1902 Encyclopedia > China > Chinese History (cont.) - Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368)

(Part 33)


Imperial Era (221 BC - 1911 AD)

Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368 AD)

On the death of Mangu in 1259 Kublai ascended the throne, and never in the history of China was the nation more illustrious, nor its power more widely felt, than under his sovereignty. During the first twenty years of is reign Sung kept up a resistance, gradually growing weaker and weaker, against his authority ; and it was not, therefore, until 1280 that he assume complete jurisdiction as emperor of China At this time his authority was acknowledge "from the Frozen Sea, almost to the Straits of Malacca. With the exception of Hindustan, Arabia, and the westernmost parts of Asia, al the Mongol princes as far as the Dnieper declared themselves his vassals, and brought regularly their tribute." It was during this reign that Marco Polo visited China, and he described in glowing colours the virtues and glories of the "Great Khan." But though his rule was characterized by discretion and munificence, his Chinese subjects were uneasy under his yoke. He undertook public works, he patronized literature, and relieved the distress of the poor, but still they never forgot that he was an alien and a barbarian, and he died unregretted in 1294. His son had died during his lifetime, and after some contention his grandon Timur ascended the throne under the title of Yuen-ching. After an uneventful reign this prince was gathered to his fathers in 1307, and as he left no son, Woo-tsung, a Mongol prince, reigned in his stead. To him, succeeded Jin-tsung in 1311, who made himself conspicuous by the honour he showed to the memory of Confucius, and by distributing offices more equally between Mongols and Chinese than had hitherto been done. This act of justice gave great satisfaction to the Chinese, and his death ended a peaceful and prosperous reign in 1320. There years later,—three years of disorder,—his successor, Ying-tsung, was murdered by a band of conspirators. From this time the star of the Yuen dynasty was in the descendant. Tai-ting-te, Ming-tsung, Wan-te, and Shun-te followed one another on the throne in quick succession. Each reign was more troubles than the last, and in the person of Shun-te (1333-1368) were summed up all the vices and faults of his predecessors. Outbreaks, which up to this time had been local in their character, assumed large and threatening proportions; and finally this descendant of Jenghiz Khan was compelled to fly from his capital before Choo Yuen-chang, the son of a Chinese labouring man. Deserted by his followers he sought refuge in Ying-chang Foo, and there the last of the Yuen dynasty died. So disunited had the empire become by constant disturbances and rebellions, that Choo Yuen-chang met with little opposition to his forces, more especially as his first care on becoming possessed of a district was to suppress lawlessness and to establish a settled government. In 1355 he crossed the Yang-tsze Keang and captured Nan-king, in consequence of which success he proclaimed himself duke of Woo, but as yet he carefully avoided adopting any of the insignia of royalty. Even when he had taken the capital and was the master of the empire thirteen years later, he still professed to dislike the idea of assuming the imperial title.

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