Imatges de pàgina
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and not altogether without justification, but their inaction was the measure of their incapacity.

While the state of affairs remained thus critical on the Manchu frontier, events of the very gravest importance were happening in other parts of the country. At an earlier period in the struggle the report of Imperial defeats had sufficed to raise up numerous enemies in different quarters of the widestretching territories of the Ming. They had fortunately been put down, but the assertion of the Emperor's power had not been effected with that degree of ease and rapidity which would alone have deterred the discontented in other parts from imitating these insurgents. The danger from the Manchus had increased instead of diminished, and it was only in the natural course of things that those who before had the inclination to rebel should find that impulse greatly strengthened by the embarrassment threatening the stability of the Empire.

The first of these internal troubles might by wiser action have been avoided, for it was caused by the neglect to pay a body of troops which had been sent to reinforce the army on the frontier. The soldiers broke into open mutiny, and their commanders might have fared badly had they not come to the resolution to take the lead in the direction which their men had marked out for them. Of these officers Kongyuta was the principal and the most active, and to him was entrusted the main part in leading the insurgents. The province of Shantung became the principal scene of their exploits, and for a time they there carried everything before them. One viceroy was executed, and his successor set out with loud vaunts of the rapidity with which he would quell the rebellion. The acts of the new governor fell far short, as is often the case, of his protestations; for while the insurgents held the open country, he was compelled to confine his operations to the defence of Laichow, a small port on the Gulf of Pechihli. Even in this restricted sphere he was not destined to attain any great success, for he was killed by a cannon-shot while conducting its defence. The siege continued, and the rebels, having enticed under a show of negotiation several of the principal officers of the province into VOL I.

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their camp, gained a momentary strength by arresting and then executing them. But this breach of faith, which for the time seemed to answer their ends, proved fatal to their prospects, not only because it excited the indignation of all honourable men, but also because it roused the Pekin Government into a fit of energy. A large army was sent against them, and all the resources at the disposal of the Empire were devoted to the task of crushing this rebellion. Several battles were fought and won. The insurgents, so lately rejoicing with all the arrogance of victory, were driven from one place to another, until at last there remained to them only the harbour of Tengchow, which also surrendered to the Imperial lieutenants. Most of the insurgents were taken alive, to suffer the fate of rebels; but Kongyuta, more fortunate than his supporters, made good his escape by sea to the opposite coast of Leaoutung, whence he hastened to pay his court to Taitsong, who gave him a hearty welcome. In 1634 Taitsong commenced his next campaign with the invasion of Shansi at the head of an army composed equally of Mongol auxiliaries and of his own Manchu levies. The Chinese failed to make any stand against this invading force. No attempt was made to guard the outer wall save at Taitong which was too formidable to be lightly assailed, and Taitsong experienced little difficulty in capturing most of the towns adjacent to the inner wall. Although the Manchus thus transferred the scene of their operations to a province which had been comparatively free from the presence of an enemy for several centuries, and notwithstanding that the northern borders of Shansi present exceptional facilities for defence and difficulties to an invader, Taitsong met with little resistance from either the people or the local garrisons. One Chinese officer published a boastful report of a great victory which he declared that he had won; but Taitsong intercepted the letter, and at once sent off a challenge offering to match 1ooo of his men against ten times their number of Chinese. The bold offer was not accepted, and the Manchus continued to carry everything before them in Shansi. It was at the close of this campaign, in the year 1635, that

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Taitsong assumed for the first time the style of Emperor of China. Events had long been shaping themselves in this direction, but an accident alone induced him to take the final step. The jade seal of the Yuen dynasty had at the time of its expulsion been carried beyond the wall, and lost in the wilds of Mongolia. More than two centuries later a Mongol shepherd had chanced upon it and handed it to his chief, whence in due time it was passed on to Taitsong. As soon as it became known among the Mongol clans that the Manchu conqueror was the fortunate possessor of this treasured gem they all hastened, to the number of forty-nine separate chiefs, to pay their allegiance to Taitsong. Strange as it may appear, they demanded, as a kind of ratification to their own act, that the King of Corea should likewise pay his court to the new Emperor. The king of that state having heard the nature of the letters from the Manchu capital refused to open them, hoping thus to extricate himself from what promised to prove an unpleasant dilemma. But the Manchus could ill brook this show of independence from one who had already proved unable to resist them. An army was accordingly sent to chastise this indifferent is not defiant potentate, and to exact from him at the point of the sword the allegiance which he had so haughtily evaded. Taitsong's lieutenants carried out their master's plans to the letter, and Corea followed the example of the western Mongol clans and recognized Taitsong as Hwangti.

The remaining years of Taitsong's life were passed in conducting repeated expeditions into the provinces of Pechihli, Shansi, and even Shantung, although he never again molested Pekin, and the fortresses of Ningyuen and Shanhaikwan continued to form on the east insuperable obstacles in his path. The loss inflicted on the Chinese was immense, and the amount of spoil carried off incalculable ; but so far as the Emperor and his Court were concerned the situation remained little changed. Taitsong was greatly assisted in his plans by the numerous internal troubles which were disintegrating the Empire, and at last he found himself again able to begin a forward movement in the direction of that Ningyuen which had hitherto baffled him. But before he could reach the town it was necessary for him to capture Kingchow which was held by a resolute garrison, while the skilful general Wou Sankwei occupied the place of supreme command over the Quadrilateral of Leaousi.* Kingchow and Songshan were taken after several severe actions, and at the cost of a vast amount of bloodshed; but Ningyuen, with its new commandant Wou Sankwei, remained defiant as of old.

Taitsong had, therefore, to resort in the year 1642–3 to his former tactics of despatching expeditions into Shansi, which carried everything before them, it is true, but which contributed only very slightly and indirectly to the weakening of Chinese power at Ningyuen. The return of the last of these expeditionary forces had hardly been signalized by the usual festivities at Moukden, when Taitsong was seized with what proved to be a fatal illness.

Before his death events yet to be described had brought the Ming Empire to the verge of dissolution. The days of Tsongching were numbered, and his capital was at the mercy of a cruel and relentless rebel. The Manchu, who had so long appeared the most formidable of his enemies, did not prove the instrument whereby his fall was effected. Taitsong was not destined to be the scourge of Providence to purify a corrupt court, and to reform a profligate society. Indeed, the Manchu chief's death preceded the suicide of the last Ming Emperor by some months.

Taitsong was only fifty-two years of age at the time of his death in September 1643, and when he died he left the main object of his life apparently as distant from realization as when he took up the scheme committed to him as a legacy by his father Noorhachu. The Manchus had inflicted an incalculable amount of injury on the Chinese, and Taitsong had enjoyed the empty honour of having laid unsuccessful siege to Pekin ; but the conquest of China remained a feat for the accomplishment of which all the military power of the Manchus, aided by the great talent of their leaders, had as yet

* Cis Leaoutung. The Quadrilateral were Kingchow, Ningyuen, Songshan, and Shanhaikwan,


533 proved inadequate. On the very eve of its attainment the balance of chances seemed, humanly speaking, greater against the Manchu ambition than it had been at any time during the previous generation ; and by the irony of fate the triumph which had been denied to both Noorhachu and Taitsong was reserved for a child, the grandson of the former and the son of the latter.

Taitsong was buried at Moukden* in the midst of the people whom he had helped to make great. He had made his authority recognized among all the Tartars from the districts of the Eleuths to the waters of Japan. Corea was his vassal, and Leaoutung one of his provinces. Famous as a warrior, he deserved to rank still higher as the civilizer of the Manchus. It was not his lot to conquer China, but he at least indicated the only way in which it could be subdued. The Chinese themselves recognized in him a man who strove above all things to adapt his ways of government to the customs of those he aspired to govern. In Taitsong's hands the ambition of his family lost nothing of its dignity and grandeur ; and he passed it on to his successors in a more tangible and definite form. Taitsong may fairly be held to have directed, as well as quickened, the growth of Manchu power, and, but for his energy and good judgment, it may be doubted whether his race would ever have been elevated to the high position of occupying the Dragon Throne.

• Moukden is now known to the Chinese as Shinyang. For the eulogy of this capital of the Manchus see Keen Lung's poem in Amiot's * Mémoirs Concernant les Meurs, &c. des Chinois," Paris, 1776. An account of moden Moukden will be found in Fleming's travels already ated. The tombs of the early Manchu emperors were then (forty years ago, reported to stand in need of repair. A dynasty totters on the throne when the monuments to its founders and progenitors are neglected.

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