Imatges de pàgina

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 A REBELLION. 713

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 tho 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 colonics established in Western China. In Kansuh these settlements had increased both in numbers and importance since the subjugation of the territories in Central Asia, for the establishment of commercial relations with the Mahomedan cities of the Tian Shan region and the Khanates of Western Turkestan had been necessarily followed by the gradual but sure introduction of Mussulman ideas and customs into the north-west portion of China. As early as the year 1777 disturbances had broken out at Hochow in Shensi. Under the leadership of a fanatical priest a considerable band had collected at that place and defied the authority of the local officials. The provincial mandarin found it necessary to send a considerable force against them, and it was only after a stubbornly contested engagement that he was left master of the field. The Emperor was inclined to resort to extreme measures against these sectaries, but on the recommendation of his ministers he refrained from putting his desires in force, and remained satisfied apparently with having cowed the opposition of subjects of such dubious fidelity.

The war in Formosa had only just reached a satisfactory conclusion, and that in Tibet had not yet begun, when an insurrection took place in the province of Szchuen which met with unexpected success, and which attained almost incredible proportions considering the firmness with which the Manchu dynasty was then established. Two Taouist priests took the principal part in organizing this seditious movement, which aimed at nothing short of the subversion of the reigning family, and the elevation of a young man, said to be a descendant of the Ming dynasty, to the throne. By the lavish promise of dignities and rewards as soon as their enterprise had been crowned with a successful issue, these intriguers succeeded in gathering round them a very considerable number of supporters, both among the well-to-do as well as from the masses. Several districts of the great province of Szchuen were to simultaneously throw off the Emperor's authority, and to proclaim in its place that of the young pretender, who was to assume the dynastic title of Chow. Forty or fifty thousand men were said to have received arms, and to be in readiness to rise at the given signal. The insurrection was to be inaugurated by a general massacre of the garrison and the officials.


The secret was well kept until the very eve of the proposed massacre, when one of the conspirators revealed the plot. The Governor of Chentu at once took vigorous measures to arrest the ringleaders and to seize the arms they had collected. The so-called Emperor was one of the first to fall into the hands of the authorities, and the execution of himself, his family, and his chief supporters effectually tranquillized the province without further bloodshed. Many Christian converts happened to be implicated in this seditious movement, and the fact was naturally taken advantage of by the numerous enemies of the foreign religion. Fortunately, the mandarins could not find sufficient evidence upon which to base an accusation against the colony of French missionaries established in the province of Szchuen. The suppression of the Chow rebellion, therefore, was not followed, as at one moment appeared likely, by an outburst of official persecution against the Christians.

These frequent disturbances, added to the numerous occasions on which it had been found necessary to take up arms against a foreign foe, were all followed by the complete vindication of the Emperor's authority, and at no previous time had the assertion of the supremacy of the central Government been more conclusive or easily maintained. The reputation of the Chinese Empire was raised to the highest point, and maintained there by the capacity and energy of the ruler. Within its borders the commands of the central Government were ungrudgingly obeyed, and beyond them foreign peoples and States respected the rights of a country that had shown itself so well able to exact obedience from its dependents and to preserve the very letter of its rights. The military fame of the Chinese, which had always been great among Asiatics, attained its highest point in consequence of these numerous and rapidly succeeding campaigns. The evidence of military proficiency, of irresistible determination, and of personal valour not easily surpassed, was too conclusive to allow of any one ignoring the solid claims of China to rank as a great military country in Asia



Among the important incidents of Keen Lung's long reign must undoubtedly be held the steady increase and development in the intercourse between China and the countries of Europe. Up to his accession the question had been confined to the fortunes of the missionary body, and of the small Portuguese colony at Macao; but as his reign proceeded the subject assumed a wider importance, and embraced all the principal trading nations of our continent. From the frequent discussions between the Canton mandarins and their tenants the Portuguese authorities at Macao, down to the reception of the British embassy under Lord Macartney in the last few years of his reign, the topic of his relations with foreign nations was ever present in some form or other to the mind of Keen Lung.

So far as the Portuguese were concerned, and considering the antiquity of their connection with the Chinese Government, their affairs claim precedence, it was no very difficult task for the Emperor to decide what course was to be pursued, and how the matter was to be arranged. His superiority in this case was too incontestable to be challenged, and he had only to give such orders as his inclination suggested, or as the Canton mandarins deemed advisable. In 1750 an embassy was sent to Pekin to endeavour to obtain some mitigation of the harsh terms upon which trade alone was allowed, and great sums of money were expended in fitting it out, and in purchasing suitable presents for the Emperor and his chief ministers. But although these gifts were graciously accepted,

« AnteriorContinua »