1902 Encyclopedia > China > Chinese History (cont.) - Song Dynasty (960-1279)

(Part 32)


Imperial Era (221 BC - 1911 AD)

Song Dynasty (960-1279 AD)

A partial end was made to this recognized disorganization when, in 960, General Chaou kwang-yin was proclaimed by acclamation of the army emperor in succession to the youthful Kung-te, who was compelled to vacate the circumstances of the time justified the exchanged. It required a strong hand to weld together again the different parts into which the empire had been divided, and to resist the attacks of the Khitan Tatars, whose rule at this period extended over the whole of Manchuria and Leaou-tung. Against these aggressive neighbours Tai-tsoo né Chaou Kwang-yin directed his best efforts with varying success, and he died in 976, while the war was still being waged. His son Tai-tsung (976-997) entered on the campaign with energy, but in the end was compelled to conclude a peace with the Khitans. His successor, Chin-tsung (997-1022), descended a step lower in his dealing with them, and agreed to pay them a tribute to induce them to abstain from their incursions. Probably this tribute was not sent regularly ; at all events, under Jin-tsung (1023-1064), the Khitans again threatened to invade the empire, and were only persuaded to forego their intention by the emperor promising to pay them an annual tribute of 200,000 taels of silver, besides a great quantity of silken piece goods Niether was this arrangement long binding, and so formidable were the advances made by the Tatars in the next and following reign, that Hwuy-tsung (1101-1126) invited the Neu-che Tatars to expel the Khitans from Leaou-tung. The call was readily responded to ; the service was effectually performed, but having once possessed themselves of the country they declined to yield it to the Chinese, and the result was that a still more aggressive neighbour was establishment on the north-eastern frontier of China. Without delay the Neu-che or Kins, as they now styled themselves, overran the provinces of Chih-li, Shen-se, Shan-se, and Ho-nan, and during the reign of Kaou-tsung (1127-1163) they advanced their conquests to the line of the Yang-tsze Keang.

It was during this period that the Mongols began to acquire power in Eastern Asia, and about the beginning of the 12th century they invaded the north-western frontier of China and the principality of Hea, which at that time consisted of the modern provinces if Shen-se and Kan-suh. To purchase the good-will of these subjects of Jenghiz Khan the king of Hea agreed to pay them a tribute, and give a princess in marriage to their ruler. Hitherto the Mongols had been vassels of the Kin Tatars, but the rapid growth of their indisposed them to remain tributaries of any monarch, and in consequence of a dispute with the Emperor Wei-chaou Wang, Jenghiz Khan determined to invade the Kin province of Leaou-tung. In this expedition he was aided by the followers of the Khitan leader Yay-lu Tsoo-tsai, and in alliance with this general he captured Leaou-yang the capital city. After an unsucessful invasion of China in 1212, Jenghiz Khan renewed the attack in the following year and completely defeated the Kins. In the confusion which followed the emperor was murdered by his generals, and Seuen-tsung ascended the throne. But the change of ruler brought no better fortune to the Kin cause. Jenghiz Khan divided his armies into four divisions, and made a general advance southwards. With resistless force his soldiers swept over the provinces of Ho-nan, Chih-li, and Shan-tung, destroying in their course upwards of ninety cities, and spreading desolation everywhere. It was their boast that a horseman might ride without stumbling over the sites where those cities had stood. Panic-stricken by the danger which threatened him, the emperor moved his court to Kai-fung Foo, much against the advice of his ministers, who foresaw the disastrous effect this retreat would have on the fortunes of Kin. And now, as foes advanced, friends fell off from the tottering house. The state of Sung, which up to this time had paid tribute, now declined to recognize Kin as its feudal chief, and a short time afterwards declared war against its quondam ally. Meanwhile, in 1215, Yay-lu Tsoo-tsai advanced into China by the Shan-hai kwan, and made himself master of Peking, which until then was one of the few cities in Chin-li which remained to Kin. After this victory his nobles wished him to proclaim himself emperor but he refused , being mindful of an oath which he had sworn to Jenghiz Khan. In 1216 Tung-kwan, a pass in the mountains between the frontier of Ho-nan and Shen-se, which in the history of China has been the scene of numerous dynastic battles, forming as it does the only gateway between Eastern and Western China, was taken by the invaders. Year after year the war dragged on, the resistance offered by the Kins growing weaker and weaker. In 1220 Tse-nan Foo the capital of Shan-tung was taken, and five years later Jenghiz Khan marched an army westward into Hea and completely conquered the forces of the king ; but it was not until the year following the kings’ death that he took possession of the principality. In the succeeding year Jenghiz Khan himself was gathered to his fathers, and Ogdai his son reinged in his stead.

Thus died at the age of 66 this great general, whose armies had triumphed victoriously over the whole of Central Asia, from the Caspian Sea and the Indus to Corea and the Yang-tsze Keang. With his dying breath he adjured his son to complete the conquest of China, and with a view to this, the crowing desire of his life, he declined to nominate either of the two eldest sons who had been born to his Chinese wives as his heir, but choose rather his third son Ogdai whose mother was a Tatar. On hearing to his successor desiring peace but Ogdai, remembering the last injunctions of his father, told them there would be no peace for them until their dynasty should be overthrown. Up to this time the Mongols had been without any code of laws. The old rule

"That they should take who have the power, they should keep who can,"

was the maxim on which they guided their mutual intercourse, and the punishments due for offences were left entirely to the discretion of the official before whom the culprits were tried. The consistency, however, which had been given to the nation by the conquest of Jenghiz Khan made it necessary to establish a recognized code of laws, and one of the first acts of Ogdai was to form such a code. With the help also of Yay-lu Tsoo-tsai, he established custom housed in Chih-li, Shan-tung, Shan-se, and Leaoutung ; and for this purpose divided these provinces into ten departments. Meanwhile the war with the Kins was carried on with the energy. In 1230 Se-gan Foo was taken, and sixty important posts were captured. Two years later Too-le, brother of Ogdai, took Fung-tseang Foo and Hanchung Foo, in the flight from which last place 100,000 persons are said to have perished. Following the course of the River han in his victorious career this general destroyed 140 towns and fortresses, and defeated the army of Kin at Mount San-fung.

In the following year the Mongol cause suffered a great loss by the death of Too-le. This famous warrior left behind him twelve sons, two of whom, Mangu, the first born, and Kublai, the fourth son, were destined to sit in succession on the throne of their uncle Ogdai. But their time was not yet. First of all they had to win their spurs, and well did they prove by their deeds their right to the name of Mongol or "daring." In China, in Central Asia, and on the banks of the Caspian they led their victorious armies. But meanwhile, in 1232, the Mongols made all alliance with the state of Sung, by which, on condition of Sung-helping to destroy Kin, Ho-nan was to be the property of Sung for over. The effect of this coalition soon became apparent. Barely had the Kin emperor retreated from Kai-fung Foo to Joo-ning Foo in Ho-nan when the former place fell into the hands of the allies. Next fell Loyang, and the victorious generals then marched on to besiege Joo-ning Foo. The presence of the emperor gave energy to the defenders, and they held out until every animal in the city had been killed for food, until every old and useless person had suffered death to lessen the number of hungry mouths, until so many able-bodied men had fallen by the hand of the enemy that the women manned the ramparts, and then the allies stormed the walls. Once inside the town the inhabitants, enfeebled by starvation, fell ready victims to their swords. The emperor, like another Sardanapalus, despairing now of success, burned himself to death in his palace, that his body might not fall into the hands of his enemies. For a few days the shadow of the imperial crown rested on the head of his heir Changlin, but in a tumult which broke out amongst his followers he lost his life, and with him ended the "Golden" dynasty, which from that time disappeared from the country’s annals until the Manchoo family now reigning came, nearly four centuries later, to claim the throne as heirs of the defender of Joo-ning Foo.

Although China was still by no means conquered, yet the extinction of the Kin dynasty enabled Ogdai to sent an army of 300,00 men to ravage the country bordering on the Caspian Sea. But so vast were the resources at his command, that he was able to despatch at the same time a force 600,000 strong into Sze-chuen to subdue the power of Sung in that province. For, notwithstanding the treaty which had been made between Ogdai and Sung, no sooner were the spoils of Kin to be divided than fierce war broke out again between, in prosecuting which the Mongol armies swept over the provinces of Hoo-kwang. Keang-nan, and Ho-nan, and were checked only when they reached the walls of Loo-chow Foo in Gan-hwuy. Ogdai was not destined to live to see his sway acknowledge over the whole empire. In 1241, he died at the age of fifty-six, having reigned thirteen years, and was nominally succeeded by his grandson Cheliemen. But among the numerous ladies who called Ogdai lord, was one named Toliekona, who on the death of the emperor took possession of the throne, and after exercising rule for four years, establishment her son kwei-yew, as Great Khan. But in 1248 his life was cut short, and the nobles, disregarding the claims of Cheliemen, proclaimed as emperor Mangu, the eldest son of Too-le. Under this monarch the war against Sung was carried on with energy, and Kublai, outstripping the bounds of Sung territory, made his way into the province of Yun-nan, which at that time was divided into a number of independent states, and having attached them to his brother’s crown he passed on into Tibet, Tonquin, and Cochin-China, and from thence striking northwards entered the province of Kwang-se.

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