Imatges de pàgina
PDF
EPUB

TIBET MISSIONS.

709

the Himalayas were closed by means of strong block-houses situated at the northern entrances, and the use of the principal of them, that known as the Kirong, was prohibited to all except those employed on official business. The country of Tibet, with its interesting secrets, has since then remained closed to us, and this great dependency of the Chinese Emperor, touching our possessions in Hindostan along a mountain barrier of some 2,000 miles, remains to this day sealed to our commerce.*

There can be no doubt that, regarded simply as a military exploit, the Chinese campaign in Nepaul was a very remarkable achievement, and one deserving of a high place among the famous wars of Asiatic peoples and countries. It may, perhaps, be said that the Chinese triumphed by sheer weight of numbers, and of course the statement is partially true. But in this respect the Chinese were only following the precepts of the best masters of the art of war in bringing to bear against their opponent a preponderating force. When we consider the difficulties that had to be overcome, first in moving a large army across the barren country between Sining or Szchuen and Tibet, and then in providing for it when assembled at Lhasa, we shall not be disposed to disparage the skill shown by Chinese commanders in organizing their forces for such an arduous campaign. Nor when we recollect that the natural obstacles of Northern and Eastern Tibet are not for a moment to be compared with those to be met with between the Dalai Lama's capital and the seat of the Goorkha dynasty, will our wonder become less at the many signal victories obtained by Sund Fo over his adversaries, although the latter always possessed the advantage of position, if not of superior weapons as well. The valiant resistance with which the Goorkhas opposed us in 1814-15,

After the return of the Bogle and Turner missions there was a long interval of inaction. In 1811, Mr. Thomas Manning, one of the most intrepid and highly gifted of English travellers, succeeded in reaching Lhasa, where he resided for some months—a feat in which, so far as this country is concerned, he stands alone. Thirty years afterwards the French missionaries, MM. Huc and Gabet, visited the same city from China ; and again thirty years later they were followed by the Indian explorer, the Pundit Nain Singh.

the courage and intrepidity shown during sixty years of service in the Anglo-Indian army by the Goorkha sepoy, preclude the idea that the Chinese success was due to the craven spirit of their foe. The victories of Sund Fo were gained over the bravest of Indian races under circumstances all in favour of those who were fighting on the defensive; and they serve to show, by what ill-armed and imperfectly trained Chinese soldiers have done in the past against a foe whose military capacity we can gauge, what a well-armed and disciplined Celestial army may be capable of in the future. The successful defence of the Tibetans, the rout of the Goorkhas, and the subjection of Nepaul, form a complete military achievement of the most striking character, and bring to a glorious termination the great and solid exploits in war which have raised the fame of Keen Lung to the highest place among great rulers. The aged prince, then more than an octogenarian, felt able to congratulate himself not merely on the success of his arms, but also on the conviction that his sword had been drawn in a righteous cause, and that the millions of Tibet felt grateful to him for having rescued them from the hands of a cruel and savage race of marauders.

Some years before the Tibetan question had reached the crisis that has been described, and before its settlement had been precipitated by the aggressions of the Goorkhas, the state of affairs in Formosa had caused very great anxiety to the minds of the Pekin authorities, and had rendered a great effort necessary for the recovery of their position as the governing power in Formosa. That island had been styled at a much earlier period of Keen Lung's reign “the natural home of sedition and disaffection ;” but it was not until the year 1786 that the discontent of its inhabitants, or the machinations of a few intriguers, became revealed in acts. Early in that year the news reached Macao that the islanders had risen, massacred the Tartar garrison, and subverted the authority of the Emperor. At first the news was discredited, but later intelligence showed that the report was well-founded.

The control exercised over the subordinate mandarins in China has never been very exacting, and for all questions of

[blocks in formation]

administration and revenue there is scarcely any appeal from the decision of the local official. But if the supervision of the central tribunals over the provincial functionaries was slight on the mainland, it practically did not exist at all beyond the sea in Formosa. The Tartar officials in that island did not abstain from indulging all their rights, and from enforcing to its fullest extent the authority placed in their hands. Despite the smallness of the Tartar garrison, they acted with all the arrogance and reckless indifference to popular prejudices shown by tyrants of an alien race.

When the general opinion among a people is one of dislike, if not of absolute detestation, towards their rulers, it needs but a trivial circumstance to reveal what is uppermost in their minds. Such was the case in Formosa. An individual, named Ling, incurred the displeasure of the principal mandarin, and, because he refused to pay the heavy bribe demanded by this official, he was at once thrown into prison, where his early death was assured if he persisted in refusing to satisfy the demands of the mandarin. Fortunately for himself, and unfortunately for the Pekin Government, Ling was very popular with his neighbours, and apparently a representative man among the people. His arrest proved the signal for a general insurrection on the part of the Chinese in Formosa.

The mandarin was the first victim of this outburst of popular indignation, and the prisoner Ling was released from his place of confinement. At first the Chinese settlers appeared satisfied with what they had accomplished, and might have taken no further steps against the Manchu Government, had a wise oblivion been cast over acts which were due to the tyrannical proceedings of an official. The viceroy of the province of Fuhkien, to which the island of Formosa is dependent, regarded the situation from too lofty a standpoint, and despatched a military mandarin with plenary powers to bring the Formosans to a proper sense of their position and duty towards the central authorities. This officer exercised his powers to their fullest extent, and confounded the innocent with the guilty in the sweeping measures he took against the disaffected. The popular

indignation, which had been temporarily allayed by the release of Ling and the death of his persecutor, broke out afresh in face of these exactions; and the military mandarin found himself compelled to make as precipitate a retreat as he could to the mainland. The small garrison kept in the chief town had not the same good fortune, as the Tartars were put to the sword and those of Chinese race were compelled to enrol themselves in the ranks of the insurgents. The Tartar practice of shaving the head was prohibited, and for the time being Keen Lung's authority was completely subverted in the island.

At first the Emperor endeavoured to conclude an amicable arrangement with the rebels, by means of which it might be possible to satisfy the exigencies of his honour and at the same time to spare his Government and people the expense and trouble of overcoming the resistance of a brave and turbulent race. He, therefore, sent instructions to his lieutenants to propose a suspension of arms to the rebel Ling, who had been entrusted by his countrymen with the chief command of their forces, in order that some settlement of the question might be arrived at without further bloodshed. Having emancipated themselves from a yoke that had pressed heavily upon them, the Chinese in Formosa were still not so elated by their success as to feel confident of their capacity to maintain their independence against the full force of the Pekin ruler; and Ling was not, therefore, indisposed to negotiate. But it was soon made evident that the only negotiation to which the Emperor was likely to give his consent was an unconditional surrender on the part of the rebels, with which Ling not unnaturally declined to comply.

Negotiations failing, troops were despatched from Fuhkien to bring the islanders back to a state of subjection ; but they appear to have been sent in too few numbers to be able to effect much against a desperate and courageous people. They were attacked on landing before they had time to fortify their positions, or to combine their detachments, and overwhelmed by superior numbers. In fifty encounters Ling was reported to have been victorious, and the Manchus met

[blocks in formation]

with scarcely a single success. Twenty thousand soldiers and eighty mandarins of high rank had fallen in the field, and with each fresh success the courage and confidence of the rebels were correspondingly increased. Keen Lung said in a public proclamation that “his heart was in suspense both by night and by day as to the issue of the war in Formosa."

So long, however, as the arrangements made to reassert the Emperor's authority were of the desultory nature shown in these small expeditions, a satisfactory conclusion of the war appeared as remote as ever. The military disasters culminated in the defeat of a body of 7,000 troops sent from Canton ; but although this was the most signal reverse experienced by the Imperial troops, it was also remarkable as being the last. The experience of the campaigning in Formosa had been singularly unpleasant and bitter, but it showed that in this case, as in most other human affairs, halfmeasures never succeed. After the serious loss mentioned, Keen Lung threw himself into the question with his usual energy and ardour, and ordered the despatch of a large army to Formosa to effectually put down this rebellion that had already continued so long.

An army of nearly 100,000 men, commanded by Fou Kangan, whose brother was married to one of the Emperor's daughters, was sent across the channel to quell the disturbances. The provinces of Kwangsi, Kwantung, and Kiangsi were required to send in special contributions for the war, while a large fleet of war-junks was kept permanently at sea. Although Ling and his Formosans continued to oppose the invader with resolution, the inevitable result at last arrived, and numbers carried the day. The suppression of the revolt in Formosa cost the Emperor many thousands of lives, a vast expenditure in money, and some anxious months ; but in the end his good fortune reasserted itself, or the excellence of his arrangements received their due reward.

In the year 1785 further cause of anxiety had been produced by the insurrection of some of the Mahomedan colonies established in Western China. In Kansuh these settlements had increased both in numbers and importance since the

« AnteriorContinua »