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THE CONQUEST OF CENTRAL ASIA.
THE arrival of the fugitive prince Amursana at the Chinese Court called Keen Lung's attention to a very old question, which had been a source of trouble at an early period of Chinese history, and which has only been settled in our own time with any appearance of duration. This question was what relations should subsist between the Chinese and the disunited but turbulent tribes holding all the region westward of Shensi and Kansuh. In the eyes of these clans the wealth and weakness of China had for ages been at once the prize and the incentive of ambition. The Chinese were in the majority of years the victims and easy prey of these races, who were kept in order neither by the solemnity of their engagements nor by any political expedient that had up to this been devised. These tribes had on some occasions been welded into a military confederacy of no slight power, when the danger with which they threatened the Chinese and their Empire became proportionally increased ; and in the cases of the Kins and the Mongols their efforts had resulted in giving foreign dynasties to China. The Manchus, least of all rulers of the Celestial kingdom, were not disposed to regard with indifference the measures and movements of these warlike clans, for their own success warned them that the example they had set must find imitators, whose fate would depend on their own supineness or energy. The growth of Galdan's power had for that reason been watched with attention by the Emperor Kanghi, and when it threatened to absorb the faithful Khalkas all the resources of the Empire had been devoted to the task of arresting its growth, and of subverting the influence that chieftain had acquired.
The overthrow of Galdan did not effect the durable remedy of the evil which Kanghi anticipated. That chief's nephew, Tse Wang Rabdan, became after his death an opponent hardly less formidable, and certainly not more friendly to the Chinese, although the pacific disposition of the Emperor Yung Ching had induced him to withdraw from the strife, and to leave this potentate and the hordes which acquiesced in his nominal authority masters of the field. The establishment of a Jungarian monarchy served to dispose the minds of Chinese statesmen to more willingly recognize the advisability of a policy of not interfering in the affairs of the Central Asian countries; and, had it shown a capability to stand the test of time, their views of cultivating friendly relations with its ruler as the wisest and simplest solution of the difficulty might have finally prevailed. The contest for supremacy between Dardsha and Davatsi, followed by the rivalry and contention of Davatsi and Amursana, showed conclusively that the Jungarian monarchy was an ephemeral creation, that it would be speedily replaced by the old tribal chiefships, and that a fresh era of confusion and turbulence on the frontier was probably about to commence. Keen Lung had, therefore, as the responsible ruler of the Empire, to devise some means to avert these threatened troubles, and to ensure the security and tranquillity of his borders. Taking a large view of the situation, and regarding the matter in all its bearings and ramifications, as illustrated by the repeated occasions on which it had presented itself as a question of practical politics during the past history of his country, he arrived at the conclusion that the soundest course would be to seize the first favourable opportunity to attempt a settlement that should prove enduring.
The flight of Amursana, and the tale of wrong which he carried to the foot of the throne of the Bogdo Khan, seemed to afford that opportunity, and Keen Lung did not fail to listen to the woes of a distressed prince whose information as well as whose sense of injury promised to afford him the
AN IMPERIAL EXPLANATION.
means of realizing his object. It was one of the most cherished traditions at Pekin that the unfortunate or unsuccessful princes of the neighbouring states should be accorded protection against their opponents, and, where possible, assistance in recovering their lost possessions. Amursana's claim to the former was freely recognized, and, while the Emperor and his council were engaged in considering whether measures should be taken to reinstate him in his former rank, he was permitted to reside as an honoured guest in an apartment of the palace.
The Emperor Keen Lung has himself instructed posterity as to the motives which induced him to take up this quarrel, and also upon the objects which he set before himself for realization. With delicate tact he suggests that he inherited this difficulty from his father, whose vacillating policy and half-hearted measures had failed to provide a remedy for the evil, or in any way to curb the aggressiveness of his neighbours. While Keen Lung put prominently forward his desire and natural inclination to imitate the moderation of his predecessor, he did not fail to show his resolution not to shrink from the duties of his position. "If I draw the sword,” he wrote, “it is that I may use it, but it shall be replaced in the scabbard when my object has been attained.”
When Keen Lung first ascended the throne, his intentions were of the most pacific character. He resolved to continue the policy of abstention which had been adopted by his father, and on sanctioning the withdrawal of his troops from their districts, he announced that he did so in order that the Eleuths might be able to show, without pressure and of their own free will, their devotion to his person and his family. For a time that plan answered its purpose, and promised to work well; and several of Tse Wang Rabdan's successors paid to Keen Lung the formal recognition of his supremacy that he so eagerly required. It was not until the years immediately preceding the flight of Amursana, which had been caused in the manner already described, that these relations were violently disturbed, and that the Emperor again found himself threatened by the well-known VOL. I.
inconstancy of his neighbours with a renewal of the old disorders.
There is no violation of probability in supposing that Amursana, knowing something of the views of his host on the subject of the Eleuths, lost no opportunity of impressing on him the advantage of taking up his cause, and of how easily he might effect a solution of the whole question by restoring him to a position of supreme authority over the territories from which he had been expelled by Davatsi. Keen Lung listened to the narrative of his guest, but might have refrained from having recourse to action, despite the specious arguments and flowing rhetoric of the Eleuth prince, had not the disturbances on the frontier been suddenly aggravated by the defiant attitude and arrogance of Davatsi.
That chief, not content with the recovery of his position, when reduced to the verge of extremity, or with his second triumph over an inconvenient and dangerous rival, imagined that he had nothing to fear from either the indignation or the power of China, and that no evil consequences would ensue if he were to openly proclaim his independence. The tie which bound these tributary states to China had never been very exacting. It was a question more of sentiment than of any practical importance, and the Chinese Emperor required little more than respectful sentences, and the recognition of a paramount authority which was seldom exerted. Davatsi thought to heighten his reputation by a cheap defiance of established precedent, and he sent an embassy into China with messages of friendship indeed, but couched in language only used by sovereigns of equal rank. This slight to his dignity roused the indignation of Keen Lung, who at once denounced Davatsi as a "traitor and usurper." Then only did the Emperor enter heartily into the schemes and proposals of Amursana, the support of whose cause seemed to offer the easiest and most efficacious way of restoring the suzerainty of China over the kingdoms and states in Central Asia.
Keen Lung's military preparations were commensurate with the importance of the undertaking, and worthy also of the loftiness of his position. One hundred and fifty
A PÆAN OF VICTORY.
thousand men, including the picked soldiers of the Manchu banners and of the Solon contingent, were placed in the field, and Amursana received a seal of rank and the title of Great General. Although thus placed in a position of recognized authority, the actual command was entrusted to the Manchu general Panti, who enjoyed the reputation of being the best of living Chinese commanders. The ostensible task with which Keen Lung .charged this army was to repress the insolent Davatsi, and to elevate to his place the injured Amursana.
The success which attended this great enterprise was unexampled both in its extent and in the rapidity with which it was attained. Five months sufficed to enable this large army to cross the desert, and to penetrate to the recesses of the Ili region where Davatsi indulged a belief as to his security. Little or no resistance was attempted. Davatsi's power crumbled to pieces at the first contact with the Manchu legions, and the chief himself was conveyed as a state prisoner to Pekin. Keen Lung says, in his brilliantly composed description of the campaign, “Confident of marching to victory, they broke cheerfully through every obstacle ; they arrive, terror had gone before them. Scarcely had they time to bend a bow, or draw an arrow, when everything submits to them. They give the law, Davatsi is a prisoner, he is sent into my presence."
Thus, by the aid of a Chinese army, Amursana recovered what he represented, though with doubtful accuracy, to be his birthright; and, finding himself in the possession of the privileges to which he had long aspired, he gave reins to his imagination and placed less curb upon his ambition. Great as had been Amursana's success, it did not suffice to render him contented with the position to which the friendship of Keen Lung had raised him. The larger portion of the Chinese army had returned after the overthrow of Davatsi, but Panti remained with a small contingent, partly to give stability to Amursana's position, and partly to uphold the interests of the Emperor. Amursana considered that the presence of this force detracted from, more than it enhanced, the dignity of his position. It became his main object to