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The first ruler of the Later Hans was Lieoupi, already mentioned, who took the name of Chow Lieti, and who was descended in a direct line from the Han Emperor Kingti; while the general Sunkiuen, and Tsowpi, the son of Tsow Tsow, were the founders respectively of the kingdoms of Wu and Wei. It will be seen that the more powerful state of Wei gradually asserted its authority over the rest of China, and that the triumph of the descendants of Tsow Tsow was only marred at the eleventh hour by the intrigue of a successful general.
The great advantage which Tsowpi enjoyed over his contemporaries was that of possessing the recognized capital. By this means he retained his hold upon the vassals and tributaries. The embassies from the princes of Central Asia, and, it cannot be doubted, the trade intercourse as well with the regions of the West, continued to proceed to Loyang, thus giving the Wei ruler a larger claim to general consideration. That claim, however, the court historians have persistently refused to admit.
Chow Lieti, first Emperor of the Later Hans, had no sooner assumed the style of an independent prince than he occupied his mind with thoughts of vengeance for the ruin brought to the House of which he was a scion. His neighbour Sunkiuen, the ruler of the Wu kingdom, was an object of his special resentment, and, although advised that he had more danger to apprehend from Wei, and that it would be better to league himself with Wu against the more formidable enemy, he permitted his personal resentment to get the better of a conviction of political necessities. Rushing blindly into a war without due forethought or preparation, there was no reason to suppose that the Fates would disentangle him from the consequences of his own blunders.
The gravity of the danger that threatened him forced Sunkiuen to accommodate his difficulties with Tsowpi. The Latter was acknowledged as Emperor, and the former was confirmed in the possession of his dominions as Prince of Wu. Meanwhile the army of Chow Lieti had taken up a position on the frontier, menacing the existence of the state, and threatening to force a way to its capital. Sunkiuen had the good fortune to possess a skilful general, Lousun, and the ability he displayed in defending the frontier proved a better ally than Tsowpi, who regarded both his neighbours with an eye of doubt. The campaign turned out a protracted one. Twelve months were passed with the two armies each waiting before venturing to attack the other for such favourable circumstances as never came. These Fabian tactics were mostly in favour of the force which was fighting on its own soil and with a friendly population at its back. When Chow Lieti's army was reduced by inaction, and dispirited by the failure to obtain any result, that of Lousun was still comparatively fresh and eager for the fray; and then Lousun resorted to all the strategy within his knowledge. A night attack in force, and at several points, carried everything before it. The best generals of Chow Lieti were either slain or taken prisoners; thousands of his soldiers fell on the field of battle, thousands more were captured, and all the baggage of the camp became the spoil of the victor. Chow Lieti himself barely escaped with his life from the scene of this crushing disaster, which in the stupefaction that fell upon him he could only attribute to the wrath of Heaven. On the news of this victory Tsowpi at once increased his demands upon Sunkiuen, and the late opponents found in the pretensions of Wei a strong reason for forgetting their differences and combining together for mutual defence —the law of self-preservation again proving superior to every other. Chow Lieti never fully recovered the shock of his great defeat, and three years after his assumption of the Imperial title he died, leaving to his son pretensions greater than his actual power, and the legacy of a feud in which he must inevitably prove the weaker party. That son, Heouchow, began his reign in the year A.D. 223, when he was nearly seventeen years old. About the same time Tsowpi died, leaving his possessions to his brother Tsowjoui, so that of the three rivals Sunkiuen was now the sole survivor that remained. The moment appeared to him to be auspicious for making an attack on his northern
neighbour's dominions. It never occurred to him that Tsowpi's lieutenants might prove more than a match for himself in the conduct of a campaign. From this fond delusion he was speedily awakened. Repulsed in two attempts to seize fortified towns, he was ignominiously defeated when he sought to retrieve his bad fortune in the open field. And when the ruler of the Hans, or Chows, as they were called, with the aid of the great captain Chu-kwo-liang, strove to restore the balance of power, neither the advantage obtained by a sudden attack, nor the admitted superiority of the commander, availed to produce a different result. The generals of Wei triumphed, in the most decisive manner, over those of both Wu and of Chow. A desultory war ensued, in which the successes were mostly on the side of Tsowjoui, and, whether owing to mismanagement or to the hard decree of fortune, both Wu and Chow met with a long succession of reverses. In the north, too, Tsowjoui was not less successful. Kongsunyuen, King of Leaoutung, incurred his resentment, and a large army under the command of Ssemay was sent against him. Kongsunyuen defended himself with resolution, and obtained a slight success in the beginning of the struggle; but the ruler of Wei sending large reinforcements to his army in the field, Kongsunyuen was shut up in his capital and killed in an attempt to cut his way through the beleaguering lines. His capital was given over to the victorious soldiery to plunder, and the whole of Leaoutung became a province of the Wei kingdom. This decided and brilliant success gave Tsowjoui a more prominent place in the opinion of all his neighbours, but he did not live long to enjoy it. A few days after the return of the victorious general Ssemay, Tsowjoui died, leaving his throne to his nephew Tsowfang, a child eight years old. On his deathbed Tsowjoui exhorted Ssemay to be as faithful to his successor as he had always proved devoted to him (A.D. 239). To Sunkiuen, who still survived as the last of the former rivals, the accession of this child appeared to be the longsought opportunity for establishing his power on a supreme basis. The skilful arrangements of the general Ssemay foiled
his plans, and Sunkiuen retired baffled from the contest. Another war ensued from this with the ruler of Chow, but Heouchow was successful in beating back from his frontiers the danger which threatened him, and for a time the state of Wei was divided within itself by the intrigues of Tsowchwang, a minister who attempted to seize the governing power. When Ssemay had curbed his pretensions and restored order, other disturbances followed. Several of the possessions of Sunkiuen were wrested from him, and when he died in A.D. 252 it was clear that the days of the kingdom of Wu were already numbered. About the same time also died the brave general Ssemay, to be succeeded in his position by his son Ssemachi.
Sunleang, Sunkiuen's son and successor, rushed by the rash advice of his general Chu-kwo-ko into a war with Wei. Seven months were wasted before the walls of Sinching, a small fortified town held by a garrison of three thousand men, and then Chu-kwo-ko was obliged to beat a hurried retreat with the loss of half his army. At one time it had looked as if Sinching would have had to open its gates to the invader, and it was only the fortitude and presence of mind of its commandant Changte which averted that result. For ninety days the siege had gone on, and the ramparts of Sinching had been pierced in numerous places, and several breaches lay gaping to the foe. In short, Changte had done all that a good commander could, and, as no relieving force was near, there was nothing left for him save to die as a brave man. In this extremity he had recourse as a last chance to the following ruse. He sent word to Chu-kwo-ko that he was willing to surrender Sinching without further resistance, if the act of surrender were postponed until the hundredth day, as “it was a law among the princes of Wei that the governor of a place which held out for a hundred days, and then surrendered with no prospect of relief visible, should not be considered as guilty.” Chu-kwo-ko, already wearied by the protracted defence, readily accepted this offer, but his astonishment may be imagined when a few days later he found the ramparts and forts of Sinching assuming their original appearance. All the breaches were repaired, new gates were A BOLD PROJECT.
constructed, and fresh defensive works erected, and as these bulwarks appeared over the ruins of a three months' siege the spirits of the garrison under their bold commander rose in proportion. When Chu-kwo-ko sent to ask what was the meaning of these proceedings, and how they were to be reconciled with the terms of the agreement, Changte sent the bold reply, “I am preparing my tomb, and to bury myself under the ruins of Sinching.” Of such resolute valour and indifference to death the military records of China contain many examples; but very seldom has any soldier shown such fertility of resource, and resolution not only to save personal honour, but also a charge of national importance, as did Changte on this occasion. The siege of Sinching brought honour to Changte, and security to his state; but to Chukwo-ko it signified disgrace and death as an unsuccessful and consequently a criminal general.
Meanwhile a series of events in the internal history of Wei had led to the deposition of Tsowfang by the general Ssemachi, and the elevation of Tsowmow, another of the nephews of Tsowjoui, in his place. Ssemachi died shortly after this occurrence, but his influence and dominant position in the state did not pass out of his family. To Ssemachi succeeded his brother Ssemachow, and the real governing power in the country remained in his hands. The war between Wei and its southern neighbours still lingered on; but in the year A.D. 257 it took a more decisive form. The army of Ssemachow under the command of Wangki won several battles in the south with comparatively small loss, and the capture of the important town of Chowchun, with its garrison of one hundred and fifty thousand rebels, struck a heavy blow in favour of the pre-eminence of Wei. Ssemachow took all the credit of this result to himself, and, in spite of the protests of Tsowmow, caused himself to be proclaimed governor of the Empire with the title of Prince of Tsin. Tsowmow was not destitute of courage, and he resolved to overthrow by prompt action this too powerful soldier. Taking a few companions into his personal confidence, he proceeded to Ssemachow's palace with the intention of ridding the Empire of an ambitious subject. The project was a bold one,