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for little in the eyes of Chinese statesmen so long as the result was satisfactory.
At the same time that Vouti was engaged in the far north in reducing to his sway the country beyond the Peiho, his generals were prosecuting similar enterprises with ardour in the southern territory of Yunnan. There also the Chinese were completely successful. Yunnan was reduced to the condition of a Chinese province, and its king had the good sense to accept, with an appearance of grace, the smaller dignity of a Chinese governor. The Chinese then turned their arms against the small kingdom of Cherchen situated beyond the western mountains of Szchuen. The Chinese general on advancing with a small force to reconnoitre the capital was attacked by the king at the head of his army. The Chinese not only repulsed the attack, but pressing their advantage home entered the city simultaneously with the vanquished. The garrison then surrendered, and the king was sent prisoner to Changnan, the old name of Singan. The neighbouring states, awed by this brilliant success, voluntarily admitted their dependence upon China, and their liability to pay tribute. With one exception, in the case of the kingdom of Tawan, this result was attained without either loss or any untoward occurrence. This state, famous for its breed of horses, had in several ways evinced hostile sentiments, and its ruler had distinctly refused to hold any commercial relations with the Chinese. The murder of Chinese merchants brought on a crisis, and Vouti ordered up a small force under the command of one of his brothers-in-law to exact reparation. Unfortunately for the Chinese, this scion of the Imperial family proved a very incapable commander. Outmanceuvred by his more astute antagonist, he and his force, attenuated by famine and losses in the field, were obliged to retire into a fortified city where they hoped to make good their position until relief came. It was not for some time that Vouti was able to send any reinforcements, and when they arrived, although his relative Li Kwangli was relieved, and Tawan subjected, the difficult nature of the campaign was shown by the severe losses incurred by Vouti's army.
In the meanwhile everything was subservient in Vouti's
AN INCOMPETENT COMMANDER.
mind to the necessity of chastising the Tartars, and preparations for a final campaign were in active progress. The Hiongnou were far from being united among themselves, and at one moment a plan had been formed for a Tartar general to declare himself an ally of the Chinese on the appearance of their army. The dilatoriness of the Chinese commander gave time for the Tartar king to discover this arrangement, and while his lieutenant was meditating over his act of treachery, the order was given for his execution. Nor did the misfortunes of the campaign end here. Ousselou, the Tartar chief, promptly followed up this blow by attacking with overwhelming numbers the advanced guard of the Chinese army, which he destroyed to a man; and while the Chinese commander-in-chief remained inactive on another part of the frontier, Ousselou marched through Shensi, putting the inhabitants to the sword, and giving towns and hamlets to the flames. The Emperor was advised to leave these fierce and turbulent neighbours alone; but the advice was not palatable to him, and he continued his warlike preparations. The death of Ousselou, in the moment of his triumph, removed the pressing danger, and left Vouti time to perfect his arrangements.
In B.C. 101 Vouti announced his formal intention of attacking the Tartars in order to exact retribution for the insults offered to the national dignity, for, as he said, “chastisement does not become the less deserved because tardy." The new Tartar king showed some symptoms of a desire for a pacific settlement, and negotiations of a semi-formal character were begun between him and the Chinese. Neither party was remarkable for good faith, and, after some months passed in attempting to get the better of each other, the usual climax was reached. The Chinese envoys were placed in confinement, and a fresh rupture went to swell the long list of grievances that had already been accumulated. Vouti's arms were again destined to defeat, partly through the incompetence, a second time demonstrated, of Li Kwangli, who had been entrusted by the Emperor with the command. The Chinese army was virtually destroyed on this occasion after a brave resistance. It became of the greatest moment that
this disaster should be promptly retrieved, and Liling, Li Kwangli's grandson, volunteered to accomplish the task. He marched into the Tartar country with a small force, won one battle by the superior skill of his archers, fought a second with indecisive result, but was worsted in a third. Fighting valiantly he strove to make good his way back to China ; but harassed throughout his march, and surrounded by vastly superior numbers, he thought discretion the better part of valour, and laid down his arms. Not content with this, he came to the decision, by a line of argument difficult for one of our customs to appreciate, that it was more in consonance with his honour to take service with the victor than to return to the presence of his own prince as a vanquished general.
The very next enterprise which Vouti attempted against the Tartars fared as badly at their hands, and proof was afforded that Liling had done as much in his campaign as it was in human resolution and capacity to perform. In the year B.C. 90, when Vouti had been engaged for fifty years in constant war with the Tartars, Li Kwangli was sent on a fresh and, as it proved, a last mission of revenge. At first he carried everything before him, defeating the Tartars in several battles, and was on his road back to China when he was surprised by his crafty enemy and defeated. Li Kwangli laid down his arms and, like his grandson Liling, accepted the favours of the Tartar king. This was the last act in the foreign policy and military career of the great Emperor. The Tartar war which he had waged for more than fifty years had not closed in the decisive manner which he had anticipated; but, although marked by many disasters after the death of the great generals Wei Tsing and Hokiuping, it left China stronger on her western frontiers, and with a greater reputation in Asia than she had ever before possessed.
Three years after the defeat of Li Kwangli, Vouti died in the seventy-first year of his age. He had been Emperor of China for the long space of fifty-four years. His later days had been rendered unhappy by quarrels in his own family, and the rivalry of his heirs provoked disturbances which, on one occasion, resulted in a short civil war. Ill-health and the
ELIXIR OF ETERNAL LIFE.
superstitious habits which he had acquired tended to throw an increased gloom over his declining days. The anxiety produced by the Tartar war did not allow of its being mitigated, and when he found his end approaching there was as much of apprehension as to possible dangers, as of satisfaction at what he had accomplished in his survey of the great charge which he was about to leave to other hands. When Vouti's death was announced the Chinese and their neighbours felt that a great prince was no more, and that his death might be the signal for disturbance and change.
There can be no question of the great qualities of the Emperor Vouti. In Chinese history there stand out at intervals, generally far apart, the names and the deeds of rulers as great as any the world has ever seen. Of these we may claim for Vouti that he was, among Chinese monarchs, the second in point of time. The great Tsin ruler Hwangti may fairly be considered the first of these, as in some respects he proved himself to be the greatest prince that ever sat on the Dragon throne. Vouti appears to us to have been a less able ruler than the founder of the Tsins, but it must be remembered in his favour that his conquests proved more durable than those of his great predecessor. Fuhkien, Szchuen, Yunnan, became under his guidance Chinese provinces, and the independent kingdoms south of Kohonor were reduced to the condition of vassal states. In his own habits he was studiously moderate. His chief amusement in early days had been to hunt fierce animals unattended by the great escort customary with Chinese rulers. He was of robust build, and addicted to martial pursuits; but neither his passion for sport nor the desire for martial fame made him
The Chinese historians have preserved several stories indicative of Vouti's superstition. Of these the following, which tells its own tale and carries its own moral, is perhaps the most striking : A would-be magician pretended that he had discovered an elixir of eternal life, and having obtained audience of the Emperor, was on the point of offering him a draught when one of the courtiers present stepped forward and quaffed it off. Vouti, enraged, turned upon his minister and ordered him to prepare for instant death. “Sire,” replied the ready courtier, “how can I be executed since I have drunk the draught of immortality ?” The quack was exposed, and Vouti admitted the folly of the whole proceeding.
blind to the true wants of his people. With the Tartars he saw there never could be any stable peace, and his anticipations proved more correct than even he could have imagined. He would have continued to the very end a war which had to partake of much of the character of one of extermination, and when he left it unfinished he impressed on his ministers the duty of continuing and concluding it. His deeds lived after him, the Han dynasty became established and consolidated under his influence, and his memory still survives among the Chinese, who are now, and probably will always be, proud to style themselves "the sons of Han.”