China eText - Chapter XIII - Keen Lung's Wars And Conquests

Chapter XIII - Keen Lung's Wars And Conquests

It was the arrival of a chief named Amursana at his court that first led Keen Lung to seriously entertain the idea of advancing into Central Asia, and having determined on the Central Asian campaign, Keen Lung's military preparations were commensurate with the importance and magnitude of the undertaking. He collected an army of 150,000 men, including the picked Manchu Banners and the celebrated Solon contingent, each of whom was said to be worth ten other soldiers. The command of this army was given to Panti, the best of the Manchu generals, and Amursana, who accompanied it, received a seal and the honorary title of Great General. But Keen Lung superintended all the operations of the war, and took credit to himself for its successful issue.

The triumph of Amursana, by the aid of the Chinese, did not bring tranquillity to Central Asia. He was not contented with the position to which the friendship of Keen Lung had raised him, and, placing too high an estimate on his own ability and resources, he was inclined to dispute the accepted opinion that all his success was due to the Chinese army. On the termination of the campaign the major portion of that army returned to China, but Panti was left with a select contingent, partly to support Amursana, and partly to secure the restoration of China's authority. Amursana, however, considered that the presence of this force detracted from the dignity of his position. Having risen to the greatness he coveted, Amursana meditated casting aside the prop by which he had risen; but before he took an irretraceable step he resolved to make use of the Chinese forces for extending his authority south of the Tian Shan range into Kashgaria. With some hesitation Panti lent him 500 Chinese soldiers, and with their aid the Eleuth prince captured the cities of Kashgar and Yarkand, and set up a chief named Barhanuddin Khoja as his nominee. This success confirmed Amursana in his good opinion of himself and his resources, and when Keen Lung, who had grown mistrustful of his good faith, summoned him to Pekin, he resolved to throw off the mask and his allegiance to China. At this supreme moment of his fate not the least thought of gratitude to the Chinese emperor, who had made him what he was, seems to have entered his mind. He determined not merely to disregard the summons to Pekin and to proclaim his independence, but also to show the extent of his hostility by adding to his defiance an act of treachery. Before he fully revealed his plans he surprised the Chinese garrison and massacred it to the last man; the valiant Panti, who had gained his victories for him, being executed by the public executioner.

The impression produced by this event was profound, and when Amursana followed up the blow by spreading abroad rumors of the magnitude of his designs they obtained some credence even among the Mongols. Encouraged by this success he sought to rally those tribes to his side by imputing minister intentions to Keen Lung. His emissaries declared that Keen Lung wished to deprive them all of their rank and authority, and that he had summoned Amursana to Pekin only for the purpose of deposing him. To complete the quarrel, Amursana declared himself King of the Eleuths, and absolutely independent of China. But the energy and indignation of Keen Lung soon exposed the hollowness of these designs, and the inadequacy of Amursana's power and capacity to make good his pretensions. Keen Lung collected another army larger than that which had placed him on his throne, to hurl Amursana from the supremacy which had not satisfied him and which he had grossly abused.

The armies of Keen Lung traversed the Gobi Desert and arrived in Central Asia, but the incapacity of his generals prevented the campaigns having those decisive results which he expected. The autocratic Chinese ruler treated his generals who failed like the fickle French Republic. The penalty of failure was a public execution. Keen Lung would accept nothing short of the capture of Amursana as evidence of his victory, and Amursana escaped to the Kirghiz. His celerity or ingenuity cost the lives of four respectable Chinese generals, two of whom were executed at Pekin and two were slain by brigands on their way there to share the same fate. Emboldened by the inability of the Chinese to capture him, Amursana again assembled an army and pursued the retiring Chinese across the desert, where he succeeded in inflicting no inconsiderable loss upon them.

When the Chinese army retired before Amursana one corps maintained its position and successfully defied him, thanks to the capacity of its commander, Tchaohoei. Tchaohoei not merely held his ground, but drew up a scheme for regaining all that had been lost in Central Asia, and Keen Lung was so impressed by it that he at once resolved to intrust the execution of his policy to the only officer who had shown any military capacity. Two fresh armies were sent to the Ili, and placed, on their arrival there, under the command of Tchaohoei, who was exhorted, above all things, to capture Amursana, dead or alive. Tchaohoei at once assumed the offensive, and as Amursana was abandoned by his followers as soon as they saw that China was putting forth the whole of her strength, he had no alternative but once more to flee for shelter to the Kirghiz. But the conditions imposed by Keen Lung were so rigorous that Tchaohoei realized that the capture of Amursana was essential to his gaining the confidence and gratitude of his master. He, therefore, sent his best lieutenant, Fouta, to pursue the Eleuth prince. Fouta pursued Amursana with the energy of one who has to gain his spurs, and he almost succeeded in effecting his capture, but Amursana just made his escape in time across the frontier into Russian territory. But Keen Lung was not satisfied with this result, and he sent both to Fouta and Tchaohoei to rest satisfied with nothing short of the capture of Amursana. The close of that unfortunate prince's career was near at hand, although it was not ended by the act of the Chinese officers. He died in Russian territory of a fever, and when the Chinese demanded of their neighbors that his body should be surrendered they refused, on the ground that enmity should cease with death; but Fouta was able to report to his sovereign that he had seen with his own eyes the mortal remains of the Eleuth chief who had first been the humble friend and then the bitter foe of the Manchu ruler.

Keen Lung decided to administer the country which he had conquered. But another step was seen to be necessary to give stability to the Chinese administration, and that was the annexation of Kashgaria. The great region of Little Bokhara or Eastern Turkestan, known to us now under the more convenient form of Kashgaria, was still ruled by the Khoja Barhanuddin, who had been placed in power by Amursana, and it afforded a shelter for all the disaffected, and a base of hostility against the Chinese. Even if Tchaohoei had not reported that the possession of Kashgaria was essential to the military security of Jungaria, there is no doubt that sooner or later Keen Lung would have proceeded to extreme lengths with regard to Barhanuddin. The Chinese were fully warranted, however, in treating him as an enemy when he seized an envoy sent to his capital by Tchaohoei and executed him and his escort. This outrage precluded all possibility of an amicable arrangement, and the Chinese prepared their fighting men for the invasion and conquest of Kashgaria. They crossed the frontier in two bodies, one under the command of Tchaohoei, the other under that of Fouta. Any resistance that Barhanuddin and his brother attempted was speedily overcome; the principal cities, Kashgar and Yarkand, were occupied, and the ill-advised princes were compelled to seek their personal safety by a precipitate flight. The conquest and annexation of Kashgaria completed the task with which Tchaohoei was charged, and it also realized Keen Lung's main idea by setting up his authority in the midst of the turbulent tribes who had long disturbed the empire, and who first learned peaceful pursuits as his subjects. The Chinese commanders followed up this decided success by the dispatch of several expeditions into the adjoining states.

The ruler of Khokand was either so much impressed by his neighbor's prowess, or, as there is much reason to believe, experienced himself the weight of their power by the occupation of his principal cities, Tashkent and Khokand, that he hastened to recognize the authority of the emperor and to enroll himself among the tributaries of the Son of Heaven. The tribute he bound himself to pay was sent without a break for a period of half a century. The Kirghiz chiefs of low and high degree imitated his example, and a firm peace was thus established from one end of Central Asia to the other. The administration was divided between Chinese and native officials, and if there was tyranny, the people suffered rather from that of the Mohammedan Hakim Beg than that of the Confucian Amban.

Keen Lung was engaged in many more wars than those in Central Asia. On the side of Burmah he found his borders disturbed by nomad and predatory tribes not less than in the region of Gobi. These clans had long been a source of annoyance and anxiety to the viceroy of Yunnan, but the weakness of the courts of Ava and Pegu, who stood behind these frontagers, had prevented the local grievance becoming a national danger. But the triumph of the remarkable Alompra, who united Pegu and Burmah into a single state, and who controlled an army with which he effected many triumphs, showed that this state of things might not always continue, and that the day would come when China might be exposed to a grave peril from this side. The successors of Alompra inherited his pretensions if not his ability, and when the Chinese called upon them to keep the borders in better order or to punish some evildoers, they sent back a haughty and unsatisfactory reply. Sembuen, the grandson of Alompra, was king when Keen Lung ordered, in the year 1768, his generals to invade Burmah, and the conduct of the war was intrusted to an officer in high favor at court, named Count Alikouen, instead of to Fouta, the hero of the Central Asian war, who had fallen under the emperor's grave displeasure for what, after all, appears to have been a trifling offense. The course of the campaign is difficult to follow, for both the Chinese and the Burmese claim the same battles as victories, but this will not surprise those who remember that the Burmese court chroniclers described all the encounters with the English forces in the wars of 1829 and 1853 as having been victorious. The advance of the Chinese army, estimated to exceed 200,000 men, from Bhamo to Ava shows clearly enough the true course of the war, and that the Chinese were able to carry all before them up to the gates of the capital. Count Alikouen did not display any striking military capacity, but by retaining possession of the country above Ava for three years he at last compelled the Burmese to sue for peace on humiliating terms.

In previous chapters the growth of China's relations with Tibet has been traced, and especially under the Manchu dynasty. The control established by Kanghi after the retirement of the Jungarian army was maintained by both his successors, and for fifty years Tibet had that perfect tranquillity which is conveyed by the expression that it had no history. The young Dalai Lama, who fled to Sining to escape from Latsan Khan, was restored, and under the name of Lobsang Kalsang pursued a subservient policy to China for half a century. In the year 1749 an unpleasant incident took place through a collision between the Chinese ambans and the Civil Regent or Gyalpo, who administered the secular affairs of the Dalai Lama. The former acted in a high-handed and arbitrary manner, and put the Gyalpo to death. But in this they went too far, for both the lamas and the people strongly resented it, and revolted against the Chinese, whom they massacred to the last man. For a time it looked as if the matter might have a very serious ending, but Keen Lung contented himself with sending fresh ambans and an escort to Tibet, and enjoining them to abstain from undue interference with the Tibetans. But at the same time that they showed this moderation the Chinese took a very astute measure to render their position stronger than ever. They asserted their right to have the supreme voice in nominating the Gyalpo, and they soon reduced that high official, the Prime Minister of Tibet, to the position of a creature of their own. The policy was both astute and successful. The Tibetans had welcomed the Chinese originally because they saved them from the Eleuth army, and provided a guarantee against a fresh invasion. But the long peace and the destruction of the Eleuth power had led the Tibetans to think less of the advantage of Chinese protection, and to pine for complete independence. The lamas also bitterly resented the assumption by the ambans of all practical authority. How long these feelings could have continued without an open outbreak must remain a matter of opinion; but an unexpected event brought into evidence the unwarlike character of the Tibetans, and showed that their country was exposed to many dangers from which only China's protection could preserve them. In Kanghi's time the danger had come from Ili; in the reign of Keen Lung it came from the side of Nepaul.

As a general rule the mighty chain of the Himalaya has effectually separated the peoples living north and south of it, and the instances in history are rare of any collision between them. Of all such collisions the most important was that which has now to be described as the main cause of the tightening of the hold of China upon Tibet. The mountain kingdom of Nepaul was equally independent of the British and the Mogul Empire of Delhi. It was ruled by three separate kings, until in the year 1769 the Goorkha chief Prithi Narayan established the supremacy of that warlike race. The Goorkhas cared nothing for trade, and their exactions resulted in the cessation of the commercial intercourse which had existed under the Nepaulese kings between India and Tibet. Their martial instincts led them to carry on raids into both Tibet and India. The Tibetans were unequal to the task of punishing or restraining them, and at last the Goorkhas were inspired with such confidence that they undertook the invasion of their country. It is said that the Goorkhas were encouraged to take this, step by the belief that the Chinese would not interfere, and that the lamaseries contained an incalculable amount of treasure. The Goorkhas invaded Tibet in 1791 with an army of less than 20,000 men, and, advancing through the Kirong and Kuti passes, overcame the frontier guards, and carried all before them up to the town of Degarehi, where they plundered the famous lamasery of Teshu Lumbo, the residence of the Teshu Lama. Having achieved this success and gratified their desire for plunder, the Goorkhas remained inactive for some weeks, and wasted much precious time. The Tibetans did not attempt a resistance, which their want of military skill and their natural cowardice would have rendered futile, but they sent express messengers to Pekin entreating the Chinese emperor to send an army to their assistance. Keen Lung had not sent troops to put a stop to the raids committed on the frontier by the Goorkhas; but when he heard that a portion of his dominions was invaded, and that the predominance of his country in the holy land of Buddhism was in danger, he at once ordered his generals to collect all the forces they could and to march without delay to expel the foreign invader. He may have been urged to increased activity by the knowledge that the Tibetans had also appealed for aid to the British, and by his being ignorant what steps the Indian Government would take. Within a very short time of the receipt of the appeal for assistance a Chinese army of 70,000 men was dispatched into Tibet, and the Goorkhas, awed by this much larger force, began their retreat to their own country. Their march was delayed by the magnitude of their spoil, and before they had reached the passes through the Himalaya the Chinese army had caught them up. In the hope of securing a safe retreat for his baggage and booty, the Goorkha commander drew up his force in battle array on the plain of Tengri Maidan, outside the northern entrance of the Kirong Pass, and the Chinese general, Sund Fo, made his dispositions to attack the Goorkhas; but before delivering his attack he sent a letter reciting the outrages committed, and the terms on which his imperial master would grant peace. Among these were the restitution of the plunder and the surrender of the renegade lama, whose tales were said to have whetted the cupidity of the Goorkhas. A haughty reply was sent back, and the Chinese were told to do their worst.

In the desperately-contested battle which ensued the victory was decisive, and the Goorkha king at once sued for peace, which was readily granted, as the Chinese had attained all their objects, and Sund Fo was beginning to be anxious about his retreat owing to the approach of winter. When, therefore, the Goorkha embassy entered his camp Sund Fo granted terms which, although humiliating, were as favorable as a defeated people could expect. The Goorkhas took an oath to keep the peace toward their Tibetan neighbors, to acknowledge themselves the vassals of the Chinese emperor, to send a quinquennial embassy to China with the required tribute, and, lastly, to restore all the plunder that had been carried off from Teshu Lumbo. The exact language of this treaty has never been published, but its provisions have been faithfully kept. The Goorkhas still pay tribute to China; they have kept the peace with one insignificant exception ever since on the Tibetan border; and they are correctly included among the vassals of Pekin at the present time. The gratitude of the Tibetans, as well as the increased numbers of the Chinese garrison, insured the security of China's position in Tibet, and, as both the Tibetans and the Goorkhas considered that the English deserted them in their hour of need, for the latter when hard pressed also appealed to us for assistance, China has had no difficulty in effectually closing Tibet to Indian trade. China closed all the passes on the Nepaul frontier, and only allowed the quinquennial mission to enter by the Kirong Pass. Among all the military feats of China none is more remarkable or creditable than the overthrow of the Goorkhas, who are among the bravest of Indian races, and who, only twenty years after their crushing defeat by Sund Fo, gave the Anglo-Indian army and one of its best commanders, Sir David Ochterloney, an infinity of trouble in two doubtful and keenly contested campaigns.

Keen Lung's war in Formosa calls for only brief notice; but, in concluding our notice of his many military conquests and campaigns, some description must be given of the great rising in an island which Chinese writers have styled "the natural home of sedition and disaffection." In the year 1786 the islanders rose, slaughtered the Tartar garrisons, and completely subverted the emperor's authority. The revolt was one not on the part of the savage islanders themselves, but of the Chinese colonists, who were goaded into insurrection by the tyranny of the Manchu officials. At first it did not assume serious dimensions, and it seemed as if it would pass over without any general rising, when the orders of the Viceroy of Fuhkien, to which Formosa was dependent until made a separate province a few years ago, fanned the fuel of disaffection to a flame. The popular leader Ling organized the best government he could, and, when Keen Lung offered to negotiate, laid down three conditions as the basis of negotiation. They were that "the mandarin who had ordered the cruel measures of repression should be executed," that "Ling personally should never be required to go to Pekin," and, thirdly, that "the mandarins should abandon their old tyrannical ways." Keen Lung's terms were an unconditional surrender and trust in his clemency, which Ling, with perhaps the Miaotze incident fresh in his mind, refused. At first Keen Lung sent numerous but detached expeditions to reassert his power; but these were attacked in detail, and overwhelmed by Ling. Keen Lung said that "his heart was in suspense both by night and by day as to the issue of the war in Formosa"; but, undismayed by his reverses, the emperor sent 100,000 men under the command of a member of his family to crush the insurrection. Complete success was attained by weight of numbers, and Formosa was restored to its proper position in the empire.

A rising in Szchuen, which may be considered from some of its features the precursor of the Taeping Rebellion, and the first outbreak of the Tungan Mohammedans in the northwest, whom Keen Lung wished to massacre, marked the close of this long reign, which was rendered remarkable by so many military triumphs. The reputation of the Chinese empire was raised to the highest point, and maintained there by the capacity and energy of this 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 evidences of military proficiency, of irresistible determination, and of personal valor not easily surpassed, were too many and too apparent to justify any in ignoring the solid claims of China to rank as the first military country in Asia--a position which, despite the appearance of England and Russia in that continent, she still retains, and which must eventually enable her to exercise a superior voice in the arrangement of its affairs to that of either of her great and at present more powerful and better prepared neighbors.