Page:Tseng Kuo Fan and the Taiping Rebellion.djvu/15

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INTRODUCTION

out by reason and conscience, preserved China from division or destruction through years of uncertain struggle against overwhelming odds. A Chinese essayist of today, Liang Ch'i-ch'iao, claims that he was not merely a man whose like has been seen but a few times in the whole long history of the Middle Kingdom, but a man "of whom the whole world has produced but a handful." If that praise is too high, we may at least rank him amongst the great characters of the nineteenth century and do no injustice to the rest.

The strident voice of youthful China finds fault with him as the upholder of the alien Manchu Dynasty and of absolute monarchy. So he was. Monarchy and all forms of imperialism are as unpopular in China today as in Europe, but is it fair to judge a great hero by ideals that first entered the minds of his countrymen a full generation after he had been gathered unto his fathers? Must we not rather place ourselves in the surroundings of the age in which Tsêng lived and labored, when he uttered the voice of the universal conviction of the nation? In addition to their pre-dating a disdain for monarchy, these youthful critics fail to consider that if no one had then been found strong and faithful enough to hold the empire together it would, in all probability, have been cut to pieces through civil war, eventually to have fallen into foreign hands—for strong nations were at that moment building empires. That China continued in unity and independence until another mood came over the Western lands is a result of the successful suppression of this and other insurrections by Tsêng and the able men who coöperated with him.

This study was first presented as a dissertation in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the doctor's degree in Yale University, and covered the Taiping period alone. To render it more complete I have added a short