Imatges de pàgina

PEKIN. 357

returned to his capital, Cambaluc or Pekin,* after his first war with his brother, Arikbuka, it was with the full intention of beginning a fresh era in Chinese history. Adopting all the advantages to be obtained from the ancient Chinese civilization, he only grafted upon it the greater vigour and military qualities of his northern race. Assisted by some of the most remarkable generals and ministers of the age, he soon succeeded in attaining his object and in making his court the most brilliant of the time. The final overthrow of the Sungs, the capture of their Emperor, the surrender of their capital, and, finally, the defeat of the last champions of their cause, all tended to facilitate the accomplishment of this task and to hasten its consummation.

From his earliest youth Kublai had given great promise of future valour and ability. His courage in a battle nearly fifty years before this time had been conspicuous, and his grandfather Genghis had predicted a more brilliant future for him than for any other of his children or grandchildren. The acts of his matured age amply confirmed any prophecies that may have been hazarded about his future career, and when the Sungs were vanquished he could boast that he had carved out in Eastern Asia an Empire not less

• Cambaluc or Khanbalig —" the city of the Khan "—the name of Pekin, or the Northern Capital, was made for the first time capital of China by the Mongols. A city near, or on its site, had been the chief town of an independent kingdom on several occasions, e.g. of Yen, of the Khitans, and of the Kins. A long description is given in Marco Polo. There were, according to him, twelve gates, at each of which was stationed a guard of one thousand men; and the streets were so straight and wide that you could see from one end to the other, or from gate to gate. The extent given of the walls varies: according to the highest estimate, they were twenty-seven miles round, according to the lowest eighteen. The Khan's palace at Chandu, or Kaipingfoo, north of Pelcin, where he built a magnificent summer palace, kept his stud of horses, and carried out his love of the chase in the immense park and preserves attached, may be considered the Windsor of this Chinese monarch. The position of Pekin had, and still has, much to recommend it as the site of a capital. The Mings, after proclaiming Nankin the capital, made scarcely less use of Pekin, and Chuntche, the first of the Manchus, adopted it as his. It is scarcely necessary to add that it has since remained the sole metropolis of the Empire. See Marco Polo, passim; Amiot's "Memoires sur les Chinois," torn. ii. p. 553; Pauthier, pp. 353, 354.

splendid than that formed by Genghis in the North and the West.

When Kublai permanently established himself at Pekin he drew up consistent lines of policy on all the great questions with which it was likely he would have to deal, and he always endeavoured to act upon these set principles. In framing this system of government he was greatly assisted by his old friend and tutor, Yaochu, as well as by other Chinese ministers. He was thus enabled to deal wisely and also vigorously with a society with which he was only imperfectly acquainted; and the impartiality and insight into human character, which were his main characteristics, greatly simplified the difficult task that he had to accomplish. In nothing was his impartiality more clearly shown than in his attitude with regard to religion. Free from the prejudices and superstition of the Early Mongol faith, the family of Genghis had always been characterized by a marked indifference to matters of religion, and Kublai carried this indifference still further than any of his predecessors had done. His impartiality showed not the working of a well-balanced judgment towards the convictions of others, but rather the absence of all sentiment and the presence of a hard and unattractive materialism.

He at first treated with equal consideration Buddhism and Mahomedanism, the creed of the Christian and that of the Jew. He is reported to have said that there were four Prophets revered by all the world, and that he worshipped and paid respect to them all in the hope that the greatest among them in heaven might aid him. Whether this statement may be accepted with implicit credence or not, there can be little doubt that it expresses with sufficient accuracy Kublai's views in matters of religion. He made a politic use of one and all; and he worked upon men by their fears and by humouring their predilections. Some have imagined that he sympathized with Christianity, but his measures in support of Buddhism and in favour of his friend the young Pakba Lama were much more pronounced than anything he ever undertook for the Nestorians or the Jews. Whatever his own secret convictions may have been, none A SPLENDID COURT. 359

were ever admitted into his inner confidence; but in his acts he evinced a politic tolerance towards all creeds, and none could say that he favoured one more than another.

But if Kublai was tolerant or indifferent in matters of religious belief, he was very firm in requiring from all prayers and adoration for himself as the Emperor of the realm. Priests were appointed and particularly enjoined to offer up prayers on his behalf before the people, who were required to attend these services and to join in the responses. About the same time Kublai also adopted the Chinese practice of erecting a temple to his ancestors, whom he named for several generations before Genghis. Coins with his image stamped upon them were circulated freely, and images of himself were sent to the principal towns to be paid reverence to by the people. These decrees were all passed before the year A.D. 1270, and no means were spared for rendering his rule popular with his new subjects. At first it will be perceived that he identified himself with no cause or party in particular; but, as time went on, and as he appreciated the situation more accurately, he discarded this impartiality, and identified himself with many of the prejudices and views of the mass of the Chinese people.

Naturally fond of pomp, and knowing how much the masses are impressed by the glitter of a gorgeous court, Kublai caused a state ceremonial to be drawn up of a magnificent character. His courtiers were required to dress after a uniform fashion, and to appear in fixed apparel on all state occasions. His banquets were of the most sumptuous description. Strangers from foreign states were admitted to the presence, and dined at a table set apart for travellers, while the great king himself feasted in the full gaze of his people. His courtiers, generals, and ministers, attended by a host of servitors, and protected from enemies by twenty thousand guards, the pick of the Mongol army; the countless wealth seized in the capitals of numerous kingdoms; the brilliance of intellect among his chief adherents and supporters; the martial character of the race that lent itself almost as well to the pageantry of a court as to the stern reality of battle; and, finally, the majesty of the great king himself—all combined to make Kublai's court and capital the most splendid at that time in the world. The gossipy, but shrewd and observant, Venetian traveller, Marco Polo, whose account of the countries of Asia illustrated an unknown continent, describes, in his own quaint way, the mode of life and the ceremonies in vogue at Kublai's capital. The curious in such matters will find that after six centuries the interest has not departed from his pages, which give us corroborative proof of the evidence we have from other sources.

When Kublai returned from his first campaign against Arikbuka he proclaimed his intention of proceeding no more to the wars. Henceforth he -would, he said, conduct his military operations, not in person, but by his lieutenants. He was led to this decision partly by his increasing years,* and partly by the extent of his Empire, which necessitated vigilance at all points. For even before the overthrow of the Sungs he was meditating fresh conquests, and either actuated by some conviction of political necessities of which we must necessarily be ignorant, or goaded into action by the irrepressible energy of his race, he had resolved on prosecuting an enterprise for which no necessity existed and the benefit of which was more than doubtful. That enterprise was the invasion of Japan.

The old connection between China and the islands of Japan has been several times referred to, and it has been stated that the ruling dynasty in that country was supposed to trace back its descent to Taipe, a Chinese exile in the twelfth century before our era. At various periods the relations between the two states had been drawn more closely together than the intercourse usual between neighbours ; and although the Emperor of China had always been allowed a

* Kublai was born in the eighth month of the year A.D. 1216, and was the fourth son of Tuli, himself the fourth son of Genghis by his favourite wife. He was proclaimed Khakhan on his brother Mangu's death in A.D. 1260. Marco Polo describes his appearance as follows :—" He is of a good stature, neither tall nor short, but of a middle height. He has a becoming amount of flesh, and is very shapely in all his limbs. His complexion is white and red, the eyes black and fine, the nose well formed and well set on." His conquest of Yunnan in A.D. 1253-54 was the most remarkable of his military achievements.


superior position, and had sometimes asserted his shadowy claims to exact feudal rights, the Japanese Government had none the less maintained and preserved its independence with good-tempered firmness. There had been one conflict between the states in the case of Corea, but the result had been to inspire them with a mutual respect. The islanders of" the rising sun," safe in their insular position, had remained undisturbed by the great Mongol outpouring which had revolutionized the face of Asia. If they were aware of the startling changes on the mainland, nothing more than the echo reached their shores. Kublai was apparently piqued at their indifferent attitude towards his power, and resolved at an early stage in his career to bring them within the sphere of his influence.

In A.D. 1266, Kublai had sent two envoys with a letter from himself to the King of Japan, complaining that no friendly message had been received since his accession to power, and that it would be well to repair this omission as soon as possible in order to avoid the horrors of war. But neither the envoys nor the letter reached their destination. The Mongol messengers travelled by way of Corea, which held more intercourse with Japan than the other countries of Northern China, and which was allied on terms of friendship with Kublai; but when requested to assist these envoys in reaching their destination, all the Coreans did was to point to the danger and difficulty of the voyage, and to expatiate on the inaccessibility of Japan. Unaccustomed to the sea, these Mongols were easily dissuaded from their undertaking, and returned to Kublai's court without having delivered their letter or accomplished any portion of their mission. After this abortive attempt, the continued silence or indifference of the Japanese was treated as proof of their hostility. Two years later, in A.D. 1268, Kublai sent orders to the Corean ruler to collect his naval and military forces and to hold them disposable for his service. The war with the Sungs was still far from being settled, and it was uncertain whether Kublai would employ this auxiliary force against Japan or against the Chinese ; but the Corean king promised to place at the service of the Mongols a fleet of one thousand vessels and ten

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