Project Gutenberg's Historic Tales, Vol. 12 (of 15), by Charles Morris

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Title: Historic Tales, Vol. 12 (of 15)
       The Romance of Reality

Author: Charles Morris

Release Date: March 9, 2010 [EBook #31571]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1


Produced by Christine Aldridge and the Online Distributed
Proofreading Team at

Transcribers Notes:

1. Four minor spelling corrections made. A list appears at the end of this text.

[Pg 1]

Édition d'Élite

Historical Tales

The Romance of Reality



Author of "Half-Hours with the Best American Authors," "Tales from the Dramatists," etc.


Volume XII

Japanese and Chinese



Copyright, 1898, by J. B. Lippincott Company.
Copyright, 1904, by J. B. Lippincott Company.
Copyright, 1908, by J. B. Lippincott Company.

[Pg 2]



The First of the Mikados5
How Civilization came to Japan12
Yamato-Daké, a Hero of Romance19
Jingu, the Amazon of Japan27
The Decline of the Mikados35
How the Taira and the Minamoto fought for Power41
The Bayard of Japan51
The Hojo Tyranny59
The Tartar Invasion of Japan67
Nobunaga and the Fall of the Buddhists73
How a Peasant Boy became Premier80
The Founder of Yedo and of Modern Feudalism86
The Progress of Christianity in Japan97
The Decline and Fall of Christianity in Japan106
The Captivity of Captain Golownin113
The Opening of Japan123
The Mikado comes to his own again133
How the Empire of China arose and grew142
Confucius, the Chinese Sage150
The Founder of the Chinese Empire156
Kaotsou and the Dynasty of the Hans172
The Empress Poisoner of China180
The Invasion of the Tartar Steppes186
The "Crimson Eyebrows"192
The Conquest of Central Asia197
The Siege of Sinching202
From the Shoemaker's Bench to the Throne205
Three Notable Women212
The Reign of Taitsong the Great217
[Pg 3]A Female Richelieu223
The Tartars and Genghis Khan228
How the Friars fared among the Tartars236
The Siege of Sianyang242
The Death-Struggle of China249
The Palace of Kublai Khan255
The Expulsion of the Mongols264
The Rise of the Manchus272
The Manchu Conquest of China281
The Career of a Desert Chief290
The Raid of the Goorkhas299
How Europe entered China306
The Burning of the Summer Palace315
A Great Christian Movement and its Fate323
Corea and its Neighbors330
The Battle of the Iron-clads339
Progress in Japan and China347

[Pg 4]



Great Gate, NikkoFrontispiece.
Shuzenji Village, Idzu36
Farmers Planting Rice Sprouts, Japan52
Letter-Writing in Japan63
Karamo Temple, Nikko78
Returning from Market, Japan98
Main Street, Yokohama108
Chusenji Road and Daiya River132
A Chinese Irrigation Wheel165
An Itinerant Cobbler, Canton, China180
A Chinese Pagoda197
Water Cart, Pekin, China210
Shanghai, from the Water-Side222
Market Scene in Shanghai255
Chinese Gamblers281
Chair and Cago Carriers306
Street Scene, Pekin, China318
A Bronze-Worker's Shop330
The Pekin Gate347

[Pg 5]


The year 1 in Japan is the same date as 660 B.C. of the Christian era, so that Japan is now in its twenty-sixth century. Then everything began. Before that date all is mystery and mythology. After that date there is something resembling history, though in the early times it is an odd mixture of history and fable. As for the gods of ancient Japan, they were many in number, and strange stories are told of their doings. Of the early men of the island kingdom we know very little. When the ancestors of the present Japanese arrived there they found the islands occupied by a race of savages, a people thickly covered with hair, and different in looks from all the other inhabitants of Asia. These in time were conquered, and only a few of them now remain,—known as Ainos, and dwelling in the island of Yezo.

In the Japanese year 1 appeared a conqueror, Jimmu Tennō by name, the first of the mikados or emperors. He was descended from the goddess of the Sun, and made his home at the foot of Kirishima, a famous mountain in the island of Kiushiu, the most southerly of the four large islands of Japan. As to the smaller islands of that anchored empire, it may be well to say that they form a vast multitude of all shapes and sizes, being in all nearly[Pg 6] four thousand in number. The Sea of Japan is truly a sea of islands.

By way of the sailing clouds, and the blue sky which rests upon Kirishima's snowy top, the gods stepped down from heaven to earth. Down this celestial path came Jimmu's ancestors, of whom there were four between him and the mighty Sun goddess. Of course no one is asked to accept this for fact. Somewhat too many of the fathers of nations were sons of the gods. It may be that Jimmu was an invader from some foreign land, or came from a band of colonists who had settled at the mountain's foot some time before, but the gods have the credit of his origin.

At any rate, Hiuga, as the region in which he dwelt was called, was not likely to serve the ends of a party of warlike invaders, there being no part of Japan less fertile. So, as the story goes, Jimmu, being then fifty years old, set out to conquer some richer realm. He had only a few followers, some being his brothers, the others his retainers, all of them, in the language of the legends, being kami, or gods. Jimmu was righteous; the savages were wicked, though they too had descended from the gods. These savages dwelt in villages, each governed by a head-man or chief. They fought hard for their homes, and were not easily driven away.

The story of Jimmu's exploits is given in the Kojiki, or "Book of Ancient Traditions," the oldest book of Japan. There is another, called the Nihongi, nearly as old, being composed in 720 A.D. These give us all that is known of the ancient history of the island, but are so full of myths and fables that[Pg 7] very little of the story is to be trusted. Histories of later times are abundant, and form the most important part of the voluminous literature of Japan. The islanders are proud of their history, and have preserved it with the greatest care, the annals of cities and families being as carefully preserved as those of the state.

Jimmu the conqueror, as his story is told in the Kojiki, met strange and frightful enemies on his march. Among them were troops of spiders of colossal size and frightful aspect, through whose threatening ranks he had to fight his way. Eight-headed serpents had also to be dealt with, and hostile deities—wicked gods who loved not the pious adventurer—disputed his path. Some of these he rid himself of by strength of arm and sharpness of sword, some by shrewdness of wit. His line of march lay to Usa, in the district of Buzen; thence to Okada, where he took ship and made his way through the windings of the Suwo Nada, a part of the Inland Sea of Japan.

Landing in Aki, Jimmu built himself a palace, and dwelt there for seven years, after which he sought the region of Bizen, where for eight years more he lived in peace. Then, stirred once more by his in-dwelling love of adventure, he took to the sea again with his faithful band and sailed to the eastward. Rough waves and swift currents here disputed his way, and it was with difficulty that he at length landed on Hondo, the main island of Japan, near where the city of Osaka now stands. He named the spot Nami Haya ("swift waves").[Pg 8]

Jimmu Tennō, the name of the conqueror, means "spirit of war," and so far victory had perched upon his banners as he marched. But now defeat came. The people of the great island fought fiercely for their homes and liberties, a brother of Jimmu was wounded, and he and his band of followers were driven back with loss.

The gods surely had something to do with this,—for in those days the gods were thought to have little to do besides busying themselves with the affairs of men,—and the cause of the defeat was sought by means of sacred ceremonies and invocations. It proved to be an odd one. The legend states they had offended the Sun goddess by presuming to travel to the east, instead of following the path of the sun from east to west. This insult to the gods could be atoned for only by a voyage to the west. Taking to their ships again, they sailed westward around Kii, and landed at Arasaka.

Jimmu had expiated his fault, and was again in favor with the gods. The chief whom he now faced surrendered without a blow, and presented the conquering hero with a sword. A picture of this scene, famous in the early history of Japan, is printed on one of the Japanese greenback notes issued in 1872.

The victor next sought the mountain-defended land of Yamato, which was to be reached only by difficult mountain-passes, unknown to the chief and his followers. But the gods had taken him in charge and came to his aid, sending a giant crow, whose wings were eight feet long, to guide him to the fertile soil of Yamato. A crow with smaller spread[Pg 9] of wing might have done the work as well, but would have been less satisfactory to the legend-makers.

Fierce was the conflict now impending, and stern the struggle of the natives for life and liberty. Here were no peaceful chiefs, like the one met at Arasaka, and only by dint of trenchant blows was the land to be won. On went the fight, victory now inclining to one side, now to the other, until in the midst of the uncertain struggle the gods sent down a deep and dark cloud, in whose thick shadow no man could see his foe, and the strife was stayed. Suddenly, through the dense darkness, a bird in the shape of a hawk came swooping down from the skies, enveloped in a flood of golden light, and, dispersing the cloud, rested upon the hero's bow. The light shed by his refulgent wings struck like the glare of lightning upon the eyes of the enemy, so dazzling them with its radiance that they broke into panic flight.

A victory gained in such a fashion as this does not seem quite satisfactory to modern ideas. It is not fair to the other side. Yet it was in this way that the Greeks won victory on the plains of Troy, and that many other legendary victories were obtained. One cannot help wishing that the event of battle had been left to the decision of brave hearts and strong hands, instead of depending upon the interposition of the gods. But such was the ancient way,—if we choose to take legend for truth,—and we must needs receive what is given us, in default of better.

At any rate, Jimmu was now lord of the land, and built himself a capital city at Kashiwabara, near the[Pg 10] site of the modern Kioto, from which he governed the wide realms that the sword had made his own. The gods were thanked for their aid by imposing religious ceremonies, and the people rejoiced in the peace that had come upon the land. The soldiers who had followed the hero to victory were amply rewarded, and his chiefs made lords of provinces, for the control over which they were to pay in military service. Thus early a form of feudal government was established in Japan.


All being now at peace within the realm, the weapons of war were hung up in home and temple, sacrifices were offered to the goddess of the Sun, and the three sacred emblems of the new kingdom, the mirror, the sword, and the ball, were deposited with solemn ceremonies in the palace of the emperor.

The remainder of Jimmu's story may be briefly told. He took for bride the princess Tatara, the daughter of one of his chiefs, and the most beautiful woman in all the land. The rest of his life was spent in strengthening his rule and extending the arts of civilization throughout his realm. Finally he died, one hundred and thirty-seven years old, as the Kojiki states, leaving three children, one of whom he had chosen as the heir of the throne.

That there was an actual Jimmu Tennō is more than any one can say. Of course the crow and kite, serpents and spiders, are myths, transformed, perhaps, from some real incidents in his career, and the gods that helped and hindered were doubtless born in men's fancies in later days.

The Chinese have their story of how Japan was[Pg 11] settled. Taiko, grandfather of the first emperor of the Shu dynasty, had three sons, and, loving the youngest most, wished to leave him his title and estate. These by law and custom belonged to the eldest, and the generous young prince, not wishing to injure his brother, secretly left home and sailed to the south. Leaving Southern China with a colony, he landed in Japan. This took place about forty-six years before the beginning of Jimmu's conquering career, so that the dates, at least, agree.

Whether there ever was a Jimmu or not, the Japanese firmly believe in him. He stands on the list as the first of the mikados, and the reigning emperor claims unbroken descent from him. April 7 is looked upon as the anniversary of his accession to the throne, and is the Japanese national holiday, which is observed with public rejoicings and military and naval salutes. The year 1 was the year in which Jimmu ascended the throne.[Pg 12]


There is not much of absorbing interest in early Japanese history. For a period of some twelve hundred years nearly all that we know of the mikados is that they "lived long and died happy." No fewer than twelve of these patriarchs lived to be over one hundred years old, and one held the throne for one hundred and one years. But they were far surpassed in longevity by a statesman named Takénouchi, who served five mikados as prime minister and dwelt upon the earth for more than three hundred and fifty years. There was not much "rotation in office" in those venerable times.

We must come down for six hundred years from the days of Jimmu to find an emperor who made any history worth the telling. In truth, a mist of fable lies over all the works of these ancient worthies, and in telling their stories we can never be sure how much of them is true. Very likely there is sound history at the bottom, but it is ornamented with a good deal that it is not safe to believe.

The first personage after Jimmu upon whom we need dwell was a wise and worthy mikado named Sujin, who spent his days in civilizing his people, probably no easy task. The gap of six centuries[Pg 13] between Jimmu's time and his had, no doubt, its interesting events, but none of particular importance are upon record.

As a boy Sujin displayed courage and energy, together with the deepest piety. As a man he mourned over the sinfulness of his people, and earnestly begged them to give up their wicked ways and turn from sin to the worship of the gods. He was not at first very successful. The people were steeped in iniquity, and continued so until a pestilence was sent to change the current of their sinful thoughts.

The pious monarch called upon the gods to stay the plague, doing penance by rising early, fasting, and bathing,—possibly an unusual ceremony in those days. The gods at length heard the voice of the king, and the pestilence ceased. It had done its work. The people were convinced of the error of their ways and turned from wantonness to worship, and everywhere religious feeling revived.

As yet Japan possessed no temples or shrines, all worship being conducted in the open air. The three holy emblems of the nation, the mirror, the sword, and the ball, had thus far been kept within the palace. Wherever they were the divine power dwelt, and the mikado, living within their influence, was looked upon as equal to a god.

But the deities taught Sujin—or at least he thought they did—that this was not the proper place for them. A rebellion broke out, due, doubtless, to the evil spirit of men, but arising, in his opinion, from the displeasure of the gods, who were not pleased with his keeping these sacred objects under[Pg 14] his own roof, where they might be defiled by the unholiness of man. He determined, therefore, to provide for them a home of their own, and to do so built the first temple in his realm. The sacred symbols were placed under the care of his daughter, who was appointed priestess of the shrine. From that day to this a virgin princess of imperial blood has been chosen as custodian of these emblems of deific power and presence.

The first temple was built at Kasanui, a village in Yamato. But the goddess Amaterasu warned the priestess that this locality was not sufficiently holy, so she set off with the mirror in search of a place more to the taste of the gods, carrying it from province to province, until old age overtook her, yet finding no spot that reflected the clear light of holiness from the surface of the sacred mirror. Another priestess took up the task, many places were chosen and abandoned, and finally, in 4 A.D., the shrine of Uji, in Isé, was selected. This apparently has proved satisfactory to the deities of Japan, for the emblems of their divinity still rest in this sacred shrine. Sujin had copies made of the mirror and the sword, which were kept in the "place of reverence," a separate building within the palace. From this arose the imperial chapel, which still exists within the palace bounds.

We speak of the "palace" of the mikado, but we must warn our readers not to associate ideas of splendor or magnificence with this word. The Emperor of Japan dwells not in grandeur, but in simplicity. From the earliest times the house of the[Pg 15] emperor has resembled a temple rather than a palace. The mikado is himself half a god in Japanese eyes, and is expected to be content with the simple and austere surroundings of the images of the gods. There are no stateliness, no undue ornament, no gaudy display such as minor mortals may delight in. Dignified simplicity surrounds the imperial person, and when he dies he is interred in the simplest of tombs, wonderfully unlike the gorgeous burial-places in which the bodies of the monarchs of continental Asia lie in state.

When Sujin came to the throne the people of Japan were still in a state of barbarism, and there was scarce a custom in the state that did not call for reform. A new and better system of arranging the periods of time was established, the year being divided into twenty-four months or periods, which bear such significant names as "Beginning of Spring," "Rain-water," "Awakening of the Insects," "Clear Weather," "Seed-rain," etc. A census was ordered to be taken at regular intervals, and by way of taxation all persons, men and women alike, were obliged to work for the government for a certain number of days each year.

To promote commerce, the building of boats was encouraged, and regular communication was opened with Corea, from which country many useful ideas and methods were introduced into Japan. Even a prince of one of the provinces of Corea came to the island empire to live. Agriculture was greatly developed by Sujin, canals being dug and irrigation extensively provided for. Rice, the leading article of[Pg 16] food, needs to be grown in well-watered fields, and the stealing of water from a neighbor's field is looked upon as a crime of deepest dye. In old times the water-thief was dealt with much as the horse-thief was recently dealt with in some parts of our own country.

Sujin's work was continued by his successor, who, in 6 A.D., ordered canals and sluices to be dug in more than eight hundred places. At present Japan has great irrigating reservoirs and canals, through which the water is led for miles to the farmers' fields. In one mountain region is a deep lake of pure water, five thousand feet above the sea. Many centuries ago a tunnel was made to draw off this water, and millions of acres of soil are still enriched by its fertilizing flood. Such are some of the results of Sujin's wise reforms.

Another of the labors of Sujin the civilizer was to devise a military system for the defence of his realm. In the north, the savage Ainos still fought for the land which had once been all their own, and between them and the subjects of the mikado border warfare rarely ceased. Sujin divided the empire into four military departments, with a shogun, or general, over each. At a later date military magazines were established, where weapons and rations could be had at any time in case of invasion by the wild tribes on the border or of rebellion within the realm. In time a powerful military class arose, and war became a profession in Japan. Throughout the history of the island kingdom the war spirit has been kept alive, and Japan is to-day the one nation of Eastern Asia[Pg 17] with a love of and a genius for warlike deeds. So important grew the shoguns in time that nearly all the power of the empire fell into their hands, and when the country was opened to foreign nations, one of these, calling himself the Tai Kun (Tycoon), posed as the emperor himself, the mikado being lost to sight behind the authority of this military chief.

At length old age began to weigh heavily upon Sujin, and the question of who should succeed him on the throne greatly troubled his imperial mind. He had two sons, but his love for them was so equally divided that he could not choose between their claims. In those days the heirship to the throne seems to have depended upon the father's will. Not being able to decide for himself, he appealed to fate or divination, asking his sons one evening to tell him the next morning what they had dreamed during the night. On their dreams he would base his decision.

The young princes washed their bodies and changed their clothes,—seemingly a religious rite. Visions came to them during the still watches of the night, and the next morning they eagerly told their father what dreams the gods had sent.

"I dreamed that I climbed a mountain," said the elder, "and on reaching its summit I faced the east, and eight times I cut with the sword and thrust with the spear."

"I climbed the same mountain," said the younger, "and stretched snares of cords on every side, seeking to catch the sparrows that destroy the grain."

The emperor listened intently, and thus sagely interpreted the visions of his sons.[Pg 18]

"You, my son," he said to the elder, "looked in one direction. You will go to the east and become its governor. You looked in every direction," he said to the younger. "You will govern on all sides. The gods have selected you as my heir."

His words came true. The younger became ruler over all the land; the elder became a warrior in the east and governor over its people.

And Sujin the civilizer, having lived long and ruled wisely, was gathered to his fathers, and slept death's dreamless sleep.[Pg 19]


We have now to deal with the principal hero of Japanese legend, Yamato-Daké, the conqueror. His story is full of myth and fable, but there is history in it, too, and it is well worth the telling. Every ancient nation has its legendary hero, who performs wonderful feats, dares fearful perils, and has not only the strength of man but the power of magic and the wiles of evil spirits to contend against. We give the story as it stands, with all its adventures and supernatural incidents.

This Japanese hero of romance, born 71 A.D., was the son of Keiko, the twelfth in line of the mikados. In form he was manly and graceful, fair of aspect, and of handsome and engaging presence. While still a youth he led an army to Kiushiu, in which island a rebellion had broken out. In order to enter the camp of the rebel force, he disguised himself as a dancing-girl, a character which his beardless face and well-rounded figure enabled him easily to assume. Presenting himself before the sentinel, his beauty of face and form disarmed the soldier of all doubt, and he led the seeming damsel to the presence of the rebel chief, from whom he hoped for a rich reward.

Here the visitor danced before the chief and his[Pg 20] guests with such winning grace that they were all captivated, and at the end of the dance the delighted chief seized his prize by the hand and drew the seemingly coy damsel into his own tent. Once within its folds, the yielding girl suddenly changed into a heroic youth who clasped the rebel with a vigorous embrace and slew him on the spot. For this exploit the youthful prince received his title of Yamato-Daké, or "Yamato the Warlike."

Thirteen years later a revolt broke out among the wild tribes of Eastern Japan, and the young hero marched with an army to subdue them. His route led him past the shrine of the Sun goddess, in Isé, and here the priestess presented him with the sacred sword, one of the holy emblems of the realm. His own sword was left under a neighboring pine.

Armed with this magical blade, he continued his march into the wilds of Suruga, the haunt of the insurgent Ainos. But he found it no easy matter to bring these savage foes to an open fight. Fleeing before his army into the woods and mountains, they fought him from behind rocks and trees, it being their policy of warfare to inflict damage upon the enemy with as little loss as possible to themselves. Like the American Indians, these savages were used to all the forest wiles, quick to avail themselves of every sound or sign, able to make their way with ease through tangled thickets and pathless forests, and adepts in all the lore of wood and wild.

As the army of Yamato pressed them too closely, they set fire to the dry underbrush which densely surrounded their lurking-place. The high wind carried[Pg 21] the flames in roaring waves towards the Japanese army, which was in the most serious danger, for it was encamped amid tall, dry grass, which quickly became a sea of soaring flame. With yells of delight the Ainos gazed upon the imminent peril of their foes; but suddenly their exultation was changed to dismay. For at this moment of danger the Sun goddess appeared to Yamato, and at her suggestion he drew the sacred sword—Murakumo, or "Cloud Cluster"—and cut the grass that thickly rose around him. Before the magic of the blade fire itself was powerless, and the advancing flames turned and swept towards the enemy, many of whom were consumed, while the others fled in panic fear. Grateful to the gods for this timely aid, the hero changed the name of the sword, decreeing that thenceforth it should be known as Kusanagi, or "Grass-Mower."

His route now led, by a mountain pathway, into the great plain of Eastern Japan, afterwards known as the Kuanto, which extends from the central ranges to the Pacific coast. Reaching the shores of the Bay of Yedo, he looked across from its southern headland to the opposite peninsula of Awa, whose hills seemed very close at hand.

"It will be easy to cross that channel," he said: "it is but a trifle. Let the army embark."

He did not know how treacherous was the navigation of this strait, whose weather is never to be trusted, and whose winds, tides, and currents are baffling and perilous. Embarking with his followers, he looked for an easy and rapid progress; but[Pg 22] a terrible storm arose, tossing the boats so frightfully that death seemed their sure fate.

Yamato was not at a loss to know what was amiss. He was familiar with the ways of the gods, and knew that some hostile deity was at work to ruin him. His contemptuous remark about the ease of the passage had given deep offence to the Japanese Neptune, the god of the Sea, who was punishing him for his lack of reverence. There was only one way by which the angry deity might be appeased,—the sacrifice of a victim to his wrath. But who among them was ready to yield life for duty? The question was answered by Tachibana, the youthful wife of the chief, who was in the boat with her lord. With a hurried farewell, the devoted woman sprang into the wild waves, which in a moment swept her far away. It was an acceptable sacrifice. The winds fell, the waves went down, the clouds broke, and soon the sun was serenely shining on ruffled sea and tranquil shore.

All that Yamato saw again pertaining to his wife was her perfumed wooden comb, which floated ashore and was dedicated by him as a precious relic in a shrine which he built to the gods. A shrine still stands on the spot, which is within the modern city of Tokio, and there to-day fishermen and sailors worship the spirits of Yamato and his sainted wife.

Thence the hero sailed along the shore, subduing the tribes as he went, until the northern boundary of the empire was reached. Here the leaders of the Ainos had gathered a great army to repel the invader.[Pg 23] But on seeing the ships, which were new objects to their eyes, awe and consternation overwhelmed them.

"They are living things," they said,—"strange moving monsters who glide over the sea and bring our foes to our undoing. The gods must have sent them, and will destroy us if we draw bow against these works of their hands."

Throwing down their arms, they surrendered to Yamato when he sprang ashore, and agreed to pay tribute to the state. Taking their leaders as hostages for their good conduct, the hero turned homeward, eager to reach again the capital from which he had been so long away. His route was now overland, and to entertain himself on the long journey he invented a form of poetic verse which is still much in use by the poets of Japan.

As yet all his work had been done on the plain near the shores of the sea. Now, marching inland, he ascended to the great table-land of Shinano, from twenty-five hundred to five thousand feet above the sea, around and within which lie the loftiest mountains of Japan. From this height could be obtained a magnificent view of the Bay of Yedo, the leafy plains surrounding, and the wide-extending ocean. Japan has no more beautiful scene, and Yamato stood silently gazing over its broad expanse, the memory of his beloved wife, who had given her life for his, coming back to him as he gazed. "Adzuma, adzuma" ("my wife, my wife"), fell in sad accents from his lips. These words still haunt that land. In the poet's verse that broad plain[Pg 24] is to-day called Adzuma, and one of the great ships of the new navy of Japan is named Adzuma-kuan.

It was no light task which now lay before the army and its chief. Even to-day the mountains of Shinano are far from easy to cross. Then they were unknown, and their crossing was a work of the greatest difficulty and risk. There were rocky defiles and steep ascents to climb, river torrents to pass, rugged paths to mount, without a road to follow or a guide to conduct, and with clouds and fogs to double the dangers of the way. Here, to their fancy, in caves and ravines hostile spirits lurked; every mountain had its tutelary god; at every step the deities of good and evil seemed to be at strife for their destiny, and with all the perils of the way the gods were thought to have something to do.

Thus on one day the god of the mountain came to Yamato in the form of a white deer, with purpose to work him evil. The hero, on the alert against the hostile spirits, threw wild garlic in the animal's eyes, causing so violent a smarting pain that it died. At once a dense mist descended upon the hill-slopes and the path vanished, leaving the army to grope onward in danger and dismay. But at this moment of dread a white dog appeared—a god again, but a friendly one this time—who led the bewildered soldiers in safety to the plains of Mino.

But they were not yet free from the wiles of the white deer. Its spirit now appeared, discharging among them poisonous gases, before whose stupefying influence they fell helpless to the ground. The wild garlic again was their salvation. Some one ate of it[Pg 25] with happy effect, and gave it to all the men and animals, so that all got well again. Wild garlic is still looked upon in Japan as a specific against disease and as a safeguard against witches. For this purpose it is hung up before gates and doorways in times of epidemic or superstitious fear.

The hero next came to Ibuki yama, a cone-shaped mountain whose flattened summit seemed to pierce the skies. Here too dwelt a hostile spirit, who disputed the way, and against whom Yamato advanced unarmed, leaving his sword, "Grass-Mower," under a tree at the mountain's foot. The gods of Japan, perhaps, were proof against weapons of steel. Not far had the hero gone before the deity appeared upon his path, transformed into a threatening serpent. Leaping over it, he pursued his way. But now the incensed deity flung darkness on the mountain's breast, and the hero, losing his path, swooned and fell. Fortunately, a spring of healing water bubbled beside him, a drink from which enabled him to lift his head. Onward he went, still feeble, for the breath of the serpent god was potent for ill, and at length reached Otsu, in the district of Isé, where, under the pine-tree, he found the sword which he had left there on setting out, three years before. His gladness found vent in a poem composed of these words: "O pine, if you were a man, I should give you this sword to wear for your fidelity."

The conquering prince was now near the end of his career. Still sick unto death from his adventure upon the mountain, he told before the shrine[Pg 26] of the gods the tale of his victories and perils, offered to them his weapons and prisoners, and thanked them piously for their care. Then he sent a report of his doings to his father, the mikado, and begged to see him. Keiko, the father, sent a messenger with words of comfort, but when he arrived the heroic Yamato-Daké was dead.

He was buried near where he died, and from his tomb a white bird was seen to fly. On opening the tomb nothing was found but the dead hero's chaplet and robes. The place where the bird was seen to alight bears still a name signifying Imperial Tomb of the White Bird. Thus ended the career of the leading Japanese hero of romance. His story sounds like a fairy-tale, though it may well be that Yamato-Daké was a real person and that many of the things told of him actually occurred.[Pg 27]


To-day the women of Japan are kept in seclusion and take no part in affairs of state. This does not seem to have been always the case. In the far past, we are told, women often rose to posts of honor and dignity, and some even filled the mikado's throne. Nor is this all. To a woman is given the glory of the greatest event in the history of ancient Japan, the conquest of Corea, from which land civilization, literature, and a new religion subsequently came to the island realm.

The name of this Japanese heroine was Okinaga Tarashi himé, but she is best known under the title of Jingu, or "warlike deed." The character given her in tradition is an attractive one, combining beauty, piety, intelligence, energy, and valor. The waves of the sea, the perils of the battle-field, and the toils or terrors of war alike failed to fill the soul of this heroine with fear, and the gods marched with her and aided her in her enterprises. Great as she was in herself, the Japanese give her higher honor still, as the mother of their god of war.

This imperial Amazon was the wife of the mikado Chinai, who in 193 A.D. set out at the head of his army for Kiushiu, a rebellion having broken out at Kumaso, in that island. His courageous wife took[Pg 28] ship and followed him to the seat of war. On her voyage thither she stopped at one of the islands of the Inland Sea to offer worship to the gods. And as she did so the voice of the deity of the shrine came to her ears.

"Why do you trouble yourself to conquer Kumaso?" spoke the mysterious voice. "It is but a poor and barren spot, not worth your labor nor the work of your army. There is a country, larger and richer by far, a land as lovely as the face of a fair virgin, dazzlingly bright with gold, silver, and rare colors, and rich with treasures of every kind. Such a noble region is Shiraki [Corea]. Continue to worship me, and this rich land shall be yours without the shedding of blood. As for Kumaso, my help and the glory of your conquest will cause it to yield."

On joining the emperor, Jingu repeated to him the words of the god, but she found in him a doubting listener. There was a high mountain near the camp, and to the summit of this he climbed and looked far out over the westward sea. No land was visible to his eyes where she had declared the rich realm of Shiraki lay, and he was confirmed in his doubts. On returning to her he said,—

"I looked everywhere, and saw water alone; no land was to be seen. Is there a country in the sky? If not, your words are false. And my ancestors worshipped all the gods; or if there are any they did not worship, I know them not. Why, then, should they not speak to me?"

"If you credit only your doubts," answered the[Pg 29] god through the lips of the empress, "and declare that there is no country where I have said a country exists, you blaspheme, and shall never see this land, but the empress, your wife, shall have the glory of its conquest."

Even this was not enough to overcome the doubts of the emperor. He was not ready to believe that a god could speak through a woman, and refused to risk his army on an unknown sea. On the contrary, he led it against Kumaso, from which the rebels drove him back in defeat. Soon after he died suddenly in camp, or, as some declare, was slain in battle by an arrow. Takénouchi, his minister, kept his death a secret from the soldiers, while the valiant Jingu continued the war and soon brought the rebellion to an end.

The death of the mikado had left the power of the state and the command of the army in the hands of his wife, who had shown her valor and ability in the conquest of Kumaso. Her mind was now filled with the promise of the god and the hope of new glory to be won beyond the sea. But first she deemed it wise to obtain further signs from the celestial powers.

Going to the shore of the sea, she baited a hook with a grain of rice and threw it into the water, saying, "If a fish be caught with this grain of rice, then the conquest of a rich country shall indeed be mine."

When she drew up the line, to her delight she saw a fish on the hook. "Medzurashiki mono!" ("wonderful thing!"), she exclaimed, viewing the marvel[Pg 30] as a sure signal that the gods approved her design. Her words have been corrupted into Matsura, which is the name of the place to this day, and here, every year, at the opening of the fourth Japanese month, the women of the vicinity go fishing, no men being permitted to cast in their lines on that day.

The pious empress, as if some of the doubts of the mikado had clung to her mind, sought still another sign from the gods. She now let her long hair fall into the water, saying that if the gods favored her design her tresses would come out of the water dry and parted in two divisions. Again the celestial powers heard. Her abundant black locks left the water dry and neatly parted as by a comb.

Doubt no longer troubled her soul. She at once ordered the generals of the army to recruit new forces, build ships, and prepare for an ocean enterprise.

"On this voyage depends the glory or the ruin of our country," she said to them. "I intrust its details to you, and will hold you to blame if anything goes amiss through lack of care. I am a woman, and am young. But I shall undertake this enterprise, and go with you disguised as a man, trusting to you and my army, and, above all, to the gods. If we are wise and valiant, a wealthy country shall be ours. If we succeed, the glory shall be yours; if through evil fortune we fail, on me shall lie all the guilt and disgrace."

The enthusiasm of the empress infected the commanders, who promised her their full support in her enterprise, which was by far the greatest that Japan[Pg 31] had ever ventured upon. The ships were built, but the perils of the voyage frightened the people, and the army increased but slowly. Impatient at the delay, but with no thought of giving up her task, the empress again appealed to the gods. A shrine of purification was built, lustrations were made, sacrifices offered, and prayers for speedy success sent up to the celestial hosts. The Kami, or gods, proved favorable still. Troops now came rapidly in. Soon a large army was assembled and embarked, and all was ready for the enterprise. It was the year 201 A.D., the first year of the third Christian century.

Jingu now issued her final orders, to the following effect:

"There must be no plundering.

"Despise not a few enemies, and fear not many.

"Give mercy to those who yield, but no quarter to the stubborn.

"The victors shall be rewarded; deserters shall be punished."

Then through her lips the gods spoke again: "The Spirit of Peace will always guide and protect you. The Spirit of War will guide your ships across the seas."

It must here be remarked that the annals of Japan do not seem to be in full harmony. In the days of Sujin the civilizer, a century and a half earlier, we are told that there was regular communication between Corea and Kiushiu, and that a prince of Corea came to Japan to live; while the story of Jingu seems to indicate that Corea was absolutely[Pg 32] unknown to the islanders. There were none to pilot the fleet across the seas, and the generals seemed ignorant of where Corea was to be found, or of the proper direction in which to steer. They lacked chart and compass, and had only the sun, the stars, and the flight of birds as guides. As Noah sent out birds from his ark to spy out the land, so they sent fishermen ahead of the fleet, and with much the same result. The first of these messengers went far to the west, and returned with the word that land was nowhere to be seen. Another messenger was sent, and came back with cheering news. On the western horizon he had seen the snowy peaks of distant mountains.

Inspired by this report, the adventurers sailed boldly on. The winds, the waves, the currents, all aided their speed. The gods even sent shoals of huge fishes in their wake, which heaped up the waves and drove them forward, lifting the sterns and making the prows leap like living things.

At length land was seen by all, and with shouts of joy they ran their ships ashore upon the beach of Southern Corea. The sun shone in all its splendor upon the gallant host, which landed speedily upon the new-found shores, where it was marshalled in imposing array.

The Coreans seem to have been as ignorant of geography as the Japanese. The king of this part of the country, hearing that a strange fleet had come from the east and a powerful army landed on his shores, was lost in terror and amazement.

"Who can these be, and whence have they come?"[Pg 33] he exclaimed. "We have never heard of any country beyond the seas. Have the gods forsaken us, and sent this host of strangers to our undoing?"

Such was the fear of the king that he made no resistance to the invaders. Corean envoys were sent to them with the white flags of peace, and the country was given up without a fight. The king offered to deliver all his treasures to the invading host, agreed to pay tribute to Japan, and promised to furnish hostages in pledge of his good faith. His nobles joined with him in his oath. The rivers might flow backward, they declared, or the pebbles in the river-beds leap up to the stars, but they would never break their word.

Jingu now set up weapons before the gate of the king in token of her suzerainty and of the peace which had been sworn. The spoils won from the conquered land consisted of eighty ships well laden with gold and precious goods of every kind the country possessed, while eighty noble Coreans were taken as hostages for the faith of the king. And now, with blare of trumpet and clash of weapons, with shouts of triumph and songs of praise to the gods, the fleet set sail for home. Two months had sufficed for the whole great enterprise.

Nine empresses in all have sat upon the throne of Japan, but of these Jingu alone won martial renown and gained a great place in history. The Japanese have always felt proud of this conquest of Corea, the first war in which their armies had gone to a foreign country to fight. They had, to use their common phrase, made "the arms of Japan[Pg 34] shine beyond the seas," and the glory of the exploit descended not only on the Amazon queen, but in greater measure upon her son, who was born shortly after her return to Japan.

The Japanese have given more honor to this son, still unborn when the conquest was achieved, than to his warlike mother. It was in him, not in his mother, they declare, that the Spirit of War resided, and he is now worshipped in Japan as the God of War. Ojin by name, he became a great warrior, lived to be a hundred and ten years old, and was deified after his death. Through all the centuries since he has been worshipped by the people, and by soldiers in particular. Some of the finest temples in Japan have been erected in his honor, and the land is full of shrines to this Eastern Mars. He is represented with a frightful and scowling countenance, holding in his arms a broad, two-edged sword. In all periods of Japanese art a favorite subject has been the group of the snowy-bearded Takénouchi, the Japanese Methuselah, holding the infant Ojin in his arms, while Jingu, the heroic mother, stands by in martial robes.[Pg 35]


Our journey through Japanese history now takes us over a wide leap, a period of nearly a thousand years, during which no event is on record of sufficient interest to call for special attention. The annals of Japan are in some respects minute, but only at long intervals does a hero of importance rise above the general level of ordinary mortals. We shall, therefore, pass with a rapid tread over this long period, giving only its general historical trend.

The conquest of Corea was of high importance to Japan. It opened the way for a new civilization to flow into the long isolated island realm. For centuries afterwards Corea served as the channel through which the arts and thoughts of Asia reached the empire of the mikados. We are told of envoys bearing tribute from Corea of horses, and of tailors, and finally a schoolmaster, being sent to Japan. The latter, Wani by name, is said to have introduced the art of writing. Mulberry-trees were afterwards planted and silk-culture was undertaken. Then came more tailors, and after them architects and learned men. At length, in the year 552, a party of doctors, astronomers, astrologists, and mathematicians came from Corea to the Japanese court, and with them a number of Buddhist[Pg 36] missionaries, who brought a new religion into the land.

Thus gradually the arts, sciences, letters, and religions of Asia made their way into the island kingdom, and the old life of Japan was transformed. A wave of foreign civilization had flowed across the seas to give new life and thought to the island people, and the progress of Japan from the barbarism of the far past towards the civilization of the present day then fairly began.


Meanwhile, important changes were taking place in the government. From the far-off days of Jimmu, the first emperor, until a century after Buddhism was introduced, the mikados were the actual rulers of their people. The palace was not a place of seclusion, the face of the monarch was visible to his subjects, and he appeared openly at the head of the army and in the affairs of government. This was the golden age of the imperial power. A leaden age was to succeed.

The change began in the appointment by Sujin of shoguns or generals over the military departments of the government. Gradually two distinct official castes arose, those in charge of civil affairs and those at the head of military operations. As the importance of these officials grew, they stood between the emperor and his subjects, secluding him more and more from the people. The mikado gradually became lost to view behind a screen of officialism, which hid the throne. Eventually all the military power fell into the hands of the shoguns, and the mikado was seen no more at the head of his[Pg 37] army. His power decayed, as he became to the people rather a distant deity than a present and active ruler. There arose in time a double government, with two capitals and centres of authority; the military caste became dominant, anarchy ruled for centuries, the empire was broken up into a series of feudal provinces and baronies, and the unity of the past was succeeded by the division of authority which existed until far within the nineteenth century. The fact that there were two rulers, in two capitals, gave the impression that there were two emperors in Japan, one spiritual and one secular, and when Commodore Perry reached that country, in 1853, he entered into a treaty with the shogun or "tycoon," the head of the military caste, under the belief that he was dealing with the actual ruler of Japan. The truth is, there has never been but one emperor in Japan, the mikado. His power has varied at times, but he is now again the actual and visible head of the empire, and the shoguns, who once lorded it so mightily, have been swept out of existence.

This explanation is necessary in order that readers may understand the peculiar conditions of Japanese history. Gradually the mikado became surrounded by a hedge of etiquette which removed him from the view of the outer world. He never appeared in public, and none of his subjects, except his wives and his highest ministers, ever saw his face. He sat on a throne of mats behind a curtain, even his feet not being allowed to touch the earth. If he left the palace to go abroad in the city, the journey was[Pg 38] made in a closely curtained car drawn by bullocks. To the people, the mikado became like a deity, his name sacred and inviolable, his power in the hands of the boldest of his subjects.

Buddhism had now become the official religion of the empire, priests multiplied, monasteries were founded, and the court became the chief support of the new faith, the courtiers zealously studying the sacred books of India, while the mikado and his empress sought by every means to spread the new belief among their people.

An emperor thus occupied could not pay much attention to the duties of government, and the power of the civil ministers and military chiefs grew accordingly. The case was like that of the Merovingian monarchs of France and the Mayors of the Palace, who in time succeeded to the throne. The mikados began to abdicate after short reigns, to shave off their hair to show that they renounced the world and its vanities, to become monks and spend the remainder of their days in the cloister. These short reigns helped the shoguns and ministers in their ambitious purposes, until in time the reins of power fell into the hands of a few great families, who fought furiously with one another for the control. It is with the feuds of these families that we have now to do. The mikados had sunk out of sight, being regarded by the public with awe as spiritual emperors, while their ministers rose into power and became the leaders of life and the lords of events in Japan.

First among these noble families to gain control was that of the Fujiwara (Wistaria meadow). They[Pg 39] were of royal origin, and rose to leading power in the year 645, when Kamatari, the founder of the family, became regent of the empire. All the great offices of the empire in time fell into the hands of the Fujiwaras: they married their daughters to the mikados, surrounded them with their adherents, and governed the empire in their name. In the end they decided who should be mikado, ruled the country like monarchs, and became in effect the proprietors of the throne. In their strong hands the mikado sank into a puppet, to move as they pulled the strings.

But the Fujiwaras were not left to lord it alone. Other great families sought a share of the power, and their rivalry often ended in war and bloodshed. The most ancient of these rivals was the family of the Sugawara. Greatest in this family was the renowned Sugawara Michizané, a polished courtier and famous scholar, whose talents raised him to the highest position in the realm. Japan had no man of greater learning; his historical works became famous, and some of them are still extant. But his genius did not save him from misfortune. His rivals, the Fujiwara, in the end succeeded in having him banished to Kiushiu, where, exposed to dire poverty, he starved to death. This martyr to official rivalry is now worshipped in Japan as a deity, the patron god of literature and letters. Temples have been erected to him, and students worship at his shrine.

At a later date two other powerful families became rivals for the control of the empire and added to the anarchy of the realm. The first of these was the[Pg 40] Taira family, founded 889 A.D., whose members attained prominence as great military chiefs. The second was the Minamoto family, founded somewhat later, which rose to be a powerful rival of the Taira, their rivalry often taking the form of war. For centuries the governmental and military history of Japan was made up of a record of the jealousies and dissensions of these rival families, in whose hands lay war and peace, power and place, and with whose quarrels and struggles for power our next tales will be concerned.[Pg 41]


In the struggle of the great families of Japan for precedence, the lords of the Fujiwara held the civil power of the realm, while the shoguns, or generals, were chosen from the Taira and Minamoto clans. Bred to arms, leading the armies of the empire in many a hard-fought war, making the camp their home, and loving best the trumpet-blast of battle, they became hardy and daring warriors, the military caste of Japan. While war continued, the shoguns were content to let the Fujiwara lord it at court, themselves preferring the active labors of the field. Only when peace prevailed, and there were no enemies to conquer nor rebels to subdue, did these warriors begin to long for the spoils of place and to envy the Fujiwara their power.

Chief among those thus moved by ambition was Kiyomori, the greatest of the Taira leaders. As a boy he possessed a strong frame and showed a proud spirit, wearing unusually high clogs, which in Japan indicates a disposition to put on lordly airs. His position as the son of a soldier soon gave him an opportunity to show his mettle. The seas then swarmed with pirates, who had become the scourge alike of Corea and of Japan and were making havoc among the mercantile fleets. The ambitious boy,[Pg 42] full of warlike spirit, demanded, when but eighteen years of age, to be sent against these ocean pests, and cruised against them in the Suwo Nada, a part of the Inland Sea. Here he met and fought a shipload of the most desperate of the buccaneers, capturing their vessel, and then attacking them in their place of refuge, which he destroyed.

For years afterwards Kiyomori showed the greatest valor by land and sea, and in 1153, being then thirty-six years of age, he succeeded his father as minister of justice for Japan. Up to this time the families of the Taira and the Minamoto had been friendly rivals in the field. Now their friendship came to an end and was succeeded by bitter enmity. In 1156 there were rival claimants for the throne, one supported by each of these great families. The Taira party succeeded, got possession of the palace, and controlled the emperor whom they had raised to the throne.

Kiyomori soon attained the highest power in the realm, and in him the military caste first rose to pre-eminence. The Fujiwara were deposed, all the high offices at court were filled by his relatives, and he made himself the military chief of the empire and the holder of the civil authority, the mikado being but a creature of his will.

History at this point gives us a glimpse of a curious state of affairs. Go-Shirawaka, the emperor whom Kiyomori had raised to the throne in 1156, abdicated in 1159, shaved off his hair, and became a Buddhist monk, professing to retire from the world within the holy cloisters of a monastery. But[Pg 43] nothing was farther from his thoughts. He was a man of immoral desires, and found his post on the throne a check to the debaucheries in which he wished to indulge. As a monk he exercised more power than he had done as a mikado, retaining the control of affairs during the reigns of his son and his two grandsons. The ranks and titles of the empire were granted by him with a lavish hand, and their disposition was controlled by Kiyomori, his powerful confederate, who, in addition to raising his relatives to power, held himself several of the highest offices in the realm.

The power of the Taira family increased until sixty men of the clan held important posts at court, while their lands spread over thirty provinces. They had splendid palaces in Kioto, the capital, and in Fukuwara, overlooking the Inland Sea. The two sons of Kiyomori were made generals of high rank, and his daughter became wife of the emperor Takakura, a boy eleven years of age. The Taira chief was now at the summit of power, and his foes in the depths of distress. The Fujiwara, who had no military power, were unable to contend with him, and his most dangerous rivals, the Minamoto, were slain or driven into exile. Yoshitomo, the head of the house, was assassinated by a traitor bribed by Kiyomori, his oldest son was beheaded, and the others—whom he thought to be the last of the Minamoto—were either banished or immured in monasteries. All the reins of power seemed to be in the regent's grasp.

The story is here diversified by a legend well worth repeating. One of the Minamoto, Tametomo[Pg 44] by name, was an archer of marvellous powers. His strength was equal to that of fifty ordinary men, and such was the power of his right arm, which was shorter than his left, that he could draw a bow which four common archers could not bend, and let fly a shaft five feet long, with an enormous bolt as its head. This Japanese Hercules was banished from the court at the instigation of the Taira, the muscles of his arm were cut, and he was sent in a cage to Idzu.

Escaping from his guards, he fled to one of the smaller islands, and remained in concealment until his arm had healed. Here the great archer became governor of the people, and forbade them to pay tribute to the throne. A fleet of boats was despatched against him, but, standing on the strand, he sent an arrow hurtling through the timbers of the nearest vessel and sunk it beneath the waves. Then, shouting defiance to his foes, he shut himself up in his house, set fire to it, and perished in the flames. But another legend relates that he fled to the Loochoo Islands, where he became ruler and founder of their dynasty of kings. On the Japanese greenback notes is a picture of this mighty archer, who is shown grasping his bow after sinking the ship.

It was the purpose of Kiyomori to exterminate the family of his foes. In two instances he was induced to let sons of that family live, a leniency for which the Taira were to pay bitterly in the end. The story of both these boys is full of romance. We give one of them here, reserving the other for a succeeding tale. Yoritomo, the third son of Yoshitomo,[Pg 45] was twelve years of age at the date of his father's defeat and death. During the retreat the boy was separated from his companions, and fell into the hands of an officer of the opposite party, who took him as prisoner to Kioto, the capital. Here the regent sentenced him to death, and the day for his execution was fixed. Only the tender heart of a woman saved the life of one who was destined to become the avenger of his father and friends.

"Would you like to live?" the boy's captor asked him.

"Yes," he replied; "my father and mother are both dead, and who but I can pray for their happiness in the world to come?"

The feelings of the officer were touched by this reply, and, hoping to save the boy, he told the story to the step-mother of Kiyomori, who was a Buddhist nun. The filial piety of the child affected her, and she was deeply moved when the officer said, "Yoritomo is much like Prince Uma."

Uma had been her favorite son, one loved and lost, and, her mother's heart stirred to its depths, she sought Kiyomori and begged him to spare the boy's life. He was obdurate at first, worldly wisdom bidding him to remove the last scion of his foes, but in the end he yielded to his mother's prayer and consented to spare the child, condemning him, however, to distant exile. This softness of heart he was bitterly to regret.

Yoritomo was banished to the province of Idzu, where he was kept under close guard by two officers of the Taira. He was advised by a friend to shave[Pg 46] off his hair and become a monk, but a faithful servant who attended him counselled him to keep his hair and await with a brave heart what the future might bring forth. The boy was shrewd and possessed of high self-control. None of the remaining followers of his father dared communicate with him, and enemies surrounded him, yet he restrained all display of feeling, was patient under provocation, capable of great endurance, and so winning in manner that he gained the esteem even of the enemies of his family.

The story of Yoritomo's courtship and marriage is one of much interest. Hojo Tokimasa, a noble with royal blood in his veins, had two daughters, the elder being of noted beauty, the younger lacking in personal charms. The exiled youth, who wished to ally himself to this powerful house and was anxious to win the mother's favor in his suit, was prudent enough to choose the homely girl. He sent her a letter, asking her hand in marriage, by his servant, but the latter, who had ideas of his own and preferred the beauty for his master's wife, destroyed the letter and wrote another to Masago, the elder daughter.

That night the homely sister had a dream. A pigeon seemed to fly to her with a box of gold in its beak. She told her vision to her sister, whom it deeply interested, as seeming to be a token of some good fortune coming.

"I will buy your dream," she said. "Sell it to me, and I will give you my toilet mirror in exchange. The price I pay is little," she repeated, using a common Japanese phrase.[Pg 47]

The homely sister willingly made the exchange, doubtless preferring a mirror to a dream. But she had hardly done so when the messenger arrived with the letter he had prepared. Masago gladly accepted, already being well inclined towards the handsome youth, but her father had meanwhile promised her hand to another suitor, and refused to break his word. The marriage was solemnized. But an understanding had been reached between the lovers, and early on the wedding-night Masago eloped with the waiting youth. In vain the husband sought for the fleeing pair. The father, seemingly angry, aided him in his search, though really glad at the lovers' flight. He much preferred Yoritomo, though he had been bound by his word, and in later years he became one of his ablest partisans. Masago rose to fame in Japanese history, aided in the subsequent triumph of her spouse, and did much to add to the splendor and dignity of his court.

During this period Kiyomori was making enemies, and in time became so insolent and overbearing that a conspiracy was formed for his overthrow. At the head of this was one of the royal princes, who engaged Yoritomo in the plot. The young exile sent out agents right and left to rouse the discontented. Many were won over, but one of them laughed the scheme to scorn, saying, "For an exile to plot against the Taira is like a mouse plotting against a cat."

But a conspiracy cannot be killed by a laugh. Yoritomo was soon in the field at the head of a body of followers. A fierce fight took place in the mountains,[Pg 48] in which the young rebel fought bravely, but was defeated and forced to flee for his life. Pursuit was sharp, and he escaped only by hiding in a hollow log. He afterwards reached a temple and concealed himself in the priests' wardrobe. At length he succeeded in crossing the Bay of Yedo to Awa, on its northern side. Here he found friends, sent out agents, and was not long in gathering a new army from the old friends of the Minamoto and those who hated the tyrant. In a few months he was at the head of a large and well-drilled force, with many noted generals in command. The country was fertile and food abundant, and day by day the army became larger.

But the Taira were not idle. Kiyomori quickly gathered a large army, which he sent to put down the rebellion, and the hostile forces came face to face on opposite sides of the Fuji River, the swiftest stream in Japan. Between them rolled the impetuous flood, which neither party dared to cross in the face of the foe, the most they could do being to glare at one another across the stream.

The story goes that one of the Taira men, knowing that the turn of the tide would favor their enemies, went to the river flats at night and stirred up the flocks of wild fowl that rested there. What he hoped to gain by this is not very clear, but it told against his own side, for the noise of the flocks was thought by the Taira force to be due to a night attack from their foes, and they fled in a sudden panic.

After this bloodless victory Yoritomo returned to his chosen place of residence, named Kamakura,[Pg 49] where he began to build a city that should rival the capital in size and importance. A host of builders and laborers was set at work, the dense thickets were cleared away, and a new town rapidly sprang up, with streets lined with dwellings and shops, store-houses of food, imposing temples, and lordly mansions. The anvils rang merrily as the armorers forged weapons for the troops, merchants sought the new city with their goods, heavily laden boats flocked into its harbor, and almost as if by magic a great city, the destined capital of the shoguns, rose from the fields.

The site of Kamakura had been well chosen. It lay in a valley facing the open sea, while in the rear rose a semicircle of precipitous hills. Through these roadways were cut, which might easily be defended against enemies, while offering free access to friends. The power of the Minamoto had suddenly grown again, and the Taira saw fronting them an active and vigorous foe where a year before all had seemed tranquil and the land their own.

To the proud Kiyomori this was a bitter draught. He fell sick unto death, and the high officials of the empire gathered round his bed, in mortal fear lest he to whom they owed their power should be swept away. With his last breath the vindictive old chief uttered invectives against his foes.

"My only regret is that I am dying," he said, "and have not yet seen the head of Yoritomo of the Minamoto. After my decease do not make offerings to Buddha on my account; do not read the sacred books. Only cut off the head of Yoritomo of the[Pg 50] Minamoto and hang it on my tomb. This is my sole command: see that it be faithfully performed."

This order was not destined to be carried out. Yoritomo was to die peacefully, eleven years afterwards, in 1199, with his head safe on his shoulders. Yet his bedchamber was nightly guarded, lest traitors should take his life, while war broke out from end to end of the empire. Kiyomori's last words seemed to have lighted up its flames. Step by step the forces of Yoritomo advanced. Victory followed their banners, and the foe went down in death. At length Kioto, the capital of the mikado, was reached, and fell into their hands. The Taira fled with the young mikado and his wife, but his brother was proclaimed mikado in his stead, and all the treasures of the Taira fell into the victors' hands.

Though the power of Yoritomo now seemed assured, he had a rebellion in his own ranks to meet. His cousin Yoshinaka, the leader of the conquering army, was so swollen with pride at his success that he forced the court to grant him the highest military title, imprisoned the old ex-mikado Go-Shirakawa, who had long been the power behind the throne, beheaded the Buddhist abbots who had opposed him, and acted with such rebellious insolence that Yoritomo had to send an army against him. A battle took place, in which he was defeated and killed.

Yoritomo was now supreme lord of Japan, the mikado, for whom he acted, being a mere tool in his hands. Yet one great conflict had still to be fought by the shogun's younger brother, whose romantic story we have next to tell.[Pg 51]


Yoritomo was not the only son of the Minamoto chief whom the tyrant let live. There was another, a mere babe at the time, who became a hero of chivalry, and whose life has ever since been the beacon of honor and knightly virtue to the youth of Japan.

When Yoshitomo fled from his foes after his defeat in 1159, there went with him a beautiful young peasant girl, named Tokiwa, whom he had deeply loved, and who had borne him three children, all boys. The chief was murdered by three assassins hired by his foe, and Tokiwa fled with her children, fearing lest they also should be slain.

It was winter. Snow deeply covered the ground. Whither she should go or how she should live the poor mother knew not, but she kept on, clasping her babe to her breast, while her two little sons trudged by her side, the younger holding her hand, the older carrying his father's sword, which she had taken as the last relic of her love. In the end the fleeing woman, half frozen and in peril of starvation, was met by a soldier of the army of her foes. Her pitiable condition and the helplessness of her children moved him to compassion, and he gave her shelter and food.

Her flight troubled Kiyomori, who had hoped to destroy the whole family of his foes, and had given[Pg 52] strict orders for her capture or death. Not being able to discover her place of retreat, he conceived a plan which he felt sure would bring her within his power. In Japan and China alike affection for parents is held to be the highest duty of a child, the basal element of the ancient religion of both these lands. He therefore seized Tokiwa's mother, feeling sure that filial duty would bring her to Kioto to save her mother's life.

Tokiwa heard that her mother was held as a hostage for her and threatened with death unless she, with her children, should come to her relief. The poor woman was in an agony of doubt. Did she owe the greatest duty to her mother, or to her children? Could she deliver up her babes to death? Yet could she abandon her mother, whom she had been taught as her first and highest duty to guard and revere? In this dilemma she conceived a plan. Her beauty was all she possessed; but by its aid she might soften the hard heart of Kiyomori and save both her mother and her children.

Reproduced by permission of The Philadelphia Museums.
FARMERS PLANTING RICE SPROUTS. JAPAN. Reproduced by permission of The Philadelphia Museums.

Success followed her devoted effort. Reaching the capital, Tokiwa obtained an audience with the tyrant, who was so struck with her great beauty that he wished to make her his mistress. At first she refused, but her mother begged her with tears to consent, and she finally yielded on Kiyomori's promise that her children should be spared. This mercy did not please the friends of the tyrant, who insisted that the boys should be put to death, fearing to let any one live who bore the hated name of Minamoto. But the beauty of the mother and her tearful pleadings won[Pg 53] the tyrant's consent, and her sacrifice for her children was not in vain.

The youngest of the three, the babe whom Tokiwa had borne in her arms in her flight, grew up to be a healthy, ruddy-cheeked boy, small of stature, but fiery and impetuous in spirit. Kiyomori had no intention, however, that these boys should be left at liberty to cause him trouble in the future. When of proper age he sent them to a monastery, ordering that they should be brought up as priests.

The elder boys consented to this, suffering their black hair to be shaved off and the robes of Buddhist neophytes to be put on them. But Yoshitsuné, the youngest, had no fancy for the life of a monk, and refused to let the razor come near his hair. Though dwelling in the monastery, he was so merry and self-willed that his pranks caused much scandal, and the pious bonzes knew not what to do with this young ox, as they called the irrepressible boy.

As Yoshitsuné grew older, his distaste at the dulness of his life in the cloister increased. The wars in the north, word of which penetrated even those holy walls, inspired his ambition, and he determined in some way to escape. The opportunity to do so soon arose. Traders from the outer world made their way within the monastery gates for purposes of business, and among these was an iron-merchant, who was used to making frequent journeys to the north of the island of Hondo to obtain the fine iron of the celebrated mines of that region. The youth begged this iron-merchant to take him on one of his journeys, a request which he at first refused, through[Pg 54] fear of offending the priests. But Yoshitsuné insisted, saying that they would be glad enough to be rid of him, and the trader at length consented. Yoshitsuné was right: the priests were very well satisfied to learn that he had taken himself off.

On the journey the youthful noble gave proofs of remarkable valor and strength. He seized and held prisoner a bold robber, and on another occasion helped to defend the house of a man of wealth from an attack by robbers, five of whom he killed. These and other exploits alarmed a friend who was with him, and who bade him to be careful lest the Taira should hear of his doings, learn who he was, and kill him.

The boy at length found a home with the prince of Mutsu, a nobleman of the Fujiwara clan. Here he spent his days in military exercises and the chase, and by the time he was twenty-one had gained a reputation as a soldier of great valor and consummate skill, and as a warrior in whom the true spirit of chivalry seemed inborn. A youth of such honor, virtue, courage, and martial fire Japan had rarely known.

In the war that soon arose between Yoritomo and the Taira the youthful Bayard served his brother well. Kiyomori, in sparing the sons of the Minamoto chief, had left alive the two ablest of all who bore that name. So great were the skill and valor of the young warrior that his brother, on the rebellion of Yoshinaka, made Yoshitsuné commander of the army of the west, and sent him against the rebellious general, who was quickly defeated and slain.[Pg 55]

But the Taira, though they had been driven from the capital, had still many adherents in the land, and were earnestly endeavoring to raise an army in the south and west. Unfortunately for them, they had a leader to deal with who knew the value of celerity. Yoshitsuné laid siege to the fortified palace of Fukuwara, within which the Taira leaders lay intrenched, and pushed the siege with such energy that in a short time the palace was taken and in flames. Those who escaped fled to the castle of Yashima, which their active enemy also besieged and burned. As a last refuge the Taira leaders made their way to the Straits of Shimonoseki, where they had a large fleet of junks.

The final struggle in this war took place in the fourth month of the year 1185. Yoshitsuné had with all haste got together a fleet, and the two armies, now afloat, met on the waters of the strait for the greatest naval battle that Japan had ever known. The Taira fleet consisted of five hundred vessels, which held not only the fighting men, but their mothers, wives, and children, among them the dethroned mikado, a child six years of age. The Minamoto fleet was composed of seven hundred junks, containing none but men.

In the battle that followed, the young leader of the Minamoto showed the highest intrepidity. The fight began with a fierce onset from the Taira, which drove back their foe. With voice and example Yoshitsuné encouraged his men. For an interval the combat lulled. Then Wada, a noted archer, shot an arrow which struck the junk of a Taira chief.[Pg 56]

"Shoot it back!" cried the chief.

An archer plucked it from the wood, fitted it to his bow, and let it fly at the Minamoto fleet. The shaft grazed the helmet of one warrior and pierced the breast of another.

"Shoot it back!" cried Yoshitsuné.

"It is short and weak," said Wada, plucking it from the dead man's breast. Taking a longer shaft from his quiver, he shot it with such force and sureness of aim that it passed through the armor and flesh of the Taira bowman and fell into the sea beyond. Yoshitsuné emptied his quiver with similar skill, each arrow finding a victim, and soon the tide of battle turned.

Treason aided the Minamoto in their victory. In the vessel containing the son, widow, and daughter of Kiyomori, and the young mikado, was a friend of Yoshitsuné, who had agreed upon a signal by which this junk could be known. In the height of the struggle the signal appeared. Yoshitsuné at once ordered a number of captains to follow with their boats, and bore down on this central vessel of the Taira fleet.

Soon the devoted vessel was surrounded by hostile junks, and armed men leaped in numbers on its deck. A Taira man sprang upon Yoshitsuné, sword in hand, but he saved his life by leaping to another junk, while his assailant plunged to death in the encrimsoned waves. Down went the Taira nobles before the swords of their assailants. The widow of Kiyomori, determined not to be taken alive, seized the youthful mikado and leaped into the sea. Munemori,[Pg 57] Kiyomori's son and the head of the Taira house, was taken, with many nobles and ladies of the court.

Still the battle went on. Ship after ship of the Taira fleet, their sides crushed by the prows of their opponents, sunk beneath the reddened waters. Others were boarded and swept clear of defenders by the sword. Hundreds perished, women and children as well as men. Hundreds more were taken captive. The waters of the sea, that morning clear and sparkling, were now the color of blood, and the pride of the Taira clan lay buried beneath the waves or were cast up by the unquiet waters upon the strand. With that fatal day the Taira vanished from the sight of men.

Yoritomo gave the cruel order that no male of that hated family should be left alive, and armed murderers sought them out over hill and vale, slaying remorselessly all that could be traced. In Kioto many boy children of the clan were found, all of whom were slain. A few of the Taira name escaped from the fleet and fled to Kiushiu, where they hid in the lurking-places of the mountains. There, in poverty and pride, their descendants still survive, having remained unknown in the depths of their covert until about a century ago.

The story of Yoshitsuné, which began in such glory, ends in treachery and ingratitude. Yoritomo envied the brother to whose valor his power was largely due. Hatred replaced the love which should have filled his heart, and he was ready to believe any calumny against the noble young soldier.[Pg 58]

One Kajiwara, a military adviser in the army, grew incensed at Yoshitsuné for acting against his advice, and hastened to Yoritomo with lies and slanders. The shogun, too ready to believe these stories, forbade Yoshitsuné to enter the city on his return with the spoils of victory. The youthful victor wrote him a touching letter, which is still extant, recounting his toils and dangers, and appealing for justice and the clearance from suspicion of his fair fame.

Weary of waiting, he went to Kioto, where he found himself pursued by assassins. He escaped into Yamato, but was again pursued. Once more he escaped and concealed himself, but spies traced him out and the son of his host tried to murder him.

What finally became of the hero is not known. The popular belief is that he killed himself with his own hand, after slaying his wife and children. Some believe that he escaped to Yezo, where for years he dwelt among the Ainos, who to-day worship his spirit and have erected a shrine over what they claim to be his grave. The preposterous story is even advanced that he fled to Asia and became the great Mongol conqueror Genghis Khan.

Whatever became of him, his name is immortal in Japan. Every Japanese youth looks upon the youthful martyr as the ideal hero of his race, his form and deeds are glorified in art and song, and while a martial thought survives in Japan the name of this Bayard of the island empire will be revered.[Pg 59]


Under the rule of Yoritomo Japan had two capitals and two governments, the mikado ruling at Kioto, the shogun at Kamakura, the magnificent city which Yoritomo had founded. The great family of the Minamoto was now supreme, all its rivals being destroyed. A special tax for the support of the troops yielded a large revenue to the shoguns; courts were established at Kamakura; the priests, who had made much trouble, were disarmed; a powerful permanent army was established; a military chief was placed in each province beside the civil governor, and that military government was founded which for nearly seven centuries robbed the mikado of all but the semblance of power. Thus it came that the shogun, or the tycoon as he afterwards named himself, appeared to be the emperor of Japan.

We have told how Yoritomo, once a poor exile, became the lord of the empire. After conquering all his enemies he visited Kioto, where he astonished the court of the mikado by the splendor of his retinue and the magnificence of his military shows, athletic games, and ceremonial banquets. The two rulers exchanged the costliest presents, the emperor conferred all authority upon the general, and when Yoritomo returned to his capital city he held in his[Pg 60] control the ruling power of the realm. All generals were called shoguns, but he was the shogun, his title being Sei-i Tai Shogun (Barbarian-subjugating Great General). Though really a vassal of the emperor, he wielded the power of the emperor himself, and from 1192 until 1868 the mikados were insignificant puppets and the shoguns the real lords of the land. Such was the strange progress of political evolution in Japan. The mikado was still emperor, but the holders of this title lay buried in sloth or religious fanaticism and let their subordinates rule.

And now we have another story to tell concerning this strange political evolution. As the shoguns became paramount over the mikados, so did the Hojo, the regents of the shoguns, become paramount over them, and for nearly one hundred and fifty years these vassals of a vassal were the virtual emperors of Japan. This condition of affairs gives a curious complication to the history of that country.

In a previous tale it has been said that the father of Masago, the beautiful wife of the exiled prince, was named Hojo Tokimasa. He was a man of ability and was much esteemed and trusted by his son-in-law. After the death of Yoritomo and the accession of his son, Tokimasa became chief of the council of state, and brought up the young shogun in idleness and dissipation, wielding the power in his name. When the boy reached manhood and began to show ambition to rule, Tokimasa had him exiled to a temple and soon after assassinated. His brother, then twelve years old, succeeded as shogun. He cared nothing for power, but much for enjoyment,[Pg 61] and the Hojo let him live his life of pleasure while they held the control of affairs. In the end he was murdered by the son of the slain shogun, who was in his turn killed by a soldier, and thus the family of Yoritomo became extinct.

From that time forward the Hojo continued preeminent. They were able men, and governed the country well. The shoguns were chosen by them from the Minamoto clan, boys being selected, some of them but two or three years old, who were deposed as soon as they showed a desire to rule. The same was the case with the mikados, who were also creatures of the Hojo clan. One of them who had been deposed raised an army and fought for his throne. He was defeated and exiled to a distant monastery. Others were deposed, and neither mikados nor shoguns were permitted to reign except as puppets in the hands of the powerful regents of the realm.

None of the Hojo ever claimed the office of shogun. They were content to serve as the power behind the throne. As time went on, the usual result of such a state of affairs showed itself. The able men of the Hojo family were followed by weak and vicious ones. Their tyranny and misgovernment grew unbearable. They gave themselves up to luxury and debauchery, oppressed the people by taxes to obtain means for their costly pleasures, and crushed beneath their oppressive rule the emperor, the shogun, and the people alike. Their cup of vice and tyranny at length overflowed. The day of retribution was at hand.[Pg 62]

The son of the mikado Go-Daigo was the first to rebel. His plans were discovered by spies, and his father ordered him to retire to a monastery, in which, however, he continued to plot revenge. Go-Daigo himself next struck for the power of which he possessed but the name. Securing the aid of the Buddhist priests, he fortified Kasagi, a stronghold in Yamato. He failed in his effort. In the following year (1331) an army attacked and took Kasagi, and the emperor was taken prisoner and banished to Oki.

Connected with his exile is a story of much dramatic interest. While Go-Daigo was being borne in a palanquin to his place of banishment, under a guard of soldiers, Kojima, a young noble of his party, attempted his rescue. Gathering a party of followers, he occupied a pass in the hills through which he expected that the train would make its way. But another pass was taken, and he waited in vain.

Learning their mistake, his followers, disheartened by their failure, deserted him. But the faithful vassal cautiously followed the train, making various efforts to approach and whisper hope to the imperial exile. He was prevented by the vigilance of the guard, and finally, finding that either rescue or speech was hopeless, he hit upon a plan to baffle the vigilance of the guards and let the emperor know that friends were still at work in his behalf.

Under the shadows of night he secretly entered the garden of the inn where the party was resting, and there scraped off the outer bark of a cherry-tree,[Pg 63] laying bare the smooth white layer within. On this he wrote the following stanza:

"O Heaven, destroy not Kosen
While Hanrei still lives."

The next morning the soldiers noticed the writing on the tree. Curious to learn its meaning, but unable to read, they showed it to their prisoner, who, being familiar with the quotation, caught, with an impulse of joy, its concealed significance. Kosen was an ancient king of China who had been deposed and made prisoner, but was afterwards restored to power by his faithful follower Hanrei. Glad to learn that loyal friends were seeking his release, the emperor went to his lonely exile with renewed hope. Kojima afterwards died on the battle-field during the war for the restoration of the exiled mikado.


But another valiant soldier was soon in the field in the interest of the exile. Nitta Yoshisada, a captain of the Hojo forces, had been sent to besiege Kusunoki, a vassal of the mikado, who held a stronghold for his imperial lord. Nitta, roused by conscience to a sense of his true duty, refused to fight against the emperor, deserted from the army, and, obtaining a commission from Go-Daigo's son, who was concealed in the mountains, he returned to his native place, raised the standard of revolt against the Hojo, and soon found himself at the head of a considerable force.

In thirteen days after raising the banner of revolt in favor of the mikado he reached the vicinity of Kamakura, acting under the advice of his brother,[Pg 64] who counselled him to beard the lion in his den. The tyranny of the Hojo had spread far and wide the spirit of rebellion, and thousands flocked to the standard of the young general,—a long white pennant, near whose top were two bars of black, and under them a circle bisected with a zone of black.

On the eve of the day fixed for the attack on the city, Nitta stood on the sea-shore in front of his army, before him the ocean with blue islands visible afar, behind him lofty mountain peaks, chief among them the lordly Fusiyama. Here, removing his helmet, he uttered the following words:

"Our heavenly son [the mikado] has been deposed by his traitorous subject, and is now an exile afar in the west. I have not been able to look on this act unmoved, and have come to punish the traitors in yonder city by the aid of these loyal troops. I humbly pray you, O god of the ocean waves, to look into the purposes of my heart. If you favor me and my cause, then bid the tide to ebb and open a path beside the sea."

With these words he drew his sword and cast it with all his strength into the water. For a moment the golden hilt gleamed in the rays of the setting sun, and then the blade sank from sight. But with the dawn of the next day the soldiers saw with delight that there had been a great ebb in the tide, and that the dry strand offered a wide high-road past the rocky girdle that enclosed Kamakura. With triumphant shouts they marched along this ocean path, following a leader whom they now believed to be the chosen avenger of the gods.[Pg 65]

From two other sides the city of the shogun was attacked. The defence was as fierce as the assault, but everywhere victory rested upon the white banner of loyalty. Nitta's army pressed resistlessly forward, and the Hojo found themselves defeated and their army destroyed. Fire completed what the sword had begun, destructive flames attacked the frame dwellings of the city, and in a few hours the great capital of the shoguns and their powerful regents was a waste of ashes.

Many of the vassals of the Hojo killed themselves rather than surrender, among them a noble named Ando, whose niece was Nitta's wife. She wrote him a letter begging him to surrender.

"My niece is the daughter of a samurai house," the old man indignantly exclaimed. "How can she make so shameless a request? And why did Nitta, who is himself a samurai, permit her to do so?" Wrapping the letter around his sword, he plunged the blade into his body and fell dead.

While Nitta was winning this signal victory, others were in arms for the mikado elsewhere, and everywhere the Hojo power went down. The people in all sections of the empire rose against the agents of the tyrants and put them to death, many thousands of the Hojo clan being slain and their power utterly destroyed. They had ruled Japan from the death of Yoritomo, in 1199, to 1333. They have since been execrated in Japan, the feeling of the people being displayed in their naming one of the destructive insects of the island the Hojo bug. Yet among the Hojo were many able rulers, and under[Pg 66] them the empire was kept in peace and order for over a century, while art and literature flourished and many of the noblest monuments of Japanese architecture arose.

Go-Daigo was now recalled from exile and replaced on the imperial throne. For the first time for centuries the mikado had come to his own and held the power of the empire in his hands. With judgment and discretion he might have restored the old government of Japan.

But he lacked those important qualities, and quickly lost the power he had won. After a passing gleam of its old splendor the mikadoate sank into eclipse again.

Go-Daigo was ruined by listening to a flatterer, whom he raised to the highest power, while he rewarded those who had rescued him with unimportant domains. A fierce war followed, in which Ashikaga, the flatterer, was the victor, defeating and destroying his foes. Go-Daigo had pronounced him a rebel. In return he was himself deposed, and a new emperor, whom the usurper could control, was raised to the vacant throne. For three years only had the mikado remained supreme. Then for a long period the Ashikagas held the reins of power, and a tyranny like that of the Hojo existed in the land.[Pg 67]


In all its history only one serious effort has been made to conquer the empire of Japan. It ended in such dire disaster to the invaders that no nation has ever repeated it. During the thirteenth century Asia was thrown into turmoil by the dreadful outbreak of the Mongol Tartars under the great conqueror Genghis Khan. Nearly all Asia was overrun, Russia was subdued, China was conquered, and envoys were sent to Japan demanding tribute and homage to the great khan.

Six times the demand was made, and six times refused. Then an army of ten thousand men was sent to Japan, but was soon driven from the country in defeat. Kublai Khan, the Mongol emperor of China, now sent nine envoys to the shogun, bidding them to stay until they received an answer to his demand. They stayed much longer than he intended, for the Hojo, who were then in power, cut off their heads. Once again the Chinese emperor sent to demand tribute, and once again the heads of the envoys were severed from their bodies.

Acts like these could have only one result, and the Japanese made rapid preparations to meet the great power which had conquered Asia. A large army was levied, forts and defences were put in order,[Pg 68] stores gathered in great quantities, and weapons and munitions of war abundantly prepared. A fleet of junks was built, and all the resources of the empire were employed. Japan, though it had waged no wars abroad, had amply learned the art of war from its frequent hostilities at home, and was well provided with brave soldiers and skilful generals. The khan was not likely to find its conquest an easy task.

While the islanders were thus busy, their foes were as actively engaged. The proud emperor had made up his mind to crush this little realm that so insolently defied his power. A great fleet was made ready, containing thirty-five hundred vessels in all, in which embarked an army of one hundred thousand Chinese and Tartars and seven thousand Corean troops. It was the seventh month of the year 1281 when the expectant sentinels of Japan caught the glint of the sun's rays on the far-off throng of sails, which whitened the seas as they came on with streaming banners and the warlike clang of brass and steel.

The army of Japan, which lay encamped on the hills back of the fortified city of Daizaifu, in the island of Kiushiu, and gathered in ranks along the adjoining coast, gazed with curiosity and dread on this mighty fleet, far the largest they had ever seen. Many of the vessels were of enormous size, as it seemed to their unaccustomed eyes, and were armed with engines of war such as they had never before beheld. The light boats of the Japanese had little hope of success against these huge junks, and many of those that ventured from shelter were sunk by[Pg 69] the darts and stones flung from the Mongol catapults. The enemy could not be matched upon the sea; it remained to prevent him from setting foot upon shore.

Yet the courage and daring of the island warriors could not be restrained. A party of thirty swam out and boarded a junk, where their keen-edged swords proved more than a match for the Tartar bows and spears, so that they returned with the heads of the crew. A second party tried to repeat a like adventure, but the Tartars were now on the alert and killed them all. One captain, with a picked crew, steered out in broad daylight to a Chinese junk, heedless of a shower of darts, one of which took off his arm. In a minute more he and his men were on the deck and were driving back the crew in a fierce hand-to-hand encounter. Before other vessels of the fleet could come up, they had fired the captured junk and were off again, bearing with them twenty-one heads of the foe.

To prevent such attacks all advanced boats were withdrawn and the fleet was linked together with iron chains, while with catapults and great bows heavy darts and stones were showered on approaching Japanese boats, sinking many of them and destroying their crews. But all efforts of the Tartars to land were bravely repulsed, and such detachments as reached the shore were driven into the sea before they could prepare for defence, over two thousand of the enemy falling in these preliminary attempts. With the utmost haste a long line of fortifications, consisting of earthworks and palisades, had been[Pg 70] thrown up for miles along the shore, and behind these defences the island soldiers defied their foes.

Among the defenders was a captain, Michiari by name, whose hatred of the Mongols led him to a deed of the most desperate daring. Springing over the breastworks, he defied the barbarians to mortal combat. Then, filling two boats with others as daring as himself, he pushed out to the fleet.

Both sides looked on in amazement. "Is the man mad?" said the Japanese. "Are those two little boats coming to attack our whole fleet?" asked the Mongols. "They must be deserters, who are coming to surrender."

Under this supposition the boats were permitted to approach unharmed, their course being directed towards a large Tartar junk. A near approach being thus made, grappling-irons were flung out, and in a minute more the daring assailants were leaping on board the junk.

Taken by surprise, the Tartars were driven back, the two-handed keen-edged swords of the assailants making havoc in their ranks. The crew made what defence they could, but the sudden and unlooked-for assault had put them at disadvantage, and before the adjoining ships could come to their aid the junk was in flames and the boats of the victors had put off for land. With them as prisoner they carried one of the highest officers in the invading fleet.

Yet these skirmishes did little in reducing the strength of the foe, and had not the elements come to the aid of Japan the issue of the affair might have been serious for the island empire. While the[Pg 71] soldiers were fighting the priests were praying, and the mikado sent a priestly messenger to the shrines at Isé, bearing his petition to the gods. It was noonday, and the sky perfectly clear, when he offered the prayer, but immediately afterwards a broad streak of cloud rose on the horizon, and soon the sky was overcast with dense and rolling masses, portending a frightful storm.

It was one of the typhoons that annually visit that coast and against whose appalling fury none but the strongest ships can stand. It fell with all its force on the Chinese fleet, lifting the junks like straws on the great waves which suddenly arose, tossing them together, hurling some upon the shore, and forcing others bodily beneath the sea. Hundreds of the light craft were sunk, and corpses were heaped on the shore in multitudes. Many of the vessels were driven to sea, few or none of which ever reached land. Many others were wrecked upon Taka Island. Here the survivors, after the storm subsided, began cutting down trees and building boats, in the hope of reaching Corea. But they were attacked by the Japanese with such fury that all were slain but three, whose lives were spared that they might bear back the news to their emperor and tell him how the gods had fought for Japan.

The lesson was an effective one. The Chinese have never since attempted the conquest of Japan, and it is the boast of the people of that country that no invading army has ever set foot upon their shores. Six centuries afterwards the case was to be reversed and a Japanese army to land on Chinese soil.[Pg 72]

Great praise was given to the Hojo then in control at Kamakura for his energy and valor in repelling the invaders. But the chief honor was paid to the gods enshrined at Isé, who were thenceforward adored as the guardians of the winds and the seas. To this day the invasion of the Mongols is vividly remembered in Kiushiu, and the mother there hushes her fretful babe with the question, "Little one, why do you cry? Do you think the Mogu are coming?"

It may be well here to say that the story of this invasion is told by Marco Polo, who was at the court of Kublai Khan, the Mongol conqueror of China, at the time it took place, and that his tale differs in many respects from that of the Japanese historians. Each party is apparently making the best of its side of the affair.

According to Marco Polo's account, the failure of the expedition was due to jealousy between the two officers in command. He states that one Japanese fortification was taken and all within put to the sword, except two, whose flesh was charmed against the sword and who could be killed only by being beaten to death with great clubs. As for those who reached Taka Island, they contrived by strategy to gain possession of the boats of the assailing Japanese, by whose aid, and that of the flags which the boats flew, they captured the chief city of Japan. Here for six months they were closely besieged, and finally surrendered on condition that their lives should be spared.[Pg 73]


For more than two centuries the Ashikaga lorded it over Japan, as the Hojo had done before them, and the mikados were tools in their strong hands. Then arose a man who overthrew this powerful clan. This man, Nobunaga by name, was a descendant of Kiyomori, the great leader of the Taira clan, his direct ancestor being one of the few who escaped from the great Minamoto massacre.

The father of this Taira chief was a soldier whose valor had won him a large estate. Nobunaga added to it, built himself a strong castle, and became the friend and patron of the last of the Ashikaga, whom he made shogun. (The Ashikaga were descendants of the Minamoto, who alone had hereditary claim to this high office.) But Nobunaga remained the power behind the throne, and, a quarrel arising between him and the shogun, he deposed the latter, and became himself the ruler of Japan. After two hundred and thirty-eight years of dominion the lordship of the Ashikaga thus came to an end.

Of this great Japanese leader we are told, "He was a prince of large stature, but of weak and delicate complexion, with a heart and soul that supplied all other wants; ambitious above all mankind; brave, generous, and bold, and not without many excellent[Pg 74] moral virtues; inclined to justice, and an enemy to treason. With a quick and penetrating wit, he seemed cut out for business. Excelling in military discipline, he was esteemed the fittest to command an army, manage a siege, fortify a town, or mark out a camp of any general in Japan, never using any head but his own. If he asked advice, it was more to know their hearts than to profit by their advice. He sought to see into others and to conceal his own counsel, being very secret in his designs. He laughed at the worship of the gods, being convinced that the bonzes were impostors abusing the simplicity of the people and screening their own debauches under the name of religion."

Such was the man who by genius and strength of will now rose to the head of affairs. Not being of the Minamoto family, he did not seek to make himself shogun, and for forty years this office ceased to exist. He ruled in the name of the mikado, but held all the power of the realm.

The good fortune of Nobunaga lay largely in his wise choice of men. Under him were four generals, so admirable yet so diverse in military ability that the people gave them the distinctive nicknames of "Cotton," "Rice," "Attack," and "Retreat." Cotton, which can be put to a multitude of uses, indicated the fertility in resources of the first; while the second made himself as necessary as rice, which people cannot live a day without. The strength of the third lay in the boldness of his attacks; of the fourth, in the skill of his retreats. Of these four, the first, named Hideyoshi, rose to great fame. A fifth was[Pg 75] afterwards added, Tokugawa Iyeyasu, also a famous name in Japan.

It was through his dealings with the Buddhists that Nobunaga made himself best known in history. He had lived among them in his early years, and had learned to hate and despise them. Having been educated in the Shinto faith, the ancient religion of Japan, he looked on the priests of Buddhism as enemies to the true faith. The destruction of these powerful sectaries was, therefore, one of the great purposes of his life.

Nobunaga had other reasons than these for destroying the power of the bonzes. During the long period of the Ashikagas these cunning ecclesiastics had risen to great power. Their monasteries had become fortresses, with moats and strong stone walls. Internally these were like arsenals, and an army could readily be equipped from them with weapons, while many of the priests were daring leaders. During the civil wars they served the side that promised them the most spoil or power. Rivals among them often fought battles of their own, in which hundreds were killed and towns and temples burned. So great were their authority, their insolence, and their licentiousness that their existence had become an evil in the land, and Nobunaga determined to teach them a lesson they would not soon forget.

Of the monasteries, the most extensive was that of Hiyeizan, on Lake Biwa. Within its territory lay thirteen valleys and more than five hundred temples, shrines, and dwellings, the grounds of which were adorned in the highest style of landscape art.[Pg 76] The monks here were numbered by thousands, with whom religious service was a gorgeous ceremonial mockery, and who revelled in luxury, feasted on forbidden viands, drank to inebriety, and indulged in every form of licentiousness. They used their influence in rousing the clans to war, from which they hoped to draw new spoils for their unrighteous enjoyments, while screening themselves from danger behind the cloak of the priesthood.

It was against this monastery that the wrath of Nobunaga was most strongly aroused. Marching against it in 1571, he bade his generals set it on fire. The officers stood aghast at the order, which seemed to them likely to call down the vengeance of Heaven upon their heads. With earnest protests they begged him not to do so unholy an act.

"Since this monastery was built, now nearly a thousand years ago," they said, "it has been vigilant against the power of the spirits of evil. No one has dared in all that time to lift a hand against these holy buildings. Can you design to do so?"

"Yes," answered Nobunaga, sternly. "I have put down the villains that distracted the country, and I intend to bring peace upon the land and restore the power of the mikado. The bonzes have opposed my efforts and aided my enemies. I sent them a messenger and gave them the chance to act with loyalty, but they failed to listen to my words, and resisted the army of the emperor, aiding the wicked robbers. Does not this make them thieves and villains? If I let them now escape, this trouble will continue forever, and I have allowed them to remain on this[Pg 77] mountain only that I might destroy them. That is not all. I have heard that these priests fail to keep their own rules. They eat fish and the strong-smelling vegetables which Buddha prohibited. They keep concubines, and do not even read the sacred books of their faith. How can such as these put down evil and preserve holiness? It is my command that you surround and burn their dwellings and see that none of them escape alive."

Thus bidden, the generals obeyed. The grounds of the monastery were surrounded, and on the next day the temples and shrines were set on fire and the soldiers remorselessly cut down all they met. The scene of massacre and conflagration that ensued was awful to behold. None were spared, neither young nor old, man, woman, nor child. The sword and spear were wielded without mercy, and when the butchery ended not a soul of the multitude of inmates was left alive.

One more great centre of Buddhism remained to be dealt with, that of the monastery and temple of Houguanji, whose inmates had for years hated Nobunaga and sided with his foes, while they made their stronghold the hiding-place of his enemies. Finally, when some of his favorite captains had been killed by lurking foes, who fled from pursuit into the monastery, he determined to deal with this haunt of evil as he had dealt with Hiyeizan.

But this place was not to be so easily taken. It was strongly fortified, and could be captured only by siege. Within the five fortresses of which it was composed were many thousands of priests and warriors,[Pg 78] women and children, and a still more frightful massacre than that of Hiyeizan was threatened. The place was so closely surrounded that all escape seemed cut off, but under cover of the darkness of night and amid a fierce storm several thousand of the people made their way from one of the forts. They failed, however, in their attempt, being pursued, overtaken, and slaughtered. Soon after a junk laden with human ears and noses came close under the walls of the castle, that the inmates might learn the fate of their late friends.

Vigorously the siege went on. A sortie of the garrison was repelled, but a number of Nobunaga's best officers were killed. After some two months of effort, three of the five fortresses were in the assailants' hands, and many thousands of the garrison had fallen or perished in the flames, the odor of decaying bodies threatening to spread pestilence through camp and castle alike.

In this perilous condition of affairs the mikado sent a number of his high officials to persuade the garrison to yield. A conference was held and a surrender agreed upon. The survivors were permitted to make their way to other monasteries of their sect, and Nobunaga occupied the castle, which is still held by the government. These two great blows brought the power of the bonzes, for that age, to an end. In later years some trouble was made by them, but Nobunaga had done his work so thoroughly that there was little difficulty in keeping them under control.


There remains only to tell the story of this great[Pg 79] captain's end. He died at Kioto, the victim of treason. Among his captains was one named Akechi, a brave man, but proud. One day, in a moment of merriment, Nobunaga put the head of the captain under his arm and played on it with his fan, saying that he would make a drum of it. This pleasantry was not to the taste of the haughty captain, who nursed a desire for revenge,—behind which perhaps lay a wish to seize the power of the chief.

The traitor did not have long to wait. Nobunaga had sent most of his forces away to quell a rebellion, keeping but a small garrison. With part of this Akechi was ordered to Kiushiu, and left the city with seeming intention to obey. But he had not gone far when he called his officers together, told them of his purpose to kill Nobunaga, and promised them rich booty for their assistance in the plot. The officers may have had reasons of their own for mutiny, for they readily consented, and marched back to the city they had just left.

Nobunaga resided in the temple of Hounoji, apparently without a guard, and to his surprise heard the tread of many feet and the clash of armor without. Opening a window to learn what this portended, he was struck by an arrow fired from the outer darkness. He saw at once what had occurred, and that escape was impossible. There was but one way for a hero to die. Setting fire to the temple, he killed himself, and before many minutes the body of the great warrior was a charred corpse in the ashes of his funeral pile.[Pg 80]


In the history of nations there have been many instances of a man descended from the lowest class of the populace reaching the highest rank. Kings, conquerors, emperors, have thus risen from the ranks of peasants and laborers, and the crown has been worn by men born to the beggar's lot. In the history of Japan only one instance of this kind appears, that of one born a peasant who supplanted the noble families and became lord of the people and the emperor alike. Such a man was Hideyoshi, the one of Nobunaga's generals who bore the popular nickname of "Cotton," from his fertility of resources and his varied utility to his chief.

Born in 1536, the son of a peasant named Yasuké, as a baby he had almost the face of a monkey, while as a boy he displayed a monkey-like cunning, restlessness, and activity. The usual occupations of the sons of Japanese peasants, such as grass-cutting and rice-weeding, were not to the taste of young Monkey-pine, as the villagers called him, and he spent his time in the streets, a keen-witted and reckless young truant, who feared and cared for no one, and lived by his wits.

Fortune favored the little vagrant by bringing him under the eyes of the great soldier Nobunaga,[Pg 81] who was attracted by his wizened, monkeyish face and restless eyes and gave him occupation among his grooms. As he grew older his love of war became pronounced, he took part in the numerous civil turmoils in which his patron was engaged, and manifested such courage and daring that Nobunaga rapidly advanced him in rank, finally making him one of his most trusted generals. No man was more admired in the army for soldierly qualities than the peasant leader, and the boldest warriors sought service under his banner, which at first bore for emblem a single gourd, but gained a new one after each battle, until it displayed a thick cluster of gourds. At the head of the army a golden model of the original banner was borne, and wherever it moved victory followed.

Such was the man who, after the murder of Nobunaga, marched in furious haste upon his assassin and quenched the ambition of the latter in death. The brief career of the murderer has given rise to a Japanese proverb, "Akechi ruled three days." The avenger of the slain regent was now at the head of affairs. The mikado himself dared not oppose him, for the military power of the empire lay within his grasp. There was only one man who ventured to resist his authority, and he for no long time.

This was a general named Shibata, who took the field in defence of the claim of Nobutaka, a son of the slain regent. He did not realize with whom he had to deal. The peasant general was quickly in the field at the head of his veteran army, defeated Shibata at every encounter, and pursued him so hotly[Pg 82] that he fled for refuge to a fortified place now known as Fukui. This stronghold Hideyoshi besieged, establishing his camp on the slope of a neighboring mountain, from which he pushed his siege operations so vigorously that the fugitive gave up all hope of escape.

In this dilemma Shibata took a resolution like that of the Epicurean monarch of Assyria, the famed Sardanapalus. He gave a grand feast in the palace, to which all the captains and notables of his party were invited, and at which all present danced and made merry as though victory hung over their banners. Yet it was their funeral feast, to be followed by a carnival of death.

In the midst of the banquet, Shibata, rising cup in hand, said to his wife,—

"We are men, and will die. You are a woman, and have the right to live. You may gain safety by leaving the castle, and are at liberty to marry again."

The brave woman, the sister of Nobunaga, was too high in spirit to accept this offer. Her eyes filled with tears, she thanked her lord for his kindness, but declared that the world held no other husband for her, and that it was her sole wish to die with him. Then, reciting a farewell stanza of poetry, she calmly stood while her husband thrust his dirk into her heart.

All the women and children present, nerved by this brave example, welcomed the same fate, and then the men committed hara-kiri, the Japanese method of suicide, Shibata having first set fire to the castle. Soon the flames curled upward round the[Pg 83] dead and the dying, and the conqueror found nothing but the ashes of a funeral pile upon which to lay hand.

Hideyoshi, all resistance to his rule being now at an end, set himself to tranquillize and develop Japan. Iyeyasu, one of Nobunaga's favorite generals, became his friend and married his sister; Mori, lord of the West, came to the capital and became his vassal, and no man in the empire dared question his power. His enemies, proud nobles who were furious at having to bend their haughty heads before a peasant, privately called him Sava Kuan ja ("crowned monkey"), but were wise enough not to be too open in their satire. Their anger was especially aroused by the fact that the mikado had conferred upon this parvenu the lofty office of kuambaku, or prime minister of the empire, a title which had never before been borne by any one not a noble of the Fujiwara clan, for whom it had been expressly reserved. He was also ennobled under the family name of Toyotomi Hideyoshi.

The new premier showed as great an activity in the works of peace as he had shown in those of war, putting his soldiers to work to keep their minds employed. Kioto was improved by his orders, splendid palaces being built, and the bed of the river Kamo paved with flat stones. Ozaka was greatly developed, an immense fortress being built, the river widened and deepened, and canals dug in great profusion, over which were thrown more than a thousand bridges. Various other cities were improved, great towers and pagodas built, and public works erected in many parts of the realm. In addition Hideyoshi[Pg 84] won popularity by his justice and mercy, pardoning his opponents, though the rule had hitherto been to put the adherents of opposite parties to death, and showing no regard for rank, title, or service to himself in his official duty as judge.

He had married a peasant girl while a peasant himself, but as he rose in rank he espoused new wives of increasingly high station, his last being of princely descent. In the end he had as many wives as the much-married Henry VIII., but not in the same fashion, as he kept them all at once, instead of cutting off the head of one to make room for the next.

Hideyoshi had one great ambition, born in him when a boy, and haunting him as a man. This was to conquer Corea, and perhaps China as well. He had begged Nobunaga to aid him in this great design, but had only been laughed at for his pains. Now that he was at the head of affairs, this plan loomed up in large proportions in his mind. Corea had long ceased to pay tribute, and Corean pirates ravaged the coast. Here was an excuse for action. As for China, he knew that anarchy ruled there, and hoped to take advantage of this state of affairs.

Patting the back of a statue of Yoritomo in a patronizing fashion, he humorously said, "You are my friend. You took all the power in Japan, a thing which only you and I have been able to do. But you came from a noble family, and were not, like me, the son of a peasant. I propose to outdo you, and conquer all the earth, and even China. What say you to that?"

To test the feeling of the gods about his proposed[Pg 85] expedition, he threw into the air before a shrine a hundred "cash," or Japanese small coin, saying, to translate his words into the American vernacular, "If I am to conquer China, let these come up head."

They all came up "head," or what in Japan answers to that word, and soldiers and ruler were alike delighted, for this omen seemed surely to promise success.

Nearly fourteen hundred years had elapsed since the previous conquest of Corea by the famous empress Jingu. Now an army said to have been five hundred thousand strong was sent across the ocean channel between Kiushiu and the Corean coast. Hideyoshi was at this time sixty years of age and had grown infirm of body, so that he felt unable to command the expedition himself, which was therefore intrusted to two of his ablest leaders, Kato, of noble birth, and Konishi, the son of a druggist, who disgusted his proud associate by representing on his banner a paper medicine-bag, the sign of his father's shop.

Notwithstanding the ill feeling between the leaders, the armies were everywhere victorious, Corea was overrun and the king driven from his capital, and the victors had entered into serious conflict with the armies of China, when word came from Japan (in 1598) that Hideyoshi was dead. A truce was at once concluded and the army ordered home.

Thus ended the second invasion of Corea, the second of the events which gave rise to the claim in Japan that Corea is a vassal state of the island empire and were used as warrants to the nineteenth century invasion.[Pg 86]


The death of the peasant premier left Iyeyasu, the second in ability of Nobunaga's great generals, as the rising power in Japan. Hideyoshi, in the hope of preserving the rule in his own family, had married his son, a child of six, to Iyeyasu's granddaughter, and appointed six ministers to act as his guardians. He did not count, in cherishing this illusory hope, on the strength of human ambition. Nor did he give thought to the bitter disgust with which the haughty lords and nobles had yielded to the authority of one whom they regarded as an upstart. The chances of the child's coming to power were immeasurably small.

In truth, the death of the strong-willed premier had thrown Japan open to anarchy. The leaders who had returned from the Corean war, flushed with victory, were ambitious for power, and the thousands of soldiers under their command were eager for war and spoils. Hidenobu, a nephew of Nobunaga, claimed the succession to his uncle's position. The five military governors who had been appointed by the late premier were suspicious of Iyeyasu, and took steps to prevent him from seizing the vacated place. The elements of anarchy indeed were everywhere[Pg 87] abroad, there was more than one aspirant to the ruling power, and armies began to be raised.

Iyeyasu keenly watched the movements of his enemies. When he saw that troops were being recruited, he did the same. Crimination and recrimination went on, skirmishes took place in the field, the citadel of Ozaka was successively taken and retaken by the opposing parties, the splendid palace of Hideyoshi at Fushimi was given to the flames, and at length the two armies came together to settle in one great battle the fate of Japan.

The army of the league against Iyeyasu had many leaders, including the five governors, most of the generals of the Corean war, and the lords and vassals of Hideyoshi. Strong as it was, one hundred and eighty thousand in all, it was moved by contrary purposes, and unity of counsel was lacking among the chiefs. The army of Iyeyasu, while far weaker, had but one leader, and was inspired by a single purpose.

On the 1st of October, 1600, the march began, over the great highway known as the Tokaido. The white banner of Iyeyasu was embroidered with hollyhocks, his standard a golden fan. "The road to the west is shut," prophesied the diviners. "Then I shall knock till it opens," the bold leader replied.

As they marched onward, a persimmon (ogaki in Japanese) was offered him. He opened his hand to receive it, saying, as it fell into his palm, "Ogaki has fallen into my hand." (The significance of this remark lies in the fact that the camp of the league lay around the castle of Ogaki).

Learning of the near approach of Iyeyasu's force,[Pg 88] the opposing army broke camp and marched to meet him through a sharp rain that wet them to the skin. Their chosen field of battle, Sekigahara ("plain of the barrier") by name, is in Omi, near Lake Biwa. It is an expanse of open, rolling ground, bisected by one of the main roads between Tokio and Kioto and crossed by a road from Echizen. On this spot was to be fought one of the greatest battles Japan had ever known, whose result was destined to settle the fate of the empire for two hundred and fifty years.

In the early morning of the eventful day one of the pickets of Iyeyasu's host brought word that the army of the league was in full march from the castle of Ogaki. This important news was soon confirmed by others, and the general joyfully cried, "The enemy has indeed fallen into my hand." Throwing aside his helmet, he knotted a handkerchief over his forehead, saying that this was all the protection he should need in the coming battle.

His army was seventy-five thousand strong. That opposed to him exceeded his in strength by more than fifty thousand men. But neither as yet knew what they had to encounter, for a fog lay heavy on the plain, and the two armies, drawn up in battle array, were invisible to each other. To prevent surprise, Iyeyasu sent in front of his army a body of guards bearing white flags, to give quick warning of an advance.

At length, at eight o'clock, the fog rose and drifted away, revealing the embattled hosts. Hardly had it vanished before the drums beat their battle peal[Pg 89] and the martial conchs sounded defiance, while a shower of arrows from each army hurtled through the opposing ranks. In a short time the impatient warriors met in mid field, and sword and spear began their deadly work.

The great weight of the army of the league at first gave it the advantage, and for hours the result was in doubt, though a corps of the league forces deserted to the ranks of Iyeyasu. At length unity and discipline began to prevail, the intrepidity of Iyeyasu and his skill in taking advantage of every error of his enemy giving confidence to his men. By noon they were bearing back the foe. Ordering up the reserves, and bidding the drummers and conch-blowers to sound their most inspiriting appeal, Iyeyasu gave order for the whole army to charge.

Before the impetuous onset that followed, the enemy wavered, broke, and fled, followed in hot pursuit by the victorious host. And now a frightful scene began. Thousands of heads of the flying were cut off by the keen-edged blades of their pursuers. Most of the wounded and many of the unhurt killed themselves upon the field, in obedience to the exaggerated Japanese sense of honor. The defeat became a butchery. In Japanese battles of the past quarter was a mercy rarely craved or granted, and decapitation the usual mode of death when the sword could be brought into play, so that the triumph of the victors was usually indicated by the dimensions of the ghastly heap of heads. In this frightful conflict the claim was made by the victors (doubtless an exaggeration) that they had taken[Pg 90] forty thousand heads of the foe, while their own loss was only four thousand. However that be, a great mound of heads was made, one of many such evidences of slaughter which may still be seen in Japan.

Throughout the battle a knotted handkerchief was the only defence of Iyeyasu's head. The victory won, he called for his helmet, which he put on, carefully tying the strings. As all looked on with surprise at this strange action, he, with a smile, repeated to them an old Japanese proverb, "After victory, knot the cords of your helmet."

It was a suggestion of vigilance wisely given and alertly acted upon. The strongholds of the league were invested without delay, and one by one fell into the victors' hands. The fragments of the beaten army were followed and dispersed. Soon all opposition was at an end, and Iyeyasu was lord and master of Japan.

The story of the victor in the most decisive victory Japan had ever known, one that was followed by two and a half centuries of peace, needs to complete it a recital of two important events, one being the founding of Yedo, the great eastern capital, the other the organization of the system of feudalism.

For ages the country around the Bay of Yedo, now the chief centre of activity and civilization in Japan, was wild and thinly peopled. The first mention of it in history is in the famous march of Yamato-Daké, whose wife leaped here into the waves as a sacrifice to the maritime gods. In the fifteenth century a small castle was built on the site of the[Pg 91] present city, while near it on the Tokaida, the great highway between the two ancient capitals, stood a small village, whose chief use was for the refreshment and assistance of travellers.

Ota Dagnan, the lord of the castle, was a warrior of fame, whose deeds have gained him a place in the song and story of Japan. Of the tales told of him there is one whose poetic significance has given it a fixed place in the legendary lore of the land. One day, when the commandant was amusing himself in the sport of hawking, a shower of rain fell suddenly and heavily, forcing him to stop at a house near by and request the loan of a grass rain-coat,—a mino, to give it its Japanese name.

A young and very pretty girl came to the door at his summons, listened to his polite request, and stood for a moment blushing and confused. Then, running into the garden, she plucked a flower, handed it with a mischievous air to the warrior, and disappeared within the house. Ota, angrily flinging down the flower, turned away, after an impulse to force his way into the house and help himself to the coat. He returned to the castle wet and fuming at the slight to his rank and dignity.

Soon after he related the incident to some court nobles from Kioto, who had stopped at the castle, and who, to his surprise, did not share his indignation at the act.

"Why, the incident was delightful," said one among them who was specially versed in poetic lore; "who would have looked for such wit and such knowledge of our classic poetry in a young girl in[Pg 92] this uncultivated spot? The trouble is, friend Ota, that you are not learned enough to take the maiden's meaning."

"I take it that she meant to laugh at a soaked fowler," growled the warrior.

"Not so. It was only a graceful way of telling you that she had no mino to loan. She was too shy to say no to your request, and so handed you a mountain camellia. Centuries ago one of our poets sang of this flower, 'Although it has seven or eight petals, yet, I grieve to say, it has no seed' (mino). The cunning little witch has managed to say 'no' to you in the most graceful way imaginable."

Here, where the castle stood, Iyeyasu started to build a city, at the suggestion of his superior Hideyoshi. Thus began the great city of Yedo,—now Tokio, the eastern capital of Japan. In 1600, Iyeyasu, then at the head of affairs, pushed the work on his new city with energy, employing no less than three hundred thousand men. The castle was enlarged, canals were excavated, streets laid out and graded, marshes filled, and numerous buildings erected, fleets of junks bringing granite for the citadel, while the neighboring forests furnished the timber for the dwellings.

An outer ditch was dug on a grand scale, and gates and towers were built with no walls to join them and no dwellings within many furlongs of their site. But to those who laughed at the magnificent plan on which the young city had been laid out, the founder declared that the coming time would see his walls built and the dwellings of the city[Pg 93] stretching far beyond them. Before a century his words were verified, and Yedo had a population of half a million souls. To-day it is the home of more than a million people.

It is for his political genius that Iyeyasu particularly deserves fame. Once more, in 1615, he was forced to fight for his supremacy, against the son of the late premier. A bloody battle followed, ending in victory for Iyeyasu and the burning of the castle of Ozaka, in whose flames the aspirant for power probably met his doom. No other battle was fought on the soil of Japan for two hundred and fifty-three years.

Iyeyasu had the blood of the Minamoto clan in his veins. He had therefore an hereditary claim to the shogunate, as successor to the great Yoritomo, the founder of the family and the first to bear the title of Great Shogun. This title, Sei-i Tai Shogun, was now conferred by the mikado on the new military chief, and was borne by his descendants, the Tokugawa family, until the great revolution of 1868, when the mikado again seized his long-lost authority.

Before this period, civil war had for centuries desolated Japan. After 1615 war ceased in that long distracted land and peace and prosperity prevailed. What were the steps taken by the new shogun to insure this happy result? It arose through the establishment of a well-defined system of feudalism, and the bringing of the feudal lords under the immediate control of the shogun.

Japan was already organized on a semi-feudal system. The land was divided between the great[Pg 94] lords or daimios, who possessed strong castles and large landed estates, with a powerful armed following, and into whose treasuries much of the revenue of the kingdom flowed. These powerful princes of the realm were conciliated by the conqueror. Under them were daimios of smaller estate, many of whom had joined him in his career; and lower still a large number of minor military holders, whose grants of land enabled them to bring small bodies of followers into the field.

Iyeyasu's plan was one of conciliation and the prevention of hostile union. He laid his plans and left it to time to do his work. Some of the richest fiefs of the empire were conferred upon his sons, who founded several of its most powerful families. The possessions of the other lords were redistributed, the land being divided up among them in a way to prevent rebellious concentration, vassals and adherents of his own being placed between any two neighboring lords whose loyalty was in doubt. To prevent ambitious lords from seizing Kioto and making prisoner the mikado, as had frequently been done in the past, he surrounded it on all sides with strong domains ruled by his sons or friends. When his work of redistribution was finished, his friends and vassals everywhere lay between the realms of doubtful daimios. A hostile movement in force had been rendered nearly impossible.

Below the daimios came the hatamoto, or supporters of the flag, direct vassals of the shogun, of whom there were eighty thousand in Japan, mostly descendants of proved warriors and with a train of[Pg 95] from three to thirty retainers each. These were scattered throughout the empire, but the majority of them lived in Yedo. They formed the direct military dependence of the shogun, and held most of the military and civil positions. Under them again were the gokenin, the humbler members of the Togukawa clan, and hereditary followers of the shogun. All these formed the samurai, the men privileged to wear two swords and exempted from taxes. Their number and readiness gave the shogun complete military control of the empire, and made him master of all it held, from mikado to peasant.

Such was the method adopted by the great statesman to insure peace to the empire and to keep the power within the grasp of his own family. In both respects it proved successful. A second important step was taken by Iyemitsu, his grandson, and after him the ablest of the family. By this time many of the noted warriors among the daimios were dead, and their sons, enervated by peace and luxury, could be dealt with more vigorously than would have been safe to do with their fathers.

Iyemitsu suggested that all the daimios should make Yedo their place of residence for half the year. At first they were treated as guests, the shogun meeting them in the suburbs and dealing with them with great consideration. But as the years went on the daimios became more and more like prisoners on parole. They were obliged to pay tribute of respect to the shogun in a manner equivalent to doing homage. Though they could return at intervals to their estates, their wives and children were kept in[Pg 96] Yedo as hostages for their good behavior. When Iyemitsu died, the shoguns had cemented their power beyond dispute. The mikados, nominal emperors, were at their beck and call; the daimios were virtual prisoners of state; the whole military power and revenues of the empire were under their control; conspiracy and attempted rebellion could be crushed by a wave of their hands; peace ruled in Japan.

Iyemitsu was the first to whom the title of Tai Kun (Tycoon), or Great King, was ever applied. It was in a letter written to Corea, intended to influence foreigners. It was employed in a larger sense for the same purpose at a later date, as we shall hereafter see. Suffice it here to say that the Tokugawas remained the rulers of Japan until 1868, when a new move in the game of empire was made.[Pg 97]


The fact that such a realm as that of Japan existed remained unknown in Europe until about six centuries ago, when Marco Polo, in his famous record of travel and adventure, first spoke of it. He knew of it, however, only by Chinese hearsay, and the story he told contained far more of fable than of fact. The Chinese at that time seem to have had little knowledge of their nearest civilized neighbor.

Reproduced by permission of The Philadelphia Museums.
RETURNING FROM MARKET. JAPAN. Reproduced by permission of The Philadelphia Museums.

"Zipangu"—the name he gives it—is, he says, "an island in the Eastern Ocean, about fifteen hundred miles [Chinese miles] from the mainland. Its people are well made, of fair complexion, and civilized in manner, but idolaters in religion." He continues, "They have gold in the greatest abundance, its sources being inexhaustible. To this circumstance we are to attribute the extraordinary richness of the sovereign's palace according to what we are told by those who have access to the place. The entire roof is covered with a plating of gold, in the same manner as we cover houses, or more properly churches, with lead. The ceilings of the halls are of the same precious metal; many of the apartments have small tables of pure gold, of considerable thickness; and the windows have also golden ornaments. So vast,[Pg 98] indeed, are the riches of the palace that it is impossible to convey an idea of them. In this island there are pearls also, in large quantities, of a pink color, round in shape and of great size, equal in value to, or even exceeding, that of the white pearls. There are also found there a number of precious stones."

This story is as remote from truth as some of those told by Sindbad the Sailor. Polo, no doubt, thought he was telling the truth, and knew that this cascade of gold and pearls would be to the taste of his readers, but anything more unlike the plainness and simplicity of the actual palace of the mikado it would be hard to find.

For the next European knowledge of Japan we must step forward to the year 1542. Columbus had discovered America, and Portugal had found an ocean highway to the spice islands of the East. A Portuguese adventurer, Mendez Pinto by name, ventured as far as China, then almost unknown, and, with two companions, found himself on board a Chinese junk, half trader, half pirate.

In a sea-fight with another corsair their pilot was killed, and soon after a fierce storm blew them far off shore. Seeking to make the Loochoo Islands, they lost them through lack of a pilot, and were tossed about at the ocean's will for twenty-three days, when they made harbor on Tané, a small island of Japan lying south of Kiushiu. Pinto, after his return to Europe, told so many marvellous stories about Japan that people doubted him as much as they had doubted Marco Polo. His very name, Mendez, was extended into "mendacious." Yet time has[Pg 99] done justice to both these old travellers, who either told, or tried to tell, the truth.

The Portuguese travellers were well received by the islanders,—who knew not yet what firebrands they were welcoming. It took a century for Europeans to disgust the Japanese so thoroughly as to force the islanders to drive them from the land and put up the bars against their return. What interested the Japanese even more than their visitors were the new and strange weapons they bore. Pinto and his two comrades were armed with arquebuses, warlike implements such as they had never before seen, and whose powers filled them with astonishment and delight. It was the era of civil war in Japan, and the possession of a new and deadly weapon was eagerly welcomed by that martial people, who saw in it visions of speedy success over their enemies.

Pinto was invited to the castle of the daimio of Bungo, whom he taught the arts of making guns and gunpowder. The Japanese, alert at taking advantage of the discoveries of other people, were quick to manufacture powder and guns for themselves, and in the wars told of in our last few tales native cannon were brought into use, though the razor-edged sword continued the most death-dealing of their weapons.

As for the piratical trader which conveyed Pinto to Japan, it sold its cargo at an immense profit, while the three Portuguese reached China again rich in presents. This was not Pinto's only visit to Japan. He made three other voyages thither, the last in 1556, as ambassador from the Portuguese viceroy[Pg 100] in the East. On this occasion he learned that the islanders had made rapid progress in their new art of gun-making, they claiming to have thirty thousand guns in Fucheo, the capital of Bungo, and ten times that number in the whole land of Japan.

The new market for European wares, opened by the visit of Pinto, was quickly taken advantage of by his countrymen, and Portuguese traders made their way by hundreds to Japan, where they met with the best of treatment. Guns and powder were especially welcome, as at that time the power of the Ashikaga clan was at an end, anarchy everywhere prevailed, and every local chief was in arms to win all he could from the ruins of the state. Such was the first visit of Europeans to Japan, and such the gift they brought, the fatal one of gunpowder.

The next gift of Europe to Japan was that of the Christian faith. On Pinto's return to Malacca he met there the celebrated Francis Xavier, the father superior of the order of the Jesuits in India, where he had gained the highest reputation for sanctity and the power of working miracles. With the traveller was a Japanese named Anjiro, whom he had rescued from enemies that sought his death, and converted to Christianity. Xavier asked him whether the Japanese would be likely to accept the religion of the Christians.

"My people will not be ready to accept at once what may be told them," said Anjiro, "but will ask you a multitude of questions, and, above all, will see whether your conduct agrees with your words. If they are satisfied, the king, the nobles, and the people[Pg 101] will flock to Christ, since they constitute a nation that always accepts reason as a guide."

Thus encouraged, Xavier, whose enthusiasm in spreading the gospel was deterred by no obstacle, set sail in 1549 for Japan, accompanied by two priests and Anjiro, the latter with a companion who had escaped with him in his flight from Japan.

The missionary party landed at Kagoshima, in Satsuma. Here they had little success, only the family and relatives of Anjiro accepting the new faith, and Xavier set out on a tour through the land, his goal being Kioto, the mikado's capital. Landing at Amanguchi, he presented himself before the people barefooted and meanly dressed, the result of his confessed poverty being that, instead of listening to his words, the populace hooted and stoned him and his followers. At Kioto he was little better received.

Finding that a display of poverty was not the way to impress the Japanese, the missionary returned to the city of Kioto richly clothed and bearing presents and letters from the Portuguese viceroy to the emperor. He was now well received and given permission to preach, and in less than a year had won over three thousand converts to the Christian faith.

Naturally, on reaching Kioto, he had looked for the splendor spoken of by Marco Polo, the roof and ceilings of gold and the golden tables of the emperor's palace. He was sadly disenchanted on entering a city so desolated by fire and war that it was little more than a camp, and on beholding the plainest and least showy of all the palaces of the earth.[Pg 102]

Returning to the port of Fucheo for the purpose of embarking for India, whence he designed to bring new laborers to the virgin field, Xavier preached with such success as to alarm the Buddhist bonzes, who made futile efforts to excite the populace against him as a vagabond and an enchanter. From there he set out for China, but died on the way thither. He had, however, planted the seed of what was destined to yield a great and noble harvest.

In fact, the progress of Christianity in Japan was of the most encouraging kind. Other missionaries quickly followed the great Jesuit pioneer, and preached the gospel with surprising success. In less than five years after the visit of Xavier to Kioto that city possessed seven Christian churches, while there were many others in the southwest section of the empire. In 1581, thirty years after Xavier's death, there were in Japan two hundred churches, while the number of converts is given at one hundred and fifty thousand. Several of the daimios were converted to the new faith, and Nobunaga, who hated and strove to exterminate the Buddhists, received the Christians with the greatest favor, gave them desirable sites for their churches, and sought to set them up as a foil to the arrogance of the bonzes.

The Christian daimios went so far as to send a delegation to the pope at Rome, which returned eight years afterwards with seventeen Jesuit missionaries, while a multitude of mendicant friars from the Philippine Islands and elsewhere sought the new field of labor, preaching with the greatest zeal and[Pg 103] success. It is claimed that at the culminating point of proselytism in Japan the native Christians numbered no less than six hundred thousand, among them being several princes, and many lords, high officials, generals, and other military and naval officers, with numerous women of noble blood. In some provinces the Christian shrines and crosses were as numerous as the Buddhist shrines had been before, while there were thousands of churches, chapels, and ecclesiastical edifices.

This remarkable success, unprecedented in the history of Christian missionary work, was due in great measure to certain conditions then existing in Japan. When Xavier and his successors reached Japan, it was to find the people of that country in a state of the greatest misery, the result of a long era of anarchy and misrule. Of the native religions, Shintoism had in great measure vanished, while Buddhism, though affecting the imaginations of the people by the gorgeousness of its service, had little with which to reach their hearts.

Christianity came with a ceremonial more splendid than that of Buddhism, and an eloquence that captivated the imaginations of the Japanese. Instead of the long series of miseries of Buddhist transmigration, it offered admission to the glories of heaven after death, a doctrine sure to be highly attractive to those who had little to hope for but misery during life. The story of the life and death of Christ strongly impressed the minds of the people, as compared with the colder story of Buddha's career, while a certain similarity between the modes of[Pg 104] worship of the two religions proved of the greatest assistance to the advocates of the new creed. The native temples were made to serve as Christian churches; the images of Buddha and his saints were converted into those of Christ and the apostles; and, aside from the more attractive doctrines of Christianity, there were points of resemblance between the organization and ceremonial of the two religions that aided the missionaries in inducing the people to change from their old to the new faith.

One of the methods pursued in the propagation of Christianity had never been adopted by the Buddhists, that of persecution of alien faiths. The spirit of the Inquisition, then active in Europe, was brought to Japan. The missionaries instigated their converts to destroy the idols and desert the old shrines. Gold was used freely as an agent in conversion, and the Christian daimios compelled their subjects to follow them in accepting the new faith. In whole districts the people were ordered to accept Christianity or to exile themselves from their homes. Exile or death was the fate of many of the bonzes, and fire and the sword lent effect to preaching in the propagation of the doctrine of Christianity.

To quote a single instance, from Charlevoix's "History of the Christianizing of Japan," "In 1577 the lord of the island of Amacusa issued his proclamation, by which his subjects—whether bonzes or gentlemen, merchants or traders—were required either to turn Christians, or to leave the country the very next day. They almost all submitted, and received baptism, so that in a short time[Pg 105] there were more than twenty churches in the kingdom. God wrought miracles to confirm the faithful in their belief."

Miracles of the kind here indicated and others that might be quoted were not of the character of those performed by Christ, and such methods of making proselytes were very likely to recoil upon those that indulged in them. How the result of the introduction of European methods manifested itself in Japan will be indicated in our next tale.[Pg 106]


We have described in the preceding tale the rise of Christianity in Japan, and the remarkable rapidity of its development in that remote land. We have now to describe its equally rapid decline and fall, and the exclusion of Europeans from Japanese soil. It must be said here that this was in no sense due to the precepts of Christianity, but wholly to the hostility between its advocates of different sects, their jealousy and abuse of one another, and to the quarrels between nations in the contest to gain a lion's share of the trade with Japan.

At the time when the Portuguese came to Japan all Europe was torn with wars, civil, political, and religious. These quarrels were transferred to the soil of Japan, and in the end so disgusted the people of that empire that Europeans were forbidden to set foot on its shores and the native Christians were massacred. Traders, pirates, slave-dealers, and others made their way thither, with such a hodge-podge of interests, and such a medley of lies and backbitings, that the Japanese became incensed against the whole of them, and in the end decided that their room was far better than their company.

The Portuguese were followed to Japan by the Spaniards, and these by the Dutch, each trying to[Pg 107] blacken the character of the others. The Catholics abused the Protestants, and were as vigorously abused in return. Each trading nation lied with the most liberal freedom about its rivals. To the seaports of Hirado and Nagasaki came a horde of the outcasts of Europe, inveterately hostile to one another, and indulging in quarrels, riots, and murders to an extent which the native authorities found difficult to control. In addition, the slave-trade was eagerly prosecuted, slaves being so cheap, in consequence of the poverty and misery arising from the civil wars, that even the negro and Malay servants of the Portuguese indulged in this profitable trade, which was continued in spite of decrees threatening all slave-dealers with death.

This state of affairs, and the recriminations of the religious sects, gave very natural disgust to the authorities of Japan, who felt little respect for a civilization that showed itself in such uncivilized shapes, and the disputing and fighting foreigners were rapidly digging their own graves in Japan. During the life of Nobunaga all went on well. In his hatred to the Buddhist bonzes he favored the Jesuits, and Christianity found a clear field. With the advent of Hideyoshi there came a change. His early favor to the missionaries was followed by disgust, and in 1587 he issued a decree banishing them from the land. The churches and chapels were closed, public preaching ceased, but privately the work of conversion went actively on, as many as ten thousand converts being made each year.

The Spanish mendicant friars from the Philippines[Pg 108] were bolder in their work. Defying the decree, they preached openly in the dress of their orders, not hesitating to denounce in violent language the obnoxious law. As a result the decree was renewed, and a number of the priests and their converts were crucified. But still the secret work of the Jesuits continued and the number of converts increased, among them being some of the generals in the Corean war.


With the accession of Iyeyasu began a rapid downfall of Christianity in Japan. In the great battle which raised him to the head of affairs some of the Christian leaders were killed. Konishi, a Christian general, who had commanded one division of the army in Corea, was executed. On every side there was evidence of a change in the tide of affairs, and the Christians of Japan began to despair.

The daimios no longer bade their followers to become Christians. On the contrary, they ordered them to renounce the new faith, under threat of punishment. Their harshness resulted in rebellion, so new a thing among the peasantry of Japan that the authorities felt sure that they had been secretly instigated to it by the missionaries. The wrath of the shogun aroused, he sent soldiers against the rebels, putting down each outbreak with bloodshed, and in 1606 issued a decree abolishing the Christian faith. This the Spanish friars defied, as they had that of his predecessor.

In 1611, Iyeyasu was roused to more active measures by the discovery of a plot between the foreigners and the native converts for the overthrow of the[Pg 109] government. Sado, whose mines were worked by thousands of Christian exiles, was to be the centre of the outbreak, its governor, Okubo, being chosen as the leader and the proposed new ruler of the land.

Iyeyasu, awakened to the danger, now took active steps to crush out the foreign faith. A large number of friars and Jesuits, with native priests, were forcibly sent from the country, while the siege and capture of the castle of Ozaka in 1615 ended the career of all the native friends of the Jesuits, and brought final ruin upon the Christian cause in Japan.

During the reigns of the succeeding shoguns a violent persecution began. The Dutch traders, who showed no disposition to interfere in religious affairs, succeeded in ousting their Portuguese rivals, all foreigners except Dutch and Chinese being banished from Japan, while foreign trade was confined to the two ports of Hirado and Nagasaki. This was followed by a cruel effort to extirpate what was now looked on as a pestilent foreign faith. Orders were issued that the people should trample on the cross or on a copper plate engraved with the image of Christ. Those who refused were exposed to horrible persecutions, being wrapped in sacks of straw and burnt to death in heaps of fuel, while terrible tortures were employed to make them renounce their faith. Some were flung alive into open graves, many burned with the wood of the crosses before which they had prayed, others flung from the edge of precipices. Yet they bore tortures and endured death with a fortitude not surpassed by that of the[Pg 110] martyrs of old, clinging with the highest Christian ardor to their new faith.

In 1637 these excesses of persecution led to an insurrection, the native Christians rising in thousands, seizing an old castle at Shimabara, and openly defying their persecutors. Composed as they were of farmers and peasants, the commanders who marched against them at the head of veteran armies looked for an easy conquest, but with all their efforts the insurgents held out against them for two months. The fortress was at length reduced by the aid of cannon taken from the Dutch traders, and after the slaughter of great numbers of the garrison. The bloody work was consummated by the massacre of thirty-seven thousand Christian prisoners, and the flinging of thousands more from a precipice into the sea below. Many were banished, and numbers escaped to Formosa, whither others had formerly made their way. The "evil sect" was formally prohibited, while edicts were issued declaring that as long as the sun should shine no foreigner should enter Japan and no native should leave it. A slight exception was made in favor of the Dutch, of whom a small number were permitted to reside on the little island of Deshima, in the harbor of Nagasaki, one trading ship being allowed to come there each year.

Thus ended the career of foreign trade and European residence in Japan. It had continued for nearly a century, yet left no mark of its presence except the use of gunpowder and fire-arms, the culture of tobacco and the habit of smoking, the naturalization[Pg 111] of a few foreign words and of several strange diseases, and, as an odd addition, the introduction of sponge-cake, still everywhere used as a favorite viand. As for Christianity, the very name of Christ became execrated, and was employed as the most abhorrent word that could be spoken in Japan. The Christian faith was believed to be absolutely extirpated, and yet it seems to have smouldered unseen during the centuries. As late as 1829 seven persons suspected of being Christians were crucified in Ozaka. Yet in 1860, when the French missionaries were admitted to Nagasaki, they found in the surrounding villages no fewer than ten thousand people who still clung in secret to the despised and persecuted faith.

The French and English had little intercourse with Japan, but the career of one Englishman there is worthy of mention. This was a pilot named Will Adams, who arrived there in 1607 and lived in or near Yedo until his death in 1620. He seems to have been a manly and honest fellow, who won the esteem of the people and the favor of the shogun, by whom he was made an officer and given for support the revenue of a village. His skill in ship-building and familiarity with foreign affairs made him highly useful, and he was treated with great respect and kindness, though not allowed to leave Japan. He had left a wife and daughter in England, but married again in Japan, his children there being a son and daughter, whose descendants may still be found in that country. Anjin Cho (Pilot Street) in Yedo was named from him, and the inmates of that street honor his memory with an annual celebration[Pg 112] on the 15th of June. His tomb may still be seen on one of the hills overlooking the Bay of Yedo, where two neat stone shafts, set on a pediment of stone, mark the burial-place of the only foreigner who in past times ever attained to honor in Japan.[Pg 113]


Japan was persistent in its policy of isolation. To its people their group of islands was the world, and they knew little of and cared less for what was going on in all the continents outside. The Dutch vessel that visited their shores once a year served as an annual newspaper, and satisfied their curiosity as to the doings of mankind. The goods it brought were little cared for, Japan being sufficient unto itself, so that it served merely as a window to the world. Once a year a delegation from the Dutch settlement visited the capital, but the visitors travelled almost like prisoners, and were forced to crawl in to the mikado on their hands and knees and to back out again in the same crab-like fashion. Some of these envoys wrote accounts of what they had seen, and that was all that was known of Japan for two centuries.

This state of affairs could not continue. With the opening of the nineteenth century the ships of Europe began to make their way in large numbers to the North Pacific, and efforts were made to force open the locked gates of Japan. Some sought for food and water. These could be had at Nagasaki, but nowhere else, and were given with a warning to move on. In some cases shipwrecked Japanese were[Pg 114] brought back in foreign vessels, but according to law such persons were looked upon as no longer Japanese, and no welcome was given to those who brought them. In other cases wrecked whalers and other mariners sought safety on Japanese soil, but they were held strict prisoners, and rescued only with great difficulty. The law was that foreigners landing anywhere on the coast, except at Nagasaki, should be seized and condemned to perpetual imprisonment, and that those landing at Nagasaki must strictly abstain from Christian worship.

Meanwhile the Russians had become, through their Siberian ports, near neighbors of Japan, and sought to open trade with that country. In 1793 Lieutenant Laxman landed at Hakodate and travelled overland to Matsumai, bringing with him some shipwrecked Japanese and seeking for commercial relations with Japan. He was treated with courtesy, but dismissed without an answer to his demand, and told that he could take his Japanese back with him or leave them as he pleased.

In 1804 the Russians came again, this time to Nagasaki. This vessel also brought back some shipwrecked Japanese, and had on board a Russian count, sent as ambassador from the czar. But the shogun refused to receive the ambassador or to accept his presents, and sent him word that Japan had little need of foreign productions, and got all it wanted from the Dutch and Chinese. All this was said with great politeness, but the ambassador thought that he had been shabbily treated, and went away angry, reproaching the Dutch for his[Pg 115] failure. His anger against the Japanese was shown in a hostile fashion. In 1805 he sent out two small vessels, whose crews landed on the island of Saghalien, plundered a Japanese settlement there, carried off some prisoners, and left behind a written statement that this had been done to revenge the slights put upon the Russian ambassador.

This violence was amply repaid by the Japanese. How they did so we have now to tell. In 1811 Captain Golownin, an intelligent and educated officer of the Russian navy, was sent in command of the sloop-of-war Diana to explore the Kurile Islands. These belonged to Japan, and were partly settled. At the south end of Kunashir, one of these islands, was a Japanese settlement, with a garrison. Here Golownin, having landed with two officers, four men, and an interpreter, was invited into the fort. He entered unsuspectingly, but suddenly found himself detained as a prisoner, and held as such despite all the efforts of the Diana to obtain his release.

The prisoners were at once bound with small cords in a most painful way, their elbows being drawn behind their backs until they almost touched, and their hands firmly tied together, the cords being also brought in loops around their breasts and necks. A long cord proceeded from these fastenings and was held by a Japanese, who, if an attempt were made to escape, had only to pull it to bring the elbows together with great pain and to tighten the loop around the neck so as nearly to strangle the prisoner. Their ankles and knees were also firmly bound.

In this condition they were conveyed to Hakodate,[Pg 116] in the island of Yeso, a distance of six or seven hundred miles, being carried, on the land part of the route, in a sort of palanquin made of planks, unless they preferred to walk, in which case the cords were loosened about their legs. At night they were trussed up more closely still, and the ends of their ropes tied to iron hooks in the wall. The cords were drawn so tight as in time to cut into the flesh, yet for six or seven days their guards refused to loosen them, despite their piteous appeals, being fearful that their prisoners might commit suicide, this being the favorite Japanese method in extremity.

The escort consisted of nearly two hundred men. Two Japanese guides, changed at each new district, led the way, carrying handsomely carved staves. Three soldiers followed. Then came Captain Golownin, with a soldier on one side, and on the other an attendant with a twig to drive off the gnats, from whose troublesome attacks he was unable to defend himself. Next came an officer holding the end of the rope that bound him, followed by a party carrying his litter or palanquin. Each of the prisoners was escorted in the same manner. In the rear came three soldiers, and a number of servants carrying provisions and baggage.

Aside from their bonds, the captives were well treated, being supplied with three meals a day, consisting of rice gruel, soup made of radishes or other roots, a kind of macaroni, and a piece of fish. Mushrooms or hard-boiled eggs were sometimes supplied.

Golownin's bitter complaints at length had the effect of a loosening of their bonds, which enabled[Pg 117] them to get along more comfortably. Their guards took great care of their health, making frequent halts to rest, and carrying them across all the streams, so that they should not wet their feet. In case of rain they furnished them with Japanese quilted gowns for protection. In all the villages the inhabitants viewed them with great curiosity, and at Hakodate the street was crowded with spectators, some with silk dresses and mounted on richly caparisoned horses. None of the people showed any sign of malice or any disposition to insult the prisoners, while in their journey they were cheered by many displays of sympathy and piety.

At Hakodate they were imprisoned in a long, barn-like building, divided into apartments hardly six feet square, each formed of thick spars and resembling a cage. Outside were a high fence and an earthen wall. Here their food was much worse than that on the journey. While here they were several times examined, being conducted through the streets to a castle-like building, where they were brought into the presence of the governor and several other officials, who put to them a great variety of questions, some of them of the most trivial character. A letter was also brought them, which had been sent on shore from the Diana along with their baggage, and which said that the ship would return to Siberia for reinforcements, and then would never leave Japan till the prisoners were released.

Some time afterwards the captives were removed to Matsumai, being supplied with horses on the journey, but still to some extent fettered with ropes.[Pg 118] Here they were received by a greater crowd than before, Matsumai being a more important town than Hakodate. Their prison was similar to the preceding one, but their food was much better, and after a time they were released from their cage-like cells and permitted to dwell together in a large room. They were, as before, frequently examined, their captors being so inquisitive and asking such trifling and absurd questions that at times they grew so annoyed as to refuse to answer. But no display of passion affected the politeness of the Japanese, whose coolness and courtesy seemed unlimited.

Thus the first winter of their captivity was passed. In the spring they were given more liberty, being allowed to take walks in the vicinity of the town. Soon after they were removed from their prison to a dwelling of three apartments, though they were still closely watched.

This strict confinement, of which they could see no end, at length became so irksome that the prisoners determined to escape. Their walks had made them familiar with the character of the surrounding country, and enabled them also to gain possession of a few tools, with which they managed to make a tunnel to the outer air. Leaving their cells at night, they succeeded in reaching the mountains back of the town, whence they hoped to find some means of escaping by sea.

But in the flight Golownin had hurt his leg severely, the pain being so great that he was scarcely able to walk. This prevented the fugitives from getting far from the town, while their wanderings[Pg 119] through the mountains were attended with many difficulties and dangers. After a week thus spent, they were forced to seek the coast, where they were seen and recaptured.

The captives were now confined in the common jail of the town, though they were not treated any more harshly than before, and no ill will was shown them by the officials. Even the soldier who was most blamed for their escape treated them with his former kindness. They were soon sent back to their old prison, where they passed a second winter, receiving while there visits from a Japanese astronomer and others in search of information. One old officer, who was very civil to them, at one time brought them portraits of three richly dressed Japanese ladies, telling them to keep them, as they might enjoy looking at them when time hung heavy on their hands.

Meanwhile their countrymen were making earnest efforts to obtain their release. Some months after their capture the Diana, now under Captain Rikord, returned to Kunashir, bringing one of the Japanese who had been taken prisoner in the descent on Saghalien. The other had died. Six other Japanese, who had been lately shipwrecked, were brought, in the hope of exchanging these seven for the seven prisoners. Efforts were made to communicate with the Japanese, but they refused to receive the Russian message, and sent back word that the prisoners were all dead. Two of the Japanese sent ashore failed to return.

Rikord, weary of the delay and discourtesy shown, now resolved to take more vigorous action, and[Pg 120] seized upon a large Japanese ship that entered the bay, taking prisoner the captain, who seemed to be a person of distinction, and who told them that six of the Russians were in the town of Matsumai. Not fully crediting this, Rikord resolved to carry his captive to Kamchatka, hoping to obtain from him some useful information concerning the purposes of the Japanese government. At Rikord's request the merchant wrote a letter to the commander of the fort at Kunashir, telling him what was proposed. No answer was returned, and when the boats tried to land for water they were fired upon. The guns were also turned upon the Diana whenever she approached the shore, but with such wretched aim that the Russians only laughed at it.

In the following summer the Diana returned to Kunashir, bringing Kachi, the merchant, who had been seriously ill from homesickness, and two of his attendants, the others having died. The two attendants were sent on shore, Kachi bidding them to tell that he had been very well treated, and that the ship had made an early return on account of his health. On the next day Rikord unconditionally set free his captive, trusting to his honor for his doing all he could to procure the release of the prisoners.

Kachi kept his word, and soon was able to obtain a letter in the handwriting of Golownin, stating that he and his companions were all alive and well at Matsumai. Afterwards one of the Russian sailors was brought to Kunashir and sent on board the Diana, with the understanding that he would return to the fort every night. Despite the watchfulness[Pg 121] of the Japanese, he succeeded in bringing a letter from Golownin, which he had sewed into his jacket. This advised Rikord to be prudent, civil, and patient, and not to send him any letters or papers which would cause him to be tormented with questions or translations. In truth, he had been fairly tortured by the refinements of Japanese curiosity. Finally an ultimatum was obtained from the Japanese, who refused to deliver up their prisoners until they received from the authorities at Okhotsk a formal written statement that they had not ordered the hostile proceedings at Saghalien. The Diana returned for this, and in October made her appearance at Hakodate, bearing the letter required and another from the governor of Irkutsk.

The ship had no sooner entered the harbor than it was surrounded by a multitude of boats, of all kinds and sizes, filled with the curious of both sexes, many of whom had never before set eyes on a European vessel. They were in such numbers that the watch-boats, filled with soldiers, had great ado to keep them back.

Kachi came on board the next morning, and was given the letter from the governor of Okhotsk. The other Rikord would not deliver except in person, and after much delay an interview with the governor was arranged, at which Rikord was received with much state and ceremony. The letter of the governor of Irkutsk was now formally delivered, in a box covered with purple cloth, its reception being followed by an entertainment composed of tea and sweetmeats.[Pg 122]

Meanwhile Golownin and his companions, from the time the Diana set out for Okhotsk, had been treated rather as guests than as prisoners. They were now brought to Hakodate and delivered to Rikord, after an imprisonment of more than two years. With them was sent a paper reiterating the Japanese policy of isolation, and declaring that any ships that should thereafter present themselves would be received with cannon-balls instead of compliments.

In all this business Kachi had worked with tireless energy. At first he was received with reserve as having come from a foreign country. He was placed under guard, and for a long time was not permitted to see Golownin, but by dint of persistence had done much in favor of the release of the prisoners.

His abduction had thrown his family into the greatest distress, and his wife had made a pilgrimage through all Japan, as a sort of penitential offering to the favoring gods. During his absence his business had prospered, and before the departure of the Diana he presented the crew with dresses of silk and cotton wadding, the best to his favorites, the cook being especially remembered. He then begged permission to treat the crew.

"Sailors are all alike," he said, "whether Russian or Japanese. They are all fond of a glass; and there is no danger in the harbor of Hakodate."

So that night the crew of the Diana enjoyed a genuine sailors' holiday, with a plentiful supply of saki and Japanese tobacco.[Pg 123]


On the 8th of July, 1853, the Japanese were treated to a genuine surprise. Off Cape Idsu, the outer extremity of the Bay of Yedo, appeared a squadron of war-vessels bound inward under full sail, in bold disregard of the lines of prohibition which Japan had drawn across the entrance of all her ports. Rounding the high mountains of the promontory of Idsu, by noon the fleet reached Cape Sagami, which forms the dividing line between the outer and inner sections of the Bay of Yedo. Here the shores rose in abrupt bluffs, furrowed by green dells, while in the distance could be seen groves and cultivated fields. From the cape a number of vessels put out to intercept the squadron, but, heedless of these, it kept on through the narrow part of the bay—from five to eight miles wide—and entered the inner bay, which expands to a width of more than fifteen miles. Here the ships dropped anchor within full view of the town of Uragawa, having broken through the invisible bonds which Japan had so long drawn around her coasts.

During the period between the release of the Russian captives and the date of this visit various foreign vessels had appeared on the coast of Japan, each with some special excuse for its presence, yet each arbitrarily ordered to leave. One of these, an[Pg 124] American trading vessel, the Morrison, had been driven off with musketry and artillery, although she had come to return a number of shipwrecked Japanese. Some naval vessels had entered the Bay of Yedo, but had been met with such vigorous opposition that they made their visits very short, and as late as 1850 the Japanese notified foreign nations that they proposed to maintain their rigorous system of exclusion. No dream came to them of the remarkable change in their policy which a few decades were to bring forth.

They did not know that they were seeking to maintain an impossible situation. China had adopted a similar policy, but already the cannon-balls of foreign powers had produced a change of view. If Japan had not peaceably yielded, the hard hand of war must soon have broken down her bars. For in addition to Russia there was now another civilized power with ports on the Pacific, the United States. And the fleets of the European powers were making their way in growing numbers to those waters. In a period when all the earth was being opened to commercial intercourse, Japan could not hope long to remain a little world in herself, like a separate planet in space.

It was the settlement of California, and the increase of American interests on the Pacific, that induced the United States to make a vigorous effort to open the ports of Japan. Hitherto all nations had yielded to the resolute policy of the islanders; now it was determined to send an expedition with instructions not to take no for an answer, but to insist[Pg 125] on the Japanese adopting the policy of civilized nations in general. It was with this purpose that the fleet in question had entered the Bay of Yedo. It was under command of Commodore Matthew C. Perry, who bore a letter from the President of the United States to the Emperor of Japan, suggesting the desirability of commercial relations between the two countries, requesting the supply of American vessels with coal and provisions, and demanding the kind treatment and prompt return of shipwrecked mariners. This letter, splendidly engrossed, was enclosed in a golden box of a thousand dollars in value, and was accompanied by numerous presents. The fleet consisted of the steam-frigates Susquehanna and Mississippi and the sloops-of-war Plymouth and Saratoga, being the most imposing armament that had ever entered a Japanese port. Perry was determined to maintain his dignity as a representative of the United States, and to demand as a right, instead of soliciting as a favor, the courtesies due from one civilized nation to another.

The ships had no sooner dropped anchor in the bay than several guns were fired from a neighboring point and a number of boats put off from the shore. In the stern of each were a small flag and several men wearing two swords, evidently persons in authority. These boats were stopped at the ships' sides, and their inmates told that no person could be admitted on board except the principal official of the town, the high rank of the commodore forbidding him to meet any lesser dignitary. As one of the visitors represented that he was second in rank in the town,[Pg 126] he was finally received on board the flag-ship, but the commodore declined to see him, turning him over to Mr. Contee, the flag lieutenant.

A long interview followed, in which the official was made to understand that the expedition bore a letter from the President of the United States to the emperor, a message of such importance that it could be delivered only to an officer of high rank. He was also told, through the interpreters, that the squadron would not submit to be placed under guard, and that all the guard-boats must withdraw. The official displayed much of the inquisitive curiosity for which the Japanese had made themselves notable on former occasions, and asked a variety of unimportant questions which the lieutenant refused to answer, saying that they were impertinent.

The Japanese officer had brought with him the ordinary notifications, warning all ships against entering their ports, but these the lieutenant refused to receive. Returning to the shore, in about an hour the officer came back, saying that his superior could not receive the letter addressed to the emperor, and stating that Nagasaki was the proper place for foreign ships to stop. As for the letter, he doubted if it would be received and answered. He was at once given to understand that if the governor of the town did not send for the letter, the ships would proceed up the bay to Yedo and deliver it themselves. At this he withdrew in a state of great agitation, asking permission to return in the morning.

During the night watch-fires blazed at points along the coast, and bells sounded the hours. The[Pg 127] watch-boats remained around the fleet, but kept at a respectful distance from the perilous intruders. The next morning the highest official of the town came on board, but did his utmost to avoid receiving the letter. In the end he offered to send to Yedo for permission, and was granted three days for this purpose.

While awaiting an answer the ships were not idle. Surveying parties were sent four miles up the bay, sounding, and finding everywhere a depth of from thirty to forty fathoms. As they approached the forts armed soldiers came out, but retired again when the boats drew nearer. The forts, five in number, were very feeble, their total armament consisting of fourteen guns, none larger than nine-pounders. Many of the soldiers were armed with spears. Canvas screens were stretched from tree to tree, as if with the idea that these would keep back cannon-balls. In truth, the means of defence were so slight that Yedo lay at the mercy of the American fleet.

Villages seemed to line the shores in an unbroken series, and numerous small craft lay in the harbor, while trading vessels came in and out with little regard to the presence of the foreign ships. Every day there passed up and down the bay nearly a hundred large junks and a great number of fishing and other boats.

Yezaimon, the governor of the town, protested earnestly against the survey of the waters by the ships, saying that it was against the laws of Japan. He was told that it was commanded by the laws of America, and the soundings went steadily on. On[Pg 128] the second day the surveying party proceeded some ten miles up the bay, the Mississippi steaming in their wake. This roused new agitation in the Japanese, government boats meeting them at every point and making earnest signs to them to return. But no notice was taken of these gestures, and the survey was continued, deep soundings and soft bottom being found throughout.

In the evening Yezaimon came on board with a cheerful countenance, saying that he expected good news from Yedo, though he protested still against the doings of the boats. One of the officers speaks of him as a "gentleman, clever, polished, well informed, a fine, large man, about thirty-four, of most excellent countenance, taking his wine freely, and a boon companion."

On the 12th word came that the emperor would send a high officer to receive the letter. No immediate answer would be given, but one would be forwarded through the Dutch or the Chinese. This offer the commodore rejected as insulting. But, fearing that he might be detained by useless delay, he agreed to withdraw for a proper interval, at the end of which he would return to receive the answer.

On the 14th the reception of the letter took place, the occasion being made one of much ceremony. The commodore landed with due formality, through a line of Japanese boats, and with a following of three hundred and twenty officers and sailors from the fleet. Passing through a large body of soldiers, behind whom stood a crowd of spectators, the building prepared for the reception was reached. It was[Pg 129] a temporary structure, the reception-room of which was hung with fine cloth, stamped with the imperial symbols in white on a violet background. The princes of Idsu and Iwami awaited as the envoys of the shogun, both of them splendidly attired in richly embroidered robes of silk.

A large scarlet-lacquered box, on gilded feet, stood ready to receive the letter, which, after being shown in its rich receptacle, was placed on the scarlet box, with translations in Dutch and Chinese. A formal receipt was given, ending with the following words: "Because the place is not designed to treat of anything from foreigners, so neither can conference nor entertainment take place. The letter being received, you will leave here."

"I shall return again, probably in April or May, for an answer," said the commodore, on receiving the receipt.

"With all the ships?" asked the interpreter.

"Yes, and probably with more," was the reply.

This said, the commodore rose and departed, the commissioners standing, but not another word being uttered on either side. As if to indicate to his hosts how little he regarded the curt order to leave, the commodore proceeded in the Susquehanna up the bay to the point the Mississippi had reached. Here he dropped anchor, the spot being afterwards known as the "American anchorage." On the following day he sent the Mississippi ten miles higher up, a point being reached within eight or ten miles of the capital. Three or four miles in advance a crowded mass of shipping was seen, supposed to lie at Sinagawa,[Pg 130] the southern suburb of Yedo. On the 16th the vessels moved down the bay, and on the following day they stood out to sea, no doubt greatly to the relief of the Japanese officials.

In consequence of the death of the shogun, which took place soon after, Perry did not return for his answer until the following year, casting anchor again in the Bay of Yedo on February 12, 1854. He had now a larger fleet, consisting of three steam-frigates, four sloops-of-war, and two store-ships. Entering the bay, they came to anchor at the point known as the "American anchorage."

And now a debate arose as to where the ceremonies of reception should take place. The Japanese wished the commodore to withdraw to a point down the bay, some twenty miles below Uragawa. He, on the contrary, insisted on going to Yedo, and sent boats up to within four miles of that city to sound the channel. Finally the village of Yokohama, opposite the anchorage of the ships, was fixed upon.

On the 8th of March the first reception took place, great formality being observed, though this time light refreshments were offered. Two audiences a week were subsequently held, at one of which, on March 13, the American presents were delivered. They consisted of cloths, agricultural implements, fire-arms, and other articles, the most valuable being a small locomotive, tender, and car, which were set in motion on a circular track. A mile of telegraph wire was also set up and operated, this interesting the Japanese more than anything else. They had the art, however, of concealing their feelings, and[Pg 131] took care to show no wonder at anything displayed.

In the letter of reply from the shogun it was conceded that the demands in relation to shipwrecked sailors, coal, provisions, water, etc., were just, and there was shown a willingness to add a new harbor to that of Nagasaki, but five years' delay in its opening were asked. To this the commodore would not accede, nor would he consent to be bound by the restrictions placed on the Dutch and Chinese. He demanded three harbors, one each in Hondo, Yezo, and the Loochoo Islands, but finally agreed to accept two, the port of Simoda in Hondo and that of Hakodate in Yezo. An agreement being at length reached, three copies of the treaty were exchanged, and this was followed by an entertainment on the fleet to the Japanese officials, in which they did full justice to American fare, and seemed to be particularly fond of champagne. One of them became so merry and familiar under the influence of this beverage that he vigorously embraced the commodore, who bore the infliction with good-humored patience.

At the new treaty ports the restrictions which had been thrown around the Dutch at Nagasaki were removed, citizens of the United States being free to go where they pleased within a limit of several miles around the towns.

The success of the Americans in this negotiation stimulated the other maritime nations, and in the same year a British fleet visited Nagasaki and obtained commercial concessions. In 1858 the treaties were extended, the port of Yokohama replacing that[Pg 132] of Simoda, and the treaty ports being opened to American, British, French, and Dutch traders. Subsequently the same privileges were granted to the other commercial nations, the country was made free to travellers, and the long-continued isolation of Japan was completely broken down. A brief experience of the advantages of commerce and foreign intercourse convinced the quick-witted islanders of the folly of their ancient isolation, and they threw open their country without restriction to all the good the world had to offer and to the fullest inflow of modern ideas.


[Pg 133]


The visit of Commodore Perry to Japan and the signing of a treaty of commerce with the United States formed a great turning-point in the history of that ancient empire. Through its influence the mikado came to his own again, after being for seven centuries virtually the vassal of the shogun. So long had he vanished from sight that the people looked upon him as a far-off spiritual dignitary, and had forgotten that he was once the supreme lord of the land. During all this time the imperial court had been kept up, with its prime minister, its officials and nobles,—with everything except authority. The court dignitaries ranked, in their own conceit and their ancient titles, far above the shogun and daimios, the military leaders, but they were like so many actors on the stage, playing at power. The shogun, with the power at his command, might have made himself the supreme dignitary, but it was easier to let the sleepy court at Kioto alone, leaving them the shadow of that power of which the substance was in the shogun's hands.

Yet there was always a risk in this. The sleeping emperor might at any time awake, call the people and the army to his aid, and break through the web that the great spider of military rule had woven[Pg 134] about his court. Some great event might stir Japan to its depths and cause a vital change in the state of affairs. Such an event came in the visit of the American fleet and the signing of a treaty of commerce and intercourse by the Tai Kun, or great sovereign of Japan, as the shogun signed himself.

For two centuries and a half Japan had been at peace. For nearly that length of time foreigners had been forbidden to set foot on its soil. They were looked upon as barbarians, "foreign devils" the islanders called them, the trouble they had caused long before was not forgotten, and throughout the island empire they were hated or despised.

The visit of the American fleet was, therefore, sure to send a stir of deep feeling throughout the land. During this period of excitement the shogun died, and the power was seized by Ii, the regent, a daring and able man, who chose as shogun a boy twelve years old, imprisoned, exiled, or beheaded all who opposed him, and was suspected of an intention to depose the mikado and set up a boy emperor in his place.

All this aroused new excitement in Japan. But the opposition to these acts of the regent would not have grown to revolution had no more been done. The explosion came when Ii signed a treaty with the foreigners, a right which belonged only to the mikado, and sent word to Kioto that the exigency of the occasion had forced him to take this action.

The feeling that followed was intense. The country became divided into two parties, that of the mikado, which opposed the foreigners, and that of[Pg 135] the shogun, which favored them. "Honor the mikado and expel the barbarians," became the patriot watchword, and in all directions excited partisans roamed the land, vowing that they would kill the regent and his new friends and that they were ready to die for the true emperor. Their fury bore fruit. Ii was assassinated. At the moment when a strong hand was most needed, that of the regent was removed. And as the feeling of bitterness against the foreigners grew, the influence of the shogun declined. The youthful dignitary was obliged by public opinion to visit Kioto and do homage to the mikado, an ancient ceremony which had not been performed for two hundred and thirty years, and whose former existence had almost been forgotten.

This was followed by a still more vital act. Under orders from the mikado, the shogun appointed the prince of Echizen premier of the empire. The prince at once took a remarkable step. For over two centuries the daimios had been forced to reside in Yedo. With a word he abolished this custom, and like wild birds the feudal lords flew away. The cage which had held them so long was open, and they winged their way to their distant nests. This act was fatal to the glory of Yedo and the power of its sovereign lord. In the words of the native chronicler, "the prestige of the Tokugawa family, which had endured for three hundred years, which had been as much more brilliant than Kamakura in the age of Yoritomo as the moon is more brilliant than the stars, which for more than two hundred and seventy years had forced the daimios to take[Pg 136] their turn of duty in Yedo, and which had, day and night, eighty thousand vassals at its command, fell to ruin in the space of a single day."

In truth, the revolution was largely completed by this signal act. Many of the daimios and their retainers, let loose from their prison, deserted the cause of their recent lord. Their place of assemblage was now at Kioto, which became once more populous and bustling. They strengthened the imperial court with gold and pledged to it their devotion. Pamphlets were issued, some claiming that the clans owed allegiance to the shogun, others that the mikado was the true and only emperor.

The first warlike step in support of the new ideas was taken in 1863, by the clan of Choshiu, which erected batteries at Shimonoseki, refused to disarm at the shogun's order, and fired on foreign vessels. This brought about a bombardment, in the following year, by the ships of four foreign nations, the most important result of which was to teach the Japanese the strength of the powers against which they had arrayed themselves.

Meanwhile the men of Choshiu, the declared adherents of the mikado, urged him to make a journey to Yamato, and thus show to his people that he was ready to take the field in person against the barbarians. This suggestion was at first received with favor, but suddenly the Choshiu envoys and their friends were arrested, the palace was closely guarded, and all members or retainers of the clan were forbidden to enter the capital, an order which placed them in the position of outlaws. The party of the[Pg 137] shogun had made the mikado believe that the clan was plotting to seize his person and through him to control the empire.

This act of violence led to civil war. In August, 1864, the capital was attacked by a body of thirteen hundred men of the Choshiu and other disaffected clans. It was defended by the adherents of the shogun, now the supporters of the mikado. For two days the battle raged, and at the end of that time a great part of the city was a heap of ashes, some thirty thousand edifices being destroyed by the flames. "The Blossom Capital became a scorched desert." The Choshiu were defeated, but Kioto lay in ruins. A Japanese city is like a house of card-board, easily destroyed, and almost as easily rebuilt.

This conflict was followed by a march in force upon Choshiu to punish its rebellious people. The expedition was not a popular one. Some powerful feudal lords refused to join it. Of those mustered into the ranks many became conveniently sick, and those who marched were disorganized and without heart for the fight. Choshiu, on the contrary, was well prepared. The clansmen, who had long been in contact with the Dutch, had thrown aside the native weapons, were drilled in European tactics, and were well armed with rifles and artillery. The result was, after a three months' campaign, the complete defeat of the invading army, and an almost fatal blow to the prestige of the shogun. This defeat was immediately followed by the death of the young shogun, who had been worn out by the intense anxiety of his period of rule.[Pg 138]

He was succeeded by the last of the shoguns, Keiki, appointed head of the Tokugawa family in October, 1866, and shogun in January, 1867. This position he had frequently declined. He was far too weak and fickle a man to hold it at such a time. He was popular at court because of his opposition to the admission of the foreigners, but he was by no means the man to hold the reins of government at that perilous juncture of affairs.

In fact, he had hardly accepted the office when a vigorous pressure was brought upon him to resign, in which a number of princes and powerful noblemen took part. It was their purpose to restore the ancient government of the realm. Keiki yielded, and in November, 1867, resigned his high office of Sei-i Tai Shogun. During this critical interval the mikado had died, and a new youthful emperor had been raised to the throne.

But the imperial power was not so easily to be restored, after its many centuries of abrogation. The Aidzu, the most loyal of all the clans to the shogun, and the leaders in the war against the Choshiu, guarded the palace gates, and for the time being were masters of the situation. Meanwhile the party of the mikado was not idle. Gradually small parties of soldiers were sent by them to the capital, and a quiet influence was brought to bear to induce the court to take advantage of the opportunity and by a bold movement abolish the office of shogun and declare the young emperor the sole sovereign of the realm.

This coup-d'état was effected January 3, 1868. On[Pg 139] that day the introduced troops suddenly took possession of the palace gates, the nobles who surrounded the emperor were dismissed and replaced by others favorable to the movement, and an edict was issued in the name of the mikado declaring the office of shogun abolished, and that the sole government of the empire lay in the hands of the mikado and his court. New offices were established and new officials chosen to fill them, the clan of Choshiu was relieved from the ban of rebellion and honored as the supporter of the imperial power, and a completely new government was organized.

This decisive action led to civil war. The adherents of the Tokugawa clan, in high indignation at this revolutionary act, left the capital, Keiki, who now sought to seize his power again, at their head. On the 27th of February he marched upon Kioto with an army of ten thousand, or, as some say, thirty thousand, men. The two roads leading to the capital had been barricaded, and were defended by two thousand men, armed with artillery.

A fierce battle followed, lasting for three days. Greatly as the defenders of the barriers were outnumbered, their defences and artillery, with their European discipline, gave them the victory. The shogun was defeated, and fled with his army to Ozaka, the castle of which was captured and burned, while he took refuge on an American vessel in the harbor. Making his way thence to Yedo in one of his own ships, he shut himself up in his palace, once more with the purpose of withdrawing from the struggle.[Pg 140]

His retainers and many of the daimios and clans urged him to continue the war, declaring that, with the large army and abundant supplies at his command, and the powerful fleet under his control, they could restore him to the position he had lost. But Keiki had had enough of war, and could not bear the idea of being a rebel against his liege lord. Declaring that he would never take up arms against the mikado, he withdrew from the struggle to private life.

In the mean time the victorious forces of the south had reached the suburbs of Yedo, and were threatening to apply the torch to that tinder-box of a city unless it were immediately surrendered. Their commander, being advised of the purpose of the shogun, promised to spare the city, but assailed and burned the magnificent temple of Uyeno, in which the rebels still in arms had taken refuge. For a year longer the war went on, victory everywhere favoring the imperial army. By the 1st of July, 1869, hostilities were at an end, and the mikado was the sole lord of the realm.

Thus ended a military domination that had continued for seven hundred years. In 1167, Kiyomori had made himself military lord of the empire. In 1869, Mutsuhito, the one hundred and twenty-third mikado in lineal descent, resumed the imperial power which had so long been lost. Unlike China, over which so many dynasties have ruled, Japan has been governed by a single dynasty, according to the native records, for more than twenty-five hundred years.

The fall of the shogun was followed by the fall of[Pg 141] feudalism. The emperor, for the first time for many centuries, came from behind his screen and showed himself openly to his people. Yedo was made the eastern capital of the realm, its name being changed to Tokio. Hither, in September, 1871, the daimios were once more summoned, and the order was issued that they should give up their strongholds and feudal retainers and retire to private life. They obeyed. Resistance would have been in vain. Thus fell another ancient institution, eight centuries old. The revolution was at an end. The shogunate and the feudal system had fallen, to rise no more. A single absolute lord ruled over Japan.

As regards the cry of "expel the barbarians," which had first given rise to hostilities, it gradually died away as the revolution continued. The strength of the foreign fleets, the advantages of foreign commerce, the conception which could not be avoided that, instead of being barbarians, these aliens held all the high prizes of civilization and had a thousand important lessons to teach, caused a complete change of mind among the intelligent Japanese, and they quickly began to welcome those whom they had hitherto inveterately opposed, and to change their institutions to accord with those of the Western world.[Pg 142]


From the history of Japan we now turn to that of China, a far older and more extensive kingdom, so old, indeed, that it has now grown decrepit, while Japan seems still in the glow of vigorous youth. But, as our tales will show, there was a long period in the past during which China was full of youthful energy and activity, and there may be a time in the future when a new youth will come to that hoary kingdom, the most venerable of any existing upon the face of the earth.

Who the Chinese originally were, whence they came, how long they have dwelt in their present realm, are questions easier to ask than to answer. Their history does not reach back to their origin, except in vague and doubtful outlines. The time was when that great territory known as China was the home of aboriginal tribes, and the first historical sketch given us of the Chinese represents them as a little horde of wanderers, destitute of houses, clothing, and fire, living on the spoils of the chase, and on roots and insects in times of scarcity.

These people were not sons of the soil. They came from some far-off region. Some think that their original home lay in the country to the southeast of the Caspian, while later theorists seek to[Pg 143] trace their origin in Babylonia, as an offshoot of the Mongolian people to whom that land owed its early language and culture. From some such place the primitive Chinese made their way by slow stages to the east, probably crossing the head-waters of the Oxus and journeying along the southern slopes of the Tian-Shan Mountains.

All this is conjecture, but we touch firmer soil when we trace them to the upper course of the Hoang-ho, or Yellow River, whose stream they followed eastward until they reached the fertile plains of the district now known as Shan-se. Here the immigrants settled in small colonies, and put in practice those habits of settled labor which they seem to have brought with them from afar. Yet there is reason to believe that they had at one time been nomads, belonging to the herding rather than to the agricultural races of the earth. Many of the common words in their language are partly made up of the characters for sheep and cattle, and the Chinese house so resembles the Tartar tent in outline that it is said that the soldiers of Genghis Khan, on taking a city, at once pulled down the walls of the houses and left the roof supported by its wooden columns as an excellent substitute for a tent.

However that be, the new-comers seem to have quickly become farmers, growing grain for food and flax for their garments. The culture of the silk-worm was early known, trade was developed, and fairs were held. There was intellectual culture also. They knew something of astronomy, and probably possessed the art of hieroglyphic writing,—which,[Pg 144] if they came from Babylonia, they may well have brought with them.

This took place five thousand years or more ago, and for a long time the history of the Chinese was that of the conquest of the native tribes. They name themselves the "black-haired race," but their foes are classed as "fiery dogs" in the north, "great bowmen" in the east, "mounted warriors" in the west, and "ungovernable vermin" in the south. Against these savages war was probably long continued, the invaders gradually widening their area, founding new states, driving back the natives into the mountains and deserts, and finally so nearly annihilating them that only a small remnant remained. The descendants of these, the Meaou-tsze, mountain-dwellers, still remain hostile to China, and hold their own in the mountain strongholds against its armies.

Such was the China with which history opens. Ancient Chinese writers amuse themselves with a period of millions of years in which venerable dynasties reigned, serving to fill up the vast gap made by their imagination in the period before written history began. And when history does appear it is not easy to tell how much of it is fact and how much fiction. The first ruler named, Yew-chaou She (the Nest-having), was the chief who induced the wanderers to settle within the bend of the Yellow River and make huts of boughs. After him came Suy-jin She (the Fire-maker), who discovered the art of producing fire by the friction of two pieces of dry wood, also how to count and register time by[Pg 145] means of knots tied in cords. Fuh-he discovered iron by accident, and reigned one hundred and fifteen years. Chin-nung invented the plough, and in one day discovered seventy poisonous plants and as many antidotes. Under Hoang-ti the calendar was regulated, roads were constructed, vessels were built, and the title of Ti, or Emperor, was first assumed. Hoang-ti means "Yellow Emperor," and became a favorite name with the founders of later dynasties. His wife, Se-ling-she, was the first to unravel silk from cocoons and weave it into cloth. Several others followed, all partly or wholly fabulous, until Yao ascended the throne in 2356 B.C. With this emperor history begins to throw off some little of the mist of legend and mythology.

With the reign of Yao the historical work of Confucius begins. His narrative is not trustworthy history, but it is not pure fable. Yao and Shun, his successor, are two of the notable characters in the ancient annals of China. Under them virtue reigned supreme, crime was unknown, and the empire grew in extent and prosperity. The greatest difficulty with which they had to contend was the overflow of the Hoang-ho, an unruly stream, which from that day to this has from time to time swept away its banks and drowned its millions. Yu, the next emperor, drained off the waters of the mighty flood,—which some have thought the same as the deluge of Noah. This work occupied him for nine years. His last notable act was to denounce the inventor of an intoxicating drink made from rice, from which he predicted untold misery to the people.[Pg 146]

All this comes to us from the Confucian "Book of History," which goes on with questionable stories of many later emperors. They were not all good and wise, like most of those named. Some of the descendants of Yu became tyrants and pleasure-seekers, their palaces the seats of scenes of cruelty and debauchery surpassing the deeds of Nero. Two emperors in particular, Kee and Chow, are held up as monsters of wickedness and examples of dissoluteness beyond comparison. The last, under the influence of a woman named Ta-Ke, became a frightful example of sensuality and cruelty. Among the inventions of Ta-Ke was a cylinder of polished brass, along which her victims were forced to walk over a bed of fire below, she laughing in great glee if they slipped and fell into the flames. In fact, Chinese invention exhausts itself in describing the crimes and immoral doings of this abominable pair, which, fortunately, we are not obliged to believe.

Of the later emperors, Mou Wang, who came to the throne about 1000 B.C., was famed as a builder of palaces and public works, and was the first of the emperors to come into conflict with the Tartars of the Mongolian plains, who afterwards gave China such endless trouble. He travelled into regions before unknown, and brought a new breed of horses into China, which, fed on "dragon grass," were able to travel one thousand li in a day. As this distance is nearly four hundred miles, it would be well for modern horsemen if some of that dragon grass could yet be found.

It is not worth while going on with the story of[Pg 147] these early monarchs, of whom all we know is so brief and unimportant as not to be worth the telling, while little of it is safe to believe. In the "burning of the books," which took place later, most of the ancient history disappeared, while the "Book of History" of Confucius, which professes to have taken from the earlier books all that was worth the telling, is too meagre and unimportant in its story to be of much value.

Yet, if we can believe all we are told, the historians of China were at any time ready to become martyrs in the cause of truth, and gave the story of the different reigns with singular fidelity and intrepidity. Mailla relates the following incident: "In the reign of the emperor Ling Wang of the Chow dynasty, 548 B.C., Chang Kong, Prince of Tsi, became enamoured of the wife of Tsouichow, a general, who resented the affront and killed the prince. The historians attached to the household of the prince recorded the facts, and named Tsouichow as the murderer. On learning this the general caused the principal historian to be arrested and slain, and appointed another in his place. But as soon as the new historian entered upon his office he recorded the exact facts of the whole occurrence, including the death of his predecessor and the cause of his death. Tsouichow was so much enraged at this that he ordered all the members of the Tribunal of History to be executed. But at once the whole literary class in the principality of Tsi set to work exposing and denouncing the conduct of Tsouichow, who soon perceived that his wiser plan would be to reconstitute[Pg 148] the Tribunal and to allow it to follow its own devices."

Other stories to the same effect are told. They are very likely exaggerated, but there is good reason to believe that the literary class of China were obstinate to the verge of martyrdom in maintaining the facts and traditions of the past, and that death signified to them less than dishonor. We shall see a striking instance of this in the story of Hoang-ti, the burner of the books.

In the period to which we have now come, China was far from being the great empire it is to-day. On the south it did not extend beyond the great river Yang-tse-Kiang, all the region to the south being still held by the native tribes. On the north the Tartar tribes occupied the steppes. At the fall of the Chow dynasty, in 255 B.C., the empire extended through five degrees of latitude and thirteen of longitude, covering but a small fraction of its present area.

And of this region only a minor portion could fairly be claimed as imperial soil. The bulk of it was held by feudal princes, whose ancestors had probably conquered their domains ages before, and some of whom held themselves equal to the emperor in power and pride. They acknowledged but slight allegiance to the imperial government, and for centuries the country was distracted by internal warfare, until the great Hoang-ti, whose story we have yet to tell, overthrew feudalism, and for the first time united all China into a single empire.

The period that we have so rapidly run over[Pg 149] embraces no less than two thousand years of partly authentic history, and a thousand or more years of fabulous annals, during which China steadily grew, though of what we know concerning it there is little in which any absolute trust can be placed. Yet it was in this period that China made its greatest progress in literature and religious reform, and that its great lawgivers appeared. With this phase of its history we shall deal in the succeeding tale.[Pg 150]


In the later years of the Chow dynasty appeared the two greatest thinkers that China ever produced, Laoutse, the first and ablest philosopher of his race, and Confucius, a practical thinker and reformer who has had few equals in the world. Of Laoutse we know little. Born 604 B.C., in humble life, he lived in retirement, and when more than a hundred years old began a journey to the west and vanished from history. To the guardian of the pass through which he sought the western regions he gave a book which contained the thoughts of his life. This forms the Bible of the Taouistic religion, which still has a large following in China.

Confucius, or Kong-foo-tse, born 551 B.C., was as practical in intellect as Laoutse was mystical, and has exerted an extraordinary influence upon the Chinese race. For this reason it seems important to give some account of his career.

The story of his life exists in some detail, and may be given in epitome. As a child he was distinguished for his respect to older people, his gentleness, modesty, and quickness of intellect. At nineteen he married and was made a mandarin, being appointed superintendent of the markets, and afterwards placed in charge of the public fields, the sheep and cattle.[Pg 151] His industry was remarkable, and so great were his improvements in agriculture that the whole face of the country changed, and plenty succeeded poverty.

At twenty-two he became a public teacher, and at thirty began the study of music, making such remarkable progress in this art that from the study of one piece he was able to describe the person of the composer, even to his features and the expression of his eyes. His teacher now gave him up. The pupil had passed infinitely beyond his reach. At the next important epoch in the life of Confucius (499 B.C.) he had become one of the chief ministers of the king of Loo. This potentate fell into a dispute with the rival king of Tsi, and an interview between the two kings took place, in which a scheme of treachery devised by the king of Tsi was baffled by the vigilance and courage of the learned minister of Loo.

But, the high precepts of Confucius proving too exalted for the feeble virtue of his kingly employer, the philosopher soon left his service, and entered upon a period of travel and study, teaching the people as he went, and constantly attended by a number of disciples. His mode of illustrating his precepts is indicated in an interesting anecdote. "As he was journeying, one day he saw a woman weeping and wailing by a grave. Confucius inquired the cause of her grief. 'You weep as if you had experienced sorrow upon sorrow,' said one of the attendants of the sage. The woman answered, 'It is so: my husband's father was killed here by a[Pg 152] tiger, and my husband also; and now my son has met the same fate.' 'Why do you not leave the place?' asked Confucius. On her replying, 'There is here no oppressive government,' he turned to his disciples and said, 'My children, remember this,—oppressive government is more cruel than a tiger.'"

On another of their journeys they ran out of food, and one of the disciples, faint with hunger, asked the sage, "Must the superior man indeed suffer in this way?" "The superior man may have to suffer want," answered Confucius, "but the mean man, when he is in want, gives way to unbridled license." The last five years of his life were spent in Loo, his native state, in teaching and in finishing the works he had long been writing.

Confucius was no philosopher in the ordinary sense. He was a moral teacher, but devised no system of religion, telling his disciples that the demands of this world were quite enough to engage the thoughts of men, and that the future might be left to provide for itself. He cared nothing about science and studied none of the laws of nature, but devoted himself to the teaching of the principles of conduct, with marked evidence of wisdom and practical common sense.

Of all the great men who have lived upon the earth, conquerors, writers, inventors, and others, none have gained so wide a renown as this quiet Chinese moral teacher, whose fame has reached the ears of more millions of mankind than that of any other man who has ever lived. To-day his descendants form the only hereditary nobility in China, with[Pg 153] the exception of those of his great disciple Mencius, who proved a worthy successor to the sage.

It is to Confucius that we owe nearly all we possess of the early literature of China. Of what are known as the "Five Classics," four are by his hand. The "Book of Changes," the oldest classic, was written by a mystic named Wan Wang, who lived about 1150 B.C. It is highly revered, but no one pretends to understand it. The works of Confucius include the "Book of History," the "Book of Odes," the "Book of Rites," and the "Spring and Autumn Annals," all of them highly esteemed in China for the knowledge they give of ancient days and ways.

The records of the early dynasties kept at the imperial court were closely studied by Confucius, who selected from them all that he thought worth preserving. This he compiled into the Shoo King, or "Book of History." The contents of this work we have condensed in the preceding tale. It consists mainly of conversations between the kings and their ministers, in which the principles of the patriarchal Chinese government form the leading theme. "Do not be ashamed of mistakes, and thus make them crimes," says one of these practical ministers.

The Le-ke, or "Book of Rites," compiled from a very ancient work, lays down exact rules of life for Chinamen, which are still minutely obeyed. The Chun Tsew, or "Spring and Autumn Annals," embraces a mere statement of events which occurred in the kingdom of Loo, and contains very little of historical and less of any other value. The "Book of Odes," on the contrary, possesses a great literary[Pg 154] value, in preserving for us the poetic remains of ancient China.

Literature in that country, as elsewhere, seems to have begun with poetry, and of the songs and ballads of the early period official collections of considerable value were made. Not only at the imperial court, but at those of the feudal lords, there were literati whose duty it was to collect the songs of the people and diligently to preserve the historical records of the empire. From the latter Confucius compiled two of the books already named. There also fell into his hands an official collection of poems containing some three thousand pieces. These the sage carefully edited, selecting such of them as "would be serviceable for the inculcation of propriety and righteousness." These poems, three hundred and eleven in number, constitute the She King, or "Book of Odes," forming a remarkable collection of primitive verses which breathe the spirit of peace and simple life, broken by few sounds of war or revelry, but yielding many traces of family affection, peaceful repose, and religious feeling.

These are not the only remains of the ancient Chinese literature. There are four more books, which, with the five named, make up the "Nine Classics." These were written by the pupils and disciples of Confucius, the most important being the Mang tsze, or "Works of Mencius." They are records of the sayings and doings of the two sages Confucius and Mencius, whose remarkable precepts, like those of the Greek sage Socrates, would have been lost to the world but for the loving diligence of their disciples.[Pg 155]

All this is not history in the ordinary sense. But the men described, and particularly Confucius, have had so potent an influence upon all that relates to Chinese life and history, that some brief account of them and their doings seemed indispensable to our work.[Pg 156]


In the year 246 B.C. came to the throne of China the most famous of all the monarchs of that ancient empire, the celebrated Hoangti,—Tsin Chi Hoang-ti, or "first sovereign emperor of the Tsins," to give him his full title. Various stories are told by Chinese historians of the origin of this great monarch, they denying that he was of royal blood. They say that he was the son of a woman slave who had been bought by the emperor, and that the boy's real father was a merchant, her former master. This story, whether true or false, gave the young emperor much trouble in later years. His mother, after he came to the throne, grew so dissipated that he was forced to punish her lover and banish her. And the merchant, his reputed father, being given a place at court, became eager for a higher position, and sought to influence the emperor by hints and whisperings of the secret hold he possessed over him. Hoangti was not the man to be dealt with in such a fashion, and the intriguing merchant, finding a storm of vengeance coming, poisoned himself to escape a worse fate.

Such are the stories told of the origin of the famous emperor. They may not be true, for the historians hated him, for reasons yet to be given, and made the most of anything they could say against him. All[Pg 157] we are sure of is that he ascended the throne at the youthful age of thirteen, and even at that age quickly made his influence widely felt. What lay before him was practically the conquest of China, whose great feudal lords were virtually independent of the throne, and had, not long before, overwhelmed the imperial armies.

Fortunately for the young emperor, the great princes, having no fear of a boy, either disbanded their forces or quarrelled among themselves, two of the most powerful of them declaring war upon each other. Taking advantage of these dissensions, Hoangti gained, step by step, the desired control of his foes. Ouki, a great general in the interest of the princes, was disgraced by the aid of bribery and falsehood, several of the strong cities of the princes were seized, and when they entered the field against the emperor their armies, no longer led by the able Ouki, were easily defeated. Thus steadily the power of the youthful monarch increased and that of his opponents fell away, the dismembered empire of China slowly growing under his rule into a coherent whole.

Meanwhile war arose with foreign enemies, who appeared on the western and northern boundaries of the empire. In this quarter the Tartar tribes of the desert had long been troublesome, and now a great combination of these warlike nomads, known as the Heung-nou,—perhaps the same as the Huns who afterwards devastated Europe,—broke into the defenceless border provinces, plundering and slaughtering wherever they appeared. Against this dangerous[Pg 158] enemy the emperor manifested the same energy that he had done against his domestic foes. Collecting a great army, three hundred thousand strong, he marched into their country and overthrew them in a series of signal victories. In the end those in the vicinity of China were exterminated, and the others driven to take refuge in the mountains of Mongolia.

This success was followed by a remarkable performance, one of the most stupendous in the history of the world. Finding that several of the northern states of the empire were building lines of fortification along their northern frontiers for defence against their Tartar enemies, the emperor conceived the extraordinary project of building a gigantic wall along the whole northern boundary of China, a great bulwark to extend from the ocean on the east to the interior extremity of the modern province of Kan-suh on the west. This work was begun under the direct supervision of the emperor in 214 B.C., and prosecuted with the sleepless energy for which he had made himself famous. Tireless as he was, however, the task was too great for one man to perform, and it was not completed until after his death.

This extraordinary work, perhaps the greatest ever undertaken by the hand of man, extends over a length of twelve hundred and fifty-five miles, the wall itself, if measured throughout its sinuous extent, being fully fifteen hundred miles in length. Over this vast reach of mountain and plain it is carried, regardless of hill or vale, but "scaling the precipices and topping the craggy hills of the country." It is not a solid mass, but is composed of two retaining walls of[Pg 159] brick, built upon granite foundations, while the space between them is filled with earth and stones. It is about twenty-five feet wide at base and fifteen at top, and varies from fifteen to thirty feet in height, with frequent towers rising above its general level. At the top a pavement of bricks—now overgrown with grass—forms a surface finish to the work.

How many thousands or hundreds of thousands of the industrious laborers of China spent their lives upon this stupendous work history does not tell. It stands as a striking monument of the magnificent conceptions of Hoangti, and of the patient industry of his subjects, beside which the building of the great pyramid of Egypt sinks into insignificance. Yet, as history has abundantly proved, it was a waste of labor so far as answering its purpose was concerned. In the hands of a strong emperor like Hoangti it might well defy the Tartar foe. In the hands of many of his weak successors it proved of no avail, the hordes of the desert swarming like ants over its undefended reaches, and pouring upon the feeble country that sought defence in walls, not in men.

While this vast building operation was going on, Hoangti had his hands so full with internal wars that he adopted the custom of sitting on his throne with a naked sword in his hand, significant of his unceasing alertness against his foes. Not until his reign was near its end was he able to return this emblem of war to its scabbard and enjoy for a few years the peace he had so ably won.

No sooner had the great emperor finished his[Pg 160] campaign of victory against the Heung-nou Tartars than he found himself confronted by enemies at home, the adherents of the remaining feudal princes whose independent power was threatened. The first with whom he came in contact was the powerful prince of Chow, several of whose cities he captured, the neighboring prince of Han being so terrified by this success that he surrendered without a contest. In accordance with Hoangti's method, the prince was forced to yield his power and retire to private life in the dominions of the conqueror.

Chow still held out, under an able general, Limou, who defied the emperor and defeated his armies. Hoangti, finding himself opposed by an abler man than any he had under his command, employed against him the same secret arts by which he had before disposed of the valiant Ouki. A courtier was bribed to malign the absent general and poison the mind of the prince against the faithful commander of his forces. The intrigue was successful, Limou was recalled from his command, and on his refusing to obey was assassinated by order of the prince.

Hoangti had gained his end, and his adversary soon paid dearly for his lack of wisdom and justice. His dominions were overrun, his capital, Hantan, was taken and sacked, and he and his family became prisoners to one who was not noted for mercy to his foes. The large province of Chow was added to the empire, which was now growing with surprising rapidity.

This enemy disposed of, Hoangti had another with whom to deal. At his court resided Prince Tan, heir[Pg 161] of the ruler of Yen. Whether out of settled policy or from whim, the emperor insulted this visitor so flagrantly that he fled the court, burning for revenge. As the most direct way of obtaining this, he hired an assassin to murder Hoangti, inducing him to accept the task by promising him the title of "Liberator of the Empire." The plot was nearly successful. Finding it very difficult to obtain an audience with the emperor, Kinkou, the assassin, succeeded in an extraordinary way, by inducing Fanyuki, a proscribed rebel, to commit suicide. In some unexplained way Kinkou made use of this desperate act to obtain the desired audience. Only the alertness of the emperor now saved him from death. His quick eye caught the attempt of the assassin to draw his poniard, and at once, with a sweeping blow of his sabre, he severed his leg from his body, hurling him bleeding and helpless to the floor.

Hoangti's retribution did not end with the death of the assassin. Learning that Prince Tan was the real culprit, he gave orders for the instant invasion of Yen,—a purpose which perhaps he had in view in his insult to the prince. The ruler of that state, to avert the emperor's wrath, sent him the head of Tan, whom he had ordered to execution. But as the army continued to advance, he fled into the wilds of Lea-vu-tung, abandoning his territory to the invader. In the same year the kingdom of Wei was invaded, its capital taken, and its ruler sent to the Chinese capital for execution.

Only one of the great principalities now remained, that of Choo, but it was more formidable than any[Pg 162] of those yet assailed. Great preparations and a large army were needed for this enterprise, and the emperor asked his generals how many men would be required for the task of conquest.

"Two hundred thousand will be abundant," said Lisin; "I will promise you the best results with that number of men."

"What have you to say?" asked the emperor of Wang Tsein, his oldest and most experienced commander.

"Six hundred thousand will be needed," said the cautious old general.

These figures, given in history, may safely be credited with an allowance for the exaggeration of the writers.

The emperor approved of Lisin's estimate, and gave him the command, dismissing the older warrior as an over-cautious dotard. The event told a different tale. Lisin was surprised during his march and driven back in utter defeat, losing forty thousand men, as the records say, in the battle and the pursuit. What became of the defeated braggart history fails to state. If he survived the battle, he could hardly have dared to present himself again before his furious master.

Hoangti now sent for the veteran whom he had dismissed as a dotard, and asked him to take command of the troops.

"Six hundred thousand: no less will serve," repeated the old man.

"You shall have all you ask for," answered the emperor.[Pg 163]

This vast host collected, the question of supplies presented itself as a serious matter.

"Do not let that trouble you," said the emperor to his general. "I have taken steps to provide for that, and promise you that provisions are more likely to be wanting in my palace than in your camp."

The event proved the soundness of the old warrior's judgment and his warlike skill. A great battle soon took place, in which Wang Tsein, taking advantage of a false movement of the enemy, drove him in panic flight from the field. This was soon followed by the complete conquest of the principality, whose cities were strongly garrisoned by imperial troops, and its rulers sent to the capital to experience the fate of the preceding princely captives. The subjection of several smaller provinces succeeded, and the conquest of China was at length complete.

The feudal principalities, which had been the successors of the independent kingdoms into which the Chinese territory was originally divided, were thus overthrown, the ancient local dynasties being exterminated, and their territories added to the dominion of the Tsins. The unity of the empire was at length established, and the great conqueror became "the first universal emperor."

Hoangti the Great, as we may justly designate the man who first formed a united Chinese empire, and to whom the mighty conception of the Great Wall was due, did not exhaust his energies in these varied labors. Choosing as his capital Heenyang (now Segan[Pg 164] Foo), he built himself there a palace of such magnificence as to make it the wonder and admiration of the age. This was erected outside the city, on so vast a scale that ten thousand men could be drawn up in order of battle in one of its courts. Attached to it were magnificent gardens, the whole being known as the Palace of Delight. Within the city he had another palace, of grand dimensions, its hall of audience being adorned with twelve gigantic statues made from the spoils of his many campaigns, each of them weighing twelve thousand pounds.

The capital was otherwise highly embellished, and an edict required that all weapons should be sent to the arsenal in that city, there being no longer danger of civil war, and "peace being universal." This measure certainly tended to prevent war, and "the skilful disarming of the provinces added daily to the wealth and prosperity of the capital."

The empire of China thus being, for the first time in its history, made a centralized one, Hoangti divided it into thirty-six provinces, and set out on a tour of inspection of the vast dominions which acknowledged him as sole lord and master. Governors and sub-governors were appointed in each province, the stability of the organization adopted being evidenced by the fact that it still exists. The most important result of the imperial journey was the general improvement of the roads of the empire. It was the custom, when a great man visited any district, to repair the roads which he would need to traverse, while outside his line of march the highways were of a very imperfect character. Hoangti[Pg 165] was well aware of this custom, and very likely he may have convinced himself of the true condition of the roads by sudden détours from the prescribed route. At all events, he made the following notable remarks:

"These roads have been made expressly for me, and are very satisfactory. But it is not just that I alone should enjoy a convenience of which my subjects have still greater need, and one which I can give them. Therefore I decree that good roads shall be made in all directions throughout the empire."

In these few words he set in train a far more useful work than the Great Wall. High-roads were laid out on a grand scale, traversing the empire from end to end, and the public spirit of the great emperor is attested by the noble system of highways which still remain, more than two thousand years after his death.


Having said so much in favor of Hoangti, we have now to show the reverse of the shield, in describing that notable act which has won him the enmity of the literary class, not only in China but in the whole world. This was the celebrated "burning of the books." Hoangti was essentially a reformer. Time-honored ceremonies were of little importance in his eyes when they stood in the way of the direct and practical, and he abolished hosts of ancient customs that had grown wearisome and unmeaning. This sweeping away of the drift-wood of the past was far from agreeable to the officials, to whom formalism and precedent were as the breath[Pg 166] of life. One of the ancient customs required the emperors to ascend high mountains and offer sacrifices on their summits. The literary class had ancient rule and precedent for every step in this ceremony, and so sharply criticised the emperor's disregard of these observances that they roused his anger. "You vaunt the simplicity of the ancients," he impatiently said; "you should then be satisfied with me, for I act in a simpler fashion than they did." Finally he closed the controversy with the stern remark, "When I have need of you I will let you know my orders."

The literati of China have always been notable for the strength of their convictions and the obstinate courage with which they express their opinions at all risks. They were silenced for the present, but their anger, as well as that of the emperor, only slumbered. Five years afterwards it was reawakened. Hoangti had summoned to the capital all the governors and high officials for a Grand Council of the Empire. With the men of affairs came the men of learning, many of them wedded to theories and traditions, who looked upon Hoangti as a dangerous iconoclast, and did not hesitate to express their opinion.

It was the most distinguished assembly that had ever come together in China, and, gathered in that magnificent palace which was adorned with the spoils of conquered kingdoms, it reflected the highest honor on the great emperor who had called it together and who presided over its deliberations. But the hardly concealed hostility of the literati soon[Pg 167] disturbed the harmony of the council. In response to the emperor, who asked for candid expressions of opinion upon his government and legislation, a courtier arose with words of high praise, ending with, "Truly you have surpassed the very greatest of your predecessors even at the most remote period."

The men of books broke into loud murmurs at this insult to the heroes of their admiration, and one of them sprang angrily to his feet, designating the former speaker as "a vile flatterer unworthy of the high position which he occupied," and continuing with unstinted praise of the early rulers. His oration, which showed much more erudition than discretion, ended by advocating a reversal of the emperor's action, and a redivision of the empire into feudal principalities.

Hoangti, hot with anger, curtly reminded the speaker that that point was not open to discussion, it having already been considered and decided. He then called on Lisseh, his minister, to state again the reasons for the unity of the empire. The speech of the minister is one of high importance, as giving the ostensible reasons for the unexampled act of destruction by which it was followed.

"It must be admitted," he said, "after what we have just heard, that men of letters are, as a rule, very little acquainted with what concerns the government of a country,—not that government of pure speculation, which is nothing more than a phantom, vanishing the nearer we approach to it, but the practical government which consists in keeping men within the sphere of their practical duties. With[Pg 168] all their pretence of knowledge, they are, in this matter, densely ignorant. They can tell you by heart everything which has happened in the past, back to the most remote period, but they are, or seem to be, ignorant of what is being done in these later days, of what is passing under their very eyes. Incapable of discerning that the thing which was formerly suitable would be wholly out of place to-day, they would have everything arranged in exact imitation of what they find written in their books."

He went on to denounce the men of learning as a class uninfluenced by the spirit of existing affairs and as enemies of the public weal, and concluded by saying, "Now or never is the time to close the mouths of these secret enemies, to place a curb upon their audacity."

He spoke the sentiments of the emperor, who had probably already determined upon his course of action. Having no regard for books himself, and looking upon them as the weapons of his banded foes, he issued the memorable order that all the books of the empire should be destroyed, making exception only of those that treated of medicine, agriculture, architecture, and astronomy. The order included the works of the great Confucius, who had edited and condensed the more ancient books of the empire, and of his noble disciple Mencius, and was of the most tyrannical and oppressive character. All books containing historical records, except those relating to the existing reign, were to be burned, and all who dared even to speak together about the Confucian "Book of Odes" and "Book of History"[Pg 169] were condemned to execution. All who should even make mention of the past, so as to blame the present, were, with all their relatives, to be put to death; and any one found, after thirty days, with a book in his possession was to be branded and sent to work for four years on the Great Wall. Hoangti did not confine himself to words. The whole empire was searched for books, and all found were burned, while large numbers of the literati who had disobeyed the edict were arrested, and four hundred and sixty of them were buried alive in a great pit dug for that purpose.

It may well be that Hoangti had his own fame largely in view in this unprecedented act, as in his preceding wall-building and road-making. He may have proposed to sweep away all earlier records of the empire and make it seem to have sprung into existence full-fledged with his reign. But if he had such a purpose, he did not take fully into account the devotion of men of learning to their cherished manuscripts, nor the powers of the human memory. Books were hidden in the roofs and walls of dwellings, buried underground, and in some cases even concealed in the beds of rivers, until after the tyrant's death. And when a subsequent monarch sought to restore these records of the past, vanished tomes reappeared from the most unlooked-for places. As for the "Book of History" of Confucius, which had disappeared, twenty-eight sections of the hundred composing it were taken down from the lips of an aged blind man who had treasured them in his memory, and one was obtained from a young[Pg 170] girl. The others were lost until 140 B.C., when, in pulling down the house of the great philosopher, a complete copy of the work was found hidden in its walls. As for the scientific works that were spared, none of them have come down to our day.

We shall now briefly complete our story of the man who made himself the most thoroughly hated of all Chinese monarchs by the literati of that realm. Organizing his troops into a strong standing army, he engaged in a war of conquest in the south, adding Tonquin and Cochin China to his dominions, and carrying his arms as far as Bengal. In the north he again sent his armies into the desert to chastise the troublesome nomads, and then, conceiving that no advantage was to be gained in extending his empire over these domains of barbarism, he employed the soldiers as aids in the task of building the Great Wall, adding to them a host of the industrial population of the north.

In 210 B.C. Hoangti was seized with some malady which he failed to treat as he did his enemies. Neglecting the simplest remedial measures, he came suddenly to the end of his career after a reign of fifty-one years. With him were buried many of his wives and large quantities of treasure, a custom of barbarous origin which was confined in China to the chiefs of Tsin. Magnificent in his ideas and fond of splendor, he despised formality, lived simply in the midst of luxury, and distinguished himself from other Chinese rulers by making walking his favorite exercise. While not great as a soldier, he knew how to choose soldiers, and in his administration was[Pg 171] wise enough to avail himself of the advice of the ablest ministers.

Yet with all his greatness he could not provide for the birth of a great son. Upon his death disturbances broke out in all quarters of the realm, with which his weak successor was unable to cope. In three years the reign of his son was closed with assassination, while the grandson of Hoangti, defeated in battle after a six weeks' nominal reign, ended his life in murder or suicide. With him the dynasty of the Tsins passed away and that of the Han monarchs succeeded. Hoangti stands alone as the great man of his race.[Pg 172]


After the death of the great Hoangti, two of his generals fought for the throne of China,—Lieou Pang, who represents, in the Chinese annals, intellect, and Pa Wang, representing brute force, uninspired by thought. Destiny, if we can credit the following tale, had chosen the former for the throne. "A noted physiognomist once met him on the high-road, and, throwing himself down before him, said, 'I see by the expression of your features that you are destined to be emperor, and I offer you in anticipation the tribute of respect that a subject owes his sovereign. I have a daughter, the fairest and wisest in the empire; take her as your wife. So confident am I that my prediction will be realized that I gladly offer her to you.'"

However that be, the weak descendants of Hoangti soon vanished from the scene, Pa Wang was overcome in battle, and the successful general seized the imperial throne. He chose, as emperor, the title of Kaotsou, and named his dynasty, from his native province, the Han. It was destined to continue for centuries in power.

The new emperor showed himself a worthy successor of the builder of the Great Wall, while he made every effort to restore to the nation its books,[Pg 173] encouraging men of letters and seeking to recover such literature as had survived the great burning. In this way he provided for his future fame at the hands of the grateful literati of China. Amnesty to all who had opposed him was proclaimed, and regret expressed at the sufferings of the people "from the evils which follow in the train of war."

The merit of Kaotsou lay largely in the great public works with which he emulated the policy of his energetic predecessor. The "Lofty and August Emperor" (Kao Hoangti), as he entitled himself, did not propose to be thrown into the shade by any who had gone before. On taking the throne he chose as his capital the city of Loyang (now Honan), but subsequently selected the city of Singanfoo, in the western province of Shensi. This city lay in a nest of mountains, which made it very difficult of approach. It was not without advantages from its situation as the capital of the empire, but could not be reached from the south without long détours. Possibly this difficulty may have had something to do with its choice by the emperor, that he might display his genius in overcoming obstacles.

To construct roads across and to cut avenues through the mountains an army of workmen, one hundred thousand in number, became necessary. The deep intervening valleys were filled up to the necessary level by the spoils rent from the lofty adjoining mountains, and where this could not be done, great bridges, supported on strong and high pillars, were thrown across from side to side. Elsewhere suspension bridges—"flying bridges," as the Chinese[Pg 174] call them—were thrown across deep and rugged ravines, wide enough for four horsemen to travel abreast, their sides being protected by high balustrades. One of these, one hundred and fifty yards long, and thrown over a valley more than five hundred feet deep, is said to be still in perfect condition. These suspension bridges were built nearly two thousand years before a work of this character was attempted in Europe. In truth, the period in question, including several centuries before Christ, was the culminating age of Chinese civilization, in which appeared its great religious reformers, philosophers, and authors, its most daring engineers, and its monarchs of highest public spirit and broadest powers of conception and execution. It was the age of the Great Wall, the imperial system of highways, the system of canals (though the Great Canal was of later date), and other important works of public utility.

By the strenuous labors described Kaotsou rendered his new capital easy of access from all quarters of the kingdom, while at frequent intervals along the great high-roads of the empire there were built post-houses, caravansaries, and other conveniences, so as to make travelling rather a pleasure than the severe task it formerly had been.

The capital itself was made as attractive as the means of reaching it were made easy. Siaho, at once an able war minister and a great builder, planned for the emperor a palace so magnificent that Kaotsou hesitated in ordering its erection. Siaho removed his doubts with the following argument: "You[Pg 175] should look upon all the empire as your family; and if the grandeur of your palace does not correspond with that of your family, what idea will it give of its power and greatness?"

This argument sufficed: the palace was built, and Kaotsou celebrated its completion with festivities continued for several weeks. On one occasion during this period, uplifted with a full sense of the dignity to which he had attained, his pride found vent in the grandiloquent remark, "To-day I feel that I am indeed emperor, and perceive all the difference between a subject and his master."

His fondness for splendor was indicated by magnificent banquets and receptions, and his sense of dignity by a court ceremonial which must have proved a wearisome ordeal for his courtiers, though none dared infringe it for fear of dire consequences. Those who had aided him in his accession to power were abundantly rewarded, with one exception, that of his father, who seems to have been overlooked in the distribution of favors. The old man, not relishing thus being left at the foot of the ladder, took prompt occasion to remind his son of his claims. Dressing himself in his costliest garments, he presented himself at the foot of the throne, where, in a speech of deep humility, he designated himself as the least yet the most obedient subject of the realm. Kaotsou, thus admonished, at once called a council of ministers and had the old man proclaimed "the lesser emperor." Taking him by the hand, he led him to a chair at the foot of the throne as his future seat. This act of the emperor won him the highest[Pg 176] commendation from his subjects, the Chinese looking upon respect to and veneration of parents as the duty surpassing all others and the highest evidence of virtue.

Siaho, the palace-builder and war minister, had been specially favored in this giving of rewards, much to the discontent of the leading generals, who claimed all the credit for the successes in war, and were disposed to look with contempt on this mere cabinet warrior. Hearing of their complaints, Kaotsou summoned them to his presence, and thus plainly expressed his opinion of their claims:

"You find, I am told, reason to complain that I have rewarded Siaho above yourselves. Tell me, who are they at the chase who pursue and capture the prey? The dogs.—But who direct and urge on the dogs? Are they not the hunters?—You have all worked hard for me; you have pursued your prey with vigor, and at last captured and overthrown it. In this you deserve the credit which one gives to the dogs in the chase. But the merit of Siaho is that of the hunter. It is he who has conducted the whole of the war, who regulated everything, ordered you to attack the enemy at the opportune moment, and by his tactics made you master of the cities and provinces you have conquered. On this account he deserves the credit of the hunter, who is more worthy of reward than are the dogs whom he sets loose upon the prey."

One further anecdote is told of this emperor, which is worth repeating, as its point was aptly illustrated in a subsequent event. Though he had[Pg 177] won the empire by the sword, he was not looked upon as a great general, and on one occasion asked Hansin, his ablest officer, how many men he thought he (the emperor) could lead with credit in the field.

"Sire," said the plain-spoken general, "you can lead an army of a hundred thousand men very well. But that is all."

"And how many can you lead?"

"The more I have the better I shall lead them," was the self-confident answer.

The event in which the justice of this criticism was indicated arose during a subsequent war with the Tartars, who had resumed their inroads into the empire. The Heung-nou were at this period governed by two leading chiefs, Mehe and Tonghou, the latter arrogant and ambitious, the former well able to bide his time. The story goes that Tonghou sent to Mehe a demand for a favorite horse. His kinsmen advised him to refuse, but Mehe sent the horse, saying, "Would you quarrel with your neighbor for a horse?" Tonghou soon after sent to demand of Mehe one of his wives. Mehe again complied, saying to his friends, "Would you have me undertake a war for the sake of a woman?" Tonghou, encouraged by these results of his insolence, next invaded Mehe's dominions. The patient chief, now fully prepared, took the field, and in a brief time had dispersed Tonghou's army, captured and executed him, and made himself the principal chief of the clans.

This able leader, having punished his insolent desert foe, soon led his warlike followers into China,[Pg 178] took possession of many fertile districts, extended his authority to the banks of the Hoang-ho, and sent plundering expeditions into the rich provinces beyond. In the war that followed the emperor himself took command of his troops, and, too readily believing the stories of the weakness of the Tartar army told by his scouts, resolved on an immediate attack. One of his generals warned him that "in war we should never despise an enemy," but the emperor refused to listen, and marched confidently on, at the head of his advance guard, to find the enemy.

He found him to his sorrow. Mehe had skilfully concealed his real strength for the purpose of drawing the emperor into a trap, and now, by a well-directed movement, cut off the rash leader from his main army and forced him to take refuge in the city of Pingching. Here, vastly outnumbered and short of provisions, the emperor found himself in a desperate strait, from which he could not escape by force of arms.

In this dilemma one of his officers suggested a possible method of release. This was that, as a last chance, the most beautiful virgin in the city should be sent as a peace-offering to the desert chief. Kaotsou accepted the plan,—nothing else presenting itself,—and the maiden was chosen and sent. She went willingly, it is said, and used her utmost arts to captivate the Tartar chief. She succeeded, and Mehe, after forcing Kaotsou to sign an ignominious treaty, suffered his prize to escape, and retired to the desert, well satisfied with the rich spoils he had[Pg 179] won. Kaotsou was just enough to reward the general to whose warning he had refused to listen, but the scouts who had misled him paid dearly for their false reports.

This event seems to have inspired Kaotsou with an unconquerable fear of his desert foe, who was soon back again, pillaging the borders with impunity and making such daring inroads that the capital itself was not safe from their assaults. Instead of trusting to his army, the emperor now bought off his enemy in a more discreditable method than before, concluding a treaty in which he acknowledged Mehe as an independent ruler and gave him his daughter in marriage.

This weakness led to revolts in the empire, Kaotsou being forced again to take the field against his foes. But, worn out with anxiety and misfortune, his end soon approached, his death-bed being disturbed by palace intrigues concerning the succession, in which one of his favorite wives sought to have her son selected as the heir. Kaotsou, not heeding her petition, chose his eldest son as the heir-apparent, and soon after died. The tragic results of these intrigues for the crown will be seen in the following tale.[Pg 180]

Reproduced by permission of The Philadelphia Museums.
AN ITINERANT COBBLER. CANTON, CHINA. Reproduced by permission of The Philadelphia Museums.


About two centuries before Christ a woman came to the head of affairs in China whose deeds recall the worst of those which have long added infamy to the name of Lucretia Borgia. As regards the daughter of the Borgias tradition has lied: she was not the merciless murderess of fancy and fame. But there is no mitigation to the story of the empress Liuchi, who, with poison as her weapon, made herself supreme dictator of the great Chinese realm.

The death of the great emperor Kaotsou left two aspirants for the throne, the princes Hoeiti, son of Liuchi, and Chow Wang, son of the empress Tsi. There was a palace plot to raise Chow Wang to the throne, but it was quickly foiled by the effective means used by the ambitious Liuchi to remove the rivals from the path of her son. Poison did the work. The empress Tsi unsuspiciously quaffed the fatal bowl, which was then sent to Chow Wang, who innocently drank the same perilous draught. Whatever may have been the state of the conspiracy, this vigorous method of the queen-mother brought it to a sudden end, and Hoeiti ascended the throne.

The young emperor seemingly did not approve of ascending to power over the dead bodies of his opponents. He reproved his mother for her cruel deed,[Pg 181] and made a public statement that he had taken no part in the act. Yet under this public demonstration secret influences seem to have been at work within the palace walls, for the imperial poisoner retained her power at court and her influence over her son. When the great princes sought the capital to render homage to the new emperor, to their surprise and chagrin they found the unscrupulous dowager empress at the head of affairs, the sceptre of the realm practically in her hands.

They were to find that this dreadful woman was a dangerous foe to oppose. Among the potentates was Tao Wang, Prince of Tsi, who, after doing homage to the young emperor, was invited to feast with him. At this banquet Liuchi made her appearance, and when the wine was passed she insisted on being served first. These unpardonable breaches of etiquette—which they were in the Chinese code of good manners—were looked upon with astonishment by the visiting prince, who made no effort to conceal his displeasure on seeing any one attempt to drink before the emperor.

Liuchi, perceiving that she had made an enemy by her act, at once resolved to remove him from her path, with the relentless and terrible decision with which she had disposed of her former rivals. Covertly dropping the poison, which she seems to have always had ready for use, into a goblet of wine, she presented it to the prince of Tsi, asking him to pledge her in a draught. The unsuspicious guest took the goblet from her hand, without a dream of what the courtesy meant.[Pg 182]

Fortunately for him, the emperor, who distrusted his mother too deeply to leave her unobserved, had seen her secret act and knew too well what it meant. Snatching the fatal bowl from the prince's hand, he begged permission to pledge his health in that wine, and, with his eyes fixed meaningly on his mother's face, lifted it in turn to his royal lips.

The startled woman had viewed the act with wide eyes and trembling limbs. Seeing her son apparently on the point of drinking, an involuntary cry of warning burst from her, and, springing hastily to her feet, she snatched the fatal cup from his hand and dashed it to the floor. The secret was revealed. The prince of Tsi had been on the very point of death. With an exclamation of horror, and a keen invective addressed to the murderess, he rushed from that perilous room, and very probably was not long in hastening from a city which held so powerful and unscrupulous a foe.

The Chinese Borgia's next act of violence found a barbarian for its victim. The Tartar chief Mehe sent an envoy to the capital of China, with a message which aroused the anger of the empress, who at once ordered him to be executed, heedless of the fact that she thus brought the nation to the brink of war. Four years afterwards Hoeiti, the emperor, died, leaving vacant the throne which he had so feebly filled.

It is not to be supposed that Liuchi had any hand in this closing of a brief and uneventful reign. Her son was in no sense in her way, and served as a useful shield behind which she held the reins of government.[Pg 183] But she was in no haste to fill the vacant throne, preferring to rule openly as the supreme power in the realm. In order to consolidate her strength, she placed her brothers and near relations in the great posts of the empire, and strengthened her position by every means fair and foul.

It soon became evident, however, that this ambitious scheme could not be carried through. Throughout the land went up a cry for a successor to the dead emperor. In this dilemma the daring woman adopted a bold plan, bringing forward a boy who she declared was the offspring of her dead son, and placing this child of unknown parents upon the vacant throne. As a regent was needed during the minority of her counterfeit grandson, she had herself proclaimed as the holder of this high office.

All this was very little to the taste of the ministers of the late emperor. Never before had the government of China been in the hands of a woman. But they dared not make an effort to change it, or even to speak their sentiments in too loud a tone. Liuchi had ways of suppressing discontent that forced her enemies to hold their peace. The only one who ventured to question the arbitrary will of the regent was the mother of the nominal emperor, and sudden death removed her from the scene. Liuchi's ready means of vengeance had been brought into play again.

For years now the imperious empress ruled China unquestioned. Others who ventured on her path may have fallen, but the people remained content, so that the usurper seems to have avoided any oppression[Pg 184] of her subjects. But these years brought the child she had placed on the throne well on towards man's estate, and he began to show signs of an intention to break loose from leading-strings. He was possessed of ability, or at least of energy, and there were those ready to whisper in his ear the bitter tale of how his mother had been forced to swallow Liuchi's draught of death.

Stirred to grief and rage by these whispers of a fell deed, the youthful ruler vowed revenge upon the murderess. He vowed his own death in doing so. His hasty words were carried by spies to Liuchi's ears, and with her usual promptness she caused the imprudent youth to be seized and confined within the palace prison. The puppet under whom she ruled had proved inconvenient, and there was not a moment's hesitation in putting him out of the way. What became of him is not known, the prison rarely revealing its secrets, but from Liuchi's character we may safely surmise his fate.

The regent at once set to work to choose a more pliant successor to her rebellious tool. But her cup of crime was nearly full. Though the people remained silent, there was deep discontent among the officials of the realm, while the nobles were fiercely indignant at this virtual seizure of the throne by an ambitious woman. The storm grew day by day. One great chief boldly declared that he acknowledged "neither empress nor emperor," and the family of the late monarch Kaotsou regained their long-lost courage on perceiving these evidences of a spirit of revolt.[Pg 185]

Dangers were gathering around the resolute regent. But her party was strong, her hand firm, her courage and energy great, and she would perhaps have triumphed over all her foes had not the problem been unexpectedly solved by her sudden death. The story goes that, while walking one day in the palace halls, meditating upon the best means of meeting and defeating her numerous foes, she found herself suddenly face to face with a hideous spectre, around which rose the shades of the victims whom she had removed by poison or violence from her path. With a spasm of terror the horrified woman fell and died. Conscience had smitten her in the form of this terrific vision, and retribution came to the poisoner in the halls which she had made infamous by her crimes.

Her death ended the hopes of her friends. Her party fell to pieces throughout the realm, but a strong force still held the palace, where they fiercely defended themselves against the army brought by their foes. But their great empress leader was gone, one by one they fell in vain defence, and the capture of the palace put an end to the power which the woman usurper had so long and vigorously maintained.[Pg 186]


Many as have been the wars of China, the Chinese are not a warlike people. Their wars have mostly been fought at home to repress rebellion or overcome feudal lords, and during the long history of the nation its armies have rarely crossed the borders of the empire to invade foreign states. In fact, the chief aggressive movements of the Chinese have been rather wars of defence than of offence, wars forced upon them by the incessant sting of invasions from the desert tribes.

For ages the Tartars made China their plunder-ground, crossing the borders in rapid raids against which the Great Wall and the frontier forces proved useless for defence, and carrying off vast spoil from the industrious Chinese. They were driven from the soil scores of times, only to return as virulently as before. Their warlike energy so far surpassed that of their victims that one emperor did not hesitate to admit that three Tartars were the equal of five Chinese. They were bought off at times with tribute of rich goods and beautiful maidens, and their chief was even given the sister of an emperor for wife. And still they came, again and again, swarms of fierce wasps which stung the country more deeply with each return.[Pg 187]

This in time became intolerable, and a new policy was adopted, that of turning the tables on the Tartars and invading their country in turn. In the reign of Vouti, an emperor of the Han dynasty (135 B.C.), the Tartar king sent to demand the hand of a Chinese princess in marriage, offering to continue the existing truce. Bitter experience had taught the Chinese how little such an offer was to be trusted. Wang Kue, an able general, suggested the policy "of destroying them rather than to remain constantly exposed to their insults," and in the end war was declared.

The hesitation of the emperor had not been without abundant reason. To carry their arms into the wilds of Central Asia seemed a desperate enterprise to the peaceful Chinese, and their first effort in this direction proved a serious failure. Wang Kue, at the head of an army of three hundred thousand men, marched into the desert, adopting a stratagem to bring the Tartars within his reach. His plan failed, the Tartars avoided an attack, and Wang Kue closed the campaign without a shred of the glory he had promised to gain. The emperor ordered his arrest, which he escaped in the effective Eastern fashion of himself putting an end to his life.

But, though the general was dead, his policy survived, his idea of aggression taking deep root in the Chinese official mind. Many centuries were to elapse, however, before it bore fruit in the final subjection of the desert tribes, and China was to become their prey as a whole before they became the subjects of its throne.

The failure of Wang Kue gave boldness to the[Pg 188] Tartars, who carried on in their old way the war the Chinese had begun, making such bold and destructive raids that the emperor sent out a general with orders to fight the enemy wherever he could find them. This warrior, Wei Tsing by name, succeeded in catching the raiders in a trap. The Tartar chief, armed with the courage of despair, finally cut his way through the circle of his foes and brought off the most of his men, but his camp, baggage, wives, children, and more than fifteen thousand soldiers were left behind, and the victorious general became the hero of his age, the emperor travelling a day's journey from the capital to welcome him on his return.

This, and a later success by the same general, gave the Chinese the courage they so sadly needed, teaching them that the Tartars were not quite beyond the power of the sword. A council was called, a proposal to carry the war into the enemy's country approved, and an army, composed mostly of cavalry, sent out under an experienced officer named Hokiuping. The ill fortune of the former invasion was now replaced by good. The Tartars, completely taken by surprise, were everywhere driven back, and Hokiuping returned to China rich in booty, among it the golden images used as religious emblems by one of the Tartar princes. Returning with a larger force, he swept far through their country, boasting on his return that he had put thirty thousand Tartars to the sword. As a result, two of the princes and a large number of their followers surrendered to Vouti, and were disarmed and dispersed through the frontier settlements of the realm.[Pg 189]

These expeditions were followed by an invasion of the Heung-nou country by a large army, commanded by the two successful generals Wei Tsing and Hokiuping. This movement was attended with signal success, and the Tartars for the time were thoroughly cowed, while the Chinese lost much of their old dread of their desert foe. Years afterwards (110 B.C.) a new Tartar war began, Vouti himself taking command of an army of two hundred thousand men, and sending an envoy to the Tartar king, commanding him to surrender all prisoners and plunder and to acknowledge China as sovereign lord of himself and his people. All that the proud chief surrendered was the head of the ambassador, which he sent back with a bold defiance.

For some reason, which history does not give, Vouti failed to lead his all-conquering army against the desert foe, and when, in a later year, the steppes were invaded, the imperial army found the warlike tribes ready for the onset. The war continued for twenty years more, with varied fortune, and when, after fifty years of almost incessant warfare with the nomad warriors, Vouti laid down his sword with his life, the Tartars were still free and defiant. Yet China had learned a new way of dealing with the warlike tribes, and won a wide reputation in Asia, while her frontiers were much more firmly held.

The long reign of the great emperor had not been confined to wars with the Tartars. In his hands the empire of China was greatly widened by extensions in the west. The large provinces of Yunnan, Szchuen, and Fuhkien were conquered and added to the[Pg 190] Chinese state, while other independent kingdoms were made vassal states. And "thereby hangs a tale" which we have next to tell.

Far west in Northern China dwelt a barbarian people named the Yuchi, numerous and prosperous, yet no match in war for their persistent enemies the Tartars of the steppes. In the year 165 B.C. they were so utterly beaten in an invasion of the Heung-nou that they were forced to quit their homes and seek safety and freedom at a distance. Far to the west they went, where they coalesced with those warlike tribes of Central Asia who afterwards became the bane of the empire of Rome.

The fate of this people seemed a bitter one to Vouti, when it was told to his sympathetic ear, and, in the spirit in which King Arthur sent out his Round Table Knights on romantic quests, he turned to his council and asked if any among them was daring enough to follow the track of these wanderers and bring them back to the land they had lost. One of them, Chang Keen, volunteered to take up the difficult quest and to traverse Asia from end to end in search of the fugitive tribes.

This knight of romance was to experience many adventures before he should return to his native land. Attended by a hundred devoted companions, he set out, but in endeavoring to cross the country of the Heung-nou the whole party were made prisoners and held in captivity for ten long years. Finally, after a bitter experience of desert life, the survivors made their escape, and, with a courage that had outlived their years of thraldom, resumed their search for[Pg 191] the vanished tribes. Many western countries were visited in the search, and much strange knowledge was gained. In the end the Yuchi were found in their new home. With them Chang Keen dwelt for a year, but all his efforts to induce them to return were in vain. They were safe in their new land, and did not care to risk encounter with their old foes, even with the Emperor of China for their friend.

Finally the adventurous envoy returned to China with two of his companions, the only survivors of the hundred with whom he had set out years before. He had an interesting story to tell of lands and peoples unknown to the Chinese, and wrote an account of his travels and of the geography of the countries he had seen. Chang Keen was subsequently sent on a mission to the western kingdom of Ousun, where he was received with much honor, though the king declined to acknowledge himself a vassal of the ruler of China. From here he sent explorers far to the south and north, bringing back with him fresh information concerning the Asiatic nations.

Of the Yuchi later stories are told. They are said to have come into collision with the Parthians, whom they vanquished after a long-continued struggle. They are also credited with having destroyed the kingdom of Bactria, a far-eastern relic of the empire of Alexander the Great. Several centuries later they may have combined with their old foes to form the Huns, who flung themselves in a devastating torrent upon Europe, and eventually became the founders of the modern kingdom of Hungary.[Pg 192]


With the opening of the Christian era a usurper came to the Chinese throne. In the year 1 B.C. the emperor Gaiti died, and Wang Mang, a powerful official, joined with the mother of the dead emperor to seize the power of the state. The friends and officials of Gaiti were ruined and disgraced, and in the year 1 A.D. a boy of nine years was raised to the throne as nominal emperor, under whose shadow Wang Mang ruled supreme. Money was needed for the ambitious upstart, and he obtained it by robbing the graves of former monarchs of the jewels and other valuables buried with them. This, from the Chinese point of view, was a frightful sacrilege, yet the people seem to have quietly submitted to the violation of the imperial tombs.

Five years passed away, and the emperor reached the age of sixteen. He might grow troublesome in a year or two more. Wang Mang decided that he had lived long enough. The poisoned cup, which seems to have been always ready in the Chinese palace, was handed to the boy by the usurper himself. Drinking it unsuspiciously, the unfortunate youth was soon lying on the floor in the agonies of death, while the murderer woke the palace halls with his cries of counterfeit grief, loudly bewailing the young emperor's sad fate, and denouncing heaven[Pg 193] for having sent this sudden and fatal illness upon the royal youth.

To keep up appearances, another child was placed upon the throne. A conspiracy against the usurper was now formed by the great men of the state, but Wang Mang speedily crushed plot and plotters, rid himself of the new boy emperor in the same arbitrary fashion as before, and, throwing off the mask he had thus far worn, had himself proclaimed emperor of the realm. It was the Han dynasty he had in this arbitrary fashion brought to an end. He called his dynasty by the name of Sin.

But the usurper soon learned the truth of the saying, "uneasy lies the head that wears a crown." The Tartars of the desert defied his authority, broke their long truce, and raided the rich provinces of the north, which had enjoyed thirty years of peace and prosperity. In this juncture Wang Mang showed that he was better fitted to give poison to boys than to meet his foes in the field. The Tartars committed their ravages with impunity, and other enemies were quickly in arms. Rebellions broke out in the east and the south, and soon, wherever the usurper turned, he saw foes in the field or lukewarm friends at home.

The war that followed continued for twelve years, the armies of rebellion, led by princes of the Han line of emperors, drawing their net closer and closer around him, until at length he was shut up within his capital city, with an army of foes around its walls. The defence was weak, and the victors soon made their way through the gates, appearing quickly[Pg 194] at the palace doors. The usurper had reached the end of his troubled reign, but at this fatal juncture had not the courage to take his own life. The victorious soldiers rushed in while he was hesitating in mortal fear, and with a stroke put an end to his reign and his existence. His body was hacked into bleeding fragments, which were cast about the streets of the city, to be trampled underfoot by the rejoicing throng.

It is not, however, the story of Wang Mang's career that we have set out to tell, but that of one of his foes, the leader of a band of rebels, Fanchong by name. This partisan leader had shown himself a man of striking military ability, bringing his troops under strict discipline, and defeating all his foes. Soldiers flocked to his ranks, his band became an army, and in the crisis of the struggle he took a step that made him famous in Chinese history. He ordered his soldiers to paint their eyebrows red, as a sign that they were ready to fight to the last drop of their blood. Then he issued the following proclamation to the people: "If you meet the 'Crimson Eyebrows,' join yourselves to them; it is the sure road to safety. You can fight the usurper's troops without danger; but if you wish for death you may join Wang Mang's army."

The end of the war was not the end of the "Crimson Eyebrows." Fanchong was ambitious, and a large number of his followers continued under his flag. They had aided greatly in putting a Han emperor on the throne, but they now became his most formidable foes, changing from patriots into brigands,[Pg 195] and keeping that part of the empire which they haunted in a state of the liveliest alarm.

Against this thorn in the side of the realm the new emperor sent his ablest commander, and a fierce campaign ensued, in which the brigand band stubbornly fought for life and license. In the end they suffered a crushing defeat, and for the time sank out of sight, but only to rise again at a later date.

The general who had defeated them, an able prince of the Han family, followed up his victory by seizing the throne itself and deposing the weak emperor. The latter fled to the retreat of the remnant of the brigand band, and begged their aid to restore him to the throne, but Fanchong, who had no idea of placing a greater than himself at the head of his band, escaped from the awkward position by putting his guest to death.

Soon after the "Crimson Eyebrows" were in the field again, not as supporters of an imperial refugee, but as open enemies of the public peace, each man fighting for his own hand. While the new ruler was making himself strong at Loyang, the new capital, Fanchong and his brigands seized Changnan, Wang Mang's old capital, and pillaged it mercilessly. Making it their head-quarters, they lived on the inhabitants of the city and the surrounding district, holding on until the rapid approach of the army of the emperor admonished them that it was time to seek a safer place of retreat.

The army of the brigand chief grew until it was believed to exceed two hundred thousand men, while their excesses were so great that they were everywhere[Pg 196] regarded as public enemies, hated and execrated by the people at large. But the career of the "Crimson Eyebrows" was near its end. The emperor sent against them an army smaller than their own, but under the command of Fongy, one of the most skilful generals of the age. His lack of numbers was atoned for by skill in manœuvres, the brigands were beaten in numerous skirmishes, and at length Fongy risked a general engagement, which ended in a brilliant victory. During the crisis of the battle he brought up a reserve of prisoners whom he had captured in the previous battles and had won over to himself. These, wearing still the crimson sign of the brigands, mingled unobserved among their former comrades, and at a given signal suddenly made a fierce attack upon them. This treacherous assault produced a panic, and Fanchong's army was soon flying in disorder and dismay.

Terms were now offered to the brigand chief, which he accepted, and his army disbanded, with the exception of some fragments, which soon gathered again into a powerful force. This Fongy attacked and completely dispersed, and the long and striking career of the "Crimson Eyebrows" came to an end.[Pg 197]



The Chinese are the most practical and the least imaginative of the peoples of the earth. During their whole four thousand years and more of historical existence the idea of military glory seems never to have dawned upon their souls. They have had wars, abundance of them, but these have nearly all been fought for the purpose of holding on to old possessions, or of widening the borders of the empire by taking in neighboring lands. No Alexander, Cćsar, or Napoleon has ever been born on Chinese soil; no army has ever been led abroad in search of the will-of-the-wisp called glory; the wild fancy of becoming lords of the world has always been out of touch with their practical minds.

If we consider closely the wars of China the truth of what is here said will appear. The great bulk of them have been fought within the limits of the empire, for the purposes of defence against invasion, the suppression of revolt, the overthrow of the power of feudal lords, or in consequence of the ambition of successful generals who coveted the throne. The wars of external conquest have been singularly few, consisting principally in the invasion of the domain of the Tartars, to which the Chinese were driven by the incessant raids of the desert hordes.[Pg 198] In addition, there have been invasions of Corea and Indo-China, but merely as passing incidents in the long era of Chinese history, not as inaugurating a career of conquest. The great invasion of Japan in the thirteenth century, the only pure war of conquest of China, was made by Kublai Khan, a Tartar emperor, and largely with Tartar troops. In brief, the Chinese have shown themselves in disposition one of the most peaceful of nations, only asking to be let alone, and are very unlikely to begin the war of conquest which some modern military writers fear.

Yet there is one instance in Chinese history which seems to contradict what has here been said, that of the career of a great conqueror who carried the arms of China over the whole width of Asia, and who seemed actuated by that thirst for military glory which has inspired most of the great wars of the world and brought untold misery upon mankind. This was the great leader Panchow, who lived under three emperors of the Han dynasty, and whose career is full of interest and event.

Panchow first appears in the reign of the emperor Mingti, who came to the throne in 57 A.D. His victories were won in the west, in the region of Kokonor, where he brought to an end the invasions of the Tartar tribes. Under Changti, the succeeding emperor, Panchow continued his work in the west, carrying on the war at his own expense, with an army recruited from pardoned criminals.

Changti died, and Hoti came to the throne, a child ten years of age. It was under his reign that the[Pg 199] events to be described took place. During the preceding reigns Panchow had made the power of China felt in regions far west of that realm, bringing several small kingdoms and many tribes under subjection, conquering the city of Kashgar, and extending the western borders of China as far into the interior of Asia as the great upland region of the Pamir. The power of his arms had added Eastern Turkestan to the Chinese empire, a region which it continues to hold to-day.

But these conquests were not enough to satisfy the ambition of the veteran general. Under the boy emperor Hoti he was free to carry out his designs on a much larger scale. With a powerful army he set out on the only campaign of ambitious warfare in which China ever indulged. His previous victories had carried the terror of his name far over the kingdoms of the west, and he now led his army to conquest after conquest in the great oases of Western Turkestan, subduing kingdom after kingdom until no less than fifteen had submitted to the power of his arms, and his victorious army stood on the far-distant shores of the Caspian Sea,—the Northern Sea, as it is named in Chinese annals.

To cross this sea would have brought him into Europe, which continent had never dreamed of invasion from the mysterious land of Cathay, on the eastern horizon of the world. Panchow's ambition was not yet satiated. There came to his mind the idea of crossing this seeming great barrier to his victorious career. He had, with his army, overcome innumerable difficulties of waterless deserts, lofty[Pg 200] mountain ranges, great rivers, and valiant enemies. Thus far his progress had been irresistible, and should a mere expanse of water put an end to his westward march?

He was checked by dread of perils in the unknown land beyond. The people on the borders of the Caspian represented that salt sea as being far more formidable than it really was. They dilated on its width, the vast mountains which lay beyond, the fierce tribes who would render a landing difficult and dangerous, and the desert regions beyond the mountains, until Panchow reluctantly gave up his scheme. He had already been for several years warring with savage nature and barbarous man, and had extended the dominions of his emperor much farther than any Chinese general had ever dreamed of before. It was time to call a halt, and not expose his valiant followers to the unknown perils beyond the great inland sea.

The army remained long encamped on the Caspian, coming into communication through its envoys with the Roman empire, whose eastern borders lay not far away, and forming relations of commerce with this rich and powerful realm. This done, Panchow led his ever-victorious warriors back to their native land, to tell the story of the marvels they had seen and the surprising adventures they had encountered.

That Panchow was moved by the mere thirst for military fame may well be doubted in view of what we know of the character of the Chinese. His purpose was perhaps the more practical one of opening[Pg 201] by force of arms new channels of trade, and overcoming the obstacles placed by the Parthians and other nations of Asia in the way of freedom of commerce. On his return to China he found himself the idol of the people, the trusted friend of the emperor, and the most revered and powerful subject of the empire. He died in his eightieth year, enjoying a fame such as no general of his race had ever before attained.[Pg 202]


When the great dynasty of the Hans, which had held supreme rule in China for more than four hundred years, came to an end, it left that country divided up into three independent kingdoms. The emperors who had once ruled over all China found themselves now lords of its smallest division, while the kingdom of Wei included the largest and most populous districts in the realm. A war for supremacy arose between these three kingdoms, which ended in the kings of Wei becoming supreme over the whole empire and establishing a new dynasty, which they named the dynasty of Tsin. Of this war we have only one event to relate, an interesting example of Chinese fortitude and valor.

Shortly after 250 A.D. an army of the Han emperor, led by a general named Chukwoko, settled down to the siege of a small walled town named Sinching, held by three thousand men under the command of a leader named Changte, whose fortitude and energy alone saved this place for the king of Wei.

For ninety days the siege went on, the catapults of the besieging force playing incessantly upon the walls, which, despite the activity of the garrison, were in time pierced in many places, while several gaping breaches lay open to the foe. Changte had[Pg 203] defended the place vigorously, no commander could have done more, and, as no sign of a relieving force appeared, he could with all honor have capitulated, thrown open the gates, and marched out with such dignity as the victorious enemy would permit.

But this was not the view of his duty held by the valorous soldier. He was one of the kind who die but do not surrender, and in his extremity had recourse to the following ruse. He sent word to Chukwoko that, as the place was clearly untenable, he was willing to surrender if he were granted ten days more of grace.

"It is a law among the princes of Wei," he said, "that the governor of a place which has held out for a hundred days, and then, seeing no prospect of relief, surrenders, shall not be held guilty of dereliction of duty."

Chukwoko gladly accepted this offer, being weary of his long delay before this small post, and quite willing to save his men from the perils of an assault. But, to his astonishment, a few days later he saw fresh bulwarks rising above those which had been ruined by his engines, while the breaches were rapidly repaired, new gates replaced those that had been destroyed, and Sinching seemed suddenly to regain the appearance it had presented three months before. Inside the walls a new spirit prevailed, the courage of the bold commander reanimating his troops, while the sentinels on the ramparts shouted messages of disdain to the besieging force.

Indignant at this violation of the terms of the agreement, Chukwoko sent a flag of truce to the[Pg 204] gate, demanding angrily what these proceedings meant, and if this was Changte's way of keeping his word.

"I am preparing my tomb," replied the bold commander. "I propose to bury myself under the ruins of Sinching."

The tomb remained untenanted by the daring commandant. The long-delayed relief appeared, and Chukwoko was obliged to make a hasty retreat, with the loss of half his army. It is safe to say that in the pursuit Changte and his faithful three thousand played a leading part.[Pg 205]


At the beginning of the fifth century of the Christian era China had fallen into a state of decrepitude. The second dynasty of the Tsins was near its end. For a century and a half it had held the imperial power, but now it had fallen a prey to luxury, one of its latest emperors dying from prolonged drunkenness, another being smothered in bed by his wife, whom he had insulted while intoxicated.

The empire which the founder of the dynasty had built up showed signs of falling to pieces. In the south the daring pirate Sunghen was making the great rivers the scenes of his merciless activity, spreading terror along their banks, and extending his desolating raids far over the surrounding provinces. In the north had arisen a new enemy, the Geougen Tartars, whose career had begun in the outbreak of a hundred rebels, but who had now become so powerful that their chief assumed in the year 402 the proud title of Kagan, or Great Lord. Falling upon the northern boundaries of the empire, these dangerous foes made daring inroads into the realm. As for the provinces of the empire, many of them were in a rebellious mood.

At this critical period in Chinese history a child of the people came forward as the savior of his country.[Pg 206] This was a poor boy for whom his parents had done little more than give him his name of Lieouyu, having been forced by poverty to desert him to the cold comfort of charity. He was cared for by a kind woman, as poor as they, and as he grew older learned the humble trade of shoemaking, which he followed for some time as an occupation, though he chafed in spirit at its wearisome monotony. The boy had in him the seeds of better things, showing in his early years a remarkable quickness in learning, and an energy that was not likely to remain content with a humble position.

Seeing that his only chance of advancement lay in the military career, and burning with spirit and courage, the ambitious boy soon deserted the shoemaker's bench for the army's ranks. Here he showed such valor and ability that he rapidly rose to the command of a company, and was in time intrusted with a small independent body of troops. It was against the pirate Sunghen that the young soldier was pitted, and during three years he vigorously opposed that leader in his devastating raids. In this field of duty he was repeatedly victorious, breaking the reputation of the corsair, and so weakening him that his overthrow became easy. This was performed by another leader, the defeat of Sunghen being so signal that, despairing of escape, he leaped overboard and was drowned.

Lieouyu, having abundantly proved his ability, was now rapidly promoted, rising in rank until he found himself in command of an army, which he handled with the greatest skill and success. His[Pg 207] final victory in this position was against a formidable rebel, whom he fought both on land and on water with a much smaller force, completely defeating him. The emperor showed his sense of gratitude for this valuable service by raising the shoemaker's boy to the rank of commander-in-chief of all the armies of the empire.

In this exalted position Lieouyu displayed the same energy and ability that he had shown in humbler commands. Marching from province to province and from victory to victory, he put down the rebels whom the weakness of the government had permitted to rise on every side. He had not only rebellious bands, but disloyal princes of the empire, to contend with. In one of his marches it was necessary to cross the great province of Wei, north of the Hoang-ho, a movement to which Topa, prince of the province, refused permission. Lieouyu, indignant at this disloyalty, forced the passage of the stream, routed the army of the prince, and pursued his march without further opposition, sending one of his generals, named Wangchinon, against the city of Changnan, the capital of the prince of Chin, who had hoisted the flag of rebellion against the emperor.

Lieouyu had chosen his substitute well. Conveying his army by water as far as possible, Wangchinon, on leaving his ships, ordered them to be cast adrift. To the soldiers he made the following Napoleonic oration:

"We have neither supplies nor provisions, and the swift waters of the Weiho bear from us the ships in which we came. Soldiers of the empire, only two[Pg 208] things lie before us. Let us beat the enemy, and we will regain a hundredfold all we have lost, besides covering ourselves with glory. If the enemy beat us, there is no escape; death will be the lot of us all. To conquer or to die,—that is our destiny. You have heard; prepare to march against the enemy."

With so resolute a commander victory was almost assured. Changnan, vigorously assailed, quickly surrendered, and the captive prince of Chin was executed as a rebel taken in arms. Lieouyu, who had been winning victories elsewhere, now arrived, having marched in all haste to the aid of his valorous lieutenant. Praising Wangchinon for the brilliancy of his achievement, the commander was about putting his forces on the march for new victorious deeds, when peremptory orders recalled him to the capital, and his career of conquest was for the time checked. The absence of the strong hand was quickly felt. The rebels rose again in force, Changnan was lost and with it all the conquests Lieouyu had made, and the forces of the empire were everywhere driven back in defeat.

Meanwhile Lieouyu, at the capital, found himself in the midst of political complications that called for decisive measures. The weakness of the emperor troubled him, while he felt a deep resentment at what he considered ill treatment on the part of the throne. He had, as Prince of Song, been raised to the third rank among the princes of the realm, but he thought his deeds entitled him to rank among the first; while the success of the rebels in the absence of his master had redoubled his reputation among the people.[Pg 209]

Ganti, the emperor, was destined to experience the dangerous consequences of raising a subject to such a height and yet leaving him below the rank to which he aspired. Lieouyu, now all-powerful in military circles, and virtually master of the realm, caused the emperor to be strangled, and named his brother Kongti as successor to the throne. But the ambition of the shoemaker's boy had not reached its summit. This was but a provisional step, and the throne itself lay before him as an alluring prize. Having skilfully laid his plans, Lieouyu, at the end of two years, gave the weak Kongti to understand that his reign was at an end, and that he must step down from the throne which a stronger than he proposed to ascend.

Kongti made no resistance to this arbitrary demand. He knew that resistance would be useless, and resigned his imperial dignity in favor of the peasant who by his sword had carved his way to the throne. The ceremony was an interesting one. A broad scaffold was erected in a field adjoining the capital, and on it was placed a gorgeously decorated imperial throne, which Kongti occupied, while Lieouyu, attired in royal garb, stood below. In the presence of the assembled thousands of Kienkang, the capital, Kongti descended from the seat which he had so feebly filled, while his strong successor seated himself on the throne amid the plaudits of the approving multitude. In the presence of the great officials of the realm Kongti paid homage to Lieouyu, thus completing a ceremony which was without parallel in the history of the Chinese empire. With[Pg 210] this act the dynasty of the Tsins came to an end, and was replaced by that of the Songs, of which Lieouyu was the first and worthiest representative.

Of the ceremony of investiture the principal feature was the assumption of the imperial cap or crown, which has long been the chief mark of royalty worn by the Chinese emperor. This is a cap of peculiar shape, round in front and straight behind, and ornamented with one hundred and forty-four precious stones. From it hang twelve pendants consisting of strings of pearls, of which four are so arranged as to hang over the emperor's eyes. This is done, it is said, in order that the emperor may not see the accused who are brought before him for trial.

Reproduced by permission of The Philadelphia Museums.
WATER CART. PEKIN, CHINA. Reproduced by permission of The Philadelphia Museums.

It was in the year 420 A.D. that Lieouyu ascended the throne, assuming with the imperial dignity the name of a former emperor of renown, Kaotsou, and naming his dynasty the Song, from his princely title.

As for the deposed emperor, the new monarch had no thought of leaving any such dangerous element in his path, and Kongti was called upon "to drink the waters of eternal life," the Chinese euphuism for swallowing poison. Kongti, a devoted Buddhist, declined the fatal draught, on the ground that self-murder was in opposition to his religious sentiments. This is the only instance in Chinese history in which a deposed ruler refused to accept the inevitable fate of the unfortunate. To quaff the poisoned cup is the time-honored way of getting rid of an inconvenient ex-monarch. This refusal of the[Pg 211] deposed emperor led to sterner measures, and he was murdered by the guard which had been placed over him in his palace.

Lieouyu was not destined long to occupy the throne which he had thus secured. He was already growing old, and a short reign of three years ended his career. As a monarch and a man alike he displayed sterling and admirable qualities. His courage on the field of battle, his frugality and earnest devotion to duty in every position which he reached, won him the widest commendation, while he was still more esteemed by his subjects for his kindness and devotion to the foster-mother who had nourished him when deserted by his own parents, and who had the remarkable fortune of seeing the poor child who had been abandoned to her charitable care seated on the imperial throne of the realm.[Pg 212]


In the year 503 began a long war between the princes of Wei and the emperors of China, which continued for nearly half a century. Of this protracted contest we have only three incidents to relate, in which, within a few years, three heroines rose to prominence and in various ways showed an ability surpassing that of the men of their age. It is the story of these three women that we propose to tell.

Chanyang, a stronghold of Wei, had been placed in charge of Ginching, one of the ablest soldiers of that kingdom. But the exigencies of the war obliged that officer to make an excursion beyond its walls, taking with him the main body of the garrison, and leaving the place very weakly defended. Taking advantage of this opportunity, one of the Chinese generals marched quickly upon the weakened stronghold, surrounded it with a large army, and made so rapid and vigorous an assault that all the outer defences fell into his hands without a blow in their defence.

At this perilous juncture, when the place was almost in the hands of its foes, and the depressed garrison was ready to yield, Mongchi, the wife of the absent commander, appeared upon the ramparts, called upon their defenders to make a bold and resolute[Pg 213] resistance to the enemy, and by her courage and animation put new spirit into the troops. Inspired by her, they bravely resisted the further advance of the assailants and held the walls, which, but for the valor of the heroine, must inevitably have been lost.

Having thus checked the first onslaught of the enemy, Mongchi went vigorously to work. The inhabitants of the place were armed and sent to reinforce the garrison, the defences of the gate were strengthened, and by promises of reward as well as by her presence and inspiriting appeals the brave woman stirred up the defenders to such vigorous resistance that the imperial forces were on every side repelled, and in the end were forced to abandon the prize which they had deemed safely their own. Not till after Chanyang was saved did Ginching return from an important victory he had won in the field, to learn that his brave wife had gained as signal a success in his absence.

The second woman whom we shall name was Houchi, wife of the king of Wei, whose husband came to the throne in 515, but became a mere tool in the hands of his able and ambitious wife. After a short period Houchi was so bold as to force her husband to vacate the throne, naming her infant son as king in his place, but exercising all the power of the realm herself. She went so far as to declare war against the empire, though the contest that followed was marked by continual disaster to her troops, except in one notable instance.

As in the case above cited, so in this war a stronghold[Pg 214] was successfully held by a woman. This place was Tsetong, whose commandant was absent, leaving the command to his wife Lieouchi, a woman of the highest courage and readiness in an emergency. As before, the imperial troops took advantage of the occasion, and quickly invested the town, while Lieouchi, with a valor worthy of a soldier's wife, made rapid preparations for defending it to the last extremity.

Her decisive resolution was shown in an instance that must have redoubled the courage of her men. Discovering, after the siege had gone on for several days, that one of the officers of her small force was playing the traitor by corresponding with the enemy, she called a general council of the officers, with the ostensible purpose of deliberating on the management of the defence. The traitor attended the council, not dreaming that his proposed treason was suspected. He was thunderstruck when Lieouchi vehemently accused him before his fellow-officers of the crime, showing such knowledge of his purpose that he was forced to admit the justice of the charge. The energetic woman wasted no time in this critical state of affairs, but, drawing her sword, severed the head of the traitor from his body with one vigorous blow. This act put an end to all thoughts of treason in the garrison of Tsetong.

The courage of Lieouchi was not greater than her judgment and decision in an emergency. There was but a single well to supply the garrison with water, and this the enemy succeeded in cutting off. The ready wit of the woman overcame this serious loss.[Pg 215] It was the rainy season, and she succeeded in collecting a considerable supply of rain-water in vases, while linen and the clothes of the soldiers were also utilized as water-catching devices. In the end the imperial forces, baffled in their every effort by this heroic woman, abandoned the siege in disgust.

As for Houchi, the ruler of Wei, her ability was of a different kind, yet in her ambitious designs she displayed unusual powers. Deposed and imprisoned on account of the failure of the war, she soon overthrew her enemies and rose to the head of affairs again, and for several years continued to wage war with the emperor. But the war went against her, and trouble arose within her kingdom. Here and there were movements of rebellion, and the generals of the realm were at daggers' points to supplant one another.

Amid these distractions the queen balanced herself with marked skill, playing off one enemy against another, but her position daily grew more insecure. Her power was brought to an end by her final act, which was to depose her son and place herself in sole control of the realm. Erchu Jong, a general of ability and decision, now rose in revolt, marched on the capital, made Houchi his prisoner, and in the same moment ended her reign and her life by drowning her in the waters of the Hoang-ho. Then, gathering two thousand of the notables of the city, her aids and supporters, on a plain outside the walls, he ordered his cavalry to kill them all. Other steps of the same stern character were taken by this fierce soldier, whose power grew so great as to[Pg 216] excite official dread. A general sent against him by Vouti, the emperor, who boasted of having gained forty-seven victories, was completely defeated, and all the results of his campaign were lost. Erchu Jong now formed the design of reuniting the empire and driving Vouti from the throne, but his enemies brought this ambitious scheme to an end. Invited to the palace on some pretence, he was cut down in the audience-hall, the Prince of Wei, whom he had placed on the throne, giving his consent to this act of treachery. Thus was the death of Houchi quickly avenged.[Pg 217]


The history of China differs remarkably from that of Japan in one particular. In the latter a single dynasty of emperors has, from the beginning, held the throne. In the former there have been numerous dynasties, most of them brief, some long extended. In Japan the emperors lived in retirement, and it was the dynasties of shoguns or generals that suffered change. In China the emperors kept at the head of affairs, and were exposed to all the perils due to error or weakness in the ruler and ambition in powerful subjects.

The fall of the great dynasty of the Hans left the way clear for several brief dynasties, of whose emperors Yangti, the last, was a man of great public spirit and magnificent ideas. His public spirit was expressed in a series of great canals, which extended throughout the empire, their total length being, it is said, more than sixteen hundred leagues, Several of these great works still remain. His magnificence of idea was shown in the grand adornments of Loyang, his capital, where two million of men were employed upon his palace and the public buildings.

Yangti's son was deposed by Liyuen, Prince of Tang, and a new dynasty, that of the Tang emperors, was formed, which continued for several centuries[Pg 218] at the head of affairs. The new emperor assumed the name of Kaotsou, made famous by the first emperor of the Hans. But the glory of his reign belongs to his son, not to himself, and it is with this son, Lichimin by name, that we have now to do.

It had been the custom of the founders of dynasties to begin their reign by the destruction of the families of their deposed rivals. The new emperor showed himself more merciful, by pensioning instead of destroying his unfortunate foes. His only vengeance was upon inanimate objects. Lichimin, on capturing Loyang, ordered the great palace of Yangti, the most magnificent building in the empire, to be set on fire and destroyed. "So much pomp and pride," he said, "could not be sustained, and ought to lead to the ruin of those who considered their own love of luxury rather than the needs of the people."

While his father occupied the throne the valiant Lichimin went forth "conquering and to conquer." Wherever he went victory went with him. The foes of the Tangs were put down in quick succession. A great Tartar confederacy was overthrown by the vigorous young general. Four years sufficed for the work. At the end of that time Lichimin was able to announce that he had vanquished all the enemies of the empire, both at home and abroad.

His victories were followed by a triumph which resembled those given to the great generals of ancient Rome. The city of Singan was the capital of the new dynasty, and into it Lichimin rode at[Pg 219] the head of his victorious legions, dressed in costly armor and wearing a breastplate of gold. His personal escort consisted of ten thousand picked horsemen, among them a regiment of cuirassiers dressed in black tiger-skins, who were particularly attached to his person and the most distinguished for valor of all his troops. Thirty thousand cuirassiers followed, with a captive king of the Tartars in their midst. Other captives testified to the glory of the conqueror, being the vanquished defenders of conquered cities, whose abundant spoils were displayed in the train.

Into the city wound the long array, through multitudes of applauding spectators, Lichimin proceeding in state to the Hall of his Ancestors, where he paid obeisance to the shades of his progenitors and detailed to them the story of his victorious career. Unlike the more cruel Romans, who massacred the captives they had shown in their triumphs, Lichimin pardoned his. The principal officers of the army were richly rewarded, and the affair ended in a great banquet, at which the emperor gave his valiant son the highest praise for his services to the country. The rejoicings ended in a proclamation of general amnesty and a reduction of the taxes, so that all might benefit by the imperial triumph.

Yet there was poison in the victor's cup of joy. His brothers envied him, intrigued against him, and succeeded in instilling such doubts in the emperor's mind that Lichimin fell into disgrace and was strongly tempted to leave the court. The intrigues, which had first dealt with his good name, were next[Pg 220] directed against his life, a plot to murder him being devised. Fortunately it was discovered in time, and the death they had planned for their brother fell upon themselves, leaving him the emperor's unquestioned heir. The same year (626 A.D.) the emperor retired to private life and raised his great son to the throne.

Lichimin, as emperor, assumed the name of Taitsong, a title which he made so famous that he fully earned the designation of Taitsong the Great. The empire was surrounded with enemies, the nomads of the north, extending from Corea to Kokonor, and the warlike people of the south, from Thibet to Tonquin. During the remainder of his life he was engaged in incessant conflict with these stinging wasps, whose onslaughts left him no peace.

Scarcely was he settled on the throne when the Tartar invasions began. Their raids were repelled, but they instigated Taitsong to an important measure. It had always been evident that the Chinese troops, hitherto little more than a raw militia, were unable to cope with the sons of the desert, and the shrewd emperor set himself to organize an army that should be a match in discipline and effectiveness for any of its foes. The new army embraced three ranks, each corps of the superior rank consisting of twelve hundred, and those of the others respectively of one thousand and eight hundred men. The total force thus organized approached nine hundred thousand men, of whom a large portion were used for frontier duty. These troops were carefully trained in the use of the bow and the pike, Taitsong himself inspecting[Pg 221] a portion of them daily. This innovation roused bitter opposition from the literati, whose books told them that former emperors did not engage in such work. But Taitsong, on the theory that in time of peace we should prepare for war, went on with his reforms regardless of their cited precedents.

Taitsong's new army was soon put to the proof. The Tartars were in arms again, a powerful confederacy had been formed, and China was in danger. Marching into the desert with his disciplined forces, he soon had his enemies in flight, forced several of the leading khans to submit, and spread the dread of his arms widely among the tribes. To his title of Emperor of China he now added that of Khan of the Tartars, and claimed as subjects all the nomads of the desert.

The next great war was with Thibet, whose tribes had become subdued under one chief, called the Sanpou, or "brave lord." This potentate, who deemed himself the peer of his powerful neighbor, demanded a Chinese princess in marriage, and when this favor was refused he invaded a province of the empire. Taitsong at once put his army in motion, defeated the forces of Thibet, and made the Sanpou acknowledge himself a vassal of China and pay a fine of five thousand ounces of gold. Then the princess he had sought to win by force was granted to him as a favor. The Sanpou gave up his barbarian ways, adopted Chinese customs, and built a walled city for his princess wife.

The next act of the great emperor was to bring[Pg 222] Eastern Turkestan, conquered by Panchow more than five centuries before, under Chinese rule. This country had admitted the supremacy of the emperor, but not until now did it become part of the empire, which it has since remained.

The last warlike act of Taitsong's life was the invasion of Corea. Here he won various great battles, but was at length baffled in the siege of a Corean town, and lost all he had gained, the gallant commandant of the town wishing the troops "a pleasant journey" as they began their retreat.

Taitsong did not confine himself to deeds of war. Under the advice of his wife Changsungchi, a woman as great in her way as he was in his, and celebrated for her domestic virtues, talent, and good sense, he founded the Imperial Library and the great College, decreased the taxes, and regulated the finances of the realm. The death of this good woman was to him a severe blow, and he ordered that she should receive the funeral honors due to an emperor.

His last days were spent in drawing up for the instruction of his son a great work on the art of government, known as the Golden Mirror. He died in 649 A.D., having proved himself one of the ablest monarchs, alike in war and in peace, that ever sat on the Chinese throne.


[Pg 223]


Five years after the death of the great Taitsong, his son Kaotsong, Emperor of China, fell in love with a woman, a fact in no sense new in the annals of mankind, but one which was in this case destined to exert a striking influence on the history of an empire. This woman was the princess Wou, a youthful widow of the late emperor, and now an inmate of a Buddhist convent. So strong was the passion of the young ruler for the princess that he set aside the opposition of his ministers, divorced his lawful empress, and, in the year 655, made his new love his consort on the throne.

It was a momentous act. So great was the ascendency of the woman over her lover that from the start he became a mere tool in her hands and ruled the empire in accordance with her views. Her first act was one that showed her merciless strength of purpose. Fearing that the warm love of Kaotsong might in time grow cold, and that the deposed empress or some other of the palace women might return to favor, she determined to sweep these possible perils from her path. At her command the unhappy queens were drowned in a vase of wine, their hands and feet being first cut off,—seemingly an unnecessary cruelty.

This merciless act of the empress, and her dominant[Pg 224] influence in the government, soon made her many enemies. But they were to find that she was a dangerous person to plot against. Her son was proclaimed heir to the throne, and the opposing officials soon found themselves in prison, where secret death quickly ended their hostility.

Wou now sought to make herself supreme. At first assisting the emperor in the labors of government, she soon showed a quickness of apprehension, a ready wit in emergencies, and a tact in dealing with difficult questions that rendered her aid indispensable. Step by step the emperor yielded his power to her more skilful hands, until he retained for himself only the rank while she held all the authority of the imperial office.

Under her control China retained abroad the proud position which Taitsong had won. For years war went on with Corea, who called in the Japanese to their aid. But the allies were defeated and four hundred of the war-junks of Japan given to the flames. The desert nomads remained subdued, and in Central Asia the power of China was firmly maintained. Now was the era of a mighty commotion in Southern Asia and the countries of the Mediterranean. Arabia was sending forth its hosts, the sword and the Koran in hand, to conquer the world and convert it to the Mohammedan faith. Persia was in imminent peril, and sent envoys to China begging for aid. But the shrewd empress had no thought of involving her dominions in war with these devastating hordes, and sent word that Persia was too far away for an army to be despatched to[Pg 225] its rescue. Envoys also came from India, but China kept carefully free from hostilities with the conquerors of the south.

Kaotsong died in 683, after occupying the throne for thirty-three years. His death threatened the position of the empress, the power behind the throne. But she proved herself fully equal to the occasion, and made herself more truly the ruler of China than before. Chongtsong, son of the late emperor, was proclaimed, but a few days ended his reign. A decree passed by him in favor of his wife's family roused Wou to action, and she succeeded in deposing him and banishing him and his family, taking up again the supreme power of which she had been so brief a time deprived.

She now carried matters with a high hand. A nominal emperor was chosen, but the rule was hers. She handled all the public business, disposed of the offices of state, erected temples to her ancestors, wore the robes which by law could be worn only by an emperor, and performed the imperial function of sacrificing to Heaven, the supreme deity of the Chinese. For once in its history China had an actual empress, and one of an ability and a power of maintaining the dignity of the throne which none of its emperors have surpassed.

Her usurpation brought her a host of enemies. It set aside all the precedents of the empire, and that a woman should reign directly, instead of indirectly, stirred the spirit of conservatism to its depths. Wou made no effort to conciliate her foes. She went so far as to change the name of the dynasty[Pg 226] and to place members of her own family in the great offices of the realm. Rebellious risings followed; plots for her assassination were formed; but her vigilance was too great, her measures were too prompt, for treason to succeed. No matter how great the rank or how eminent the record of a conspirator, death ended his career as soon as her suspicions were aroused. The empire was filled with her spies, who became so numerous as largely to defeat their purpose, by bringing false accusations before the throne. The ready queen settled this difficulty by an edict threatening with death any one who falsely accused a citizen of the realm. The improbable story is told that in a single day a thousand charges were brought of which eight hundred and fifty proved to be false, those who brought them being at once sent to the block. Execution in the streets of Singan, the capital, was her favorite mode of punishment, and great nobles and ministers died by the axe before the eyes of curious multitudes.

A Richelieu in her treatment of her enemies, she displayed the ability of a Richelieu in her control of the government. Her rule was a wise one, and the dignity of the nation never suffered in her hands. The surrounding peoples showed respect for her power, and her subjects could not but admit that they were well and ably ruled. And, that they might the better understand this, she had books written and distributed describing her eminent services to the state, while the priesthood laid before the people the story of her many virtues. Thus for more than twenty years after the death of Kaotsong[Pg 227] the great empress continued to hold her own in peace and in war.

In her later years wars broke out, which were handled by her with promptness and success. But age now weighed upon her. In 704, when she was more than eighty years old, she became so ill that for several months she was unable to receive her ministers. This weakening of the strong hand was taken advantage of by her enemies. Murdering her principal relatives, they broke into the palace and demanded her abdication. Unable to resist, she, with unabated dignity of mien, handed to them the imperial seal and the other emblems of power. In the following year she died. For more than forty years she had been the supreme ruler of China, and held her great office with a strength and dignity which may well be called superb.[Pg 228]


In the northern section of the vast Mongolian plateau, that immense outreach of pasture-lands which forms the great abiding-place of the shepherd tribes of the earth, there long dwelt a warlike race which was destined to play an extraordinary part in the world's history. The original home of this people, who at an early date had won the significant name of Mongol, or "the brave," was in the strip of territory between the Onon and the Kerulon, tributaries of the upper Amur River, the great water artery of East Siberia. In this retreat, strongly protected from attack, and with sufficient herbage for their flocks, the Mongols may have dwelt for ages unknown to history. We hear of them first in the ninth century, when they appeared as a section of the great horde of the Shiwei, attracting attention by their great strength and extraordinary courage, characteristics to which they owed their distinctive title. For two or three centuries they were among the tribes that paid tribute to China, and there was nothing in their career of special interest. Then they suddenly broke into startling prominence, and sent a wave of terror over the whole civilized world.

The history of China is so closely connected with that of the nomad tribes that one cannot be given[Pg 229] without the other, and before telling the story of the Mongols a brief outline of the history of these tribes is desirable. China is on three sides abundantly defended from invasion, by the ocean on the east, and by mountains and desert on the south and west. Its only vulnerable quarter is in the north, where it joins on to the vast region of the steppes, a country whose scarcity of rain unfits it for agriculture, but which has sufficient herbage for the pasturage of immense herds. Here from time immemorial has dwelt a race of hardy wanderers, driving its flocks of sheep, cattle, and horses from pasture to pasture, and at frequent intervals descending in plundering raids upon the settled peoples of the south.

China in particular became the prey of these warlike horsemen. We hear little of them in the early days, when the Chinese realm was narrow and the original barbarians possessed most of the land. We hear much of them in later days, when the empire had widened and grown rich and prosperous, offering an alluring prize to the restless and daring inhabitants of the steppes.

The stories we have already told have much to say of the relations of China with the nomads of the north. Against these foes the Great Wall was built in vain, and ages of warfare passed before the armies of China succeeded in subduing and making tributary the people of the steppes. We first hear of Tartar raids upon China in the reign of the emperor Muh Wang, in the tenth century B.C. As time went on, the tribes combined and fell in steadily greater[Pg 230] numbers upon the southern realm. Of these alliances of tribes the first known was named by Chinese historians the Heung Nou, or "detestable slaves." Under its chiefs, called the Tanjous, it became very formidable, and for a thousand years continued a thorn in the side of the Chinese empire.

The Tanjous were dominant in the steppes for some three hundred years, when they were overthrown by a revolt of the tribes, and were succeeded by the Sienpi, who under their chiefs, the Topas, or "masters of the earth," grew formidable, conquering the northern provinces of China, which they held for a century and a half. Finally a slave of one of the Topa chiefs, at the head of a hundred outlaws, broke into revolt, and gathered adherents until the power of the Sienpi was broken, and a new tribe, the Geougen, became predominant. Its leader, Cehelun by name, extended his power over a vast territory, assuming the title of Kagan, or Khan.

The next revolt took place in the sixth century A.D., when a tribe of slaves, which worked the iron forges of the Altai Mountains for the Great Khan, rebelled and won its freedom. Growing rapidly, it almost exterminated the Geougen in a great battle, and became dominant over the clans. Thus first came into history the great tribe of the Turks, whose later history was destined to be so momentous. The dominion of the Khan of the Turks grew so enormously that in time it extended from Central Siberia on the north to Persia on the south, while he made his power felt by China on the east and by Rome on the west. Ambassadors from the Khan reached Constantinople,[Pg 231] and Roman envoys were received in return in his tent at the foot of the Altai range.

The Turks were the first of the nomad organizations who made their power felt throughout the civilized world. On the eastern steppes other tribes came into prominence. The Khitans were supreme in this region from 900 to 1100 A.D., and made serious inroads into China. They were followed by the Kins, or Golden Tartars, a tribe of Manchu origin, who proved a terrible foe, conquering and long holding a large section of Northern China. Then came the Mongols, the most powerful and terrible of all, who overthrew the Kins and became sole lords of the empire of the steppes. It is with the remarkable career of this Mongol tribe that we are here particularly concerned.

The first of the Mongol chiefs whose name is preserved was Budantsar, who conquered the district between the Onon and the Kerulon, the earliest known home of the Mongol race. His descendants ruled over the clan until about the year 1135, when the first step of rebellion of the Mongols from the power of the Kins took place. This was under Kabul, a descendant of Budantsar. The war with the Kins continued under later leaders, of whom Yissugei captured a powerful Tartar chief named Temujin. On returning home he learned that his wife had given birth to a son, to whom he gave his captive's name of Temujin. This child, born probably in 1162 A.D., afterwards became the famous conqueror Genghis Khan.

The birthplace of the future hero was on the[Pg 232] banks of the Onon. His father, chief over forty thousand families, died when he was still young, and many of the tribesmen, refusing to be governed by a boy, broke loose from his authority. His mother, a woman worthy of her race, succeeded in bringing numbers of them back to their allegiance, but the young chief found himself at the head of but half the warriors who had followed his father to victory.

The enemies of Temujin little knew with whom they had to deal. At first misfortune pursued the youth, and he was at length taken prisoner by his enemies, who treated him with great indignity. He soon escaped, however, and rallied his broken forces, shrewdly baffling his foes, who sought to recapture him by a treacherous invitation to a feast. In the end they attacked Temujin in his own country, where, standing on the defensive, he defeated them with great loss. This victory brought the young chief wide renown, and so many allies gathered under his banner that he became a power in the steppes. "Temujin alone is generous and worthy of ruling a great people," was the decision in the tents of the wandering tribes.

The subsequent career of the Mongol chief was one of striking vicissitudes. His power grew until the question of the dominion of the steppes rested upon a great battle between the Mongols and the powerful tribe of the Keraits. The latter won the victory, the Mongols were slain in thousands, and the power which Temujin had gained by years of effort was in a day overthrown. Nothing remained[Pg 233] to him but a small band of followers, whose only strength lay in their fidelity and discipline.

Yet a man of the military ability of Temujin could not long remain at so low an ebb of fortune. In a brief time he had surprised and subdued the Keraits, and next met in battle the powerful confederacy of the Naimans, whom he defeated in a stubborn and long-contested battle. This victory made him the unquestioned lord of the steppes, over all whose inhabitants the Mongols had become supreme.

And now Temujin resolved to indicate his power by some title worthy of the great position he had gained. All the Mongol chiefs were summoned to the grand council or Kuriltai of the tribe, and around the national ensign, composed of nine white yak-tails, planted in the centre of the camp, the warriors gathered to hear the opinion of their chief. It was proclaimed to them that Temujin was not content with the title of Gur Khan, to which its former bearers had not given dignity, but would assume the title of Genghis Khan (Very Mighty Khan). It may be said here that there are almost as many spellings of this name as there are historians of the deeds of him that bore it.

Genghis made princes of his two principal generals, rewarded all other brave officers, and in every available way cemented to his fortunes the Mongol chiefs. He was now about forty-five years of age, yet, instead of being at the end, he was but little beyond the beginning of his career. The Kins, who had conquered Northern China, and whose ruler bore the proud title of emperor, were the next to feel the[Pg 234] power of his arms. The dominions of the king of Hia, a vassal of the Kin emperor, were invaded and his power overthrown. Genghis married his daughter, made an alliance with him, and in 1210 invaded the territory so long held by the Kins.

The Great Wall, which had so often proved useless as a barrier of defence, failed to check the march of the great Mongol host, the chief who should have defended it being bribed to desert his charge. Through the opening thus offered the Mongols poured into the territory of the Kins, defeated them in every engagement in the field, overran the rich provinces held by them, and obtained a vast wealth in plunder. Yet the war was now waged against a settled and populous state, with strong walled cities and other fortified places, instead of against the scattered clans of the steppes, and, despite the many victories of the invading horde, it took twenty years of constant fighting to crush the Tartar emperor of Northern China.

In truth, the resistance of the emperor of the Kins was far more stubborn and effective than that of the nations of the south and west. In 1218 Genghis invaded Central Asia, conquered its oases, and destroyed Bokhara, Samarcand, and other cities. He next subjected the whole of Persia, while the westward march of the armies under his lieutenants was arrested only at the mountain barrier of Central Europe, all Russia falling subject to his rule. In four years the mighty conqueror, having established his rule from Armenia to the Indus, was back again and ready to resume his struggle with the Kins of China.[Pg 235]

He found the kingdom of Hia in revolt, and in 1225 assembled against it the largest army he had ever employed in his Chinese wars. His success was rapid and complete. The cities, the fortresses, the centres of trade, fell in rapid succession into his hands, and in a final great battle, fought upon the frozen waters of the Hoang-ho, the army of Hia was practically exterminated. This was the last great event in the life of Genghis Khan. He died in 1227, having by his ruthless warfare sent five millions of victims to the grave. With his last words he deplored the wanton cruelty with which his wars had been fought, and advised his people to refrain in future from such sanguinary acts.

Thus died, at the age of about sixty-five years, one of the greatest conquerors the world has known, the area of whose conquests vastly exceeded those of Cćsar and Napoleon, and added to the empire won by Alexander a still greater dominion in the north. The Chinese said of him that "he led his armies like a god;" and in truth as a military genius he has had no superior in the history of the world. The sphere of no other conqueror ever embraced so vast a realm, and the wave of warfare which he set in motion did not come to rest until it had covered nearly the whole of Asia and the eastern half of the European continent. Beginning as chief of the fragment of a tribe, he ended as lord of nearly half the civilized world, and dozens of depopulated cities told the story of his terrible career. He had swept over the earth like a tornado of blood and death.[Pg 236]


The sea of Mongol invasion which, pouring in the thirteenth century from the vast steppes of Asia, overflowed all Eastern Europe, and was checked in its course only by the assembled forces of the German nations, filled the world of the West with inexpressible terror. For a time, after whelming beneath its flood Russia, Poland, and Hungary, it was rolled back, but the terror remained. At any moment these savage horsemen might return in irresistible strength and spread the area of desolation to the western seas. The power of arms seemed too feeble to stay them; the power of persuasion, however, might not be in vain, and the pope, as the spiritual head of Europe, felt called upon to make an effort for the rescue of the Christian world.

Tartar hordes were then advancing through Persia towards the Holy Land, and to these, in the forlorn hope of checking their course, he sent as ambassadors a body of Franciscan friars composed of Father Ascelin and three companions. It was in the year 1246 that these papal envoys set out, armed with full powers from the head of the Church, but sadly deficient in the worldly wisdom necessary to deal with such truculent infidels as those whom they had been sent to meet.[Pg 237]

Ascelin and his comrades journeyed far through Asia in search of a Tartar host, and at length found one on the northern frontier of Persia. Into the camp of the barbarians the worthy Franciscan boldly advanced, announcing himself as an ambassador from the pope. To his surprise, this announcement was received with contempt by the Tartars, who knew little and cared less for the object of his deep veneration. In return he showed his feeling towards the infidels in a way that soon brought his mission into a perilous state.

He was refused an audience with the Mongol general unless he would perform the ko-tou, or three genuflections, an act which he and his followers refused as an idolatrous ceremony which would scandalize all Christendom. Finally, as nothing less would be accepted, they, in their wise heads, thought they might consent to perform the ko-tou, provided the general and all his army would become Christians. This folly capped the climax. The Tartars, whom they had already irritated, broke into a violent rage, loaded the friars with fierce invectives, and denounced them and their pope as Christian dogs.

A council was called to decide what to do with these insulting strangers. Some suggested that the friars should be flayed alive, and their skins, stuffed with hay, sent to the pope. Others wished to keep them till the next battle with the Christians, and then place them in front of the army as victims to the god of war. A third proposition was to whip them through the camp and then put them to death. But Baithnoy, the general, had no fancy for delay,[Pg 238] and issued orders that the whole party should at once be executed.

In this frightful predicament, into which Ascelin and his party had brought themselves, a woman's pity came to the rescue. Baithnoy's principal wife endeavored to move him to compassion; but, finding him obdurate, she next appealed to his interest. To violate in this way the law of nations would cover him with disgrace, she said, and stay the coming of many who otherwise would seek his camp with homage and presents. She reminded him of the anger of the Great Khan when, on a former occasion, he had caused the heart of an ambassador to be plucked out and had ridden around the camp with it fastened to his horse's tail. By these arguments, reinforced with entreaties, she induced him to spare the lives of the friars.

They were advised to visit the court of the Great Khan, but Ascelin had seen as much as he relished of Tartar courts, and refused to go a step farther except by force. He was then desired, as he had been so curious to see a Tartar army, to wait until their expected reinforcements arrived. He protested that he had seen enough Tartars already to last him the rest of his life; but, despite his protest, he was detained for several months, during which the Tartars amused themselves by annoying and vexing their visitors. At length, after having been half starved, frequently threatened with death, and insulted in a hundred ways, they were set free, bearing letters to the pope ordering him to come in person and do homage to Genghis Khan, the Son of God.[Pg 239]

At the same time that Ascelin set out for the south, another party, headed by John Carpini, set out for the north, to visit the Tartars then in Russia. Here they were startled by the first act demanded of them, they being compelled to pass between two large fires as a purification from the suspicion of evil. On coming into the presence of Bathy, the general, they, more terrified perhaps than Ascelin, did not hesitate to fall upon their knees. To heighten their terrors, two of them were sent to the court of the Great Khan, in the heart of Tartary, the other two being detained on some pretext. The journey was a frightful one. With no food but millet, no drink but melted snow, pushing on at a furious speed, changing horses several times a day, passing over tracts strewn with human bones, and the weather through part of their journey being bitterly cold, they at length reached the court of the Mongols on July 22, 1246.

They arrived at an interesting period. The election of Kujak, a new khan, was about to take place, and, in addition to great Tartar lords from all quarters of the Mongol empire, ambassadors from Russia, Persia, Bagdad, India, and China were at hand with presents and congratulations. The assembled nobles, four thousand in all, dazzled Carpini with their pomp and magnificence. The coronation was attended with peculiar ceremonies, and a few days afterwards audience was given to the ambassadors, that they might deliver their presents. Here the friars were amazed at the abundance and value of the gifts, which consisted of satin cloths, robes of purple, silk[Pg 240] girdles wrought with gold, and costly skins. Most surprising of all was a "sun canopy" (umbrella) full of precious stones, a long row of camels covered with Baldakin cloth, and a "wonderful brave tent, all of red purple, presented by the Kythayans" (Chinese), while near by stood five hundred carts "all full of silver, and of gold, and of silk garments."

The friars were now placed in an embarrassing position by being asked what presents they had to give. They had so little that they thought it best to declare "that they were not of ability so to do." This failure was well received, and throughout their visit they were treated with great respect, the khan cajoling them with hints that he proposed publicly to profess Christianity.

These flattering hopes came to a sudden end when the great Mongol ruler ordered the erection of a flag of defiance against the Roman empire, the Christian Church, and all the Christian kingdoms of the West, unless they would do homage to him; and with this abrupt termination to their embassy they were dismissed. After "travailing all winter long," sleeping on snow without shelter, and suffering other hardships, they reached Europe in June, 1247, where they were "rejoiced over as men that had been risen from death to life."

Carpini was the first European to approach the borders of China, or Cathay, as it was then called, and the story he told about that mysterious empire of the East, gathered from the Tartars, was of much interest, and, so far as it went, of considerable accuracy.[Pg 241] He was also the first to visit the court of those terrible warriors who had filled the world with dismay, and to bring to Europe an account of their barbaric manners and customs.

Shortly after (in 1253) a friar named Rubruquis, with two companions, was sent to Tartary by Louis IX. of France to search for Prester John, an imaginary Christian potentate supposed to reign in the centre of Asia, to visit Sartach, a Tartar chief also reported a Christian, and to teach the doctrines of Christianity to all the Tartars he should find. Rubruquis did his work well, and, while failing to find Prester John or to convert any of the Tartars, he penetrated to the very centre of the Mongol empire, visited Karakorum, the capital of the Great Khans, and brought back much valuable information, giving a clear, accurate, and intelligent account of the lands he had seen and the people he had met, with such news of distant China as he could obtain without actually crossing the Great Wall.

After his visit information concerning these remote regions ceased until the publication of the remarkably interesting book of Marco Polo, the first to write of China from an actual visit to its court. The story of his visit must be left for a later tale.[Pg 242]


In the year 1268 the army of Kublai Khan, grandson of Genghis the famous conqueror, made its appearance before the stronghold of Sianyang, an important city of China on the southern bank of the Han River. On the opposite side of the stream stood the city of Fanching, the two being connected by bridges and forming virtually a single city. Sianyang, the capital of a populous and prosperous district, was the most important stronghold left to China, and its fall would be almost fatal to that realm. Hence Kublai, who had succeeded to the empire of the Kins in Northern China, and was bent on making the rest of that country his own, made his first move against this powerful city, which the Chinese prepared with energy to defend. In all the history of its wars China showed no greater courage and resolution than in the defence of this important place.

The army of Kublai consisted of sixty thousand veterans of the Mongol wars, with a large body of auxiliary troops, an army large enough to occupy all the neighboring heights and form an intrenched camp around the city ten miles in length. This done, and all communication by land cut off, steps were taken to intercept all supplies sent by water. The Mongols had no vessels, but they set themselves[Pg 243] with their usual activity to build a fleet, and in a short time had launched upon the Han fifty junks larger than those used by the Chinese.

Meanwhile Lieouwen Hoan, governor of the two cities, was strengthening their works and vigorously repelling every assault of his foes. The city was surrounded by thick and lofty walls and a deep fosse, was amply garrisoned, and was abundantly supplied with provisions, having food-supplies, it was said, sufficient "for a period of ten years." Thus provided, the gallant commandant, confident in his strength and resources, defied the efforts of the enemy. Threatened by the Mongols with massacre if he should continue a vain defence, he retorted by declaring that he would drag the renegade general in command of their troops in chains into the presence of the master to whom he had proved a traitor.

These bold words were sustained by brave deeds. All the assaults of the Mongols were valiantly repulsed, and, although their army was constantly reinforced by fresh troops, the siege made very slow progress. The position of the besiegers was several times changed, their lines were here extended and there withdrawn, but all their efforts proved vain, they being baffled on every side, while the governor held out with unyielding fortitude.

A flotilla of store-ships on the Han was met by the Mongol fleet and driven back with serious loss, but this success was of no great service to the besiegers, since the cities were still well supplied. Thus for three years the siege went on, and it was[Pg 244] beginning to languish, when new spirit was given it by fresh preparations on the part of the two contestants. Kublai, weary of the slow progress of his armies, resolved to press the siege with more vigor than ever, while the Chinese minister determined to do something for the relief of the garrison.

A large Chinese army was put into the field, but it was placed under the command of an incapable officer, whose dilatory movements promised little for the aid of the valiant defenders. Nothing would have been done had not abler and bolder spirits come to the assistance of the beleaguered host. Litingchi, governor of Ganlo, a town on the Han south of Sianyang, incensed by the tardy march of the army of relief, resolved to strike a prompt and telling blow. Collecting a force of three thousand men, from which he dismissed all who feared to take part in the perilous adventure, he laid his plans to throw into Sianyang this reinforcement, with a large convoy of such supplies as he had learned that the garrison needed.

The attempt was made successful through the valor of the Chinese troops. Several hundred vessels, escorted by the band of devoted warriors, sailed down a tributary of the Han towards Sianyang. The Mongols had sought by chains and other obstacles to close the stream, but these were broken through by the junks, whose impetuous advance had taken the besiegers by surprise. Recovering their spirit, and taking advantage of the high ground above the stream, the Mongols soon began to regain the ground they had lost and to imperil the success[Pg 245] of the expedition. Seeing this, and fearing the defeat of the project, Changchun, at the head of one division of the escort of troops, devoted himself and his men to death for the safety of the fleet, charging so vigorously as to keep the Mongols fully occupied for several hours. This diversion gave the other Chinese leader an opportunity to push on to Sianyang with the store-ships, where they were joyfully received by the people, who for three years had been cut off from communication with the outside world.

So great were the excitement and joy of the garrison that they flung open the city gates, in bold defiance of their foes, or as if they thought that the Mongols must be in full retreat. Their enthusiasm, however, was somewhat dampened when the mutilated body of the heroic Changchun came floating down the stream, in evidence of the continued presence and barbarity of their foes. The work of reinforcement done, Changkone, the other leader of the party of relief, who had succeeded in bringing to the garrison certain needed supplies, felt that he was not wanted within its walls. Outside, Litingchi was hovering near the enemy with a force of five thousand men, and the gallant admiral of the fleet resolved to cut his way out again and join this partisan band.

Calling together his late followers, he extolled the glory they had won and promised them new fame. But in the midst of his address he perceived that one of the men had disappeared, and suspected that he had deserted to the Mongols with a warning of what was intended. Changkone, however, did not[Pg 246] let this check him in his daring purpose. Gathering the few war-junks that remained, he set sail that night, bursting through the chains that crossed the stream, and cutting his way with sword and spear through the first line of the Mongol fleet.

Before him the river stretched in a straight and unguarded course, and it seemed as if safety had been won. But the early light of the dawning day revealed an alarming scene. Before the daring band lay another fleet, flying the Mongol flag, while thousands of armed foes occupied the banks of the stream. The odds were hopelessly against the Chinese, there was no choice between death and surrender, but the heroic Changkone unhesitatingly resolved to accept the former, and was seconded in his devotion by his men. Dashing upon the Mongol fleet, they fought on while a man was left to bend bow or thrust spear, continuing the struggle until the blood of the whole gallant band reddened the waters of the stream. The Mongol leader sent the body of Changkone into the city, either as a threat or as a tribute of admiration. It was received with loud lamentations, and given a place in burial beside that of Changchun, his partner in the most gallant deed that Chinese history records.

This incident, while spurring the garrison to new spirit in their defence, roused the Mongols to a more resolute pressure of the siege. As yet they had given their attention mainly to Sianyang, but now they drew their lines around Fanching as well. The great extent of the Mongol dominion is shown by the fact that they sent as far as Persia for engineers[Pg 247] skilful in siege-work and accustomed to building and handling the great catapults with which huge stones were flung against fortified places in the warfare of that age. By the aid of these powerful engines many of the defences of Sianyang were demolished and the bridge between the two cities was destroyed.

This done, the siege of Fanching was vigorously pressed, and, after a severe bombardment, an assault in force was made. Despite the resolute resistance of the garrison, the walls were forced, and the streets became the scene of a fierce and deadly fight. From street to street, from house to house, the struggle continued, and when resistance had become utterly hopeless the Chinese officers, rather than surrender, slew themselves, in which they were imitated by many of their men. It was a city of ruins and slaughtered bodies that the Mongols had won.

The engines were now all directed against the fortifications of Sianyang, where the garrison had become greatly dispirited by the fall of Fanching and the failure of the army of relief to appear. Lieouwen Hoan still held out, though he saw that his powers of defence were nearly at an end, and feared that at any moment the soldiers might refuse to continue what seemed to them a useless effort.

Kublai at this juncture sent him the following letter: "The generous defence you have made during five years covers you with glory. It is the duty of every faithful subject to serve his prince at the expense of his life; but in the straits to which you are reduced, your strength exhausted, deprived of succor, and without hope of receiving any, would it[Pg 248] be reasonable to sacrifice the lives of so many brave men out of sheer obstinacy? Submit in good faith, and no harm shall come to you. We promise you still more, and that is to provide all of you with honorable employment. You shall have no grounds for discontent: for that we pledge you our imperial word."

This letter ended the struggle. After some hesitation, Lieouwen Hoan, incensed at the failure of the army to come to his relief and at the indifference of the emperor to his fate, surrendered, and thenceforth devoted to the service of Kublai the courage and ability of which he had shown such striking evidence in the defence of Sianyang.[Pg 249]


Never in its history has China shown such unyielding courage as it did in its resistance to the invasion under Kublai Khan. The city of Sianyang alone held back the tide of Mongol success for full five years. After its fall there were other strongholds to be taken, other armies to be fought, and for a number of years the Chinese fought desperately for their native land. But one by one their fortified cities fell, one by one their armies were driven back by the impetuous foe, and gradually the conquest of Southern China was added to that of the north.

Finally the hopes of China were centred upon a single man, Chang Chikie, a general of unflinching zeal and courage, who recaptured several towns, and, gathering a great fleet, said to have numbered no fewer than two thousand war-junks, sailed up the Yang-tse-Kiang with the purpose of attacking the Mongol positions below Nanking. The fleet of the Mongols lay at that point where the Imperial Canal enters the Kiang on both sides. Here the stream is wide and ample and presents a magnificent field for a naval battle.

The attack of the Chinese was made with resolution and energy, but the Mongol admiral had prepared for them by sending in advance his largest[Pg 250] vessels, manned with bowmen instructed to attach lighted pitch to their arrows. The Mongol assault was made before the Chinese fleet had emerged from the narrow part of the river, in which comparatively few of the host of vessels could be brought into play. The flaming arrows set on fire a number of the junks, and, though the Chinese in advance fought bravely, these burning vessels carried confusion and alarm to the thronging vessels in the rear. Here the crews, unable to take part in the fight and their crowded vessels threatened with the flames, were seized with a fear that soon became an uncontrollable panic. The result was disastrous. Of the great fleet no less than seven hundred vessels were captured by the Mongols, while a still greater number were burnt or sunk, hardly a fourth of the vast armament escaping from that fatal field.

The next events which we have to record take us forward to the year 1278, when the city of Canton had been captured by the Mongol troops, and scarcely a fragment of the once great empire remained in the hands of the Chinese ruler.

The incompetent Chinese emperor had died, and the incapable minister to whose feebleness the fall of Sianyang was due had been dismissed by his master and murdered by his enemies. The succeeding emperor had been captured by the Mongols on the fall of the capital. Another had been proclaimed and had died, and the last emperor of the Sung dynasty, a young prince named Tiping, was now with Chang Chikie, whose small army constituted his only hope, and the remains of the fleet his only empire.[Pg 251]

The able leader on whom the last hopes of the Chinese dynasty now rested selected a natural stronghold on an island named Tai, in a natural harbor which could be entered only with a favorable tide. This position he made the most strenuous efforts to fortify, building strong works on the heights above the bay, and gathering troops until he had an army of nearly two hundred thousand men.

So rapidly did he work that his fortifications were completed before the Mongol admiral discovered his locality. On learning what had been done, the Mongols at once hurried forward reinforcements and prepared for an immediate and vigorous assault on this final stronghold of the empire of China. The attack was made with the impetuous courage for which the Mongols had become noted, but the works were bravely held, and for two days the struggle was maintained without advantage to the assailants. On the third day the Mongol admiral resumed his attack, and a fiercely contested battle took place, ending in the Chinese fleet being thrown into confusion. The result would have been utterly disastrous had not a heavy mist fallen at this opportune moment, under cover of which Chang Chikie, followed by sixteen vessels of his fleet, made his way out to sea.

The vessel which held the young emperor was less fortunate. Caught in the press of the battle, its capture was inevitable, and with it that of the last emperor of the Sung dynasty. In this desperate emergency, a faithful minister of the empire, resolved to save the honor of his master even at the sacrifice of his life, took him in his arms and leaped[Pg 252] with him into the sea. This act of desperation was emulated by many of the officers of the vessel, and in this dramatic way the great dynasty of the Sung came to an end.

But the last blow for the empire had not been struck so long as Chang Chikie survived. With him had escaped the mother of the drowned prince, and on learning of his loss the valiant leader requested her to name some member of the Sung family to succeed him. But the mother, overwhelmed with grief at the death of her son, was in no mood to listen to anything not connected with her loss, and at length, hopeless and inconsolable, she put an end to her own existence by leaping overboard from the vessel's side.

Chang Chikie was left alone, with the destinies of the empire dependent solely upon him. Yet his high courage sustained him still; he was not ready to acknowledge final defeat, and he sailed southward in the double hope of escaping Mongol pursuit and of obtaining means for the renewal of the struggle. The states of Indo-China were then tributary to the empire, and his small fleet put in to a port of Tonquin, whose ruler not only welcomed him, but aided him to refit his fleet, collect stores, and enlist fresh troops.

Thus strengthened, the intrepid admiral resolved to renew the war without delay, his project being to assault Canton, which he hoped to take by a sudden attack. This enterprise seemed desperate to his followers, who sought to dissuade him from what might prove a fatal course; but, spurred on by his[Pg 253] own courage and a hope of retrieving the cause of the Sungs, he persisted in his purpose, and the fleet once more returned to the seas.

It was now 1279, a year after Tiping's death. The Mongols lay in fancied security, not dreaming that there was in all China the resolution to strike another blow, and probably unsuspicious that a fleet was bearing down upon one of their captured ports. What would have been the result had Chang Chikie been able to deliver his attack it is impossible to say. He might have taken Canton by surprise and captured it from the enemy, but in any event he could not have gained more than a temporary success.

As it was, he gained none. Fate had destined the fall of China, and the elements came to the assistance of its foes. A sudden and violent tempest fell upon the fleet while near the southern headland of the Kwantung coast, hurling nearly or quite all the vessels on the shore or sinking them beneath the waves. The bold leader had been counselled to seek shelter from the storm under the lee of the shore, but he refused, and kept on despite the storm, daring death in his singleness of purpose.

"I have done everything I could," he said, "to sustain the Sung dynasty on the throne. When one prince died I had another proclaimed. He also has perished, and I still live. Should I be acting against thy decrees, O Heaven, if I sought to place a new prince on the throne?"

It appeared so, for the winds and the waves gave answer, and the last defender of China sank to death beneath the sea. The conquest of China was thus[Pg 254] at length completed after seventy years of resistance against the most valorous soldiers of the world, led by such generals as Genghis, Kublai, and other warlike Mongol princes. In view of the fact that Genghis had overrun Southern Asia in a few years, this long and obstinate resistance of China, despite the incompetence of its princes and ministers, places in a striking light the great military strength of the empire at that period of its history.[Pg 255]



In the middle of the thirteenth century two eminent Venetian merchants, Nicolo and Matteo Polo, of noble birth and adventurous spirit, left their native city for a long journey to the East, their purposes being those of ordinary travel and also of barter, for which they took with them a stock of jewels, as the commodity of most worth with least weight. Visiting Constantinople and several Russian cities, they journeyed to the capital of the khan of Kaptchak, where they remained three years, trading and studying the Mongol language. Subsequently they met in Bokhara a Persian ambassador on the way to the court of Kublai Khan, and were persuaded to keep him company as far as Kambalu (the modern Peking), the capital of the Mongol emperor of Cathay, or China.

Their journey led them through Samarcand, Cashgar, and other cities of the far East, a whole year passing before they reached the capital of the great potentate, by whom they were graciously received. Kublai asked them many questions about their country, and was very curious about the pope, to whom he in the end sent them as ambassadors, bidding them return to him with a hundred Europeans learned in the arts and sciences, for the instruction[Pg 256] of his people. They reached Venice in 1269, after an absence of fifteen years.

In 1271 they set out again for China, bearing despatches from the pope, but without the learned Europeans they were to bring. Marco, the young son of Nicolo, accompanied them on their journey, which occupied three and a half years. Kublai, though he had nearly forgotten their existence, received them as graciously as before, and was particularly pleased with young Marco, giving him a high office and employing him on important missions throughout the empire. In truth, he took so strong a fancy to his visitors that they were not suffered to leave China for years, and finally got away in 1291 only as escort to a Mongol princess who was sent as a bride to Persia.

Twenty-four years had elapsed from the time they left Venice before they appeared in that city again. They were quite forgotten, but the wealth in precious stones they brought with them soon freshened the memory of their relatives, and they became the heroes of the city. Marco took part in a war then raging with Genoa, was taken prisoner, and long lay in a dungeon, where he dictated to a fellow-prisoner the story of his adventures and the wonderful things he had seen in the dominions of the Great Khan of Cathay. This was afterwards published as "Il Milione di Messer Marco Polo Veneziano," and at once gained a high reputation, which it has preserved from that day to this. Though long looked on by many as pure fable, time has proved its essential truth, and it is now regarded as the most valuable geographical work of the Middle Ages.[Pg 257]

We cannot undertake to give the diffuse narrative of Marco Polo's book, but a condensed account of a few of his statements may prove of interest, as showing some of the conditions of China in this middle period of its existence. His description of the great palace of Kublai, near his capital city of Kambalu, much the largest royal residence in the world, is of sufficient interest to be given in epitome. The palace grounds included a great park, enclosed by a wall and ditch eight miles square, with an entrance gate midway of each side. Within this great enclosure of sixty-four square miles was an open space a mile broad, in which the troops were stationed, it being bounded on the interior by a second wall six miles square. This space, twenty-eight square miles in area, held an army of more than a hundred thousand men, nearly all cavalry.

Within the second wall lay the royal arsenals and the deer-park, with meadows and handsome groves, and in the interior rose a third wall of great thickness, each side of which was a mile in length, while its height was twenty-five feet. This last enclosure, one square mile in area, contained the palace, which reached from the northern to the southern wall and included a spacious court. Though its roof was very lofty, it was but one story in height, standing on a paved platform of several feet elevation, from which extended a marble terrace seven feet wide, surrounded by a handsome balustrade, which the people were allowed to approach.

Carved and gilt dragons, figures of warriors and animals, and battle-scenes ornamented the sides of[Pg 258] the great hall and the apartments, while the roof was so contrived that only gilding and painting were to be seen. On each side of the palace a grand flight of marble steps ascended to the marble terrace which surrounded the building. The interior contained an immense hall, capable of serving as a banqueting-room for a multitude of guests, while the numerous chambers were all of great beauty and admirably arranged.

The roof on the exterior was painted red, green, azure, and violet, the colors being highly durable, while the glazing of the windows was so neatly done that they were transparent as crystal. In the rear of the palace were arranged the treasure-rooms, which contained a great store of gold and silver bullion, pearls and precious stones, and valuable plate. Here also were the family apartments of the emperor and his wives. Opposite the grand palace stood another, very similar in design, where dwelt his eldest son, the heir to the throne.

On the north side, between the palace and the adjoining wall, rose an artificial mound of earth, a hundred paces high and a mile in circuit at its base. Its slopes were planted with beautiful evergreen trees, which had been transported thither, when well grown, by the aid of elephants. This perpetual verdure gave it the appropriate name of the Green Mount. An ornamental pavilion crowned the summit, which, in harmony with the sides, was also made green. The view of the mount, with its ever-verdant trees and the richly decorated building on its summit, formed a scene delightful to the eyes of the emperor[Pg 259] and the other inmates of the palace. This hill still exists, and is yet known by its original title of Kinshan, or the Green Mount.

The excavation made to obtain the earth for the mount was filled with water from a small rivulet, forming a lake from which the cattle drank, its overflow being carried by an aqueduct along the foot of the Green Mount to fill another great and very deep excavation, made in the same manner as the former. This was used as a fish-pond, containing fish in large variety and number, sufficient to keep the table of the emperor constantly supplied. Iron or copper gratings at the entrance and exit prevented the escape of the fish along the stream. The pond was also stocked with swans and other aquatic birds, and a bridge across its width led from one palace to the other.

Such was the palace. The city was correspondingly great and prosperous, and had an immense trade. A thousand pack-horses and carriages laden with raw silk daily entered its gates, and within its workshops a vast quantity of silk and gold tissues was produced. As Hoangti made himself famous by the Great Wall, so Kublai won fame by the far more useful work of the Great Canal, which was largely due to his fostering care, and has ever since been of inestimable value to China, while the Wall never kept out a Tartar who strongly desired to get over its threatening but useless height.

Having said so much about the conditions of palace and capital, it may be of interest to extract from Polo's narrative some account of the method pursued[Pg 260] in war during Kublai's reign. The Venetian attended a campaign made by the emperor against one of his kinsmen named Nayan, who had under him so many cities and provinces that he was able to bring into the field an army of four hundred thousand horse. His desire for sovereignty led him to throw off his allegiance, the more so as another rebel against the Grand Khan promised to aid him with a hundred thousand horsemen.

News of this movement soon reached Kublai, and he at once ordered the collection of all the troops within ten days' march of Kambalu, amounting in all to four hundred and sixty thousand men. By forced marches these were brought to Nayan's territory in twenty-five days, reaching there before the rebel prince had any warning of their approach. Kublai, having given his army two days' rest, and consulted his astrologers, who promised him victory, marched his army up the hill which had concealed them from the enemy, the great array being suddenly displayed to the astonished eyes of Nayan and his men.

Kublai took his station in a large wooden castle, borne on the backs of four elephants, whose bodies were protected with coverings of thick leather hardened by fire, over which were spread housings of cloth of gold. His army was disposed in three grand divisions, each division consisting of ten battalions of horsemen each ten thousand strong, and armed with the great Mongol bow. The right and left divisions were disposed so as to outflank the army of Nayan. In front of each battalion were stationed[Pg 261] five hundred infantry, who, whenever the cavalry made a show of flight, were trained to mount behind them, and to alight again when they returned to the charge, their duty being to kill with their lances the horses of the enemy.

As soon as the order of battle was arranged, wind instruments of various kinds and in great numbers were sounded, while the host of warriors broke into song, as was the Tartar practice before engaging in battle. The battle began with a signal from the cymbals and drums, the sound of the instruments and the singing growing deafening. At the signal both wings advanced, a cloud of arrows filling the air, while on both sides numbers of men and horses fell. Their arrows discharged, the warriors engaged in close combat with lances, swords, and iron-shod maces, while the cries of men and horses were such as to inspire terror or rouse all hearers to the battle-rage.

For a long time the fortune of the day remained undecided, Nayan's people fighting with great zeal and courage. But at length their leader, seeing that he was almost surrounded, attempted to save himself by flight. He was made prisoner, however, and brought before Kublai, who ordered him to be put to death on the spot. This was done by enclosing him between two carpets, which were violently shaken until the spirit departed from the body, the dignity of the imperial family requiring that the sun and the air should not witness the shedding of the blood of one who belonged to the royal stock.

These extracts from the narrative of the Venetian traveller may be fitly followed by a portion of[Pg 262] Coleridge's remarkable dream-poem on the subject of Kublai's palace. The poet, having been reading from "Purchas's Pilgrimage" a brief description of the palace of the Great Khan,—not the one above described, but a pleasure-retreat in another section of his dominions,—fell asleep, and his dreams took the form of an extended poem on the subject. On waking he hastened to write it down, but was interrupted by a visitor in the midst of his task, and afterwards found himself unable to recall another line of the poem, only a shadowy image of which remained in his mind. The part saved is strangely imaginative.

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree,
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.
So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round;
And here were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.
But oh! that deep romantic chasm which slanted
Down the green hill athwart a cedarn cover!
A savage place! as holy and enchanted
As e'er beneath a waning moon was haunted
By woman wailing for her demon lover!
And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething,
As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing,
A mighty fountain momently was forced,
Amid whose swift half-intermitted burst[Pg 263]
Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail,
Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher's flail;
And 'mid these dancing rocks at once and ever
It flung up momently the sacred river.
Five miles meandering with a mazy motion
Through wood and dale the sacred river ran,
Then reached the caverns measureless to man,
And sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean:
And 'mid this tumult Kubla heard from far
Ancestral voices prophesying war.
[Pg 264]


While the descendants of Kublai Khan, the Mongol emperor, still held the reins of power in China, there was born in humble life in that empire a boy upon whose shoulders fortune had laid the task of driving the foreigners from the soil and restoring to the Chinese their own again. Tradition says that at his birth the room was several times filled with a bright light. However that be, the boy proved to be gifted by nature with a fine presence, lofty views, and an elevated soul, qualities sure to tell in the troubled times that were at hand. When he was seventeen years of age the deaths of his father and mother left him a penniless orphan, so destitute of means that he felt obliged to take the vows of a priest and enter the monastery of Hoangkiose. But the country was now in disorder, rebels were in the field against the Mongol rule, and the patriotic and active-minded boy could not long endure the passive life of a bonze. Leaving the monastery, he entered the service of one of the rebel leaders as a private soldier, and quickly showed such enterprise and daring that his chief not only made him an officer in his force but gave him his daughter in marriage.

The time was ripe for soldiers of fortune. The[Pg 265] mantle of Kublai had not fallen on the shoulders of any of his successors, who proved weak and degenerate monarchs, losing the firm hold which the great conqueror had kept upon the realm. It was in the year 1345 that Choo Yuen Chang, to give the young soldier his full name, joined the rebel band. Chunti, one of the weakest of the Mongol monarchs, was now upon the throne, and on every side it was evident that the empire of Kublai was in danger of falling to pieces under this incapable ruler. Fortune had brought its protégé into the field at a critical time.

Choo was not long in proving himself "every inch a soldier." Wherever he fought he was victorious. In a year's time he had under him seven hundred men of his own enlistment, and was appointed the lieutenant of his chief. Soon after the latter died, and Choo took his place at the head of the rebel band. In it enlisted another young man, Suta by name, who was before many years to become China's greatest general and the bulwark of a new dynasty.

Choo was now able to prove his powers on a larger scale. One of his first exploits was the capture of the town of Hoyan, where he manifested a high order of courage and political wisdom in saving the inhabitants from rapine by his ill-paid and hungry soldiers. Here was a degree of self-restraint and power of command which none of the Chinese leaders had shown, and which seemed to point out Choo as the man destined to win in the coming struggle for a rejuvenated China.

Meanwhile a rival came into the field who for a[Pg 266] time threw Choo's fortunes into the shade. This was a young man who was offered to the people as a descendant of the dynasty of the Sungs, the emperors whom the Mongol invaders had dethroned. His very name proved a centre of attraction for the people, whose affection for the old royal house was not dead, and they gathered in multitudes beneath his banner. But his claim also aroused the fear of the Mongols, and a severe and stubborn struggle set in, which ended in the overthrow of the youthful Sung and the seeming restoration of the Mongol authority. Yet in reality the war had only cleared the way for a far more dangerous adversary than the defeated claimant of the throne.

Masked by this war, the strength and influence of Choo had steadily grown, and in 1356 he made a daring and masterly move in the capture of the city of Nanking, which gave him control of some of the wealthiest provinces of the land. Here he showed the same moderation as before, preserving the citizens from plunder and outrage, and proving that his only purpose was to restore to China her old native government. With remarkable prudence, skill, and energy he strengthened his position. "The time has now come to drive the foreigners out of China," he said, in a proclamation that was scattered far and wide and brought hosts of the young and daring to his ranks. Elsewhere the so-called Chinese patriots were no better than brigands, all the horrors of war descending upon the districts they occupied and the cities which fell into their hands. But where Choo ruled discipline and security prevailed, and as far as[Pg 267] his power reached a firm and orderly government existed.

Meanwhile the Mongols had a host of evils with which to contend. Rebel leaders had risen in various quarters, some of them making more progress than Choo, but winning the execration rather than the love of the people by their rapine and violence. On the contrary, his power grew slowly but surely, various minor leaders joining him, among them the pirate Fangkue Chin, whose exploits had made him a hero to the people of the valley of the Kiang. The events of the war that followed were too many to be here detailed. Suffice it to say that the difficulties of the Mongol emperor gradually increased. He was obliged to meet in battle a Mongol pretender to his throne; Corea rose in arms and destroyed an army sent to subdue it; and Chahan Timour, Chunti's ablest general, fell victim to an assassin. Troubles were growing thick around his throne.

In the year 1366, Choo, after vanquishing some leaders who threatened his position, among them his late pirate ally Fangkue Chin, saw that the time had arrived for a vigorous effort to expel the foreign rulers, and set out at the head of his army for a general campaign, at the same time proclaiming to the people that the period was at hand for throwing off the Mongol yoke, which for nearly a century had weighed heavily upon their necks. Three armies left Nanking, two of them being sent to subdue three of the provinces of the south, a result which was achieved without a blow, the people everywhere[Pg 268] rising and the Mongol garrisons vanishing from sight,—whether by death or by flight history fails to relate. The third army, under Suta, Choo's favorite general, marched towards Peking, the Mongol garrisons, discouraged by their late reverses, retreating as it advanced.

At length the great Mongol capital was reached. Within its walls reigned confusion and alarm. Chunti, panic-stricken at the rapid march of his enemies, could not be induced to fight for his last hold upon the empire of China, but fled on the night before the assault was made. Suta at once ordered the city to be taken by storm, and though the Mongol garrison made a desperate defence, they were cut down to a man, and the victorious troops entered the Tartar stronghold in triumph. But Suta, counselled by Choo to moderation, held his army firmly in hand, no outrages were permitted, and the lives of all the Mongols who submitted were spared.

The capture of Peking and the flight of Chunti marked the end of the empire of the Mongols in China. War with them still went on, but the country at large was freed from their yoke, after nearly a century of submission to Tartar rule. Elsewhere the vast empire of Genghis still held firm. Russia lay under the vassalage of the khans. Central and Southern Asia trembled at the Mongol name. And at the very time that the Chinese were rising against and expelling their invaders, Timour, or Tamerlane, the second great conqueror of his race, was setting out from Central Asia on that mighty career of victory[Pg 269] that emulated the deeds of the founder of the Mongol empire. Years afterwards Timour, after having drowned Southern Asia in a sea of blood, returned to Samarcand, where, in 1415, he ordered the collection of a great army for the invasion of China, with which he proposed to revenge the wrongs of his compatriots. The army was gathered; it began its march; the mountains of Khokand were reached and passed; threats of the coming danger reached and frightened China; but on the march the grim old conqueror died, and his great expedition came to an end. All that reached China to represent the mighty Timour was his old war-horse, which was sent as a present four years afterwards when an embassy from Central Asia reached Peking.

With the fall of the Mongols in China the native rule was restored, but not with it the old dynasty. Choo, the conqueror, and a man whose ability and nobleness of mind had been remarkably displayed, was everywhere looked upon as the Heaven-chosen successor to the throne, the boy who had begun his career as a penniless orphan having risen through pure power of intellect and loftiness of soul to the highest position in the realm. He was crowned emperor under the title of Hongwou, and instituted the Ming dynasty, which held the throne of China until three centuries afterwards, when another strange turn in the tide of affairs again overthrew Chinese rule and brought a new dynasty of Tartar emperors to the throne.

As regards the reign of Hongwou, it may here be said that he proved one of the ablest monarchs[Pg 270] China ever knew, ruling his people with a just and strong hand, and, by the aid of his able general Suta, baffling every effort of the Mongols to regain their lost dominion. Luxury in the imperial administration was brought to an end, the public money was used for its legitimate purpose, and even some of the costly palaces which the Mongol emperors had built were destroyed, that the people might learn that he proposed to devote himself to their good and not to his own pleasure. Steps were taken for the encouragement of learning, the literary class was elevated in position, the celebrated Hanlin College was restored, and the great book of laws was revised. Schools were opened everywhere, orphanages and hospitals were instituted, and all that could be was done for the relief of the sick and the poor.

All this was performed in the midst of bitter and unceasing wars, which for nearly twenty years kept Suta almost constantly in the field. The Mongols were still strong in the northwest, Chungti continued to claim imperial power, and the army was kept steadily employed, marching from victory to victory under the able leadership of Suta, who in his whole career scarcely learned the meaning of defeat. His very appearance on the field on more than one occasion changed the situation from doubt to victory. In time the Mongols were driven beyond the Great Wall, the ex-emperor died, and the steppes were invaded by a great army, though not a successful one, Suta meeting here his first and only reverse. The war ended with giving the Chinese full control of all the cultivated country, while the Tartars held[Pg 271] their own in the desert. This done, Suta returned to enjoy in peace the honors he had won, and soon after died, at the age of fifty-four years, thirty of which had been spent in war.

The death of the great general did not leave China free from warlike commotion. There were rebellious risings both in the south and in the north, but they all fell under the power of Hongwou's victorious arms, the last success being the dispersal of a final Mongol raid. The closing eight years of the emperor's reign were spent in peace, and in 1397 he died, after an administration of thirty years, in which he had freed China from the last dregs of the Mongol power, and spread peace and prosperity throughout the realm.[Pg 272]


Twice had a Tartar empire been established in China, that of the Kin dynasty in the north, and that of their successors, the Mongols, over the whole country. A third and more permanent Tartar dynasty, that of the Manchus, was yet to come. With the striking story of the rise and progress of these new conquerors we are now concerned.

In the northeast of China, beyond the Great Wall and bordering on Corea, lies the province of Liautung. Northward from this to the Amur River extends the eastern section of the steppes, known on modern maps as Manchuria. From these broad wilds the Kins had advanced to their conquest of Northern China. To them they fled for safety from the Mongol arms, and here lost their proud name of Kin and resumed their older and humbler one of Niuche. For some five centuries they remained here unnoticed and undisturbed, broken up into numerous small clans, none of much strength and importance. Of these clans, which were frequently in a state of hostility to one another, there is only one of interest, that of the Manchus.

The original seat of this small Tartar clan lay not far north of the Chinese border, being on the Soodsu River, about thirty miles east of the Chinese city of Moukden. Between the Soodsu and Jiaho streams,[Pg 273] and south of the Long White Mountains, lies the valley of Hootooala, a location of rugged and picturesque scenery. This valley, protected on three sides by water and on the fourth by a lofty range of mountains, the whole not more than twelve miles long, formed the cradle of the Manchu race, the narrow realm from which they were to emerge to victory and empire. In a certain respect it resembled the native home of the Mongols, but was far smaller and much nearer the Chinese frontier.

In this small and secluded valley appeared, about the middle of the fourteenth century, when the emperor Hongwou was fighting with the Mongols, a man named Aisin Gioro. Tradition attributes to him a miraculous birth, while calumny asserts that he was a runaway Mongol; but at any rate he became lord of Hootooala and ancestor of its race of conquerors. Five generations from him came a chief named Huen, who ruled over the same small state, and whose grandson, Noorhachu by name, born in 1559, was the man upon whom the wonderful fortunes of the Manchus were to depend. Like many other great conquerors, his appearance predicted his career. "He had the dragon face and the phœnix eye; his chest was enormous, his ears were large, and his voice had the tone of the largest bell."

He began life like many of the heroes of folk-lore, his step-mother, when he was nineteen years of age, giving him a small sum of money and turning him out into the world to seek his fortune. She repented afterwards, and bade him come home again or accept further aid, but the proud youth refused to receive[Pg 274] from her any assistance, and determined to make his own way in the world.

Noorhachu first came into notice in 1583. In that year Haida, chief of a small district south of Hootooala, made an attack, assisted by the Chinese, on some neighboring clans. One of these was governed by a relative of the old Manchu chief Huen, who, with his son and a small force, hurried to his aid and helped him to defend his town. Haida and his allies, finding the place too strong for them, enticed a part of the garrison outside the walls, and then fell upon and treacherously massacred them. Among the slain were Huen and his son.

This brutal murder left Noorhachu chief of his clan, and at the same time filled him with a fierce desire for revenge, both upon Haida and upon the Chinese. He was forced to bide his time, Haida gaining such influence with his allies that he was appointed by them chief of all the Niuche districts. This act only deepened the hatred of Noorhachu, who found himself made one of the vassals of the murderer, while many of his own people left him and attached themselves to the fortunes of Haida.

Fortunately for the youthful chief, the Chinese did not strongly support their nominee, and Noorhachu pursued his rival so persistently that the assassin did not feel safe even within his stockaded camp, but several times retreated for safety into Liautung. The Chinese at length, tired of supporting a man without the courage to defend himself, seized him and handed him over to Noorhachu, who immediately put him to death.[Pg 275]

The energy and success of Noorhachu in this scheme of vengeance gave him a high reputation among the Niuche. He was still but twenty-seven years of age, but had probably laid out his life-work, that of making himself chief of a Niuche confederacy, and employing his subjects in an invasion of Chinese soil. It is said that he had sworn to revenge his father's death by the slaughter of two hundred thousand Chinese.

He began by building himself a stronghold. Selecting a site in the plain where water was abundant, he built a town and surrounded it with a triple wall. This done, he began the work of uniting the southern clans under his sway, a task which proved easy, they being much impressed by his victory over Haida. This peaceful progress was succeeded by a warlike movement. In 1591 he suddenly invaded the district of Yalookiang, which, taken by surprise, was forced to submit to his arms.

This act of spoliation roused general apprehension among the chiefs. Here was a man who was not satisfied with petty feuds, but evidently had higher objects in view. Roused by apprehension of danger, seven of the neighboring chiefs gathered their forces, and with an army of thirty thousand Niuche and Mongols invaded the territory of the daring young leader. The odds against him seemed irresistible. He had but four thousand men to oppose to this large force. But his men had been well chosen and well trained, and they so vigorously resisted the onset of the enemy that the principal Niuche chief was killed and the Mongol leader forced to flee. At[Pg 276] this juncture Noorhachu charged his foes with such vigor that they were broken and put to flight, four thousand of them being slain in the pursuit. A number of chiefs were taken prisoners, while the spoils included several thousand horses and plaited suits of armor, material of great value to the ambitious young victor.

Eight years passed before Noorhachu was ready for another move. Then he conquered and annexed the fertile district of Hada, on the north. In 1607 he added to this the state of Hwifa, and in the following year that of Woola. These conquests were preliminary to an invasion of Yeho, the most powerful of the Niuche states. His first attack upon this important district failed, and before repeating it he deemed it necessary to show his strength by invading the Chinese province of Liautung. He had long been preparing for this great enterprise. He had begun his military career with a force of one hundred men, but had now an army forty thousand strong, well drilled and disciplined men, provided with engines of war, and of a race famed for courage and intrepidity. Their chief weapon consisted of the formidable Manchu bow, while the horsemen wore an armor of cotton-plaited mail which was proof against arrow or spear. The invasion was preceded by a list of grievances drawn up against the Chinese, which, instead of forwarding it to the Chinese court, Noorhachu burnt in presence of his army, as an appeal to Heaven for the justice of his cause.

The Chinese had supinely permitted this dangerous power to grow up among their tributaries on[Pg 277] the north. In truth, the Ming dynasty, which had begun with the great Hongwou, had shared the fate of Chinese dynasties in general, having fallen into decadence and decay. With a strong hand at the imperial helm the Manchu invasion, with only a thinly settled region to draw on for recruits, would have been hopeless. With a weak hand no one could predict the result.

In 1618 the Manchus crossed their southern frontier and boldly set foot on the soil of China, their movement being so sudden and unexpected that the border town of Fooshun was taken almost without a blow. The army sent to retake it was hurled back in defeat, and the strong town of Tsingho was next besieged and captured. The progress of Noorhachu was checked at this point by the clamor of his men, who were unwilling to march farther while leaving the hostile state of Yeho in their rear. He therefore led them back to their homes.

The Chinese were now thoroughly aroused. An army of more than one hundred thousand men was raised and sent to attack Noorhachu in his native realm. But it was weakly commanded and unwisely divided into three unsupported sections, which the Manchus attacked and routed in detail. The year's work was completed by the conquest and annexation of Yeho, an event which added thirty thousand men to Noorhachu's resources and completed the confederation of the Niuche clans, which had been his original plan.

The old Chinese emperor was now near his life's end. But his last act was one of his wisest ones, it[Pg 278] being the appointment of Tingbi, a leader of skill and resolution, to the command in Liautung. In a brief time this energetic commander had placed the capital and the border towns of the province in a state of defence and collected an army of one hundred and eighty thousand men on the frontier. Two years sufficed to make the province impregnable to Manchu attack. During this period of energy Noorhachu wisely remained quiet. But the Chinese emperor died, and was succeeded by his son, who quickly followed him to the grave. His grandson, a boy of sixteen, succeeded, and the court enemies of Tingbi now had him recalled and replaced by a man who had never seen a battle.

The result was what might have been expected. Noorhachu, who had been waiting his opportunity, at once led his army across the borders (1621), marching upon the strong town of Moukden, whose commandant, more brave than wise, left the shelter of his walls to meet him in the field. The result was a severe repulse, the Manchus entering the gates with the fugitives and slaughtering the garrison in the streets. Three armies were sent to retake Moukden, but were so vigorously dealt with that in a few weeks less than half Tingbi's strong army remained. Liauyang, the capital of the province, was next besieged and taken by storm, the garrison falling almost to a man, among them Tingbi's incapable successor meeting his death. No further resistance was made, the other towns, with one exception, opened their gates, and in a brief time Noorhachu completed the conquest of the province of Liautung.[Pg 279]

Only one thing kept the Manchus from crossing the Great Wall and invading the provinces beyond. This was the stronghold of Ningyuen, which a Chinese officer named Chungwan had reinforced with a small party, and which resolutely resisted all assaults. Noorhachu, not daring to leave this fortified place in his rear, besieged it with a strong army, making two desperate assaults upon its walls. But Chungwan, assisted by some European cannon, whose noise proved more terrible to the Manchus than their balls, held out so vigorously that for the first time in his career the Manchu chief met with defeat. Disappointed and sick at heart, he retraced his steps to Moukden, then his capital, there to end his career, his death taking place in September, 1626.

Such was the adventurous life of the man who, while not conquering China himself, made its conquest possible to his immediate successors, who acknowledged his great deeds by giving him the posthumous title of Emperor of China, the Manchu dynasty dating its origin back to 1616. His son, Taitsong, who succeeded him, renewed the attack on Ningyuen, but found the heroic Chungwan more than his match. A brilliant idea brought him final success. Leaving the impregnable stronghold in his rear, he suddenly marched to the Great Wall, which he crossed, and was far on the road to Peking before Chungwan knew of his purpose. At once abandoning the town, the Chinese general hurried southward, and, having the best road, succeeded in reaching the capital in advance of the Manchus. But he came only to his death. Tingbi, the one man feared[Pg 280] by Noorhachu, had been executed through the machinations of his enemies, and now Chungwan suffered the same fate, Taitsong, not being able to defeat him in the field, having succeeded in forming a plot against him in the palace.

But Peking, though in serious peril, was not taken. A truce was arranged, and Taitsong drew off his troops—for reasons best known to himself. He was soon back in China, but did not again attack Peking, devoting himself to raids through the border provinces. In 1635 he assumed the title of Emperor of China, in consequence of the seal of the Mongol dynasty, which had been lost in Mongolia two centuries before, being found and sent to him. But Ningyuen still held out, under an able successor to Chungwan, and in September, 1643, this second of the Manchu leaders came to his death. The conquest of China was reserved for a later leader.[Pg 281]



Long years of misgovernment in China produced their natural result. Evils stalked abroad while worthless emperors spent their days in luxury at home. The land ceased to be governed, local rebellions broke out in a dozen quarters, and the Manchu invasion was but one event in the series of difficulties that environed the weakened throne. From the midst of these small rebellions emerged a large one before which the Ming dynasty trembled to its fall. Its leader, Li Tseching, was a peasant's son, who had chosen the military career and quickly gained renown as a daring horseman and skilful archer. In 1629 he appeared as a member of a band of robbers, who were defeated by the troops, Li being one of the few to escape. A year afterwards we hear of him as high in rank in a rebel band almost large enough to be called an army. The leader dying after a few years, Li succeeded him in command.

His progress to power was rapid, cunning and duplicity aiding him, for often when in a dangerous situation he escaped by pretending a desire to come to terms with the authorities. Other rebels rose, won victories, and sank again; but Li held his own and steadily grew stronger, until, in 1640, he was at the head of an army of nearly half a million of men[Pg 282] and in a position to aspire to the throne of Peking itself. Town after town fell into his hands, frightful outrages being perpetrated in each, for Li was a brigand in grain and merciless at heart. The efforts of the emperor to overthrow him proved futile, the imperial army being sent against him in four divisions, which he attacked and defeated in detail. The court had learned nothing from the failure of similar tactics in the war with Noorhachu. After this pronounced success Li laid siege to Kaifong, an important city which had once been the capital of China. He was twice repulsed, but a third time returned to the siege, finally succeeding through a rise in the Hoang-ho, which washed away the defences of the city, drowned thousands of its people, and left it at the mercy of the besieging troops.

Li's next effort was made against the city of Tunkwan, the most formidable of Chinese fortresses. Situated in the mountains between the provinces of Honan and Shensi, it was strong by position, while the labor of centuries had added enormously to its strength. Here fortune aided him, his army following into the city a fugitive force which had been beaten outside. By this time the rebel chief had made himself so dreadful a record by the massacres and outrages committed in conquered cities that terror began to fill the minds of garrisons, and towns and cities opened their gates to him without venturing resistance.

No longer a mere rebel chief, but master of more than a third of China, and feared through all the rest, Li now assumed the title of emperor, and, capturing[Pg 283] every stronghold as he advanced, began his march upon Peking, then a scene of unimaginable terror and confusion. The emperor, who had hesitated to flee, found flight impossible when Li's great army invested the capital. Defence was equally impossible, and the unhappy weakling, after slaying all the women of the palace, ended the career of the Ming dynasty by hanging himself. Li was quickly master of the city, where the ancestral temple of the Mings was plundered and levelled with the ground, and all the kinsmen of the royal family he could seize were summarily put to death. Thus was completed the first phase of a remarkable career, in which in a few years the member of a band of robbers became master of the most populous empire of the earth. The second phase was to be one of a decline in fortune still more rapid than had been the growth of the first. And with it is connected the story of the Manchu invasion and conquest of China.

We have seen in the preceding tale how the heroic Chungwan held the fortress of Ningyuen against all the efforts of Noorhachu, the Manchu chief. After his death Wou Sankwei, a man of equal valor and skill, repelled Taitsong and his Manchus from its walls. This city, with the surrounding territory, was all of Northern China that had not submitted to Li, who now made earnest efforts by lavish promises to win Wou over to his side. But in the latter he had to deal with a man who neither feared nor trusted him, and to whose mind it seemed preferable that even the Tartars should become lords of[Pg 284] the empire than that it should be left to the mercy of a brutal robber like Li Tseching.

Wou's position was a delicate and difficult one. The old dynasty was at an end. Those loyal to it were powerless. He had no means of his own enabling him to contend against the great force of Li. He must surrender or call in foreigners to his aid. In this dilemma he made overtures to the Manchus, asking their aid to put down the rebellion and restore tranquillity to the empire,—seemingly with the thought that they might be dispensed with when no longer of use.

Not for a moment did the Manchu leaders hesitate to avail themselves of the promising offer. The man who for years had stood resolutely in the way of their invasion of China was now voluntarily stepping from their path, and even offering them his aid to accomplish their cherished project. The powerful fortresses which had defied their strength, the Great Wall which in Wou's hands might have checked their progress, had suddenly ceased to be obstacles to their advance, and throughout the camps and towns of the Tartars an enthusiastic response was made to the inspiriting cry of "On to Peking!"

Wou Sankwei did not wait for their coming. Li had sent a strong force to meet him, with instructions either to negotiate or to fight. Wou chose the latter, and delivered battle with such energy and success that more than twenty thousand of the opposing force were laid in death upon the field, no quarter being given to the flying host. News of this perilous reverse roused Li to vigorous action. Knowing nothing[Pg 285] of the approach of a Tartar army, he imagined that he had only Wou with whom to deal, and marched against him in person with sixty thousand men, the pick of his victorious army.

This large force, perhaps three times the number that the loyal leader could put in the field, reached Wou's station on the river Lanho before the vanguard of the Manchus had appeared. It was obviously Wou's policy to defer the action, but Li gave him no opportunity, making at once an impetuous attack, his line being formed in the shape of a crescent, with the design of overlapping the flanks of the foe. Skilled and experienced as Wou was, the smallness of his force made him unable to avoid this movement of his enemy, who, from a hill where he had taken his station to overlook the battle, had the satisfaction of seeing the opposing army completely surrounded by his numerous battalions. Wou and his men fought with desperate courage, but it was evident that they could not long hold out against such odds. Fortunately for them, at this critical moment a strong Manchu corps reached the field, and at once made a furious charge upon the nearly victorious troops. This diversion caused a complete change in the situation. Li's troops, filled with terror at the vigorous and unexpected assault, broke and fled, pursued by their foes with such bloodthirsty fury that thirty thousand of them were slain. Li escaped with a few hundred horsemen from the disastrous field which was to prove the turning-point in his career.

The delayed Manchus soon after appeared in numbers, and Wou lost no time in following up his signal[Pg 286] success. Peking was quickly reached, and there, on the eastern ramparts, the victor was greeted with the spectacle of his father's head on the wall, Li having thus wreaked what vengeance he could upon his foe. It was an unwise act of ferocity, since it rendered impossible any future reconciliation with his opponent.

Li made no effort to defend the city, but fled precipitately with all the plunder he could convey. Wou, marching round its walls, pressed hard upon his track, attacking his rear-guard in charge of the bulky baggage-train, and defeating it with the slaughter of ten thousand troops. Li continued to retreat, collecting the garrisons he had left in various cities as he fled, until, feeling strong enough to hazard another battle, he took his stand near the city of Chingtung. Wou did not hesitate to attack. Eighty thousand Manchus had joined him, and abundant Chinese levies had raised his forces to two hundred thousand men. The battle was fierce and obstinate, Li fighting with his old skill and courage, and night closed without giving either party the victory. But under cover of the darkness the rebel leader, having lost forty thousand men, including some of his ablest officers, deemed it necessary to resume his retreat.

The remainder of Li's career may be briefly told. Wou followed him with unyielding persistency, fighting at every opportunity and being always the victor in these encounters. This rapid flight, these repeated defeats, at length so discouraged the rebel troops that on Li's making a final stand they refused to fight, and insisted on coming to terms[Pg 287] with their pursuer. Finding that all was at an end, Li fled to the neighboring mountain region with a small body of men, and there returned to the robber state from which he had emerged. But his foe was implacable; pursuit was kept up, his band lost heavily in various encounters, and at length, while on a foraging trip in search of food, he was surprised in a village by a superior force. A sharp combat followed, in which Li was the first to fall, and his head was carried in triumph to the nearest mandarin.

Thus ended the career of a remarkable man. Whatever the Chinese thought of the Manchus, they could not but detest the cruel bandit whom they supplanted, and who, but for their aid and the courage of a single opponent, would have placed himself upon the throne of China.

Wou Sankwei, having rid himself of his great enemy, now became anxious for the departure of his allies. But he soon found that they had no intention of leaving Peking, of which they were then in full control. At their head was Taitsong's young son, still a child, yet already giving evidence of much sagacity. His uncle, Prince Dorgan,—or Ama Wang (Father Prince), as his nephew called him,—was made regent, and hastened to proclaim the youth emperor of China, under the name of Chuntche. Every effort was made to obtain the support of Wou Sankwei: honors and titles were conferred upon him, and the new government showed such moderation and sound judgment in dealing with the people as to win him to its support,—especially as no[Pg 288] Chinese candidate for the throne appeared whose ability promised to equal that of the young Manchu prince.

The Manchus, indeed, were far from being rulers of the kingdom as yet. They held only a few provinces of the north, and a prince of the late native dynasty had been set up in the south, with his capital at Nanking. Had he been a capable ruler, with qualities suited to call Wou Sankwei to his support and enlist the energies of the people, the tide of Manchu conquest would very probably have been stayed. But he proved worthless, and Nanking was soon in the hands of his foes, its officials being spared, but required to shave their heads,—the shaved head and the pigtail of the modern Chinaman being the badge of submission to Tartar supremacy.

A succession of new emperors was set up, but all met the same fate, and in the end the millions of China fell under the Manchu yoke, and the ancient empire was once more subjected to Tartar rule. The emperor Chuntche died young, and his son, Kanghi, came to the throne when but nine years of age. He was destined to reign for more than sixty years and to prove himself one of the best and greatest of the emperors of China.

We cannot close without a mention of the final events in the career of Wou Sankwei, to whom China owed her Manchu dynasty. Thirty years after he had invited the Manchus into the country, and while he was lord of a large principality in the south, he was invited by the emperor to visit Peking, an invitation which he declined on the plea of old[Pg 289] age, though really because he feared that Tartar jealousy of his position and influence lay behind it.

Envoys were sent to him, whom he treated with princely courtesy, though he still declined to visit the court, and plainly stated his reasons. The persistence of the emperor at length drove him into rebellion, in which he was joined by others of the Chinese leaders, and for a time the unwisdom of Kanghi in not letting well enough alone threatened his throne with disaster. One by one, however, Wou's allies were put down, until he was left alone to keep up the war. The Manchus hesitated, however, to attack him, knowing well his great military skill. But disunion in his ranks did what the Tartar sword could not effect. Many of his adherents deserted him, and the Chinese warrior who had never known defeat was brought to the brink of irretrievable disaster. From this dilemma death extricated him, he passing away at the head of his men without the stigma of defeat on his long career of victory. In the end his body was taken from the tomb and his ashes were scattered through the eighteen provinces of China, to testify that no trace remained of the man whom alone the Manchus had wooed and feared.[Pg 290]


In looking upon a modern map of the empire of China, it will be seen to cover a vast area in Asia, including not only China proper but the wide plains of Mongolia and the rock-bound region of Thibet. Yet no such map could properly have been drawn two hundred years ago. Thibet, while a tributary realm, was not then a portion of China, while the Mongolian herdsmen were still the independent warriors and the persistent enemies of China that they had been from time immemorial. It is to the Manchu emperors that the subjection of these countries and their incorporation in the Chinese empire are due. To-day the far-reaching territory of the steppes, the native home of those terrible horsemen who for ages made Europe and Asia tremble, is divided between the two empires of China and Russia, and its restless hordes are held in check by firm and powerful hands, their period of conquest at an end.

It was to two of the Manchu monarchs, Kanghi and Keen Lung,—whose combined reigns covered more than a hundred and twenty years,—that the subjection of these long turbulent regions was due, enabling China to enter the nineteenth century with the broad territorial expanse now marked on our maps. The story of how the subjection of the[Pg 291] nomads came about is a long one, much too long for the space at our command, yet a brief synopsis of its leading events will prove of interest and importance to all who desire to follow the successive steps of Chinese history.

Kanghi, the second Manchu emperor, and one of the greatest of the rulers of China, having completed the conquest of the Chinese themselves, turned his attention to the nomadic hordes who threatened the tranquillity of his reign. He was one of their own race, a man of Tartar blood, and many of the desert tribes were ready to acknowledge his supremacy, among them the Khalkas, who prided themselves on direct descent from Ghengis and his warriors, but had lost all desire to rule the earth and were content to hold their own among the surrounding tribes. They dwelt on those streams which had watered the birthplace of the Mongol tribe, and their adhesion to the Manchu cause kept all the Mongols quiet.

But west of these dwelt another nomad race, the Calmucks, divided into four hordes, of which the Eleuths were by no means content to yield to Chinese or Manchu control. Their independence of spirit might have been of little importance but that it was sustained by an able and ambitious leader, who not only denied Kanghi's supremacy but disputed with him the empire of the steppes.

Galdan was the younger son of the most powerful chief of his tribe. Full of ambition, and chafing at the subordinate position due to his birth, he quarrelled with some of his brothers and killed one of them.[Pg 292] Being forced to flee, he made his way to Thibet, where he sought to obtain admission to the ranks of the Buddhist clergy, but was refused by the Dalai Lama on account of his deed of blood. But on his return to the tents of his tribe he found himself in a new position. His crime was forgotten or condoned, and the fact that he had dwelt in the palace and under the holy influence of the Dalai Lama, the supreme religious power in Buddhist Asia, gave him a high standing among his fellow-tribesmen. The influence thus gained and his boldness and ruthlessness completed the work he had in mind. The ruling khan was deposed, all members of his family whose hostility was feared by Galdan were slain, and he found himself at the head of the tribe, whose members were terrified into submission.

His thirst for power now showed itself in encroachments upon the lands of neighboring clans. The Manchus were at that time embarrassed by the rebellion of Wou Sankwei, and the opportunity seemed excellent for an invasion of the district of the Khalkas, firm friends of the Manchu power. He also sent troops towards the Chinese frontier, fear of whom forced many of the tribesmen to cross the border and seek the emperor's aid. Kanghi could then only give them lands within his realm, being too much occupied at home to be able to do more than send spies into the steppes. From these he learned that Galdan had built up a formidable power and that he evidently had in view the subjection of all the tribes.

Kanghi, anxious to settle these difficulties amicably,[Pg 293] spent a number of years in negotiations, but his rival showed as much ability in diplomacy as in the field, and succeeded in masking his designs while he was strengthening his position and preparing for open hostilities. Finally, with an army of thirty thousand men, he invaded the country of the Khalkas, and in 1690 took his first open step of hostility against China, by arresting the envoys who had been sent to his camp. This insult put an end to all Kanghi's efforts to maintain peace. The diplomatic movements were followed by a display of military energy and activity, and the whole northern army, consisting of the eight Manchu Banners, the forty-nine Mongol Banners, and a large force of Chinese auxiliaries, was set in motion across the steppes.

Meanwhile Galdan, alarmed by the hostility he had provoked, sought to make an alliance with the Russians, an effort which brought him hollow promises but no assistance. Without waiting for the coming of all his foes, he made a vigorous attack on the Chinese advance force and drove it back in defeat, remaining master of the field. Yet, recognizing that the enemy was far too strong for him, he sent an envoy to Peking, offering concessions and asking for peace. The emperor listened, but the army pushed on, and an attack in force was made upon the Eleuth camp, which was located at the foot of a mountain, between a wood and a stream. The post was a strong one, and the Eleuths fought stubbornly, but they were too greatly outnumbered, and in the end were put to flight, after having inflicted severe loss on[Pg 294] their foes, an uncle of the emperor being among the slain. Galdan now, finding that the war was going against him, offered fealty and obedience to the emperor, which Kanghi, glad to withdraw his army from its difficult position in the desert, accepted, sending the chieftain a letter of forgiveness. Thus ended the campaign of 1690.

It was a truce, not a peace. Galdan's ambition remained unsatisfied, and Kanghi put little confidence in his promises. He was right: the desert chief occupied himself in sowing the seeds of dissension among the hordes, and in 1693, finding the Dalai Lama his opponent, took the step of professing himself a Mohammedan, in the hope of gaining the assistance of the Mussulman Tartars and Chinese. Yet he kept up negotiations with the Dalai Lama, with the purpose of retaining the Buddhist support. Meanwhile conflicts between the tribes went on, and in 1695 Kanghi, incensed at the constant encroachments of the ambitious chief, which failed to sustain his peaceful professions, resolved to put an end to the trouble by his complete and irretrievable overthrow.

The despatch of a large army into the recesses of Central Asia was a difficult and hazardous enterprise, yet it seemed the only means of ending the strained situation, and by 1696 a large force was got ready for a protracted desert war, the principal command being given to a frontier soldier named Feyanku, who in the preceding troubles had shown marked ability.

On the eve of the great national holiday of China,[Pg 295] the Feast of Lanterns, the imperial court reviewed a section of the army, drawn up in military array along the principal street of Peking. The emperor, surrounded by the principal functionaries of the government, occupied a throne on a raised platform from which the whole scene could be surveyed, while strains of martial music filled the air. The culminating scene in the ceremony took place when Feyanku approached the throne, received on his knees from the emperor's hand a cup of wine, and retired down the steps, at whose foot he quaffed the wine amid the shouts of thousands of spectators. This ceremony was repeated with each of the subordinate generals, and then with the lower officers of the army, ten at a time. Success being thus drunk to the army, Feyanku left the capital to assume the active command in the field, while Kanghi, bent on complete success, set to work to recruit in all haste a second army, which he proposed to command himself.

The whole force raised was an immense one, considering the character of the country to be traversed and the limited resources of the enemy. It marched in four divisions, of which that under Feyanku numbered about thirty-five thousand men. Despite the great distance to be traversed, the desert-like condition of much of the country, and the fact that deficiency of resources cost thousands of lives and forced many detachments to retreat, a powerful force at length reached the borders of Galdan's territory. After a march of more than three months' duration Feyanku pitched his camp near the sources[Pg 296] of the Tula, his army being reduced to twelve thousand available men. These were placed in a fortified position within the Mongol camping-ground of Chowmodo.

Meanwhile how was Galdan engaged? He had sought, but in vain, to win the alliance of a powerful Mongol tribe, and had conducted fruitless negotiations with the Russians of Siberia. His only remaining hope lay in the desert barrier which lay between him and his great enemy, and this vanished when the Chinese army made its appearance in his territories, though its success had been gained at a frightful loss of life. The situation of the desert chief had become desperate, his only hope lying in an attack on the advance body of the Chinese before it could be joined by the other detachments, and while exhausted by its long march across the desert of Gobi. He therefore made a rapid march and vigorously assailed the Chinese intrenchments at Chowmodo.

In the interval the Chinese commanders had found themselves in a perilous position. Their supplies had run low, they could not be replenished in that situation, farther advance had become impossible, and it seemed equally impossible to maintain their position. Retreat seemed their only means of extricating themselves from their dilemma, and the question of doing so was under discussion when the sudden assault of Galdan happily relieved Feyanku from a situation which threatened the loss of his military renown. Of the battle that followed we know only that Feyanku remained on the defensive[Pg 297] and sustained Galdan's attacks for three hours, when he gave the signal for a charge. The wearied Eleuths soon broke before the determined onset, a disordered flight began, and Galdan, seeing that the day was lost, fled with a small body of followers, leaving his camp and baggage to the victors and two thousand of his men dead on the field.

This victory ended the war. Kanghi, on hearing of it, returned to Peking, having sent word to Feyanku to pursue Galdan with unrelenting vigor, there being no security while he remained at large. The recent powerful chief was now at the end of his resources. He fled for safety from camp to camp. He sent an envoy to Peking with an abject offer to surrender. He made new overtures to the Russians, and sought in a dozen ways to escape from his implacable enemies. But Feyanku kept up the pursuit, ceasing only when word came to him that the fugitive was dead. Anxiety, hardships, chagrin, or, as some say, the act of his own hand, had carried off the desert chief, and relieved the emperor of China from the peril and annoyance which had so long troubled him.

In Galdan died a man who, under more fortunate circumstances, might have emulated some of the famous Tartar chiefs, a warrior of the greatest skill, courage, and daring, a "formidable enemy" to the Chinese empire, and one who, had the government of that empire been as weak as it proved strong, might have gathered all the nomads under arms and overthrown the dynasty.

A few words must suffice to end the story of the[Pg 298] Eleuths. The death of Galdan did not bring them to submission, and years afterwards we find them hostile to Chinese rule, and even so daring as to invade Thibet, which Kanghi had added to his empire, they taking its central city of Lhassa, and carrying to the steppes a vast wealth in spoil. Eventually they were subjected to Chinese rule, but before this took place an event of much interest occurred. The Tourguts, an adjoining Kalmuck tribe, were so imperilled by the enmity of the Eleuths that they took the important resolution of migrating to Russia, marching across the Kirghiz steppes and becoming faithful subjects of the czar, who gave them a new abiding-place on the banks of the Volga. Many years afterwards, in 1770, this tribe, inspired by a strong desire to return to their own home, left the Volga and crossed Asia, despite all efforts to check their flight, until they reached again their native soil. For the interesting story of this adventurous flight see Volume VIII.[Pg 299]


During the past two and a half centuries the great empire of China has been under foreign rule, its emperors, its state officials, its generals and trusted battalions, being of Tartar blood, and the whole nation being forced to wear, in the shaved head and pigtail of every man from the highest to the lowest, a badge of servitude. The firm position gained by the Manchu dynasty was largely due to the ability of two emperors, Kanghi and Keen Lung, who stamped out the spirit of rebellion in China, added Thibet to the empire, and conquered Mongolia, subduing those restless tribes which for so many centuries had been a sword in the side of the great empire of the East. Their able administration was aided by their long reigns, Kanghi being on the throne for sixty-one years, while Keen Lung abdicated after a reign of sixty years, that he might not take from his esteemed grandfather the honor of the longest reign. Keen Lung died three years afterwards, in 1799, thus bringing up the history of China almost to the opening year of the nineteenth century. His eventful life was largely devoted to the consolidation of the Tartar authority, and was marked by brilliant military exploits and zeal in promoting the interests of China in all directions.[Pg 300] It is our purpose here to tell the story of one of the famous military exploits of his reign.

The conquest of Thibet had brought the Chinese into contact with the bold and restless hill-tribes which occupy the region between China and India. South of the Himalaya range there existed several small mountain states, independent alike of Mogul and of British rule, and defiant in their mountain fastnesses of all the great surrounding powers. Of these small states the most important was Nepal, originally a single kingdom, but afterwards divided into three, which were in frequent hostility with one another. West of Nepal was a small clan, the Goorkhas, whose people were noted for their warlike daring. It is with these that we are here concerned.

In 1760 the king of Bhatgaon, one of the divisions of Nepal, being threatened by his rival kings, begged aid from the Goorkha chief. It was readily given, and with such effect as to win the allies a signal triumph. The ease of his victory roused the ambition of Narayan, the leader of the Goorkhas, and by 1769 the three kings of Nepal were either slain or fugitives in India and their country had fallen under the dominion of its recently insignificant and little-considered neighbor.

The Goorkhas differed essentially from the Nepalese in character. They despised commerce and disliked strangers. War was their trade, and their aggressions soon disturbed conditions along the whole Himalaya range. The flourishing trade which had once existed between India and Thibet by way of[Pg 301] Nepal was brought to an end, while the raids of the dominant clan on neighboring powers excited general apprehension. Twenty years after their conquest of Nepal the incursions of the Goorkhas into Thibet became so serious as to demand the attention of the Chinese emperor, though no decided action was taken for their suppression. But in 1790 an event occurred that put a sudden end to this supine indifference.

The temples and lamasaries of Thibet were widely believed to contain a great store of wealth, the reports of which proved highly alluring to the needy and daring warriors of the Goorkha clan. The Chinese had shown no disposition to defend Thibet, and this rich spoil seemed to lie at the mercy of any adventurous band strong enough to overcome local opposition. In consequence, the Goorkhas prepared for an invasion in force of the northern state, and, with an army of about eighteen thousand men, crossed the Himalayas by the lofty passes of Kirong and Kuti and rapidly advanced into the country beyond.

The suddenness of this movement found the Thibetans quite unprepared. Everything gave way before the bold invaders, and in a short time Degarchi, the second town of the state, fell into their hands. This was the residence of the Teshu Lama, ranking next to the Dalai in authority, and possessed the vast lamasary of Teshu Lumbo, rich in accumulated wealth, which fell into the hands of the invaders. A farther advance would undoubtedly have given them the chief city of Lhassa, since the unwarlike[Pg 302] population fled in terror before their advance, but their success at Degarchi had been so great as to check their march, many weeks being spent in counting their spoil and subduing the surrounding country.

Meanwhile urgent petitions were sent to Peking, and the old emperor, aroused to the necessity for prompt and decisive action, gave orders that all available troops should at once be despatched to Lhassa and vigorous preparations made for war. Within a few months a Chinese army of seventy thousand men, armed with several pieces of light artillery, had reached Thibet, where the Goorkhas, alarmed by the numbers of their opponents, made hasty preparations for a retreat. But their spoil was so abundant and bulky as to delay their march, and the Chinese, who were well commanded, succeeded in coming up with them before they had crossed the mountain passes. The movements of the Chinese commander were so skilfully made that the retreat of the Goorkhas without a battle for the safety of their treasures became impossible.

Sund Fo, the Chinese general, according to the usual practice of his people, began by the offer of terms to the enemy, these being the surrender of all their spoil and of a renegade lama whose tale of the wealth of Thibet had led to the invasion. Probably also pledges for better conduct in future were demanded, but the proud chief of the Goorkhas haughtily refused to accept any of these conditions and defied his foes to do their worst. Of the battle that followed nothing is known except its result,[Pg 303] which was the defeat and hasty retreat of the invaders, much of whose baggage was left behind.

The Chinese do not seem to have suffered greatly, to judge from the promptness of their pursuit, which was made with such rapidity that the Goorkhas were overtaken and again defeated before they had reached the Kirong pass, they being now obliged to abandon most of their baggage and spoil. The pursuit continued with an energy remarkable for a Chinese army, the Goorkhas, bold as they were by nature, growing demoralized under this unlooked-for persistence. Every encounter resulted in a defeat, the forts which commanded the mountain passes and defiles were taken in succession by Sund Fo's army, and he still pressed relentlessly on. At a strong point called Rassoa the Goorkhas defended for three days a passage over a chasm, but they had grown faint-hearted through their successive defeats, and this post too fell into the hands of their enemy.

The triumphs of the Chinese had not been won without severe loss, both in their frequent assaults upon mountain strongholds and a desperate foe, and from the passage of the snow-clad mountains, but they finally succeeded in reaching the southern slopes of the Himalayas with an effective force of forty thousand men. Khatmandu, the Goorkha capital, lay not far away, and with a last effort of courage and despair the retreating army made a stand for the defence of the seat of their government.

Their position was a strong one, their courage that of desperation, and their valor and resolution so great that for a time they checked the much stronger[Pg 304] battalions of their foes. The Chinese troops, disheartened by the courage with which the few but brave mountaineers held their works, were filled with dismay, and might have been repulsed but for the ruthless energy of their leader, who was determined at any cost to win. Turning the fire of his artillery upon his own troops, he drove them relentlessly upon the foe, forcing them to a charge that swept them like a torrent over the Goorkha works. The fire of the guns was kept up upon the mingled mass of combatants until the Goorkhas were driven over a precipice into the stream of the Tadi that ran below. By this decisive act of the Chinese commander many of his own men were slain, but the enemy was practically annihilated and the war brought to an end.

The Goorkhas now humbly solicited peace, which Sund Fo was quite ready to grant, for his own losses had been heavy and it was important to recross the mountains before winter set in. He therefore granted them peace on humiliating terms, though these were as favorable as they could expect under the circumstances. Any further attempt at resistance against the overwhelming army of their foes might have ended in the complete destruction of their state. They took an oath to keep the peace with Thibet, to acknowledge themselves vassals of China, to send an embassy with tribute to Peking every five years, and to restore all the plunder taken from Teshu Lumbo.

Of the later history of the Goorkhas some words may be said. Their raids into India led to a British[Pg 305] invasion of their country in 1814, and in 1816 they were forced to make peace. The celebrated Jung Bahadur became their ruler in 1846 through the summary process of killing all his enemies, and in 1857, during the Indian mutiny, he came with a strong force to the aid of the British, whose friend he had always remained. In more recent wars the Goorkhas have proved themselves among the bravest soldiers in the Indian army, and in the late war with the hill-tribes showed an intrepidity which no part of the army surpassed. The independence of their state is still maintained.[Pg 306]



For four or five thousand years China remained isolated from the rest of the civilized world, its only relations being with the surrounding peoples of its own race, notably with the Tartars of the steppes. Then, in the nineteenth century, the wall of isolation suddenly broke down, and it was forced to enter into relations of trade and amity with Europe and America. This revolution did not come about peacefully. The thunder of cannon was necessary to break down the Chinese wall of seclusion. But the result seems likely to prove of the greatest advantage to the so-called Celestial Kingdom. It has swung loose from its moorings in the harbor of conservatism, and it is not safe to predict how far it will drift, but it is safe to say that a few years of foreign war have done as much for it as hundreds of years of peace and isolation.

From time to time in the past centuries Europeans made their way to China. Some were priestly envoys, some missionaries, some, as in the case of the Polos, traders. Afterwards came the Jesuit missionaries, who gained an important standing in China under the early Manchu emperors, and were greatly favored by the emperor Kanghi. After his death a change took place, and they were gradually driven from the land.[Pg 307]

The first foreign envoy reached China from Russia in 1567. Another came in 1653, his purpose being to establish freedom of trade. A century later a treaty was made establishing a system of overland trade between Russia and China, and since then a Russian missionary station has existed in Peking. In 1516 came the first vessel to China under a European flag, a Portuguese trader. Others followed, and trade began through Canton and other ports. But the foreign traders soon began to act rather as pirates than as peaceful visitors, and in the end the Chinese drove them all away. About the middle of the sixteenth century a foreign settlement was begun at Macao, on an island near the southeast boundary of the empire, and here the trade grew so brisk that for a time Macao was the richest trading-mart in Eastern Asia. But so hostile were the relations between the Portuguese, Spanish, and Dutch, and so brigand-like their behavior, that the Chinese looked upon them all as piratical barbarians, and intercourse did not grow.

The English had their own way of opening trade relations. A fleet under Captain Weddell came to Canton in 1637, and, as the Chinese fired upon a watering boat, attacked and captured the forts, burnt the council-house, carried off the guns from the forts, and seized two merchant junks. About fifty years afterwards they were accorded trading privileges at Canton and Ning-po.

To England, indeed, is due the chief credit of opening up China to the world, though the way in which it was done is not much to England's credit.[Pg 308] This was by the famous—or infamous—opium war. But in another way England was the first to break through the traditional ceremonies of the Chinese court. All who approached the emperor's throne, foreign ambassadors as well as Chinese subjects, were required to perform the kotow, which consisted in kneeling three times before the emperor, or even before his empty throne, and each time bowing the head until the forehead three times touched the marble flooring. This was done by the Russians and the Dutch, but the Earl of Macartney, who came as English ambassador in 1792, refused to perform the slavish ceremony, and was therefore not permitted to see the emperor, though otherwise well received.

The first event of importance in the nineteenth century, that century so vital in the history of China, was the hoisting of the American flag at Canton in 1802, which marked the beginning of American trade with the Celestial empire. From this time the trade of Canton rapidly grew, until it became one of the greatest commercial cities of the world, while its mercantile activity gave employment to millions of natives in all parts of the empire in preparing articles of commerce, particularly tea. It was also of great importance to the imperial government from the revenue it furnished in the way of duty and presents. It is of interest to note, however, that the emperor and his court looked upon these presents as the payment of tribute, and the nations that sent them, unknown to themselves, were set down as vassals of the Chinese crown.[Pg 309]

We have now an important feature of the Chinese trade to record. Opium was a favorite article of consumption in China, and its use there had given rise to an important industry in British India, in the growth of the poppy. In the year 1800 the emperor, perceiving the growing evil in the use of opium by his people, issued an edict forbidding its introduction into China. This did not check the trade, its only effect being to convert legitimate into smuggling traffic. The trade went on as briskly as before, the smugglers being openly aided by venal officials not only at Canton but at other points along the coast. By 1838 the disregard of the law, and the quantity of opium smuggled into the empire by small boats on the Canton River, had become so great that the Peking government determined to take more active steps for the suppression of the illicit trade. At this time there were more than fifty small craft plying on the river under the English and American flags, most of them smugglers. Some of these were seized and destroyed, but as the others were then heavily manned and armed the revenue officers declined to interfere with them, and the contraband trade went briskly on.

At length the difficulty reached a climax. Arrests and punishments for the use of opium became common throughout the empire, three royal princes were degraded for this practice, a commissioner with large powers was sent from Peking to Canton, and the foreigners were ordered to deliver up every particle of opium in their store-ships and give bonds to bring no more, on penalty of death. As a result, somewhat[Pg 310] more than one thousand chests were tendered to the commissioner, but this was declared to be not enough, and that official at once took the decisive measure of cutting off the food-supply from the foreign settlement. This and other active steps brought about the desired result. Captain Elliot, the British superintendent of commerce, advised a complete delivery of all opium under British control, and before night more than twenty thousand chests of the deleterious drug were surrendered into his hands, and were offered by him to the commissioner the next day.

News of this event was sent to Peking, and orders came back that the opium should be all destroyed; which was done effectively by mixing it with salt water and lime in trenches and drawing off the mixture into an adjacent creek. Care was taken that none should be purloined, and one man was executed on the spot for attempting to steal a small portion of the drug. Thus perished an amount of the valuable substance rated at cost price at nearly eleven million dollars.

We have described this event at some length, as it led to the first war between China and a foreign power. The destruction of the opium deeply offended the British government, and in the next year (1840) Captain Elliot received an official letter to the effect that war would be declared unless China should pay for the goods destroyed. As China showed no intention of doing so, an English fleet was sent to Chinese waters in the summer of 1841, whose admiral declared a blockade of the port of Canton, and, on July 5, bombarded and captured the town of Ting-hai.[Pg 311] Various other places were blockaded, and, as the emperor rejected all demands, the fleet moved upon Canton, taking the forts along the river as it advanced. In the end, when an attack had become imminent, the authorities ransomed their city for the sum of six million dollars.

But the emperor did not know yet the strength of the power with which he had to deal, and still continued silent and defiant. The fleet now sailed northward, capturing in succession Amoy, Chin-hai, and Ning-po. Cha-pu was the next to fall, and here the Manchu Tartars for the first time came into conflict with the English. When defeated, great numbers of them killed themselves, first destroying their wives and children. The forts at the mouth of the Yang-tse-Kiang were next taken. Here the governor-general took care to post himself out of danger, but in a grandiloquent despatch declared that he had been in the hottest of the fight, "where cannon-balls innumerable, flying in awful confusion through the expanse of heaven, fell before, behind, and on every side, while in the distance were visible the ships of the rebels standing erect, lofty as mountains. The fierce daring of the rebels was inconceivable; officers and men fell at their posts. Every effort to resist the onset was in vain, and a retreat became inevitable."

The result was the capture of Shanghai. The British now determined on a siege of the important city of Nanking, the ancient capital of China. The movement began with an attack on Chin-Kiang-fu, the "Mart-river city." Here a fierce assault was[Pg 312] made, the Manchu garrison resisting with obstinate courage. In the end, of the garrison of four thousand only five hundred remained, most of the others having killed themselves. This victory rendered the capture of Nanking certain, its food-supply was already endangered by the English control of the river, and the authorities gave way. The emperor was now convinced that further resistance was hopeless, and the truce ended in a treaty of peace, the Chinese government agreeing to pay twenty-one million dollars indemnity, to open to British trade and residence the ports of Canton, Amoy, Foo-Chow, Ning-po, and Shanghai, and to cede to the English the island of Hong-Kong, with various minor stipulations.

This war, which was fought with the discreditable purpose of forcing upon China an injurious drug against her will, had nevertheless several very useful results. Other European nations hastened to claim the same privileges of trade that were given the English, and in 1844 a commercial treaty was signed between China and the United States, in the conduct of which a favorable disposition towards Americans was shown. The eventual result was the breaking down of the barriers of intolerance which had been so long maintained, that ancient and self-satisfied government being at last forced to throw open its gates for the entrance of the new ideas of international amity and freedom of commerce.

But much had still to be done before these desirable results could be fully achieved. Hostile relations were not yet at an end, annoying restrictions being[Pg 313] placed on the promised intercourse. In 1856 a native vessel flying the British flag was seized by the Chinese, who refused to apologize to the British for the act. As a result, the city of Canton was bombarded and the forts were destroyed. A warlike demonstration was decided upon by Great Britain and France, the first result being the total destruction of the Chinese fleet and the capture of Canton. A revision of the former treaty and the concession of greater privileges were demanded, which China, warned by the lesson of the opium war, found itself obliged to grant.

The English and French, however, refused to treat at Canton, as the Chinese desired, but sailed to the mouth of the Pei-ho, the port of Peking, up which stream their fleets proceeded to the city of Tien-tsin. Here arrangements for a new treaty of commerce and the opening of new ports were made, Russia and the United States taking part in the negotiations. But on proceeding to the mouth of the Pei-ho in 1859 to ratify the treaty, the river was found to be obstructed and the forts strongly armed. The American and Russian envoys were willing to go to Peking overland, in accordance with the Chinese request, but the British and French determined to force their way up the stream and to take as many soldiers with them as they pleased. They attacked the forts, therefore, but, to their disgust, found themselves defeated and forced to withdraw.

This repulse could have but one result. It gave the Chinese for the first time confidence in their ability to meet the foreigner in war. It humiliated[Pg 314] and exasperated the English and French. They determined now to carry the war to the gates of Peking and force the Chinese to acknowledge the supremacy of the nations of the West.

The events of this war we can give only in outline. In the summer of 1860 a new attack was made on the Taku forts, troops being landed to assail them in the rear, in which direction no arrangement for defence had been made. As a result the forts fell, a large body of Tartar cavalry, which sought to stop the march of the allies with bows, arrows, and spears, being taught a lesson in modern war by the explosion of shells in their ranks. The capture of the forts left the way clear for a march on the capital, which was at once made, and on the 5th of October, 1860, a European army first came within view of this long-hidden and mysterious city.[Pg 315]


The "sublime" emperor, the supreme head of the great realm of China and its hundreds of millions of people, dwells in a magnificence and seclusion unknown to the monarchs of other lands. His palace enclosure within the city of Peking, the "Purple Forbidden City," as it is called, covers over half a square mile of ground, and is surrounded by a wall forty feet high and more than forty feet thick. Within this sacred enclosure the Chinese ideas of beauty and magnificence have been developed to the fullest extent, and the emperor resides in unapproachable grandeur and state. Outside the city, a few miles to the north, lies the Summer Palace, another locality on which the Celestial architects and landscape artists have exhausted their genius in devising scenes of beauty and charm, and which is similarly walled in from the common herd. Beyond the Great Wall, on the borders of Tartary, exists another palatial enclosure, the hunting and pleasure grounds of the emperor, in the midst of an immense forest abundantly stocked with game. To the latter his supreme majesty made his way with all haste on hearing of the rapid approach of the English and French armies. In truth, the great monarchs of the Manchu dynasty had passed away, and the feeble[Pg 316] reigning emperor lacked the courage to fight for his throne.

On the 5th of October, 1860, the allied armies of England and France approached the Celestial capital, the officers obtaining their first view of its far-stretching wall from the tops of some grass-grown brick-kilns. On the next day the march was resumed, the French force advancing upon the Summer Palace, where it was hoped the emperor would be found, the English directing their course towards the city, where a Tartar picket was driven in and preparations were begun for an assault in force.

The Summer Palace was found in charge of some three hundred eunuchs, whom Prince Kung, who had left in all haste the evening before, had ordered to make a gallant defence. But the entrance gave way before the impetuous assault of the French, a few of the defenders fell dead or wounded, and the remainder beat a hasty retreat, leaving the grand entrance to the Yuen-ming-yuen, the famous imperial residence, in the hands of the daring and disrespectful "barbarians."

Into the grand reception-hall, which none had heretofore entered except in trembling awe, the irreverent foreigners boldly made their way, their spurred heels ringing on the broad marble floor before the emperor's sacred throne, their loud voices resounding through that spacious hall where silence and ceremony so long had reigned supreme, as the awed courtiers approached with silent tread and voiceless respect the throne of the dreaded Brother of the Sun and Moon.[Pg 317]

"Imagine such a scene," says Swinhoe. "The emperor is seated on his ebony throne, attired in a yellow robe wrought over with dragons in gold thread, his head surmounted with a spherical crown of gold and precious stones, with pearl drops suspended round on light gold chains. His eunuchs and ministers, in court costume, are ranged on either side on their knees, and his guard of honor and musicians drawn up in two lines in the court-yard without. The name of the distinguished person to be introduced is called out, and as he approaches the band strikes up. He draws near the awful throne, and, looking meekly on the ground, drops on his knees before the central steps. He removes his hat from his head, and places it on the throne floor with its peacock feather towards the imperial donor. The emperor moves his hand, and down goes the humble head, and the forehead strikes on the step three times three. The head is then raised, but the eyes are still meekly lowered, as the imperial voice in thrilling accents pronounces the behest of the great master. The voice hushed, down goes the head again and acknowledges the sovereign right, and the privileged individual is allowed to withdraw. The scene described is not imaginary, but warranted by the accounts of natives.

"How different the scene now! The hall filled with crowds of a foreign soldiery, and the throne floor covered with the Celestial emperor's choicest curios, but destined as gifts for two far more worthy monarchs. 'See here,' said General Montauban, pointing to them. 'I have had a few of the most[Pg 318] brilliant things selected to be divided between the Queen of Great Britain and the Emperor of the French!'"


General Montauban had declared that no looting should take place until the British came up, that all might have their equal share, but the fierce desire of the French soldiers for spoil could not easily be restrained. Even the officers were no better, and as the rooms of the palace were boldly explored, "gold watches and small valuables were whipped up by these gentlemen with amazing velocity, and as speedily disappeared into their capacious pockets." Into the very bedroom of the emperor the unawed visitors made their way, and gazed with curious eyes on the imperial couch, curtained over and covered with silk mattresses. Under the pillow was a small silk handkerchief, with sundry writings in the vermilion pencil concerning the "barbarians," while on a table lay pipes and other articles of daily use. On another table was found the English treaty of 1858, whose terms were soon to be largely modified.

Meanwhile the nimble-fingered French soldiers had not been idle, and the camp was full of articles of value or interest, silks and curios, many of them rare prizes, watches, pencil-cases set with diamonds, jewelled vases, and a host of other costly trifles, chief among which was a string of splendid pearls exhibited by one officer, each pearl of the size of a marble and the whole of immense value.

On Sunday morning, the 7th of October, the orders against looting were withdrawn, and officers and men, English and French alike, rushed excitedly[Pg 319] about the place, appropriating every valuable which it was within their power to carry. What could not be carried away was destroyed, a spirit of wanton destruction seeming to animate them all. Some amused themselves by shooting at the chandeliers, others by playing pitch-and-toss against large and costly mirrors, while some armed themselves with clubs and smashed to pieces everything too heavy to be carried, finishing the work by setting on fire the emperor's private residence.

Those who paid more heed to observation than to destruction have given us interesting accounts of the Summer Palace and its surroundings, whose vast enclosure extended from the place where the French entered to the foot of the first range of hills north of Peking, six or seven miles away. Over this broad extent were scattered gardens, palaces, temples, and pagodas on terraces and artificial hills. Some of these were like the one seen by Marco Polo in the palace enclosure of Kublai Khan, being from three hundred to four hundred feet in height, their sides covered with forest-trees of all kinds, through whose foliage the yellow-tiled palace roofs appeared. In the midst of these hills lay a large lake, containing two or three islands, on which were picturesque buildings, the islands being reached by quaint and beautiful stone bridges.

On one side of the lake ran the favorite walk of the emperor and his court, winding in and out for more than two miles among grottos and flower-gardens, roofed in by flowering creepers. Where palaces touched the water's edge the walk was[Pg 320] carried past on light but beautiful stone terraces built over the lake. Grandeur was added to the general beauty of the scene by the high mountains of Tartary which rose in the rear.

The work of looting was followed by a sale of the spoil under the walls of Peking, the auction continuing for three days, during which a large quantity of valuable plunder was disposed of. Many of the French officers had acquired considerable fortunes, and numbers of their men were nearly as well supplied. For several days intoxication and disorder prevailed, while the disposition to plunder was extended from the palace to the neighboring villages.

Meanwhile the preparations for an assault on Peking had gone forward. The Anting gate was the point selected, the Chinese being given until the 12th for a peaceful surrender. As noon of that day drew near, the gunners stood by their pieces, a storming party excitedly awaited the order to charge as soon as a breach had been made, and General Napier, watch in hand, timed the slow minutes. Five minutes to twelve arrived. The general was almost on the point of giving the order, the gunners were growing eager and excited, when Colonel Stephenson came galloping hastily up with the news that the gate had been surrendered. In a few minutes more it was thrown open, a party of British marched in and took possession, and the French followed with beating drums and flying flags, forcing the natives back as they advanced.

That afternoon several prisoners were restored to the allies. They proved to have been inhumanly[Pg 321] treated and were in a condition of fearful emaciation, while the bodies of several who had died were also given up, among them that of Mr. Bowlby, correspondent of the London Times. This spectacle aroused the greatest indignation in the British camp. A terrible retribution might have been inflicted upon Peking had not a promise of its safety been given if the gate were surrendered. But the emperor's rural retreat lay at the mercy of the troops, and Lord Elgin gave orders that its palaces should be levelled with the ground. The French refused to aid in this act of vandalism, which they strongly condemned,—a verdict which has since been that of the civilized world. But Lord Elgin was fixed in his purpose, and the work of destruction went on.

Soon flames appeared above the devoted structures, and long columns of smoke rose to the sky, increasing in width and density as the day waned, until the canopy of smoke hung like a vast storm-cloud over Peking, and the sorrowful eyes of those on the walls saw the flashing fire that told of the swift destruction of what it had taken centuries to build. For two days the work of ruin in the imperial grounds went on, the soldiers carrying away what they could from the burning buildings, though a vast amount of property was destroyed, the loss being estimated at a value of over ten million dollars.

Threats were now made that unless compensation should be paid for the British subjects maltreated and murdered, and the treaty signed within a fixed period, the palace in Peking would be seized and other steps of violence taken. There was no redress[Pg 322] for the Chinese. They were in the grasp of their foes and were obliged to submit. On the 24th, Lord Elgin was carried in state in his green sedan-chair through the principal street of the city, attended by a force of about eight thousand soldiers, while multitudes of Chinese viewed the procession with curious eyes. Prince Kung awaited him in a large hall, and here the Treaty of Tien-tsin, to obtain a ratification of which the allies had come to Peking, was formally executed. At the close of the ceremonies the prince tendered a banquet, but the British declined the proffered honor, fearing that they might be poisoned by the Chinese cooks. A similar banquet offered to the French on the following day was readily accepted, and none of them suffered through their faith in the honor of their host.

Since the date of this war the process of opening China to the nations of the West has gone unceasingly on, the policy of exclusion of that old nation slowly but steadily giving way. In 1873, on the young emperor Tung-chi attaining his majority, the long-refused audience with the emperor without performing the kotow was granted, the ambassador of Japan being first received, and after him those of the United States, Russia, Great Britain, France, and the Netherlands. For the first time foreigners were permitted to stand erect and gaze with uplifted eyes on "the sacred countenance," and the equality with the emperor of the monarchs of the West was acknowledged by the Celestial court.[Pg 323]


The Chinese are a peculiar people, and have odd ideas of the power and duty of their monarchs and of their own rights and duties. In their country no son has the right to resist his father, even if he be treated with tyrannical cruelty. But in regard to the emperor, though they look upon him as the father of his people, they claim the right to depose him and put him to death if he plays the tyrant. So long as he rules with justice and wisdom both man and nature acknowledge his authority, but if he violates the principles of justice and goodness the Chinaman claims the right to rebel, while such evils of nature as pestilence and famine, destructive storms and earthquakes, are held as proofs that Heaven is withdrawing from the weak or wicked emperor the right to rule.

The history of the empire is full of instances of popular rebellions against offending rulers, some quelled, others hurling the monarch from his throne, and in this way most of the old dynasties ended and new ones began. The course of events brought about such a state of affairs in the nineteenth century. Though the Chinese have never been content with their Manchu rulers, they submitted to them as long as they were just and public-spirited. But in time[Pg 324] this dynasty suffered the fate of all others, weak emperors following the strong ones, and in the reign of the incompetent Kea-king, who succeeded Keen Lung, rebellions broke out in a dozen quarters, pirates ravaged the coast, and the disaffection extended throughout the realm.

In 1820 this weak emperor died, and was succeeded by Taou-kwang, who proved even less fit to rule than his father, devoting himself to the pursuit of pleasure and leaving the empire to take care of itself. Soon new rebels were in the field, whom the armies proved unable to put down, and the disorganization of the empire made rapid progress. Even the Meaou-tsze, or hill-tribes, the descendants of the first inhabitants of the country, rose in arms and defeated an army of thirty thousand men. War with the English added to the discontent, which grew greater until 1850, when the emperor died and his son Heen-fung ascended the throne.

This was going from bad to worse. The new emperor was still more selfish and tyrannical than his father, and under the control of his craving for sensual pleasures paid no heed to the popular cry for reform. The discontent was now coming to a head. In the south broke out a revolt, whose leaders proclaimed as emperor a youth said to be a descendant of the Ming dynasty, who took the royal name of Teen-tih, or "Heavenly Virtue." But he and his followers soon vanished before another and abler aspirant to the throne, the first man with a genius for command who had headed any of these rebel outbreaks.[Pg 325]

The leader of this remarkable movement sprang from the lowest ranks of the people, being the son of a peasant dwelling in a village near Canton. Hung Sew-tseuen was a man of ardent imagination and religious enthusiasm. Strange visions came to him, and held him captive for some forty days, in which the visitors of his dreaming fancy urged him to destroy the idols. Some years afterwards he read a Christian pamphlet containing chapters from the Scriptures, and found it to correspond closely with what he had seen and heard in his vision. Inspired by these various influences, he felt himself divinely commissioned to restore his country to the worship of the true God, and set out on a mission to convert the people to his new faith.

Fung-Yun-san, one of his first converts, ardently joined him, and the two traversed the country far and wide, preaching the religion of the Christian God. Their success was great, their converts all giving up the worship of Confucius and renouncing idolatry. Some of them were arrested for destroying idols, among them Fung-Yun-san, but on the way to prison he converted the soldiers of his guard, who set him free and followed him as disciples. Many of the converts were seized with convulsions, some professed to have the gift of healing, and the movement took on the phase of strong religious ecstasy and enthusiasm.

It was in 1850 that this effort assumed a political character. A large force of pirates had been driven by a British fleet from the sea, and on shore they joined the bandits of the south, and became rebels[Pg 326] against the Manchu rule. Hung's converts were mostly among this people, who soon took a strong stand against the misrule of the Tartars. The movement grew rapidly. From all sides recruits came to the rebel ranks, among them two women chiefs, each at the head of about two thousand men. Hung now proclaimed himself as sent by Heaven to drive out the Tartars—whom he declared to be examples of all that was base and vile—and to place a Chinese emperor on his country's throne.

Putting his forces in march, Hung made a remarkable progress of about one thousand miles to Woo-chang on the Yang-tse-Kiang and down that stream, the army fighting its way through all opposition. When towns and cities submitted their people were spared. Slaughter awaited those who resisted. Food and clothing were obtained by requisition on the people. The imperial troops were hurled back in defeat wherever met. Before battle it was the custom of the insurgents to kneel down and invoke the protection of God, after which they would charge their enemies with resistless zeal. City after city fell before them, and the whole empire regarded their march with surprise and dismay.

The converts professed faith in the Christian Scriptures, of which an imperfect translation was distributed among them. Hung announced that in case of success the Bible would be substituted for the works of Confucius. The Sabbath was strictly observed among them, forms of prayer to the Supreme Being were in constant use, and Englishmen who came among them spoke in the highest terms of their[Pg 327] pious devotion and their great kindliness of feeling. They welcomed Europeans as "brethren from across the sea" and as fellow-worshippers of "Yesu."

From Woo-chang Hung led his army in 1852 down the river towards Nanking, which he had fixed upon as the capital of his new empire. The disaffection of the people of Nanking was so great that little resistance was made except by the Tartar garrison, who were all put to death when the city fell. Being now in possession of the ancient capital of the kingdom, Hung proclaimed himself emperor under the name of Teen Wang, or "Heavenly King," giving to his dynasty the title of the Tai-ping.

And now for a number of years victory followed every movement of the Tai-ping army. Four leading cities of Central China were quickly occupied, and a brilliant march to the north was begun, in which, cutting loose from its base of supplies, the rebel host forced its way through all obstacles. The army penetrated as far north as Tien-tsin, and Peking itself was in imminent peril, being saved only by a severe repulse of the rebel forces. The advance of the British and French upon Peking aided the cause of the insurgents, and fear of them had much to do with the prompt surrender of the city to the foreign invaders.

After the war the tide of the insurrection turned and its decline began, mainly through the aid given by the English to the government forces. Ignoring the fact that the movement was a Christian one, and might have gone far towards establishing Christianity among the Chinese, and friendly relations with[Pg 328] foreign peoples, the English seemed mainly governed by the circumstance that opium was prohibited by the Tai-ping government at Nanking, the trade in this pernicious drug proving a far stronger interest with them than the hopeful results from the missionary movement.

Operations against the insurgents took place through the treaty ports, and British and French troops aided the imperial forces. The British cruisers treated the Tai-ping junks as pirates, because they captured Chinese vessels, and the soldiers and sailors of Great Britain took part in forty-three battles and massacres in which over four hundred thousand of the Tai-pings were killed. More than two millions of them are said to have died of starvation in the famine caused by the operations of the Chinese, British, and French allies.

General Ward, an American, led a force of natives against them, but their final overthrow was due to the famous Colonel Gordon, "Chinese Gordon," as he was subsequently known. He was not long in organizing the imperial troops, the "Ever-Victorious Army," into a powerful force, and in taking the field against the rebels. From that day their fortunes declined. City after city was taken from their garrisons, and in July, 1864, Nanking was invested with an immense army. Its fall ended the hopes of the Tai-ping dynasty. For three days the slaughter continued in its streets, while the new emperor avoided the sword of the foe by suicide. Those who escaped fled to their former homes, where many of them joined bands of banditti.[Pg 329]

Thus came to a disastrous end, through the aid of foreign arms, the most remarkable insurrectionary movement that China has ever known. What would have been its result had the Chinese been left to themselves it is not easy to say. The indications are strong that the Manchu dynasty would have fallen and the Chinese regained their own again. And the Christian faith and worship of the rebels, with their marked friendliness to foreigners, might have worked a moral and political revolution in the Chinese empire, and lifted that ancient land into a far higher position than it occupies to-day. But the interests of the opium trade were threatened, and before this all loftier considerations had to give way.[Pg 330]



We have thus far followed the course of two distinct streams of history, that of Japan and that of China, flowing near each other, yet touching at very few points in their course. Near the end of the nineteenth century these two streams flowed together, and the histories of the two countries became one, in the war in which their difference in military skill was so strikingly displayed. Japan made use of the lessons which it had well learned in its forty years of intercourse with Europe. China fought in the obsolete fashion of a past age. As a result, the cumbersome medićval giant went down before the alert modern dwarf, and the people of Eastern Asia were taught a new and astounding lesson in the art of war.

Between China and Japan lies the kingdom of Corea, separated by a river from the former, by a strait of the ocean from the latter, claimed as a vassal state by both, yet preserving its individuality as a state against the pair. It has often been invaded by China, but never conquered. It has twice been invaded by Japan, as described in preceding tales, and made tributary, but not conquered. Thus it remained until the end of the nineteenth century, when it was to become the cause of a war between the two rival empires.[Pg 331]

During the long history of China and Japan these countries very rarely came into conflict with each other. Only once has China invaded Japan, when Kublai Khan, the Mongol emperor, attempted its conquest with a great fleet, the fate of which we have already told. This effort had its influence upon Japan, for during the succeeding three centuries pirates from the island empire boldly raided the coast of China, devastating the maritime provinces and causing immense loss and suffering. They often built forts on the shore, from which they sallied forth to plunder and burn, keeping their ships at hand ready to fly if defeated. Thus they went on, plundering and destroying, their raids reaching a ruinous stage in 1553 and the succeeding years. They defeated the Chinese troops in several battles, ravaged the whole surrounding country, carried off immense quantities of spoil, sold multitudes of prisoners into slavery, and in seven or eight years slaughtered over one hundred thousand soldiers and citizens of China. The raids resembled those made at an earlier date by the Normans on the coast of France and the Danes on that of England, the sea-rovers pouncing down at unexpected times and places and plundering and burning at will.

These forays of the pirates, in which the government took no part, were followed in 1592 by an invasion in force of the kingdom of Corea. In this the invaders rapidly swept all before them, quickly overrunning the southern half of the kingdom and threatening China. The Chinese then came to the aid of their helpless neighbors, and for six years the[Pg 332] war went on, the Japanese being usually successful in the field, but gradually forced back from want of supplies, as the country was devastated and their own land distant. In the end Hideyoshi, the shogun, died, and the army was withdrawn, Japan holding the port of Fusan as the sole result of its costly effort. This Corean port it still retains.

And now three hundred years passed away in which Corea remained free and isolated from the world. It wanted no more intercourse with foreigners. Once a year a fair was held in the neutral zone between China and Corea, but any Chinaman found on Corean soil after the fair ended was liable to be put to death. The Japanese were kept out by laws as severe. In fact, the doors of the kingdom were closed against all of foreign birth, the coasts carefully patrolled, and beacon-fires kindled on the hill-tops to warn the capital whenever any strange vessel came within sight. All foreigners wrecked on the coast were to be held as prisoners until death. Such was the threatened fate of some Dutch sailors wrecked there during the seventeenth century, who escaped after fourteen years' confinement. Dread of China and Japan induced the king to send envoys with tribute to Peking and Yedo, but the tribute was small, and the isolation was maintained, Corea winning for itself the names of the Hermit Nation and the Forbidden Land.

It was not until within recent years that this policy of isolation was overthrown and Corea opened to the world. How this was done may be briefly told. In spite of the Corean watchfulness, some[Pg 333] French missionaries long ago penetrated into the land and made many converts, who were afterwards severely persecuted. French fleets were sent there in 1866 and later, and a fight took place in which the French were repulsed. In consequence the persecution of the Christians grew more severe. War-ships were sent by different nations to try to open trade, but in vain, and finally an American trading vessel was destroyed and its crew massacred.

This affair brought a fleet from the United States to the coast of Corea in 1871, which, being fired on from the shore, attacked and captured five Corean forts. The opening of Corea was finally due to Japan. In 1876 the Japanese did what Commodore Perry had done to themselves twenty-two years before. A fleet was sent which sailed up within sight of Seoul, the capital, and by a display of men and guns forced the government to sign a treaty opening the country to trade through the port of Fusan. In 1880 Chemulpo was also made an open port. Two years afterwards a United States fleet obtained similar concessions, and within a short time most of the countries of Europe were admitted to trade, and the long isolation of the Hermit Kingdom was at an end.

These events were followed by a rivalry between China and Japan, in which the latter country showed itself much the more active and alert. Imposing Japanese consulates were built in Seoul, flourishing settlements were laid out, and energetic steps taken to make Japan the paramount power in Corea. As a result, the Coreans became divided into two factions, a progressive one which favored the Japanese,[Pg 334] and a conservative one which was more in touch with the backwardness of China and whose members hated the stirring islanders.

In 1882 a plot was formed by the Min faction, the active element in the conservative party, to drive the Japanese out of Seoul. The intruders were attacked, a number of them were murdered, and the minister and others had to fight their way to the sea-shore, where they escaped on a junk. Two years afterwards a similar outbreak took place, and the Japanese were once more forced to fight for their lives from Seoul to the sea. On this occasion Chinese soldiers aided the Coreans, an act which threatened to involve Japan and China in war. The dispute was settled in 1885 by a treaty, in which both countries agreed to withdraw their troops from Corea and to send no officers to drill the Corean troops. If at any future time disturbances should call for the sending of troops to Corea, each country must notify the other before doing so. And thus, for nine years, the rivalry of the foreign powers ceased.

Meanwhile internal discontent was rife in the Corean realm. The people were oppressed by heavy taxes and the other evils of tyranny and misgovernment, excited by the political questions described, and stirred to great feeling by the labors of the Christian missionaries and the persecution of their converts. One outcome of this was a new religious sect. At the same time that the Tai-ping rebels were spreading their new doctrines in China, a prophet, Choi-Chei-Ou by name, arose in Corea, who taught a doctrine made up of dogmas of the three religions of China,[Pg 335] with some Christian ideas thrown in. This prophet was seized as a Roman Catholic in 1865 and executed, but his followers, known as the Tong-Haks, held firm to their faith. In 1893 some of them appeared with complaints of ill usage at the king's palace, and in March, 1894, they broke out in open revolt, and increased in numbers so rapidly that by May they were said to be twenty thousand strong.

The government troops drove them back into a mountain region, but here the pursuers were cunningly led into an ambuscade and routed with severe loss. This victory of the rebels filled the government with consternation, which became greater when the insurgents, on June 1, took the capital of the province of Chölla. It was now feared that they would soon be at the gates of Seoul.

This insurrection of the Tong-Haks was the inciting cause of the war between China and Japan. The Min faction, then at the head of affairs, was so alarmed that aid from China was implored, and a force of about two thousand Chinese troops was sent to the port of Asan. Some Chinese men-of-war were also despatched. This action of China was quickly followed by similar action on the part of Japan, which was jealous of any Chinese movement in Corea. The Japanese minister, who had been absent, returned to Seoul with four hundred marines. Other troops quickly followed, and in a short time there were several thousand Japanese soldiers stationed around the Corean capital.

The sending of troops to Corea was succeeded by disputes between the two foreign powers. China[Pg 336] claimed to be suzerain of Corea, a claim which Japan sternly denied. On the other hand, the Japanese government declared that the Tong-Hak movement was a natural result of the prevailing misgovernment, and could not be overcome unless radical reforms were carried out. China was asked to take part in instituting a series of reforms, but declined.

The situation quickly grew serious. The Mins, who controlled the government, declared that the Japanese troops must be withdrawn before the reforms could be instituted. The Japanese refused. Neither China nor Japan would yield, but the latter held the capital and had the controlling position.

It was not long before a crisis came. On July 20, Otori, the Japanese minister, made certain demands on the Corean government, and stated that the presence of the Chinese soldiers was a threat to the independence of the country, their general having proclaimed that Corea was a vassal state. On the 22d the officials answered that the Chinese had come at their request and would stay until asked to leave. The next step of the Japanese was a warlike one. On the early morning of the 23d two battalions marched from their camp, stating that they were going to attack the Chinese at Asan. But they quickly changed the direction of their march, advanced upon the palace, drove out the Corean guard, and took possession both of the palace and of the king. They declared they had come to deliver him from an obnoxious faction and restore his freedom of action.

The Min party was at once driven out and replaced by new officials chosen from the progressive faction.[Pg 337] With a feeble resistance, in which only two men were killed and a few wounded, a revolution had been accomplished and a government which favored Japan established. The new authorities at once declared the Chinese at Asan to be intruders instead of defenders, and requested the aid of the Japanese to drive them out. War between China and Japan was at hand.

Hostilities were precipitated by a startling event. On July 25 three Japanese men-of-war, cruising in the Yellow Sea, sighted two ships of the Chinese navy convoying a transport which had on board about twelve hundred troops. They were a portion of a large force which was being sent to Corea with the purpose of reinforcing the troops at Asan and expelling the Japanese.

The Chinese ships were cleared for action, and, though the Japanese were ignorant of the late event at Seoul, they at once accepted the wager of battle, and attacked the ships of the enemy with such effect that they were quickly crippled and put to flight. The Naniwa, the Japanese flag-ship, now approached the transport, a chartered British vessel named the Kowshing and flying the British flag. A boat was sent from the Japanese cruiser to the steamer, her papers were examined, and orders given that she should follow the Naniwa. This the Chinese generals refused to do, excitedly declaring that they would perish rather than be taken prisoners. Their excitement was shared by the troops, who ran wildly about the deck, threatening the officers and the Europeans on board with death if they attempted to obey the order of the enemy.[Pg 338]

They trusted to the protection of the British flag, but it proved of no avail, for the captain of the Naniwa, finding his orders defied, opened fire on the transport, with such effect that in half an hour it went to the bottom, carrying down with it over one thousand souls. The officers, the Europeans, and many of the Chinese sprang overboard, but numbers of these were shot in the water by the frantic soldiers on board. In all only about one hundred and seventy escaped.

This terrible act of war at sea was accompanied by a warlike movement on land, the Japanese forces leaving Seoul on the same day to march on Asan and expel the Chinese. On the 29th they attacked the enemy in their works and quickly drove them out, little resistance being made. These events preceded the declaration of war, which was made by both countries on August 1, 1894.

The story of the war that followed was one of unceasing victory for the Japanese, their enemy making scarcely an effort at resistance, and fleeing from powerful strongholds on which they had expended months of hard labor with scarcely a blow in their defence. Such was the case with Port Arthur, which in other hands might have proved a Gibraltar to assailing troops. The war continued until April 17, 1895, when a treaty of peace was signed, which remarkably changed the relative positions of the two powers before the world, China having met with utter and irretrievable defeat. The war yielded but a single event of novel interest, the famous naval battle of Hai-yang, which we shall describe more at length.[Pg 339]


In these latter days the world seems overturned. Events of startling interest are every year taking place, new discoveries are made, new inventions produced, new explorations completed, peoples and tribes formerly not even known by name are becoming prominent in daily history, and nations which seemed sunk in a death-like slumber are awakening and claiming a place among the leading powers of the world. And of all these events perhaps the most astounding is that which took place in September, 1894, the battle of iron-clads in the Yellow Sea.

About forty years before there had begun among Western nations a remarkable revolution in naval warfare, the substitution of the iron-clad for the wooden man-of-war. During the interval this evolution of the iron-clad had gone briskly on, until by 1894 the nations of Europe and America possessed fleets of such wonderful powers of resistance that the naval artillery of the past would have had no more effect upon them than hailstones upon an iron roof. But a revolution in artillery had also taken place. The old smooth-bore guns had been replaced by great rifled cannon capable of sending a heavy ball for ten or twelve miles and of piercing through steel plates of[Pg 340] moderate thickness as through so much paper. With these came the quick-fire guns, from whose gaping mouths cannon-balls could be rained like the drops of a rapid shower, and the torpedoes, capable of tearing ruinous holes in the sides and bottoms of the mightiest ships.

Such was the work that was doing in the West while the East slept calmly on. But no occasion had arisen for putting to the proof these great floating engines of war. Theories in abundance were offered of the probable effect upon one another of two modern fleets, but the dread of terrible results had a potent influence, and fear of the destructive powers of modern ships and armies had proved the strongest of arguments in keeping the nations of the world at peace.

The astounding event spoken of is the fact that the iron-clad battle-ship of the present day was first put to proof in the waters of the Yellow Sea, in a war between two nations which half a century before were hardly beyond the bow-and-arrow stage of warfare, and were still novices in the modern art of war. The naval inventions made in Europe and America had their first trial in a conflict between China and Japan, and the interest with which maritime nations read of the doings of these powerful engines of war in those far-off waters was intense.

Japan had been alert in availing itself of all the world knew about war, providing its army with the best modern weapons and organizing them in the most effective European method, while purchased iron-clads replaced its old fleet of junks. China,[Pg 341] though doing little for the improvement of its army, had bought itself a modern fleet, two of its ships, the Ting-yuen and Chen-yuen, having fourteen inches of iron armor, and surpassing in size and strength anything that Japan had to show. These vessels were all armed with the most effective of modern weapons, were handled by men trained in the theories of European war, and seemed capable of the most destructive results.

On the 17th of September, 1894, an epoch-making battle of these iron-clads took place. It was a remarkably different event from the first engagement of this sort, that between the Monitor and the Merrimac in Hampton Roads, for the guns now brought into play would have pierced the armor of those vessels as if it had been made of tin. The Japanese squadron had just convoyed a fleet of transports, bearing ten thousand troops and thirty-five hundred horses, to Chemulpo, near the Corean capital. The Chinese squadron had similarly convoyed four thousand troops to the Yalu River. These were landed on the 16th, and on the morning of the 17th the fleet started on its return. On the same morning the Japanese fleet reached the island of Hai-yang, leaving their torpedo-boats behind, as there was no thought of fighting a battle. About nine o'clock smoke was seen in the distance, and at eleven-forty the Chinese fleet came into sight.

The Japanese fleet consisted of ten vessels, the First Flying Squadron, consisting of four fine cruisers of high speed, and the Main Squadron, composed of six vessels of lower speed. There were two smaller[Pg 342] ships, of no value as fighting vessels. The Chinese fleet was composed of twelve vessels and six torpedo-boats, though two of the vessels and the torpedo-boats were at a distance, so that the effective fighting force on each side was composed of ten ships-of-war. The Chinese fleet included the two great ships already named, the Ting-yuen and Chen-yuen. The latter, as has been said, were heavily armored. The other Chinese ships were lightly protected, and some of them not at all. None of the Japanese vessels had external armor, their protection consisting of steel decks and internal lining down to the water-line.

On perceiving the enemy's ships, Admiral Ito, of the Japanese fleet, at once gave orders to his captains to prepare for action. Ting, the Chinese admiral, did the same, drawing up his fleet in a single line, with the large ships in the centre and the weaker ones on the wings. Ito, who proposed to take advantage of the superior speed of his ships and circle round his adversary, drew up his vessels in a single column with the Flying Squadron at the head.

The action began at 1 P.M., the Chinese opening fire at about six thousand yards, the Japanese reserving their fire until at half that distance. Ito headed his ships straight for the centre of the Chinese line, but on drawing near they swerved so as to pass the Chinese right wing, their speed being at the same time increased. As the Yoshino, which led the movement, came up, she became a target for the whole Chinese fleet, but her speed soon carried[Pg 343] her out of danger, the Flying Squadron sweeping swiftly past the Chinese right wing and pouring a deadly fire on the unprotected vessels there posted as they passed. The stream of shells from the rapid-fire guns tore the wood-work of these vessels into splinters and set it on fire, the nearest ship, the Yang Wei, soon bursting into flames.

The Japanese admiral, keeping at a distance from the large central vessels with their heavy guns, and concentrating his fire on the smaller flanking ships, continued his evolution, the Main Squadron following the Flying Squadron past the Chinese right wing and pouring its fire on the second ship in the line, the Chao-yung, which, like its consort, was soon in flames. This movement, however, proved a disadvantage to the slower vessels of the Japanese fleet, which could not keep pace with their consorts, particularly to the Hiyei, which lagged so far in the rear as to become exposed to the fire of the whole Chinese fleet, now rapidly forging ahead. In this dilemma its commander took a bold resolve. Turning, he ran directly for the line of the enemy, passing between the Ting-yuen and the King-yuen at five hundred yards' distance. Two torpedoes which were launched at him fortunately missed, but he had to bear the fire of several of his antagonists, and came through the line with his vessel in flames. The Akagi, a little Japanese gunboat, hurried to his aid, though seriously cut up by the fire of the Lai-yuen, which pursued until set on fire and forced to withdraw by a lucky shot in return. Meanwhile the Flying Squadron had wheeled to meet the two distant[Pg 344] Chinese ships, which were hastily coming up in company with the torpedo-boats. On seeing this movement they drew back and kept well out of reach. Somewhat later these vessels took part in the action, though not an important one. At 2.23 P.M. the Chao-yang, which had been riddled by the fire of the Main Squadron, sank, the cries of the drowning men sounding above the roar of the cannon as she went down.

As a result of the Japanese evolution, the two squadrons finally closed in on the Chinese fleet on both sides and the battle reached its most furious phase. The two flag-ships, the Japanese Matsushima and the Chinese Ting-yuen, poured the fire of their great guns upon each other with terrible effect, the wood-work of the Chinese iron-clad being soon in flames, while a shell that burst on the Matsushima exploded a heap of ammunition and killed or wounded eighty men. Fire broke out, but it was soon extinguished. Almost all the Japanese gunners were killed, but volunteers pressed forward to take their place, among them even the band-players.

On the Chinese flag-ship the flames drove the gunners from their pieces, and she would probably have been destroyed had not the Chen-yuen come bravely to her aid. The fire was finally extinguished by the aid of some foreigners who were on board. It may be said here that the fire-drill of the Japanese was far superior to that of their foes.

The Japanese continued their circling movement around their slower antagonists, pouring a concentrated fire upon the weaker vessels, of which the[Pg 345] Chih-yuen was sunk at about 3.30 P.M. and the King-yuen at 4.48. By this time the Chinese fleet was in the greatest disorder, its line broken, some of its vessels in full flight, and all coherence gone. The fire of the Japanese fleet was now principally directed against the two large iron-clads, but the fourteen-inch armor of these resisted the heaviest guns in the Japanese fleet, and, though their upper works were riddled and burnt, they were able to continue the battle.

In the fight here described the Japanese had shown a discipline and a skill in naval tactics far superior to those of their foes. They had kept at a distance of about four thousand yards from their antagonists, so as to avoid their heavy fire and make the most advantageous use of their larger number of rapid-fire guns and also of their much better marksmanship. The result of the battle was not due to greater courage, but to superior skill and more effective armament.

At nightfall, as the torpedo-boats had now joined the Chinese fleet, the Japanese drew off, not caring to risk the perils of a battle at night with such antagonists, both sides being also exhausted by the long fight. The next morning the Chinese fleet had disappeared. It had lost four vessels in the fight, and a fifth afterwards ran ashore and was blown up. Two of the Japanese ships were badly damaged, but none were lost, while the total loss in killed and wounded was two hundred and eighteen, nearly half of them on the flag-ship. The Chinese lost far more heavily, from the sinking of a number of their ships.[Pg 346]

Thus ended the typical battle of modern naval warfare, one whose result was mainly due to the greater speed and rapid evolutions of the Japanese ships and the skill with which they concentrated a crushing fire on the weak points of the enemy's line. The work of the quick-firing guns was the most striking feature of the battle, while the absence of torpedo-boats prevented that essential element of a modern fleet from being brought into play. An important lesson learned was that too much wood-work in an iron-clad vessel is a dangerous feature, and naval architects have since done their best to avoid this weak point in the construction of ships-of-war. But the most remarkable characteristic of the affair is that the battle was fought by two nations which, had the war broken out forty years before, would have done their naval fighting with fleets of junks.

It may be said in conclusion that the Chinese fleet was annihilated in the later attack on the port of Wei-hai-wei, many of the vessels being destroyed by torpedo-boats, and the remainder, unable to escape from the harbor, being forced to surrender to the Japanese. Thus ended in utter disaster to China the naval war.[Pg 347]



We have in the preceding tales brought down from a remote period the history of the two oldest nations now existing on the face of the earth. There are peoples as old, but none others which have kept intact their national organization and form of government for thousands of years. Invasion, conquest, rebellion, revolution, have kept the rest of the world in a busy stir and caused frequent changes in nations and governments. But Japan and China lay aside from the broad current of invasion, removed from the general seat of war, and no internal convulsion or local invasion had been strong enough to change their political systems or modes of life. And thus these two isolated empires of the East drifted down intact through the ages to the middle of the nineteenth century, when their millennial sleep was rudely broken and their policy of isolation overthrown.

This was due, as has been shown, to the coming of the navies of Europe and America, bent on breaking down the barriers that had been raised against the civilization of the West and forcing these remote empires to enter the concert of the nations and open their ports to the commerce of the world. Concerning all this we have no tales to tell, but a brief account of the effect of foreign intercourse upon[Pg 348] China and Japan will fitly serve to close our work and outline the recent history of these two great powers of the East.

There are marked differences of character between the Chinese and the Japanese, and these differences have had a striking effect upon their recent history. In the Japanese we find a warlike and aggressive people, a stirring and inquisitive race, not, like their neighbors on the continent, lost in contemplation of their ancient literature and disdainful of any civilization but their own, but ready and eager to avail themselves of all that the world has to offer worth the having. In the Chinese we find a non-aggressive people, by nature and custom disinclined to war, asking only, so far as outer nations are concerned, to be let alone, and in no sense inquisitive concerning the doings of the world at large. Of their civilization, which goes back beyond the reputed date of the Deluge, they are intensely proud, their ancient literature, in their conception, is far superior to the literatures of all other nations, and their self-satisfaction is so ingrained that they still stand aloof in mental isolation from the world, only the most progressive among them seeing anything to be gained from foreign arts. These differences in character have given rise to a remarkable difference in results. The Japanese have been alert in availing themselves of all things new, the Chinese torpid and slow, sluggishly resisting change, hardly yielding even to the logic of war.

There is nothing in the history of the world to match the phenomenal progress of Japan since the visit of Commodore Perry in 1853. If it had been[Pg 349] the people of the United States, instead of those of that archipelago of the Eastern seas, that in this way first gained a knowledge of the progress of the outer world, they could not have been readier in changing their old institutions and ideas and accepting a new and strange civilization offered them from afar than have been the alert islanders of the East.

When the American fleet entered the Bay of Yedo it found itself in the heart of a civilization and institutions a thousand years and more of age. The shogun, the military chief, was the actual ruler of Japan, as he had been for many centuries before, the mikado, the titular ruler, being still buried in that isolation into which he had long since withdrawn. It was only a dim tradition with the people that the mikado had ever been emperor in fact, and they looked on him as a religious potentate to be worshipped, not as a ruler to be obeyed. The feudal system, established in the past centuries, was still intact, the provincial lords and princes being held in strict vassalage by the shogun, or tai-kun (great king), as he then first termed himself. In truth, Japan was still in its medićval state, from which it showed scarcely a sign of emerging.

The coming of the foreigners made a sudden and decided change in the situation. Within less than twenty years the whole condition of affairs had been overturned; the shogun had been deposed from his high estate, the mikado had come to his own again, the feudal system had been abolished, and the people beheld with surprise and delight their spiritual emperor at the head of the state, absolute lord of their[Pg 350] secular world, while the military tyranny under which they so long had groaned was irremediably annulled.

Such was the first great step in the political revolution of Japan. It was followed by another and still greater one, an act without a parallel in the history of autocratic governments. This was the voluntary relinquishment of absolutism by the emperor, the calling together of a parliament, and the adoption of a representative government on the types of those of the West. In all history we can recall no similar event. All preceding parliaments came into existence through revolution or gradual growth, in no other instance through the voluntary abdication of autocratic power and the adoption of parliamentary rule by an emperor moved alone by a desire for the good of his people and the reform of the system of government.

Japan had learned the lesson of civilization swiftly and well, her ablest sons devoting themselves to the task of bringing their country to the level of the foremost nations of the earth. Young men in numbers were sent abroad to observe the ways of the civilized world, to become familiar with its industries, and to study in its universities, and these on their return were placed at the head of affairs, industrial, educational, and political. No branch of modern art and science was neglected, the best to be had from every nation being intelligently studied by the inquisitive and quick-witted island youth.

The war with China first revealed to the world the marvellous progress of Japan in the military art.[Pg 351] Her armies were armed and disciplined in accordance with the best system of the West, and her warlike operations conducted on the most approved methods, though only native officers were employed. The rapidity with which troops, amounting to eighty thousand in all, and the necessary supplies were carried across the sea, and the skilful evolution, under native officers, of a fleet of vessels of a type not dreamed of in Japan thirty years before, was a new revelation to the observing world. And in another direction it was made evident that Japan had learned a valuable lesson from the nations of Christendom. Instead of the massacres of their earlier wars, they now displayed the most humanitarian moderation. There was no ill treatment of the peaceful inhabitants, while ambulances and field hospitals were put at the disposal of the wounded of both sides, with a humane kindness greatly to be commended.

But the lessons taught in this war were of minor interest and importance in comparison with those of a much greater war ten years later. In those ten years the progress of Japan had been proceeding with accelerated rapidity. There was little of leading value in the arts and industries of the West which had not been introduced into this island empire, the equipment of her army vied with that of the most advanced powers, her navy possessed a number of the most powerful type of steel-clad battle-ships, she had been admitted into the family of the great nations by a compact on equal terms with Great Britain, and she had become adapted to cope with powers vastly more capable in the arts of[Pg 352] war than China, to deal, indeed, with one of the greatest and much the most populous of European nations.

This was soon to be shown. The Boxer outbreak of 1900 in China ended with Manchuria practically possessed by Russia, a possession which that nation seemed disposed to maintain in defiance of treaty obligations to China and of the energetic protest of Japan. As a result, to the surprise, almost to the consternation of the world, Japan boldly engaged in war with the huge colossus which bestrode Asia and half of Europe, and to the amazement of the nations showed a military aptitude and preparation and a command of resources which enabled her to defeat the armies of Russia in every engagement, to capture the great stronghold of Port Arthur, to win victories on the sea as notable as those on the land, and in the end to impose upon Russia a treaty of peace humiliating in its provisions to the proud Muscovite court. This victorious war settled the status of Japan so far as the decision of the nations was concerned. The island empire was definitely accepted as one of the great powers of the world. Its standing in war had been established, and was rapidly being matched by its standing in peace, its progress in commerce, industry, and science promising to raise it to the plane of the most advanced nations.

While little Japan was thus forging swiftly ahead, great China was stolidly holding back. This was not from lack of intelligence or the disposition to avail itself of material advantages, but from the[Pg 353] pride of its people and scholars in their own civilization and their belief in the barbarism of the outer world. This sentiment was so deeply ingrained as to make it hard to eradicate.

China was not without its reformers, and such progressive men as Li Hung Chang had their influence. Steamships made their appearance upon the inland waters of the empire, the telegraph was widely extended, and a navy of modern war-ships was bought abroad. But the army, organized on medićval principles, went to pieces before that of Japan, while the ships, though their crews fought with courage and resolution, proved unable to bear the impact of the better handled Japanese fleet.

Aside from its shipping and the telegraph, China at that time showed little disposition to accept modern improvements. The introduction of the railroad was strongly resisted, and commerce, industry, mining, etc., continued to be conducted by antiquated methods. Nothing of value seemed to have been learned from the war with Japan, and even the seizure of parts of its territory by the powers of Europe and the threat to dismember and divide it up among these powers seemed insufficient to arouse it from its sluggish self-satisfaction.

Yet thought was stirring in the minds of many of the statesmen of China, and the small band of reformers began to grow in numbers and influence. The events of the twentieth century—the Boxer insurrection, the capture of Peking by foreign armies, the retention of Manchuria by Russia, and above all the mighty lesson of the Manchurian war, which[Pg 354] demonstrated admirably the revolution which modern methods had made in Japan—proved more than even the conservatism of China could endure. Within the few years since the dawn of the twentieth century the torpid leviathan of the East has shown decided signs of awakening. Most prominent among these indications is the fact that the ruling empress, but recently a mainstay of the conservative party, has entered the ranks of reform and given her imperial assent to radical changes in Chinese methods and conditions.

Everywhere in China are now visible indications of the dawning of a new era. The railroad is making its way with encouraging rapidity over the soil of the celestial realm. New and improved methods in mining and manufacture are being adopted. Other evidences of progress in material things are seen in various directions. But most promising of all is the fact that the time-honored method of restricting education to the ethical dogmas of Confucius has been overthrown and modern science is being taught in the schools and made part of the requirements of the annual examinations for positions in the civil service of the empire. A new race of scholars is being made in China, one which cannot fail to use its influence to bring that old empire into the swing of modern progress.

Equally significant with this revolution in the system of education is the seemingly coming change in the system of government. Statesmen of China are now engaged, under the sanction of the empress, in studying the governmental systems of other[Pg 355] nations, with a view of a possible adoption of representative institutions and the overthrow of the absolutism which has for ages prevailed. And this is being done at the instance of the government itself, not in response to the demands of insistent reformers. Back of the study of Western methods lies the power to introduce them, and the probability is that before another generation has passed China will be classed among the limited monarchies of the world, even if it be not admitted to the circle

These radical changes are of very recent introduction. They are results of the developments of the past few years. But when we see the ball of progress rolling so swiftly and gathering new material so rapidly, we may well conjecture that before many years the China of the past will be buried under its mass and modern China, like modern Japan, take rank among the most progressive nations of the world.

Transcribers Notes:

4 corrections made based on (multiple) correct spellings elsewhere in text.

pg. 12 "Takenouchi" to "Takénouchi" (2) (statesman named Takénouchi)

pg. 148 "Yang-tsze Kiang" to "Yang-tse-Kiang" (3) (river Yang-tse-Kiang,)

pg. 280 "sufered" to "suffered" (now Chungwan suffered)

pg. 337 "flagship" to "flag-ship" (4) (the Japanese flag-ship,)

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