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THE REIGN OF YUNG CHING.
IMMEDIATELY after Kanghi's death his fourth son, whom he had long designated as his heir, and in whom he fancied that he traced a strong resemblance to himself, was proclaimed Emperor under the style of Yung Ching. In the edict with which he announced to his subjects the death of his father, and his own accession to the throne, he said that on the advice of his ministers he had entered upon the discharge of his official duties without delay, and without giving up precious time to the indulgence of a grief natural, so far as his personal feelings were concerned, but probably prejudicial to the public interests. Yung Ching was a man of mature age, and could, from the place he had enjoyed in the confidence of his predecessor, assume without any delay the responsibilities and duties of his lofty station. He declared that his main purpose would be to carry on the great administrative work in the same manner as Kanghi, and that he would tread as closely as he could in his footsteps. But while Yung Ching took these prompt steps to place himself upon the throne, and to exercise the attributes of supreme power, several of his brothers whom his elevation had displaced assumed an attitude of covert hostility towards his government, and their demeanour warned him that he would have to exhibit vigilance and energy if he desired to retain his authority. At the same time it appeared evident to the people that Kanghi had selected his worthiest son as his successor, and that China would have no reason to fear under Yung Ching the loss of any of the benefits conferred on the nation by his predecessor,
His fine presence, and frank, open manner secured for him the sympathy and applause of the public, and in a very short time he also gained their respect and admiration by his wisdom and justice.
The principal and in every way the most formidable of his rivals was Kanghi's fourteenth son, who, at the time of his death, held the chief command in Central Asia against the Eleuths. This prince, and more especially his son, a youth of some sixteen summers, named Poki, had enjoyed a certain amount of popularity during Kanghi's lifetime, and some had even thought that he would have been chosen as that ruler's successor. But for reasons no doubt excellent Kanghi passed him over and selected Yung Ching instead. It is not clear that Yung Ching had any reason to believe that his younger brother meditated a revolt, but there is no doubt that he at once began to act towards him as if he were a concealed and dangerous enemy. Repeated messages were sent him, in the name of the deceased Emperor, to return without delay to the capital, and to resign the seals of his command to one of his lieutenants. At first some thought of disobeying the summons entered this prince's mind; but after more consideration he resolved to obey. On his arrival at Pekin he was placed in honourable confinement, which was changed to closer imprisonment at Chang Chun Yuen on the death a few months later of his mother, who, as Yung Ching's own mother too, had exerted her influence on the side of mercy, At this palace the prince and his son Poki remained during the whole of Yung Ching's reign, and they owed to the clemency of the next Emperor, Keen Lung, their release from the enforced seclusion of thirteen years.
The reported ambitious schemes of Sessaka, another of Yung Ching's brothers, and the ninth of Kanghi's sons, also tended to disturb the tranquillity of the new ruler. Sessaka's want of ability justified a more lenient course of proceeding with him, and his case was considered to have been adequately met when he had been fined to the extent of the greater portion of his personal property ; after this he was relegated to a small military command in the provinces. Nor were those who fell under the suspicion of the new sovereign confined to his near relations. Lessihin, the son of Prince Sourniama, and the representative of the elder branch of the Manchu family, had been publicly known as one of Sessaka's sympathisers, and he was accused of dilatoriness in his official capacity on the occasion of extorting from that personage the fine required by Yung Ching. Whether the accusation was just or not, Lessihin and his brother were involved in the disgrace of Sessaka, and banished to Sining on the Western frontier. There, either as the result of long secret conviction, or from some other motive that cannot now be traced, these fallen magnates adopted Christianity and were baptised. This conversion could do nothing but harm to their worldly prospects, and it also certainly had the effect of heightening the new Emperor's antipathy to the Christian religion and its representatives.
Yung Ching had from the first regarded with an unfriendly eye this branch of the Manchu family, and their adoption of Christianity added further to his resentment. The importance of this indiscretion consisted in its providing him with a decent pretext to resort to extremities against all whom he had marked out as being ill-disposed towards his person. On the one hand the adoption of a foreign and heretical creed served as some proof of confirmed contumacy on the part of his relations; and on the other it gave a semblance of truth to the statement that the Christian priests meddled and took a side in the internal politics of the country. Yung Ching saw and seized his opportunity. His measures of repression against the recalcitrant party in his own family culminated in the summary exile of Sourniama, and all his descendants down to the fourth generation.
It was in vain that Sourniama sought to establish his innocence, and to turn Yung Ching from the vindictive policy upon which he had resolved. In accordance with Manchu practice he sent three of his sons to the palace laden with chains to declare the fidelity of their father, but an audience was refused them; and Sourniama was curtly informed that no course was open to him save to obey. Even in his place of exile the wrath of the Emperor pursued him, and, to satisfy the suspicious exactions of his sovereign, he and his were
compelled to retire into a district still further from the inhabited portions of the country. Here they were reduced to severe straits from absolute want, and early in the year 1725 Sourniama found in death relief from his misfortunes and necessities. His descendants were to owe to the clemency of Keen Lung such reparation for their wrongs as the present can at any time make for the past.
If Yung Ching thus pressed with a heavy hand on those whose assistance and sympathy he felt it doubtful that he could secure, he was certainly not disposed to regard with less sternness or severity the foreign religion towards which he had never felt any sympathy, and under cover of which his enemies appeared to think that they might find shelter. Having settled most of the disputes which threatened the security of his own position, and having restored, as he might reasonably hope, union and tranquillity to the circle of the reigning family, Yung Ching next turned his attention to the effectual humbling of the bold band of foreigners who had established themselves in the capital and throughout the country, and who, having monopolized some of the most important dignities in the service, continued to preach and propagate their gospel of a supreme power and mercy beyond the control of kings, a gospel which was simply destructive of the paternal and sacred claims on which a Chinese Emperor based his authority as superior to all earthly interference, and as transmitted to him direct from Heaven.
Yung Ching's sentiments of aversion were seized and turned to advantage by the official classes, whose hostility to the foreigners had always been pronounced, and which, long pent up, had begun to reveal itself in acts before the death of Kanghi. It was in the provinces that this anti-foreign agitation naturally enough first began to reveal itself in acts of open hostility. In Fuhkien the military governor issued a proclamation denouncing Christianity, forbidding its practice, and ordering all the churches that had been opened within his jurisdiction to be closed. This official condemnation of the foreign religion as a pernicious and demoralizing creed naturally augmented the popular feeling against strangers who had hitherto been regarded with little more than
indifference; and on all sides accusations were freely advanced against the moral character of the Christian converts. The eighteen churches which had been erected by the piety of converted natives were devoted to different public purposes, and the missionaries were ordered to leave Fuhkien without delay and to return to Macao. The success that attended their movements in this particular province encouraged all who were from any cause unfriendly to foreigners to present a petition to the Emperor for the extirpation of Christianity throughout the country. At Pekin the Jesuits lost all their influence. Those who had been well disposed to them either had been banished or were cowed into silence. The Emperor refused to receive them in audience, and they could only wait in inaction, and with such human fortitude as they could muster, until the storm had burst or passed away. Yung Ching expressed in writing his formal approval of everything that had been done, but at the same time he enjoined on his officials the necessity of using as little violence as possible. All the missionaries were to be conducted either to Macao or to the capital, where, if their services were useful, they might still be employed.*
The missionaries, when they saw the results of many years of labour slipping away from them, and as soon as they found
* Some of the views expressed by the Chinese authorities during this crisis may be quoted. The missionaries (Fredelli, Castillon, and De Mailla) entreated a brother of Yung Ching, the thirteenth son of Kanghi, and generally considered as favourably disposed to the Christians, to interfere in their favour. Placed in a judicial position with regard to the throne his favour rapidly cooled, and he declared that since the discussion of their question first began they had been the cause of an infinity of trouble and fatigue to the late Emperor, his father. “ What would you say,” he continued, “if our people were to go to Europe and wished to change there the laws and customs established by your ancient sages ? The Emperor, my brother, wishes to put an end to all this in an effectual manner." The same prince said on a subsequent occasion, “I saw the other day the accusation of the Tsongtou of Fuhkien. It is undoubtedly strong, and your disputes about our customs have greatly injured you. What would you say if we were to transport ourselves to Europe and to act there as you have done here? Would you stand it for a moment? In the course of time I shall master this business, but I declare to you that China will want for nothing when you cease to live in it, and that your absence will not cause it any loss.”—Mailla, vol. xi. pp.392–3.