China and the Manchus/Chapter V

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The fourth son of Kʽang Hsi came to the throne under the year-title of Yung Chêng (harmonious rectitude). He was confronted with serious difficulties from the very first. Dissatisfaction prevailed among his numerous brothers, at least one of whom may have felt that he had a better claim to rule than his junior in the family. This feeling culminated in a plot to dethrone Yung Chêng, which was, however, discovered in time, and resulted only in the degradation of the guilty brothers. The fact that among his opponents were native Christians—some say that the Jesuits were at the bottom of all the mischief—naturally influenced the Emperor against Christianity; no fewer than three hundred churches were destroyed, and all Catholic missionaries were thenceforward obliged to live either at Peking or at Macao. In 1732 he thought of expelling them altogether; but finding that they were enthusiastic teachers of filial piety, he left them alone, merely prohibiting fresh recruits from coming to China.

These domestic troubles were followed by a serious rebellion in Kokonor, which was not fully suppressed until the next reign; also by an outbreak among the aborigines of Kueichow and Yünnan, which lasted until three years later, when the tribesmen were brought under Imperial rule.

A Portuguese envoy, named Magalhaens (or Magaillans), visited Peking in 1727, bearing presents for the Emperor; but nothing very much resulted from his mission. In 1730, in addition to terrible floods, there was a severe earthquake, which lasted ten days, and in which one hundred thousand persons are said to have lost their lives. In 1735, Yung Chêng's reign came to an end amid sounds of a further outbreak of the aborigines in Kueichow. Before his death, he named his fourth son, then only fifteen, as his successor, under the regency of two of the boy's uncles and two Grand Secretaries, one of the latter being a distinguished scholar, who was entrusted with the preparation of the history of the Ming dynasty. Yung Chêng's name has always been somewhat unfairly associated by foreigners with a bitter hostility to the Catholic priests of his day, simply because he refused to allow them a free hand in matters outside their proper sphere. Altogether, it may be said that he was a just and public-spirited ruler, anxious for his people's welfare. He hated war, and failed to carry on his father's vigorous policy in Central Asia; nevertheless, by 1730, Chinese rule extended to the Laos border, and the Shan States paid tribute. He was a man of letters, and completed some of his father's undertakings.

Yung Chêng's successor was twenty-five years of age when he came to the throne with the year-title of Chʽien Lung (or Kien Long = enduring glory), and one of his earliest acts was to forbid the propagation of Christian doctrine, a prohibition which developed between 1746 and 1785 into active persecution of its adherents. The first ten years of this reign were spent chiefly in internal reorganization; the remainder, which covered half a century, was almost a continuous succession of wars. The aborigines of Kueichow, known as the Miao-tzŭ, offered a determined resistance to all attempts to bring them under the regular administration; and although they were ultimately conquered, it was deemed advisable not to insist upon the adoption of the queue, and also to leave them a considerable measure of self-government. Acting under Manchu guidance, chiefs and leading tribesmen were entrusted with important executive offices; they had to keep the peace among their people, and to collect the revenue of local produce to be forwarded to Peking. These posts were hereditary. On the death of the father, the eldest son proceeded to Peking and received his appointment in person, together with his seal of office. Failing sons or their children, brothers had the right of succession.

In 1741 the population was estimated by Père Amiot, S.J., at over one hundred and fifty millions, as against twenty-one million households in 1701.

In 1753 there was trouble in Ili. After the death of Galdan II., son of Arabtan, an attempt was made by one, Amursana, to usurp the principality. He was, however, driven out, and fled to Peking, where he was favourably received by Chʽien Lung, and an army was sent to reinstate him. With the subsequent settlement, under which he was to have only one quarter of Ili, Amursana was profoundly dissatisfied, and took the earliest opportunity of turning on his benefactors. He murdered the Manchu-Chinese garrison and all the other Chinese he could find, and proclaimed himself khan of the Eleuths. His triumph was short-lived; another army was sent from Peking, this time against him, and he fled into Russian territory, dying there soon afterwards of smallpox. This campaign was lavishly illustrated by Chinese artists, who produced a series of realistic pictures of the battles and skirmishes fought by Chʽien Lung's victorious troops. How far these were prepared under the guidance of the Jesuit Fathers does not seem to be known. About sixty years previously, under the reign of Kʽang Hsi, the Jesuits had carried out extensive surveys, and had drawn fairly accurate maps of Chinese territory, which had been sent to Paris and there engraved on copper by order of Louis XIV. In like manner, the pictures now in question were forwarded to Paris and engraved, between 1769 and 1774, by skilled draughtsmen, as may be gathered from the lettering at the foot of each; for instance—Gravé par J. P. Le Bas, graveur du cabinet du roi (Cambridge University Library).

Kuldja and Kashgaria were next added to the empire, and Manchu supremacy was established in Tibet. Burma and Nepal were forced to pay tribute, after a disastrous war (1766-1770) with the former country, in which a Chinese army had been almost exterminated; rebellions in Ssŭchʽuan (1770), Shantung (1777), and Formosa (1786) were suppressed.

Early in the eighteenth century, the Turguts, a branch of the Kalmuck Tartars, unable to endure the oppressive tyranny of their rulers, trekked into Russia, and settled on the banks of the Volga. Some seventy years later, once more finding the burden of taxation too heavy, they again organized a trek upon a colossal scale. Turning their faces eastward, they spent a whole year of fearful suffering and privation in reaching the confines of Ili, a terribly diminished host. There they received a district, and were placed under the jurisdiction of a khan. This journey has been dramatically described by De Quincey in an essay entitled "Revolt of the Tartars, or Flight of the Kalmuck Khan and his people from the Russian territories to the Frontiers of China." Of this contribution to literature it is only necessary to remark that the scenes described, and especially the numbers mentioned, must be credited chiefly to the perfervid imagination of the essayist, and also to certain not very trustworthy documents sent home by Père Amiot. It is probable that about one hundred and sixty thousand Turguts set out on that long march, of whom only some seventy thousand reached their goal.

In 1781, the Dungans (or Tungans) of Shensi broke into open rebellion, which was suppressed only after huge losses to the Imperialists. These Dungans were Mahometan subjects of China, who in very early times had colonized, under the name of Gao-tchan, in Kansuh and Shensi, and subsequently spread westward into Turkestan. Some say that they were a distinct race, who, in the fifth and sixth centuries, occupied the Tian Shan range, with their capital at Harashar. The name, however, means, in the dialect of Chinese Tartary, "converts," that is, to Mahometanism, to which they were converted in the days of Timour by an Arabian adventurer. We shall hear of them again in a still more serious connexion.

Eight years later there was a revolution in Cochin-China. The king fled to China, and Chʽien Lung promptly espoused his cause, sending an army to effect his restoration. This was no sooner accomplished than the chief Minister rebelled, and, rapidly attracting large numbers to his standard, succeeded in cutting off the retreat of the Chinese force. Chʽien Lung then sent another army, whereupon the rebel Minister submitted, and humbled himself so completely that the Emperor appointed him to be king instead of the other. After this, the Annamese continued to forward tribute, but it was deemed advisable to cease from further interference with their government.

The next trouble was initiated by the Gurkhas, who, in 1790, raided Tibet. On being defeated and pursued by a Chinese army, they gave up all the booty taken, and entered into an agreement to pay tribute once every five years.

The year 1793 was remarkable for the arrival of an English embassy under Lord Macartney, who was received in audience by the Emperor at Jehol (=hot river), an Imperial summer residence lying about a hundred miles north of Peking, beyond the Great Wall. It had been built in 1780 after the model of the palace of the Panshen Erdeni at Tashilumbo, in Tibet, when that functionary, the spiritual ruler of Tibet, as opposed to the Dalai Lama, who is the secular ruler, proceeded to Peking to be present on the seventieth anniversary of Chʽien Lung's birthday. Two years later, the aged Emperor, who had, like his grandfather, completed his cycle of sixty years on the throne, abdicated in favour of his son, dying in retirement four years after. These two monarchs, Kʽang Hsi and Chʽien Lung, were among the ablest, not only of Manchu rulers, but of any whose lot it has been to shape the destinies of China. Chʽien Lung was an indefatigable administrator, a little too ready perhaps to plunge into costly military expeditions, and somewhat narrow in the policy he adopted towards the "outside barbarians" who came to trade at Canton and elsewhere, but otherwise a worthy rival of his grandfather's fame as a sovereign and patron of letters. From the long list of works, mostly on a very extensive scale, produced under his supervision, may be mentioned the new and revised editions of the Thirteen Classics of Confucianism and of the Twenty-four Dynastic Histories. In 1772 a search was instituted under Imperial orders for all literary works worthy of preservation, and high provincial officials vied with one another in forwarding rare and important works to Peking. The result was the great descriptive Catalogue of the Imperial Library, arranged under the four heads of Classics (Confucianism), History, Philosophy, and General Literature, in which all the facts known about each work are set forth, coupled with judicious critical remarks,—an achievement which has hardly a parallel in any literature in the world.