Page:The Chinese Empire. A General & Missionary Survey.djvu/231

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165
THE PROVINCE OF HUNAN

interesting elegy the Li Sao (circa 340 B.C.). Under the Ch'in dynasty we find the name Changsha, or "Long Sand," applied to a large part of the province which was then, circa 130 B.C., subject to the Emperor of China. Echoes, historical and legendary, of the wars of the "Three Kingdoms," the San Kuo, are to be heard around Yochow. Still later, in the interests of the last of the Ming Emperors, severe fighting took place at Yochow and in the northern parts of the province. Everywhere, indeed, there is a rich field for antiquarian research. Of its aboriginal populations it is estimated that one-tenth still survive in the hilly districts of the centre, the south-west, and the north-west; extermination, expulsion, and assimilation for hundreds of years have caused the disappearance of the vast majority.

In more recent times the province suffered from the Taiping rebels (circa 1854). Entering from the south, they swarmed up the Siang valley, spreading both east and west. Changsha was invested, and for successfully enduring an eighty days' siege it earned the title of "The City of the Iron Gates." When official rule was in general abeyance the Hunan gentry, encouraged by an able Governor, came to the rescue; forces were organised, the Likin taxation system, to defray military expenditure, was initiated, and reorganisation of civil rule took rise. Hence it comes to pass that in every branch of public life we now see a representative, or a committee, of the gentry acting with Government officials, and very powerful is their influence. A local saying, indeed, has it that the Governor's power as compared with that of the gentry is as four is to six. Without the province, in the final defeat of the rebels, Hunanese leaders and soldiers were the backbone of the Government forces. Of the Hunan youth 70 per cent were recruited for the war, and the reputation then acquired has stood by them. In all parts of the Empire Hunan "braves" have been employed. Hardy but turbulent, and yielding submission to none but their own officers, they were the cause of constant broils and were everywhere