Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/Tsai-ch'un

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3656397Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period, Volume 2 — Tsai-ch'unFang Chao-ying

TSAI-ch'un 載淳, Apr. 27, 1856–1875, Jan. 12, the eighth Emperor of the Ch'ing Dynasty, who ruled under the reign-title, T'ung-chih 同治 (1862–75), was the only son of Emperor Wên-tsung (see under I-chu). His mother, Empress Hsiao-ch'in [q. v.], was a concubine at the time of his birth, but later ruled China for nearly half a century as Empress Dowager. Tsai-ch'un was born in the Summer Palace, Yüan-ming Yüan. In September 1860 when the British and French allied forces approached Peking and Emperor Wên-tsung and his Court fled to Jehol (see under I-hsin), Tsai-ch'un, then a small child, accompanied his mother on the journey. On August 21, 1861, the day before the death of his father, he was proclaimed Heir Apparent. His mother and Empress Hsiao-chên (see under Hsiao-ch'in), the wife of Emperor Wên-tsung, were strongly opposed to the regents appointed by the deceased Emperor. Assisted by two of the Emperor's brothers (I-hsin and I-huan, qq.v.) the two Dowager Empresses took Tsai-ch'un safely to Peking and there rid themselves of the regents (see under Su-shun).

On November 11, 1861 Tsai-ch'un, then six sui, ascended the throne, but for some twelve years thereafter the two Empresses and I-hsin ruled in his stead. The regents had earlier chosen the characters, Ch'i-hsiang 祺祥 as his reign-title but on the day he ascended the throne, by decree of the Dowager Empresses, the reign-title was altered to T'ung-chih. From 1861 onward the Emperor studied under special tutors—Li Hung-tsao, Ch'i Chün-tsao, Wêng T'ung-ho, Wo-jên [qq. v.] and Hsü T'ung (see under Jung-lu). These tutors held the title of Hung-tê tien hsing-tsou (see under Wêng T'ung-ho) after the name of the hall, Hung-tê tien, where the Emperor pursued his studies.

While Tsai-ch'un was thus studying, China was undergoing momentous changes. The Taiping Rebellion which had devastated half of the empire after 1850 was finally put down in 1864 (see under Tsêng Kuo-fan). The roving bandits of the north were exterminated in 1868 (see under Liu Ming-ch'uan). The Mohammedan rebellion in Yunnan and the Miao uprising in Kweichow were suppressed in 1873 (see under Ts'ên Yü-ying). Thus internally the empire was put in order and the chaos of the previous reign was ended. The foreign policy of this period was one of appeasement. The war of 1860, which opened Peking to foreign representatives, made I-hsin and most of the officials realize the military might of foreign nations. The Tsung-li Yamen (see under I-hsin) was established to take charge of foreign affairs. I-hsin was made minister of highest rank to deal with foreign envoys. The government reluctantly took steps to understand the West, as is shown by the establishment of the T'ung-wên Kuan (see under Tung Hsün) for the study of languages; by the dispatch of the Burlingame Mission (1867, see under Tung Hsün); and by the sending of students to study in America (1872, see under Jung Hung).

It was under these circumstances of prosperity that Tsai-ch'un, on February 23, 1873, took control of the government for the regency of the Dowager Empresses. On Sunday, June 29, he had his first audience with foreign ministers in the hall, Tzŭ-kuang-ko (see under Chao-hui), at which representatives of six countries were present. The Japanese Ambassador, Soejima Taneomi 副島種臣 (T. 蒼梅, 1828–1905), was first received because of his higher rank. The other ministers—Vlangaly of Russia, Low of the United States, Wade of England, De Geofroy of France, and Ferguson of the Netherlands, were all received together. This was the first audience at which the performance of the ceremony of kotow was not required of a foreign envoy, and signified a radical change from the position taken some six decades earlier when the Amherst Mission came to Peking (see under Yung-yen). Only thirteen years previously (1860) the question of the kotow had stood in the way of Emperor Wên-tsung's willingness to make peace with the British and French allies. But the audience of 1873 can be taken merely as a symbol of China's unwilling submission, since anti-foreign ideas were as potent as ever. Except for a few ministers like I-hsin who went through the humiliating experiences of 1860, none of the high officials at Court had any conception of the new forces at work in the outer world, or any intimation of the changes that China was bound to undergo.

Though Tsai-ch'un reached his majority and took over nominal control of the government early in 1873, he had no power to circumvent the sinister influences that resulted—less than two years later—in his death. For one thing, he had not the physical vitality nor the courage and discernment of his illustrious ancestor, Hsüan-yeh [q. v.]. He disliked the routine tasks which his position entailed, and had a distaste for the lifeless studies he was made to pursue even after he became the actual head of the state. Above all, he resented the interference of his mother who maintained her power at Court and persistently managed his private affairs. By some it is believed that he incurred her displeasure by choosing as his wife Empress Hsiao-chê (孝哲毅皇后, 1854–1875), the daughter of Ch'ung-ch'i [q. v.], preferring her to another girl whom his mother had selected. The fact that the one chosen was favored by Empress Hsiao-chên, added one more point of conflict between the two Dowager Empresses. The imperial couple seemed to be genuinely in love and their marriage took place on October 16, 1872. Yet Empress Hsiao-ch'in evidently took every opportunity to mar their happiness and even to prevent, whenever possible, their being together. No sooner had the Emperor taken charge of affairs than he began to fall a prey to certain eunuchs and officials who encouraged him in many ways to lead an improper life. Among the less harmful things they persuaded him to do was to undertake the restoration of the Summer Palace, Yüan-ming Yüan—a project which in August and September, 1874, aroused so much criticism that he was forced to abandon it. He became infuriated when his uncle, I-hsin, led a group of officials to join in a memorial that commented unfavorably on his personal conduct (see under I-hsin). Branding his uncle as insolent, he removed him from all offices and lowered his rank. The next day, however, the two Dowager Empresses intervened and forced him to restore to I-hsin all his posts. In November 1874 the Emperor became infected with smallpox and was obliged to let Li Hung-tsao write all edicts for him. On December 18, owing to his continued illness, the two Dowager Empresses once more became co-regents. Five days later the Emperor seems to have recovered and the Dowager Empresses, the princes, and high officials were all given presents or titles in celebration of the event. When on January 12, 1875, he died, all presents and titles were withdrawn. Tsai-ch'un was given the posthumous name, I Huang-ti 毅皇帝, and the temple name, Mu-tsung 穆宗. His tomb is called Hui-ling 惠陵.

Tsai-ch'un left no male heir and had no brother. According to the law of the dynasty his successor should have been chosen from the generation succeeding that of Tsai-ch'un. His ambitious mother, however, selected one of his first cousins and made that cousin the adopted heir, not of Tsai-ch'un, but of herself and Tsai-ch'un's father, thus leaving Tsai-ch'un without a legal heir. The cousin chosen was Tsai-t'ien [q. v.], son of I-huan by a sister of the Empress Dowager. By this device Hsiao-ch'in became the adoptive mother of her own nephew and thus again was in a position to rule the empire as regent. Although some officials protested against this arrangement, they were appeased by the promise that when Tsai-t'ien had a son, that son should become heir to Tsai-ch'un (see under Wu K'o-tu). But Tsai-t'ien had no son, hence the Empress Dowager in 1900 appointed as his heir a son of Tsai-i (see under I-tsung) and her niece. The appointment was later withdrawn owing to Tsai-i's activities in the Boxer Uprising. In 1908, on her death bed, Empress Hsiao-ch'in chose as heir to both Tsai-t'ien and Tsai-ch'un the child P'u-i (see under Tsai-t'ien) who was a gradson of I-huan and thus her own grandnephew.

Tsai-ch'un was aged nineteen (sui) when he died. He was on the throne for more than thirteen years but actually ruled less than two years, and even in those years he was always under the influence of his mother. Nevertheless the history of his reign is recorded under his name, with the title Mu-tsung I Huang-ti shih-lu (實錄), 374 + 4 chüan, a work completed in 1879. The edicts issued in his name were edited under the title, Mu-tsung I Huang-ti shêng-shün (聖訓), 160 chüan. He left a collection of poems, entitled Mu-tsung yü-chih shih (御製詩), 6 chüan, and one of prose, entitled Mu-tsung yü-chih wên (文), 10 chüan.

As officially announcd, Tsai-ch'un's death was due to smallpox. Many stories arose, however, as to the immediate cause of his last illness, following as it did closely upon the celebration of his return to health. According to one account the Emperor, while still weak from the effects of the disease, was talking one day with his wife when his mother unexpectedly appeared and berated him with such fury that he never recovered from the shock. According to other accounts, mostly unverified, his death was hastened by diseases contracted in brothels. Certain critics blame corrupt officials for leading him astray, and after his death several officials and eunuchs were cashiered on the ground that they had been his companions. Whatever the cause of his untimely end, the Empress Dowager did nothing to prevent it, and did a great deal to promote it. She disliked the young Empress who, from many accounts, was then expecting a child. Had the child been a son the young Empress would automatically have become Empress Dowager—a situation which the reigning Empress Dowager doubtless wished to prevent. It was a matter for much unfavorable comment that seventy-four days after Tsai-ch'un died his young Empress committed suicide—this being the sole remaining protest she could make against the cruelties of her mother-in-law. According to the official announcement, she died of a serious illness. In 1876 a censor memorialized that she be given high posthumous honors, on the ground that she had committed suicide after her husband's death. The censor was severely reprimanded for submitting a memorial based only on "rumor."

[1/21/1a; Li Tz'ŭ-ming [q. v.], Yüeh-man-t'ang jih-chi, vols. 17, 21, 22; Wêng T'ung-ho [q. v.], Wêng Wên-kung kung jih-chi; Ch'ing Huang-shih ssŭ-p'u (see under Fu-lung-an); Chin-shih jên-wu chih (see under Wêng T'ung-ho) p. 203; The Life and Letters of S. Wells Williams (1888) pp. 401–406; Chin-liang (see under Wêng T'ung-ho), 清帝后外紀 Ch'ing ti hou wai-chi; Ch'ing-pai lei-ch'ao (see bibl. under Liu Lun), kung-wei pp. 22–24; Liu Tun-chên, "On the Reconstruction of the Yüan-ming Yüan in the T'ung-chih Period" (in Chinese), Ying-tsao hsüeh-shê hui-k'an (Bul. of Soc. for Research in Chinese Architecture) vol. 4 nos. 2, 3, 4 (1933–34).]

Fang Chao-ying