Imatges de pàgina



WHEN Yung Ching's sudden death left a void in the seat of authority, there was none probably more surprised at the first consequences of that event than the young student, who was summoned from the interior of the palace to take his place as the responsible head of affairs. For although the eldest of Yung Ching's sons, he was not the off-spring of the Empress, and the custom of imperial succession was too uncertain to justify confidence in the recognition of his claims. Keen Lung had been brought up by his father in the pursuit of literary knowledge, and his skill and proficiency in the field of letters had already been proved before Yung Ching's death. But of public affairs, of the work of administering a great Empire, Keen Lung knew literally nothing. He was a student of books rather than of men, and he had to undergo a preliminary course of training in the art of government before he felt himself competent to assume the reins of power.

When it has been said that Keen Lung was more fully persuaded of this fact than anybody else, it will be understood how great must have been his merit and strength of character to have realized wherein he was deficient to fulfil the duties of his onerous post. Few princes of his years, born in the purple, have ever had the profound sagacity to admit their shortcomings, and still less the prudence to take efficacious steps to supply them. Keen Lung's first act was to appoint four regents to show him how to rule. The very edict, however, which entrusted them with so much authority expressly limited its application to the period of mourning, extending over four years; but as a measure of precaution against illicit ambition, he made the office terminable at his discretion.

Keen Lung began his reign with acts of clemency, which seldom fail to add a special lustre to the character of a sovereign. His father had punished with rigour many of the first princes of the court, simply because they happened to be connected with his family ; and he had been in the habit of making use of his antipathy to the foreign heresy as a cloak to conceal private animosities and personal apprehensions. Keen Lung at once resolved to reverse his predecessor's policy on this point, and to offer such reparation as he could to those who had suffered without valid cause. The sons of Kanghi and their children, who had fallen under the suspicion of the Emperor Yung Ching, were released from their confinement and restored to the rank* from which they had been deposed. The young Emperor was so far fortunate in that instead of harbouring vindictive feelings for their long imprisonment they felt the warmest gratitude towards him as their benefactor and rescuer, to the splendour of whose reign some of them afterwards greatly contributed. The impression made on the public mind by this admirable moderation was scarcely less favourable, and the sentiment became generally expressed that a reign which began so auspiciously could hardly fail to prove a benefit and blessing to the people at large.

The restitution of their rights and privileges to these personages, whose former sympathy with the Christian

* Taitsou, or Noorhachu, had in the early days of his power divided the members of his family into two branches, distinguished from each other by the colour of their girdles or belts. To himself and his direct descendants he reserved the use of the yellow girdle, while to his brothers and their heirs he awarded a red girdle. The principal distinction between these different branches of the family was that, whereas the former could be made Regulos, the latter could not. On this occasion some of those, e.g. the descendants of Prince Sourniama, who experienced the clemency of Keen Lung, although entitled to wear the yellow and enjoy all its privileges—which appear to have consisted of free quarters and an allowance from the State-were only restored to the rank of the red girdle.-See Mailla, vol. x. p. 454, and vol. xi. p. 517.




missionaries had been marked and notorious, revived the hope among the latter that the evil days of persecution were at an end, and that they would be received back into such favour with the new Emperor as they had enjoyed under the wise Kanghi. These hopes were destined to rude disappointment, as the party hostile to them remained as strong as ever at Court, and the regents were not less prejudiced in their

Keen Lung's own opinion does not appear to have been very strong one way or the other, but it is probable that from being so thoroughly versed in Chinese literature he was imbued with more or less prejudice against foreigners. When the subject was placed before him by his regents he sanctioned their suggestion of an order prohibiting the practice of Christianity by any of his subjects, and ordaining the punishment of those who should obstinately adhere to it. The foreign missionaries themselves were ordered to confine their labours to the secular functions in which they were useful, and to give up all attempts to propagate their creed. The restoration to their natural positions of the Manchu princes, who had formerly regarded the Christians with a favourable eye, was not followed by that return of the foreigners to favour which had been anticipated. The young Keen Lung showed himself disposed on this point to continue and carry out the policy of his father.

Ten years after Keen Lung's accession to the throne these persecutions still continued, and, indeed, they had developed a fresh and more serious phase, for in the year 1746 several Spanish missionaries were arrested and tortured, those who had given them shelter were strangled, and all who had shown or expressed sympathy with either their persons or their religion suffered different degrees of punishment. The province of Fuhkien was again the principal scene of these outrages, but it is possible that the local officials were impelled to commit acts of greater severity by the knowledge of what their own countrymen had suffered at Manilla. The example set by the Viceroy of Fuhkien found faithful imitators among the other governors throughout the country, and a general outcry was raised against both the teachers of the oreign religion and their converts. The Emperor himself lent his countenance to the movement, and it seemed that Keen Lung with the greater vigour of his character had resolved to relieve himself once and for all from the embarrassment and trouble caused his Government by the everrecurring question of the Christians and their demands for greater liberty of action. The order sent to the Viceroy of Fuhkien to execute the missionaries, who had been thrown into prison and tortured, seemed to mark the termination of Chinese tolerance towards Christians.

The first years of Keen Lung's reign were devoted not merely to his self-instruction in the art of government, but also to the task of arranging the internal affairs of his vast possessions. Yet, strange as it may appear, very little is contained in the annals that have as yet seen the light about the events of the first ten years, during which Keen Lung's authority was recognized. They were undoubtedly years of great internal prosperity, and their predominant characteristic was the general prevalence of peace and the accompanying satisfaction and natural progress of a great and thrifty people. With the restoration of union among the ranks of the ruling family, which had now so widely extended its branches that there were stated to be at this time more than two thousand princes of the blood, one of the most disturbing causes to the assured tranquillity of a military race disappeared; and the mass of the subjects were only too eager to follow the example thus set them of concord and good-will. During this period there appear, from certain vague references to be met with in the letters of the foreign residents, to have been some disturbances among the Miaotze and several of the intractable tribes of the South; but these were probably of no great importance.

Keen Lung's attention had at a very early period of his reign been attracted to the unsatisfactory condition of things on his remote Western frontier, where the advantages gained by his grandfather Kanghi had been sacrificed through his father Yung Ching's indifference or neglect. Although there could not be said to exist in this quarter a state of open war, yet the Mongol tribes, under the protection of China, had suffered much at the hands of Tse Wang Rabdan and of his son and successor Galdan Chereng. There was also the

[blocks in formation]

memory of unavenged defeats which had occurred during the last few years of Kanghi's reign to further complicate the situation, and to prevent men's minds from settling down on the basis of the existing condition of affairs. And although matters assumed a somewhat more favourable aspect after the accession of Keen Lung, it was clear that the vague and undefined basis on which these frontier affairs were being regulated contained little guarantee of any long continuation of tranquillity. Galdan Chereng shared, but in a minor degree, the abilities and ambition of his father, and during the last years of his rule, which was contemporary with the first ten years of Keen Lung's reign, he refrained from any direct conflict with Chinese authority. Until the death of Chereng in 1745 there was some probability that the turbulent spirits and nomadic tribes of the Gobi region would have been kept for an indefinite period tranquil, and in inaction by the existence of an understanding between the Chinese Emperor and the sovereign prince of Jungaria. To the death of Galdan Chereng in the year mentioned must undoubtedly be attributed the reopening of the whole question of border policy and frontier security, which had been long pressing itself under notice at Pekin.

Chereng had maintained the paramount influence which his father had acquired in the region south of the Tian Shan. On the death of the chief Danyal, he had divided the kingdom of Kashgaria into four distinct governorships, over each of which he placed one of Danyal's four sons. So long as the vigour of the Jungarian prince remained undoubted, this arrangement produced the most beneficial results, for the country of Little Bokhara had been for generations a prey to intestine disorders, and it needed a strong hand to repress these for the sake of the common weal. When Chereng died that hand was removed, and the old dissensions began to reveal themselves. There existed no longer any assurance of stability, and the Chinese border officials saw reason to fear the early recurrence of difficulties with their turbulent neighbours. When this unsatisfactory phase of the question arose, the Chinese also were less advantageously placed than they had been. Their authority was established

« AnteriorContinua »