Imatges de pàgina

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,

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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,


the practical result was none, and the Portuguese could not have been worse situated if they had never sent any ambassador to the capital and if they had kept their milreis in their pockets. The Portuguese authorities at Canton were, therefore, obliged to get on as best they could with their unpleasant neighbours, the Canton mandarins, who seized every opportunity of hindering them in their commerce, and of compelling them to pay large bribes for their not resorting to the extreme measure of expelling them from Macao. To the losses caused by Chinese arrogance and unfriendliness were added those produced by the depredations of the piratical societies, which had their head-quarters in the purlieus of Canton and in the creeks of the Bocca Tigris. The Portuguese succeeded in producing a more favourable impression on the Chinese by taking an active part in the measures adopted for the purpose of suppressing these marauding bodies, and to this cause may be attributed the more friendly understanding that was at last effected between these neighbours. The Portuguese had to show great tact in the arrangement of their affairs with the Canton authorities, and, although they were the first Europeans to obtain a foothold in the country, and long enjoyed a monopoly of its foreign trade, they have never succeeded in emancipating themselves from the position of being the tenants of China for a small port, of which both the prosperity and the importance have now departed. Neither with the Dutch nor with the Spaniards were Keen Lung's relations of a nature calling for much notice. The latter had never held any direct communication with the central Government, but had always been confined to their intercourse with the Viceroy of Fuhkien, to whose charge were generally entrusted the affairs of the islands and territories beyond the sea. The former did indeed send an embassy to Pekin in the year 1795, but its reception was not of an encouraging nature, and its despatch proved productive of more disgrace than of honour and profit. With Russia the Emperor's relations remained, on the whole, friendly, although the contact between the two great Empires on the Siberian frontier had seemed on several occasions to be likely to result in unpleasantness, if not in hostilities. The difficulties that were threatened by such matters as the surrender of Amursana's body, and the flight of the Tourgut tribe, were fortunately settled without an appeal to arms; and when those causes of disquiet were removed, none others of sufficient importance remained to disturb the serene aspect of the political situation. The Empress Catherine, following in the steps of Peter in this matter, as in much else, sought to establish more intimate relations with Pekin, and even went so far as to suggest to the Emperor Keen Lung the advisability of his deputing a resident agent to her court. When the Chinese Government showed such marked aversion to the reception of foreign envoys at the capital, it is scarcely necessary to say that this proposition was received with absolute disdain. Probably it was in consequence of this unusual message that the Russian envoy was refused an audience, and dismissed without a hearing. In a spirit of retaliation the Russians refused to surrender some renegade Chinese who had fled into Siberia, and their refusal brought down upon them a characteristic letter of rebuke from Keen Lung. The Russians remained proof against the implied condemnation, and the caravan trade with Kiachta, despite every obstacle and difficulty, assumed increased dimensions. The very remoteness of the place of contact from the capitals of either Power served to blunt the edge of these slights and indignities, and to avert a hostile collision which repeatedly seemed next to inevitable. The relations between Pekin and St. Petersburg continued to preserve the amicable character they had assumed after the Treaty of Nerchinsk in the previous century. There remain, therefore, to be described and considered only the intercourse between China on the one hand, and France and England on the other, the two great countries of the West. So far as the former of these European States was concerned, the intercourse with China always continued to be one more of sentiment, and of the propagation of Roman Catholicism, than of a profitable and advancing trade. There is no doubt that a scheme for the promotion of commerce

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