered, and that the small religious community which had so adventurously established itself at Pekin would very soon be exposed to all the perils from the fanaticism and natural hostility of the people. The full force of the storm did not reveal itself until after Kanghi's death, when his crown had passed to a sovereign more intensely national and more deeply prejudiced.

Deservedly fortunate in most of his relations, Kanghi could not altogether escape from the anxieties caused by the rival pretensions of his sons, who all aspired, without much reference to either their capacity or their claims, to be his successor. The eldest son f the Empress had at an early stage of the reign been declared heir-apparent, and the letters which Kanghi addressed to him during his absence in Tartary showed that he was the object of his affection and tender solicitude. In 1709 the same prince fell under the suspicion of Kanghi, who had been led to believe in his treason by the specious representations of some of the courtiers. The palace became the scene of a fierce rivalry, threatening to disturb the tranquillity of Kanghi's last years. And although there appears to be no doubt of his complete innocence of the main charge, the Prince Imperial was arrested and cast into prison. His family underwent the same fate, and many who were believed to be his supporters paid the penalty of their attachment to his person with their lives.



The arrest of a prince so nearly related to the ruler, and the deposal of the recognized heir to the crown, were not to be accomplished without exciting very considerable notice and comment among the Chinese people. Kanghi recognized the necessity for explaining the causes of the summary proceedings taken against his heir, and gave his permission to the drawing-up of a form of indictment, enumerating the supposed misdeeds of the Prince Imperial from an early age. This step was taken in compliance with established form, but it appears to have had little effect on the public mind, which was in favour of the disgraced and imprisoned prince. A very short time elapsed before the true facts of the case came within the cognizance of the Emperor, and then it was found that Kanghi's credulity had been imposed upon. The heir-apparent had been aspersed for personal motives by his eldest brother, who was known by the title of the First Regulo, and his fall was wholly attributable to the envious machinations of this relative. When the true history of this intrigue became known, it was discovered that the charges against the Prince Imperial possessed no better foundation than the evidence of a few lamas and dealers in magic attached to the party, or in the service of the First Regulo.

Kanghi was naturally much distressed at these domestic troubles, and his dissatisfaction was increased when he found that a strong party among his courtiers was in favour of proclaiming as the heir to the crown the eighth of his sons, instead of restoring the deposed prince to his rightful position. They were induced to act thus in order to avert the consequences they imagined would be entailed by their having contributed towards the disgrace of the Prince Imperial. Kanghi in no way sympathized with the illogical and unfair attitude of these ministers towards his once-favoured son, and took summary means to convince them of the unwisdom of the course they suggested. Some he banished to the remote provinces, and others he dismissed from their offices; and having released the Prince Imperial, and restored his honours, he formally celebrated the conclusion of this painful incident. Public fêtes, national rejoicings, and the performance of a play based on a somewhat similar incident in the ancient

« AnteriorContinua »