Chapter VII - The Ming Dynasty
Having expelled the Mongols, Choo assumed the style of Hongwou, and he gave his dynasty the name of Ming, which signifies "bright." He then rewarded his generals and officers with titles and pecuniary grants, and in 1369, the first year of his reign after the capture of Pekin, he erected a temple or hall in that city in honor of the generals who had been slain, while vacant places were left for the statues of those generals who still held command. But while he rewarded his army, Hongwou very carefully avoided giving his government a military character, knowing that the Chinese resent the superiority of military officials, and he devoted his main efforts to placing the civil administration on its old and national basis. In this he received the cordial support of the Chinese themselves, who had been kept in the background by their late conquerors, whose administration was essentially military. Hongwou also patronized literature, and endowed the celebrated Hanlin College, which was neglected after the death of Kublai. He at once provided a literary task of great magnitude in the history of the Yuen dynasty, which was intrusted to a commission of eighteen writers. But a still greater literary work was accomplished in the codified Book of Laws, which is known as the Pandects of Yunglo, and which not merely simplified the administration of the law, but also gave the people some idea of the laws under which they lived. He also passed a great measure of gratuitous national education, and, in order to carry out this reform in a thoroughly successful manner, he appointed all the masters himself. He also founded many public libraries, and he wished to establish one in every town, but this was beyond the extent of his power. Not content with providing for the minds of his subjects, Hongwou did his utmost to supply the needs of the aged. He cut down the court expenses and issued sumptuary laws, so that he might devote the sums thus economized to the support of the aged and sick. His last instructions to the new officials, on proceeding to their posts, were to "take particular care of the aged and the orphan." Thus did he show that the Chinese had found in him a ruler who would revive the ancient glories of the kingdom.
The frugality and modesty of his court have already been referred to. The later Mongols were fond of a lavish display, and expended large sums on banquets and amusements. At Pekin one of their emperors had erected in the grounds of the palace a lofty tower of porcelain, at enormous expense, and had arranged an ingenious contrivance at its base for denoting the time. Two statues sounded a bell and struck a drum at every hour. When Hongwou saw this edifice, he exclaimed, "How is it possible for men to neglect the most important affairs of life for the sole object of devoting their attention to useless buildings? If the Mongols in place of amusing themselves with these trifles had applied their energies to the task of contenting the people, would they not have preserved the scepter in their family?" He then ordered that this building should be razed to the ground. Nor did this action stand alone. He reduced the size of the harem maintained by all the Chinese as well as the Mongol rulers, and he instituted a rigid economy in all matters of state ceremonial. Changtu, the Xanadu of Coleridge, the famous summer palace of Kublai, had been destroyed during the campaigns with the Mongols, and Hongwou systematically discouraged any attempt to embellish the northern capital, Pekin, which, under the Kin and Yuen dynasties, had become identified with foreign rulers. Pekin, during the whole of the Ming dynasty, was only a second-rate city, and all the attention of the Ming rulers was given to the embellishment of Nankin, the truly national capital of China.
The expulsion of the Mongols beyond the Great Wall and the death of Chunti, the last of the Yuen emperors, by no means ended the struggle between the Chinese and their late northern conquerors. The whole of the reign of Hongwou was taken up with a war for the supremacy of his authority and the security of his frontiers, in which he, indeed, took little personal part, but which was carried on under his directions by his great generals, Suta and Fuyuta. The former of these generals was engaged for nearly twenty years, from 1368 to 1385, in constant war with the Mongols. His first campaign, fought when the Chinese were in the full flush of success, resulted in the brilliant and almost bloodless conquest of the province of Shansi. The neighboring province of Shensi, which is separated from the other by the river Hoangho, was at the time held by a semi-independent Mongol governor named Lissechi, who believed that he could hold his ground against the Mings. The principal fact upon which this hope was based was the breadth and assumed impassability of that river. Lissechi believed that this natural advantage would enable him to hold out indefinitely against the superior numbers of the Chinese armies. But his hope was vain if not unreasonable. The Chinese crossed the Hoangho on a bridge of junks, and Tsinyuen, which Lissechi had made his capital, surrendered without a blow. Lissechi abandoned one fortress after another on the approach of Suta. Expelled from Shensi he hoped to find shelter and safety in the adjoining province of Kansuh, where he took up his residence at Lintao. For a moment the advance of the Chinese army was arrested while a great council of war was held to decide the further course of the campaign. The majority of the council favored the suggestion that did not involve immediate action, and wished Suta to abandon the pursuit of Lissechi and complete the conquest of Shensi, where several fortresses still held out. But Suta was of a more resolute temper, and resolved to ignore the decision of the council and to pursue Lissechi to Lintao. The vigor of Suta's decision was matched by the rapidity of his march. Before Lissechi had made any arrangements to stand a siege he found himself surrounded at Lintao by the Ming army. In this plight he was obliged to throw himself on the mercy of the victor, who sent him to the capital, where Hongwou granted him his life and a small pension.
The overthrow of Lissechi prepared the way for the more formidable enterprise against Ninghia, where the Mongols had drawn their remaining power to a head. Ninghia, the old capital of Tangut, is situated in the north of Kansuh, on the western bank of the Hoangho, and the Great Wall passes through it. Strongly fortified and admirably placed, the Mongols, so long as they possessed this town with its gates through the Great Wall, might hope to recover what they had lost, and to make a fresh bid for power in Northern China. North and west of Ninghia stretched the desert, but while it continued in their possession the Mongols remained on the threshold of China and held open a door through which their kinsmen from the Amour and Central Asia might yet re-enter to revive the feats of Genghis and Bayan. Suta determined to gain this place as speedily as possible. Midway between Lintao and Ninghia is the fortified town of Kingyang, which was held by a strong Mongol garrison. Suta laid close siege to this town, the governor of which had only time to send off a pressing appeal for aid to Kuku Timour, the governor at Ninghia, before he was shut in on all sides by the Ming army. Kuku Timour apparently did his best to aid his compatriot, but his forces were not sufficient to oppose those of Suta in the open field, and Kingyang was at last reduced to such straits that the garrison is said to have been compelled to use the slain as food. At last the place made an unconditional surrender, and the commandant was executed, not on account of his stubborn defense, but because at the beginning of the siege he had said he would surrender and had not kept his word. After the fall of Kingyang the Chinese troops were granted a well-earned rest, and Suta visited Nankin to describe the campaign to Hongwou.
The departure of Suta emboldened Kuku Timour so far as to lead him to take the field, and he hastened to attack the town of Lanchefoo, the capital of Kansuh, where there was only a small garrison. Notwithstanding this the place offered a stout resistance, but the Mongols gained a decisive success over a body of troops sent to its relief. This force was annihilated and its general taken prisoner. The Mongols thought to terrify the garrison by parading this general, whose name should be preserved, Yukwang, before the walls, but he baffled their purpose by shouting out, "Be of good courage, Suta is coming to your rescue." Yukwang was cut to pieces, but his timely and courageous exclamation, like that of D'Assas, saved his countrymen. Soon after this incident Suta reached the scene of action, and on his approach Kuku Timour broke up his camp and retired to Ninghia. The Chinese commander then hastened to occupy the towns of Souchow and Kia-yu-kwan, important as being the southern extremity of the Great Wall, and as isolating Ninghia on the west. Their loss was so serious that the Mongol chief felt compelled to risk a general engagement. The battle was keenly contested, and at one moment it seemed as if success was going to declare itself in favor of the Mongols. But Suta had sent a large part of his force to attack the Mongol rear, and when this movement was completely executed, he assailed the Mongol position at the head of all his troops. The struggle soon became a massacre, and it is said that as many as 80,000 Mongols were slain, while Kuku Timour, thinking Ninghia no longer safe, fled northward to the Amour. The success of Suta was heightened and rendered complete by the capture of a large number of the ex-Mongol ruling family by Ly Wenchong, another of the principal generals of Hongwou. Among the prisoners was the eldest grandson of Chunti, and several of the ministers advised that he should be put to death. But Hongwou instead conferred on him a minor title of nobility, and expressed his policy in a speech equally creditable to his wisdom as a statesman and his heart as a man:
"The last ruler of the Yuens took heed only of his pleasures. The great, profiting by his indolence, thought of nothing save of how to enrich themselves; the public treasures being exhausted by their malpractices, it needed only a few years of dearth to reduce the people to distress, and the excessive tyranny of those who governed them led to the forming of parties which disturbed the empire even to its foundations. Touched by the misfortunes with which I saw them oppressed, I took up arms, not so much against the Yuens as against the rebels who were engaged in war with them. It was over the same foe that I gained my first successes. And if the Yuen prince had not departed from the rules of wise government in order to give himself up to his pleasures, and had the magnates of his court performed their duty, would all honorable men have taken up arms as they did and declared against him? The misconduct of the race brought me a large number of partisans who were convinced of the rectitude of my intentions, and it was from their hands and not from those of the Yuens that I received the empire. If Heaven had not favored me should I have succeeded in destroying with such ease those who withdrew into the desert of Shamo? We read in the Chiking that after the destruction of the Chang family there remained more than ten thousand of their descendants who submitted themselves to the Chow, because it was the will of Heaven. Cannot men respect its decrees? Let them put in the public treasure-house all the spoil brought back from Tartary, so that it may serve to alleviate the people's wants. And with regard to Maitilipala (Chunti's grandson), although former ages supply examples of similar sacrifice, did Wou Wang, I ask you, when exterminating the Chang family, resort to this barbarous policy? The Yuen princes were the masters of this empire for nearly one hundred years, and my forefathers were their subjects, and even although it were the constant practice to treat in this fashion the princes of a dynasty which has ceased to reign, yet could I not induce myself to adopt it."
These noble sentiments, to which there is nothing contradictory in the whole life of Hongwou, would alone place his reign high among the most civilizing and humanly interesting epochs in Chinese history. To his people he appeared as a real benefactor as well as a just prince. He was ever studious of their interests, knowing that their happiness depended on what might seem trivial matters, as well as in showy feats of arms and high policy. He simplified the transit of salt, that essential article of life, to provinces where its production was scanty, and when dearth fell on the land he devoted all the resources of his treasury to its mitigation. His thoughtfulness for his soldiers was shown by sending fur coats to all the soldiers in garrison at Ninghia where the winter was exceptionally severe. A final instance of his justice and consideration may be cited in his ordering certain Mongol colonies established in Southern China, to whom the climate proved uncongenial, to be sent back at his expense to their northern homes, when his ministers exhorted him to proceed to extremities against them and to root them out by fire and sword.
The pacification of the northern borders was followed by the dispatch of troops into the southern provinces of Szchuen and Yunnan, where officials appointed by the Mongols still exercised authority. One of these had incurred the wrath of Hongwou by assuming a royal style and proclaiming himself King of Hia. He was soon convinced of the folly of taking a title which he had not the power to maintain, and the conquest of Szchuen was so easily effected that it would not call for mention if it were not rendered interesting as providing Hongwou's other great general Fuyuta with the first opportunity of displaying his skill as a commander. The self-created King of Hia presented himself laden with chains at the Chinese camp and begged the favor of his life. The conquest of Szchuen was little more than completed when the attention of Hongwou was again directed to the northwest frontier, where Kuku Timour was making one more effort to recover the footing he had lost on the fringe of the Celestial Empire, and for a time fortune favored his enterprise. Even when Suta arrived upon the scene and took the command of the Chinese forces in person, the Mongols more than held their own. Twice did Suta attack the strong position taken up by the Mongol chief in the desert, and twice was his assault repulsed with heavy loss. A detachment under one of his lieutenants was surprised in the desert and annihilated. Supplies were difficult to obtain, and discouraged by defeat and the scarcity of food the Chinese army was placed in an extremely dangerous position. Out of this dilemma it was rescued by the heroic Fuyuta, who, on the news of the Mongol recrudescence, had marched northward at the head of the army with which he had conquered Szchuen. He advanced boldly into the desert, operated on the flank and in the rear of Kuku Timour, vanquished the Mongols in many engagements, and so monopolized their attention that Suta was able to retire in safety and without loss. The war terminated with the Chinese maintaining all their posts on the frontier, and the retreat of the Mongols, who had suffered too heavy a loss to feel elated at their repulse of Suta. At the same time no solid peace had been obtained, and the Mongols continued to harass the borders, and to exact blackmail from all who traversed the desert. When Hongwou endeavored to attain a settlement by a stroke of policy his efforts were not more successful. His kind reception of the Mongol Prince Maitilipala has been referred to, and about the year 1374 he sent him back to Mongolia, in the hope that he would prove a friendly neighbor on his father's death. The gratitude of Maitilipala seems to have been unaffected; but, although he was the legitimate heir, the Mongols refused to recognize him as Khan on the death of his father. Gradually tranquillity settled down on those borders. The Chinese officials were content to leave the Mongols alone, and the Mongols abandoned their customary raids into Chinese territory. The death of Kuku Timour was followed by the abandonment of all ideas of reviving Mongol authority in China. Not long after that event died the great general, Suta, of whom the national historians give the following glowing description which merits preservation: "Suta spoke little and was endowed with great penetration. He was always on good terms with the generals acting with him, sharing the good and bad fortune alike of his soldiers, of whom there was not one who, touched by his kindness, would not have done his duty to the death. He was not less pronounced in his modesty. He had conquered a capital, three provinces, several hundred towns, and on the very day of his return to court from these triumphs he went without show and without retinue to his own house, received there some learned professors and discussed various subjects with them. Throughout his life he was in the presence of the emperor respectful, and so reserved that one might have doubted his capacity to speak." Hongwou was in the habit of speaking thus in his praise: "My orders received, he forthwith departed; his task accomplished, he returned without pride and without boasting. He loves not women, he does not amass wealth. A man of strict integrity, without the slightest stain, as pure and clear as the sun and moon, there is none like my first general Suta."
Hongwou had the satisfaction of restoring amicable relations with the King of Corea, a state in which the Chinese have always taken naturally enough a great interest from its proximity, as well as from an apprehension that the Japanese might make use of it as a vantage ground for the invasion of the continent. The King of Corea sent a formal embassy to Nankin, and when he died his son asked for and received investiture in his authority with the royal yellow robes at the hands of the Ming ruler. During this period it will be convenient here to note that the ruling power in Corea passed from the old royal family to the minister Li Chungwei, who was the ancestor of the present king. The last military episode of the reign of Hongwou was the conquest of Yunnan, which had been left over after the recovery of Szchuen, in consequence of the fresh outbreak of the Mongols in the north. This task was intrusted to Fuyuta, who at the head of an army of 100,000 men, divided into two corps, invaded Yunnan. The prince of that state offered the utmost resistance he could, but in the one great battle of the war his army fighting bravely was overthrown, and he was compelled to abandon his capital. The conquest of Yunnan completed the pacification of the empire, and the authority of Hongwou was unchallenged from the borders of Burmah to the Great Wall and the Corean frontier. The population of the empire thus restored did not much exceed sixty millions. The last ten years of the reign of Hongwou were passed in tranquillity, marred by only one unpleasant incident, the mutiny of a portion of his army under an ambitious general. The plot was discovered in good time, but it is said that the emperor did not consider the exigencies of the case to be met until he had executed twenty thousand of the mutineers.
In 1398 Hongwou was attacked with the illness which ended his life. He was then in his seventy-first year, and had reigned more than thirty years since his proclamation of the Ming dynasty at Nankin. The Emperor Keen Lung, in his history of the Mings, states that Hongwou possessed most of the virtues and few of the vices of mankind. He was brave, patient under suffering, far-seeing, studious of his people's welfare, and generous and forbearing toward his enemies. It is not surprising that he succeeded in establishing the Ming dynasty on a firm and popular basis, and that his family have been better beloved in China than any dynasty with the possible exception of the Hans. In his will, which is a remarkable document, he recites the principal events of his reign, how he had "pacified the empire and restored its ancient splendor." With the view of providing for the stability of his empire, he chose as his successor his grandson Chuwen, because he had remarked in him much prudence, a gentle disposition, good intelligence, and a readiness to accept advice. He also selected him because he was the eldest son of his eldest son, and as his other sons might be disposed to dispute their nephew's authority he ordered them to remain at their posts, and not to come to the capital on his death. They were also enjoined to show the new emperor all the respect and docility owed by subjects to their sovereign. Through these timely precautions Chuwen, who was only sixteen years of age, was proclaimed emperor without any opposition, and took the title of Kien Wenti.
Hongwou had rightly divined that his sons might prove a thorn in the side of his successor, and his policy of employing them in posts at a distance from the capital was only half successful in attaining its object. If it kept them at a distance it also strengthened their feeling of independence, and enabled them to collect their forces without attracting much attention. Wenti, as it is most convenient to call the new emperor, felt obliged to send formal invitations to his uncles to attend the obsequies of their father. Most of them had the tact to perceive that the invitation was dictated by regard for decency, and not by a wish that it should be accepted, and gave the simplest excuse for not attending the funeral. But Ty, Prince of Yen, the most powerful and ambitious of them all, declared that he accepted the emperor's invitation. This decision raised quite a flutter of excitement, almost amounting to consternation, at Nankin, where the Prince of Yen was regarded as a bitter and vindictive enemy. The only way Wenti saw out of this dilemma was to send his uncle a special intimation that his presence at the capital would not be desirable. Before he had been many weeks on the throne Wenti was thus brought into open conflict with the most powerful and ambitious of all his relatives. He resolved, under the advice of his ministers, to treat all his uncles as his enemies, and he sent his officers with armies at their back to depose them, and bring them as prisoners to his court. Five of his uncles were thus summarily dealt with, one committed suicide, and the other four were degraded to the rank of the people. But the Prince of Yen was too formidable to be tackled in this fashion. Taking warning from the fate of his brothers, he collected all the troops he could, prepared to defend his position against the emperor, and issued a proclamation stating that it was lawful for subjects to revolt for the purpose of removing the pernicious advisers of the sovereign. The last was, he announced, the cause of his taking up arms, and he disclaimed any motive of ambitious turbulence for raising his standard. He said, "I am endeavoring to avert the ruin of my family, and to maintain the emperor on a throne which is placed in jeopardy by the acts of traitors. My cause ought, therefore, to be that of all those who keep the blood of the great Hong-wou, now falsely aspersed, in affectionate remembrance." A large number of the inhabitants of the northern provinces joined his side, and proclaimed him as "The Prince." Wenti had recourse to arms to bring his uncle back to his allegiance, and a civil war began, which was carried on, with exceptional bitterness, during five years. The resources of the emperor, in men and money, were the superior, but he did not seem able to turn them to good account; and the prince's troops were generally victorious, and his power gradually increased. In the year 1401 both sides concentrated all their strength for deciding the contest by a single trial of arms. The two armies numbered several hundred thousand men, and it is stated that the imperial force alone mustered 600,000 strong. The battle--which was fought at Techow in Shantung--considering the numbers engaged, it is not surprising to learn, lasted several days, and its fortune alternated from one side to the other. At last victory declared for the prince, and the imperial army was driven in rout from the field with the loss of 100,000 men.
After this great victory the further progress of the prince was arrested by a capable general named Chinyong, who succeeded in gaining one great victory. If Wenti had known how to profit by this success he might have turned the course of the struggle permanently in his own favor. But instead of profiting by his good fortune, Wenti, believing that all danger from the prince was at an end, resumed his old practices, and reinstated two of the most obnoxious of his ministers, whom he had disgraced in a fit of apprehension. Undoubtedly this step raised against him a fresh storm of unpopularity, and at the same time brought many supporters to his uncle, who, even after the serious disaster described, found himself stronger than he had been before. The struggle must have shown little signs of a decisive issue, for in 1402 the prince made a voluntary offer of peace, with a view to putting an end to all strife and of giving the empire peace; but Wenti could not make up his mind to forgive him. The success of his generals in the earlier part of the struggle seemed to warrant the belief that there was no reason in prudence for coming to terms with his rebellious uncle, and that he would succeed in establishing his indisputable supremacy. The prince seemed reduced to such straits that he had to give his army the option of retreat. Addressing his soldiers he said: "I know how to advance, but not to retreat"; but his army decided to return to their homes in the north, when the extraordinary and unexpected retreat of the greater part of the army of Wenti revived their courage and induced them to follow their leader through one more encounter. Like Frederick the Great, the Prince of Yen was never greater than in defeat. He surprised the lately victorious army of Wenti, smashed it in pieces, and captured Tingan, the emperor's best general. The occupation of Nankin and the abdication of Wenti followed this victory in rapid succession. Afraid to trust himself to the mercy of his relative, he fled, disguised as a priest, to Yunnan, where he passed his life ignominiously for forty years, and his identity was only discovered after that lapse of time by his publishing, in his new character of a Buddhist priest, a poem reciting and lamenting the misfortunes of Wenti. Then he was removed to Pekin, where he died in honorable confinement. As a priest he seems to have been more fortunate than as a ruler, and history contains no more striking example of happiness being found in a private station when unattainable on a throne.
After some hesitation the Prince of Yen allowed himself to be proclaimed emperor, and as such he is best known as Yonglo, a name signifying "Eternal Joy." Considering his many declarations that his only ambition was to reform and not to destroy the administration of his nephew, his first act obliterating the reign of Wenti from the records and constituting himself the immediate successor of Hongwou was not calculated to support his alleged indifference to power. He was scarcely seated on the throne before he was involved in serious troubles on both his northern and his southern frontiers. In Mongolia he attempted to assert a formal supremacy over the khans through the person of an adventurer named Kulitchi, but the agent was unable to fulfill his promises, and met with a speedy overthrow. In Tonquin an ambitious minister named Likimao deposed his master and established himself as ruler in his place. The emperor sent an army to bring him to his senses, and it met with such rapid success that the Chinese were encouraged to annex Tonquin and convert it into a province of the empire. When Yonglo's plans failed on the steppe he was drawn into a struggle with the Mongols, which necessitated annual expeditions until he died. During the last of these he advanced as far as the Kerulon, and on his return march he died in his camp at the age of sixty-five. Although he bore arms so long against the head of the state there is no doubt that he greatly consolidated the power of the Mings, which he extended on one side to the Amour and on the other to the Songcoi. It was during his reign that Tamerlane contemplated the reconquest of China, and perhaps it was well for Yonglo that that great commander died when he had traversed only a few stages of his march to the Great Wall. One of his sons succeeded Yonglo as emperor, but he only reigned under the style of Gintsong for a few months.
Then Suentsong, the son of Gintsong, occupied the throne, and during his reign a vital question affecting the constitution of the civil service, and through it the whole administration of the country, was brought forward, and fortunately settled without recourse to blows, as was at one time feared would be the case. Before his reign the public examinations had been open to candidates from all parts of the empire, and it had become noticeable that all the honors were being carried off by students from the southern provinces, who were of quicker intelligence than those of the north. It seemed as if in the course of a short time all the posts would be held by them, and that the natives of the provinces north of the Hoangho would be gradually driven out of the service. Naturally this marked tendency led to much agitation in the north, and a very bitter feeling was spreading when Suentsong and his minister took up the matter and proceeded to apply a sound practical remedy. After a commission of inquiry had certified to the reality of the evil, Suentsong decreed that all competitors for literary honors should be restricted to their native districts, and that for the purpose of the competitive examinations China should be divided into three separate divisions, one for the north, another for the center, and the third for the south. The firmness shown by the Emperor Suentsong in this matter was equally conspicuous in his dealings with an uncle, who showed some inclination to revolt. He took the field in person, and before the country was generally aware of the revolt, Suentsong was conducting his relative to a state prison. The rest of Suentsong's reign was peaceful and prosperous, and he left the crown to his son, Yngtsong, a child eight years old.
During his minority the governing authority was exercised by his grandmother, the Empress Changchi, the mother of the Emperor Suentsong. At first it seemed as if there would be a struggle for power between her and the eunuch Wangchin, who had gained the affections of the young emperor; but after she had denounced him before the court and called for his execution, from which fate he was only rescued by the tears and supplications of the young sovereign, the feud was composed by Wangchin gaining such an ascendency over the empress that she made him her associate in the regency. Unfortunately Wangchin did not prove a wise or able administrator. He thought more of the sweets of office than of the duties of his lofty station. He appointed his relations and creatures to the highest civil and military posts without regard to their qualifications or ability. To his arrogance was directly due the commencement of a disastrous war with Yesien, the most powerful of the Mongol chiefs of the day. When that prince sent the usual presents to the Chinese capital, and made the customary request for a Chinese princess as wife, Wangchin appropriated the gifts for himself and sent back a haughty refusal to Yesien's petition, although it was both customary and rarely refused. Such a reception was tantamount to a declaration of war, and Yesien, who had already been tempted by the apparent weakness of the Chinese frontier to resume the raids which were so popular with the nomadic tribes of the desert, gathered his fighting men together and invaded China. Alarmed by the storm he had raised, Wangchin still endeavored to meet it, and summoning all the garrisons in the north to his aid, he placed himself at the head of an army computed to number half a million of men. In the hope of inspiring his force with confidence he took the boy-emperor, Yngtsong, with him, but his own incompetence nullified the value of numbers, and rendered the presence of the emperor the cause of additional ignominy instead of the inspiration of invincible confidence. The vast and unwieldy Chinese army took up a false position at a place named Toumon, and it is affirmed that the position was so bad that Yesien feared that it must cover a ruse. He accordingly sent some of his officers to propose an armistice, but really to inspect the Chinese lines. They returned to say that there was no concealment, and that if an attack were made at once the Chinese army lay at his mercy. Yesien delayed not a moment in delivering his attack, and it was completely successful. The very numbers of the Chinese, in a confined position, added to their discomfiture, and after a few hours' fighting the battle became a massacre and a rout. Wangchin, the cause of all this ruin, was killed by Fanchong, the commander of the imperial guards, and the youthful ruler, Yngtsong, was taken prisoner. There has rarely been a more disastrous day in the long annals of the Chinese empire than the rout at Toumon.
Then Yesien returned to his camp on the Toula, taking his prisoner with him, and announcing that he would only restore him for a ransom of 100 taels of gold, 200 taels of silver, and 200 pieces of the finest silk. For some unknown reason the Empress Changchi did not feel disposed to pay this comparatively low ransom, and instead of reclaiming Yngtsong from his conqueror she placed his brother, Kingti, on the throne. The struggle with the Mongols under Yesien continued, but his attention was distracted from China by his desire to become the great Khan of the Mongols, a title still held by his brother-in-law, Thotho Timour, of the House of Genghis. Yesien, suddenly releasing of his own accord Yngtsong--who returned to Pekin--hastened to the Kerulon country, where he overthrew and assassinated Thotho Timour, and was in turn himself slain by another chieftain. While the Mongol was thus pursuing his own ambition, and reaching the violent death which forms so common a feature in the history of his family, the unfortunate Yngtsong returned to China, where, on the refusal of his brother Kingti to resign the throne, he sank quietly into private life. Kingti died seven years after his brother's return, and then, failing a better or nearer prince, Yngtsong was brought from his confinement and restored to the throne. He reigned eight years after his restoration, but he never possessed any real power, his authority being wielded by unscrupulous ministers, who stained his reign by the execution of Yukien, the most honest and capable general of the period. If his reign was not remarkable for political or military vigor, some useful reforms appear to have been instituted. Among others may be named the formation of state farms on waste or confiscated lands, the establishment of military schools for teaching archery and horsemanship, and the completion of some useful and elaborate educational works, of which a geography of China, in ninety volumes, is the most famous.
Yngtsong died in the year 1465, and was succeeded by his son, Hientsong, who began his reign with acts of filial devotion that attracted the sympathy of his subjects. He also rendered posthumous honors to the ill- used general, Yukien, and established his fame as a national benefactor. During the twenty-eight years that he occupied the throne he was engaged in a number of petty wars, none of which requires specific mention. The only unpopular measure associated with his name was the creation of a Grand Council of Eunuchs, to which was referred all questions of capital punishment, and this body soon acquired a power which made it resemble the tyrannical and irresponsible British Star Chamber. After five years this institution became so unpopular and was so deeply execrated by the nation that Hientsong, however reluctantly, had to abolish his own creation, and acquiesce in the execution of some of its most active members.
During Hientsong's reign a systematic attempt was made to work the gold mines reputed to exist in Central China, but although half a million men were employed upon them it is stated that the find did not exceed thirty ounces. More useful work was accomplished in the building of a canal from Pekin to the Peiho, which thus enabled grain junks to reach the northern capital by the Euho and Shaho canals from the Yangtsekiang. Another useful public work was the repairing of the Great Wall, effected along a considerable portion of its extent, by the efforts of 50,000 soldiers, which gave the Chinese a sense of increased security. In connection with this measure of defense, it may be stated that the Chinese advanced into Central Asia and occupied the town of Hami, which then and since has served them as a useful watch-tower in the direction of the west. The death of Hientsong occurred in 1487, at a moment when the success and prosperity of the country under the Mings may be described as having reached its height.
During the reign of his son and successor, Hiaotsong, matters progressed peacefully, for, although there was some fighting for the possession of Hami, which was coveted by several of the desert chiefs, but which remained during the whole of this reign subject to China, the empire was not involved in any great war. An insurrection of the black aborigines of the island of Hainan was put down without any very serious difficulty. These events do not throw any very clear light on the character and personality of Hiaotsong, who died in 1505 at the early age of thirty-six; but his care for his people, and his desire to alleviate the misfortunes that might befall his subjects, was shown by his ordering every district composed of ten villages to send in annually to a State granary, a specified quantity of grain, until 100,000 bushels had been stored in every such building throughout the country. The idea was an excellent one; but it is to be feared that a large portion of this grain was diverted to the use of the peculating officials, whence arose the phrase, "The emperor is full of pity, but the Court of Finance is like the never-dying worm which devours the richest crops." To Hiaotsong succeeded his son, Woutsong, during whose reign many misfortunes fell upon the land. The emperor's uncles had designs on his authority, but these fell through and came to naught, rather through Woutsong's good fortune than the excellence of his arrangements. In Szchuen a peasant war threatened to assume the dimensions of a rebellion, and in Pechihli bands of mounted robbers, or Hiangmas, raided the open country. He succeeded in suppressing these revolts, but his indifference to the disturbed state of his realm was shown by his passing most of his time in hunting expeditions beyond the Great Wall. His successors were to reap the result of this neglect of business for the pursuit of pleasure; and when he died in 1519, without leaving an heir, the outlook was beginning to look serious for the Ming dynasty. One event, and perhaps the most important of Woutsong's reign, calls for special mention, and that is the arrival at Canton of the first native of Europe to reach China by sea. Of course it will be recollected that Marco Polo and others reached the Mongol court by land, although the Venetian sailed from China on his embassy to southern India. In 1511, Raphael Perestralo sailed from Malacca to China, and in 1517 the Portuguese officer, Don Fernand Perez D'Andrade, arrived in the Canton River with a squadron, and was favorably received by the mandarins. D'Andrade visited Pekin, where he resided for some time as embassador. The commencement of intercourse between Europeans and China was thus effected most auspiciously; and it might have continued so but that a second Portuguese fleet appeared in Chinese waters, and committed there numerous outrages and acts of piracy. Upon this D'Andrade was arrested by order of Woutsong, and after undergoing imprisonment, was executed by his successor in 1523. It was a bad beginning for a connection which, after nearly four hundred years, is neither as stable nor as general as the strivers after perfection could desire.
The death of Woutsong without children, or any recognized heir, threatened to involve the realm in serious dangers; but the occasion was so critical that the members of the Ming family braced themselves to it, and under the auspices of the Empress Changchi, the widow of the late ruler, a secret council was held, when the grandson of the Emperor Hientsong, a youth of fourteen, was placed on the throne under the name of Chitsong. It is said that his mother gave him good advice on being raised from a private station to the lofty eminence of emperor, and that she told him that he was about to accept a heavy burden; but experience showed that he was unequal to it. Still, his shortcomings were preferable to a disputed succession. The earlier years of his reign were marked by some successes over the Tartars, and he received tribute from chiefs who had never paid it before. But Chitsong had little taste for the serious work of administration. He showed himself superstitious in matters of religion, and he cultivated poetry, and may even have persuaded himself that he was a poet. But he did not pay any heed to the advice of those among his ministers who urged him to take a serious view of his position, and to act in a manner worthy of his dignity. It is clear that his influence on the lot of his people, and even on the course of his country's history, was small, and such reigns as his inspire the regret expressed at there being no history of the Chinese people; but such a history is impossible.
It might be more instructive to trace the growth of thought among the masses, or to indicate the progress of civil and political freedom; yet, not only do the materials not exist for such a task, but those we possess all tend to show that there has been no growth to describe, no progress to be indicated, during these comparatively recent centuries. It is the peculiar and distinguishing characteristic of Chinese history that the people and their institutions have remained practically unchanged and the same from a very early period. Even the introduction of a foreign element has not tended to disturb the established order of things. The supreme ruler possesses the same attributes and discharges the same functions; the governing classes are chosen in the same manner; the people are bound in the same state of servitude, and enjoy the same practical liberty; all is now as it was. Neither under the Tangs nor the Sungs, under the Yuens nor the Mings, was there any change in national character or in political institutions to be noted or chronicled. The history of the empire has always been the fortunes of the dynasty, which has depended, in the first place, on the passive content of the subjects, and, in the second, on the success or failure of its external and internal wars. This condition of things may be disappointing to those who pride themselves on tracing the origin of a constitution and the growth of civil rights, and also would have a history of China a history of the Chinese people; although the fact is undoubted that there is no history of the Chinese people apart from that of their country to be recorded. The national institutions and character were formed, and had attained in all essentials their present state, more than two thousand years ago, or before the destruction of all trustworthy materials for the task by the burning of the ancient literature and chronicles of China. Without them we must fain content ourselves with the history of the country and the empire.
Chitsong was engaged in three serious operations beyond his frontier, one with a Tartar chief named Yenta, another with the Japanese, and the third in Cochin China. Yenta was of Mongol extraction, and enjoyed supreme power on the borders of Shansi. His brother was chief of the Ordus tribe, which dwells within the Chinese frontier. Changtu, the old residence of Kublai, was one of his camps, and it was said that he could bring 100,000 horsemen into the field. The success of his raids carried alarm through the province of Shansi, and during one of them he laid siege to the capital, Taiyuen. Then the emperor placed a reward on his head and offered an official post to the person who would rid him of his enemy by assassination. The offer failed to bring forward either a murderer or a patriot, and Yenta's hostility was increased by the personal nature of this attack, and perhaps by the apprehension of a sinister fate. He invaded China on a larger scale than ever, and carried his ravages to the southern extremity of Shansi, and returned laden with the spoil of forty districts, and bearing with him 200,000 prisoners to a northern captivity. After this success Yenta seems to have rested on his laurels, although he by no means gave up his raids, which, however, assumed more and more a local character. The Chinese annalists state that never was the frontier more disturbed, and even the establishment of horse fairs for the benefit of the Mongols failed to keep them quiet. In Cochin China the emperor gained some gratifying if not very important successes, and asserted his right as suzerain over several disobedient princes. But a more serious and less satisfactory question had to be settled on the side of Japan.
The Japanese had never forgiven the formidable and unprovoked invasion of their country by Kublai Khan. The Japanese are by nature a military nation, and the Chinese writers themselves describe them as "intrepid, inured to fatigue, despising life, and knowing well how to face death; although inferior in number a hundred of them would blush to flee before a thousand foreigners, and if they did they would not dare to return to their country. Sentiments such as these, which are instilled into them from their earliest childhood, render them terrible in battle." Emboldened by their success over the formidable Mongols the Japanese treated the Chinese with contempt, and fitted out piratical expeditions from time to time with the object of preying on the commerce and coasting towns of China. To guard against the descents of these enterprising islanders the Chinese had erected towers of defense along the coast, and had called out a militia which was more or less inefficient. On the main they did not so much as attempt to make a stand against their neighbors, whose war junks exercised undisputed authority on the Eastern Sea. While this strife continued a trade also sprang up between the two peoples, who share in an equal degree the commercial instinct; but as the Chinese government only admitted Japanese goods when brought by the embassador, who was sent every ten years from Japan, this trade could only be carried on by smuggling. A regular system was adopted to secure the greatest success and profit. The Japanese landed their goods on some island off the coast, whence the Chinese removed them at a safe and convenient moment to the mainland. The average value of the cargo of one of the small junks which carried on this trade is said to have been $20,000, so that it may be inferred that the profits were considerable. But the national antipathies would not be repressed by the profitable character of this trade, and the refusal of a Chinese merchant to give a Japanese the goods for which he had paid lit the embers of a war which went on for half a century, and which materially weakened the Ming power. During the last years of Chitsong's long reign of forty-five years this trouble showed signs of getting worse, although the Japanese confined their efforts to irregular and unexpected attacks on places on the coast, and did not attempt to wage a regular war. In the midst of these troubles, and when it was hoped that the exhortation of his ministers would produce some effect, Chitsong died, leaving behind him a will or public proclamation to be issued after his death, and which reads like a long confession of fault. Mea culpa, exclaimed this Eastern ruler at the misfortunes of his people and the calamities of his realm, but he could not propound a remedy for them.
His third son succeeded him as the Emperor Moutsong, and the character and capacity of this prince gave promise that his reign would be satisfactory if not glorious. Unfortunately for his family, and perhaps for his country, the public expectations were dispelled in his case by an early death. The six years during which he reigned were rendered remarkable by the conclusion of a stable peace with the Tartar Yenta, who accepted the title of a Prince of the Empire. Moutsong when he found that he was dying grew apprehensive lest the youth of his son might not stir up dissension and provoke that internal strife which had so often proved the bane of the empire and involved the wreck of many of its dynasties. He exhorted his ministers to stand by his son who was only a boy, to give him the best advice in their power, and to render him worthy of the throne. That the apprehensions of Moutsong were not without reason was clearly shown by the mishaps and calamities which occurred during the long reign of his son and successor Wanleh. With the death of Moutsong the period ends when it was possible to state that the majesty of the Mings remained undimmed, and that this truly national dynasty wielded with power and full authority the imperial mandate. When they had driven out the Mongol the Mings seem to have settled down into an ordinary and intensely national line of rulers. The successors of Hongwou did nothing great or noteworthy, but the Chinese acquiesced in their rule, and even showed that they possessed for it a special regard and affection.