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- China - 3/83 -


much certainty in his reign as that of the roads of Europe in the days of Imperial Rome. When advised to assign some portion of his power to his relatives and high officials in the provinces he refused to repeat the blunders of his predecessors, and laid down the permanent truth that "good government is impossible under a multiplicity of masters." He centralized the power in his own hands, and he drew up an organization for the civil service of the State which virtually exists at the present day. The two salient features in that organization are the indisputable supremacy of the emperor and the non-employment of the officials in their native provinces, and the experience of two thousand years has proved their practical value.

When he conquered his internal enemies he resolved to complete the pacification of his country by effecting a general disarmament, and he ordered that all weapons should be sent in to his capital at Hienyang. This "skillful disarming of the provinces added daily to the wealth and prosperity of the capital," which he proceeded to embellish. He built one palace within the walls, and the Hall of Audience was ornamented with twelve statues, each of which weighed twelve thousand pounds. But his principal residence named the Palace of Delight, was without the walls, and there he laid out magnificent gardens, and added building to building. In one of the courts of this latter palace, it is said he could have drawn up 10,000 soldiers. This eye to military requirements in even the building of his residence showed the temper of his mind, and, in his efforts to form a regular army, he had recourse to "those classes in the community who were without any fixed profession, and who were possessed of exceptional physical strength." He was thus the earliest possessor in China of what might be called a regular standing army. With this force he succeeded in establishing his power on a firm basis, and he may have hoped also to insure permanence for his dynasty; but, alas! for the fallacy of human expectations, the structure he erected fell with him.

Great as an administrator, and successful as a soldier, Hwangti was unfortunate in one struggle that he provoked. At an early period of his career, when success seemed uncertain, he found that his bitterest opponents were men of letters, and that the literary class as a body was hostile to his interests and person. Instead of ignoring this opposition or seeking to overcome it by the same agency, Hwangti expressed his hatred and contempt, not only of the literary class, but of literature itself, and resorted to extreme measures of coercion. The writers took up the gage of battle thrown down by the emperor, and Hwangti became the object of the wit and abuse of every literate who could use a pencil. His birth was aspersed. It was said that he was not a Tsin at all, that his origin was of the humblest, and that he was a substituted child foisted on the last of the Tsin princes. These personal attacks were accompanied by unfavorable criticism of all his measures, and by censure where he felt that he deserved praise. It would have been more prudent if he had shown greater indifference and patience, for although he had the satisfaction of triumphing by brute force over those who jeered at him, the triumph was accomplished by an act of Vandalism, with which his name will be quite as closely associated in history as any of the wise measures or great works that he carried out. His vanquished opponents left behind them a legacy of hostility and revenge of the whole literary class of China, which has found expression in all the national histories.

The struggle, which had been in progress for some years, reached its culminating point in the year 213 B.C., when a Grand Council of the empire was summoned at Hienyang. At this council were present not only the emperor's chief military and civil officers from the different provinces, but also the large literary class, composed of aspirants to office and the members of the academies and College of Censors. The opposing forces in China were thus drawn up face to face, and it would have been surprising if a collision had not occurred. On the one side were the supporters of the man who had made China again an empire, believers in his person and sharers in his glory; on the other were those who had no admiration for this ruler, who detested his works, proclaimed his successes dangerous innovations, and questioned his right to bear the royal name. The purpose of the emperor may be detected when he called upon speakers in this assembly of his friends and foes to express their opinions of his administration, and when a member of his household rose to extol his work and to declare that he had "surpassed the very greatest of his predecessors." This courtier-like declaration, which would have been excusable even if it had had a less basis of truth than it unquestionably possessed in the case of Hwangti, was received with murmurs and marks of dissent by the literati. One of them rose and denounced the speaker as "a vile flatterer," and proceeded to expatiate on the superior merit of several of the earlier rulers. Not content with this unseasonable eulogy, he advocated the restoration of the empire to its old form of principalities, and the consequent undoing of all that Hwangti had accomplished. Hwangti interrupted this speaker and called upon his favorite minister Lisseh to reply to him and explain his policy. Lisseh began by stating what has often been said since, and in other countries, 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 approached to it, but the practical government which consists in keeping men within the sphere of their proper duties." He then proceeded to denounce the literary class as being hostile to the State, and to recommend the destruction of their works, declaring that "now is the time or never to close the mouths of these secret enemies and to place a curb on their audacity." The emperor at once from his throne ratified the policy and ordered that no time should be lost in executing the necessary measures. All books were proscribed, and orders were issued to burn every work except those relating to medicine, agriculture, and such science as then existed. The destruction of the national literature was carried out with terrible completeness, and such works as were preserved are not free from the suspicion of being garbled or incomplete versions of their original text. The burning of the books was accompanied by the execution of five hundred of the literati, and by the banishment of many thousands. By this sweeping measure, to which no parallel is to be found in the history of other countries, Hwangti silenced during the last few years of his life the criticisms of his chief enemies, but in revenge his memory has had to bear for two thousand years the sully of an inexcusable act of tyranny and narrow-mindedness. The price will be pronounced too heavy for what was a momentary gratification.

The reign of Hwangti was not prolonged many years after the burning of the books. In 210 B.C. he was seized with a serious illness, to which he succumbed, partly because he took no precautions, and partly, no doubt, through the incompetence of his physicians. His funeral was magnificent, and, like the Huns, his grave was dug in the bed of a river, and with him were buried his wives and his treasure. This great ruler left behind him an example of vigor such as is seldom found in the list of Chinese kings of effete physique and apathetic life. He is the only Chinese emperor of whom it is said that his favorite exercise was walking, and his vigor was apparent in every department of State. On one occasion when he placed a large army of, it is said, 600,000 men at the disposal of one of his generals, the commander expressed some fear as to how this huge force was to be fed. Hwangti at once replied, "Leave it to me. I will provide for everything. There shall be want rather in my palace than in your camp." He does not seem to have been a great general himself, but he knew how to select the best commanders, and he was also so quick in discovering the merits of the generals opposed to him, that some of his most notable victories were obtained by his skill in detaching them from their service or by ruining their reputation by some intrigue more astute than honorable. Yet, all deductions made, Tsin Chi Hwangti stands forth as a great ruler and remarkable man.

The Tsin dynasty only survived its founder a few years. Hwangti's son Eulchi became emperor, but he reigned no more than three years. He was foolish enough to get rid of the general Moungtien, who might have been the buttress of his throne; and the minister Lisseh was poisoned, either with or without his connivance. Eulchi himself shared the same fate, and his successor, Ing Wang, reigned only six weeks, committing suicide after losing a battle, and with him the Tsin dynasty came to an end. Its chief, nay its only claim to distinction, arises from its having produced the great ruler Hwangti, and its destiny was Napoleonic in its brilliance and evanescence.

Looking back at the long period which connects the mythical age with what may be considered the distinctly historical epoch of the Tsins, we find that by the close of the third century before the Christian era China possessed settled institutions, the most remarkable portion of its still existing literature, and mighty rulers. It is hardly open to doubt that the Chinese annalist finds in these remote ages as much interest and instruction as we should in the record of more recent times, and proof of this may be discovered in the fact that the history of the first four dynasties, which we must dismiss in these few pages, occupies as much space in the national history as the chronicle of events from Tsin Chi Hwangti to the end of the Ming dynasty in 1644, at which date the official history of China stops, because the history of the Manchu dynasty, which has occupied the throne ever since, will only be given to the world after it has ceased to rule. We must not be surprised at this discursiveness, because the teachings of human experience are as clearly marked in those early times as they have been since, and Chinese historians aim as much at establishing moral and philosophical truths as at giving a complete record of events. The consequences of human folly and incompetence are as patent and conspicuous in those days as they are now. The ruling power is lost by one family and transferred to another because the prince neglects his business, gives himself over to the indulgence of pleasure, or fails to see the signs of the times. Cowardice and corruption receive their due and inevitable punishment. The founders of the dynasties are all brave and successful warriors, who are superior to the cant of a hypercivilized state of society, which covers declining vigor and marks the first phase of effeteness, and who see that as long as there are human passions they may be molded by genius to make the many serve the few and to build up an autocracy. Nor are the lessons to be learned from history applicable only to individuals. The faults of an emperor are felt in every household of the community, and injure the State. Indifference and obtuseness at the capital entailed weakness on the frontier and in the provincial capitals. The barbarians grew defiant and aggressive, and defeated the imperial forces. The provincial governors asserted their independence, and founded ruling families. The empire became attenuated by external attack and internal division. But, to use tho phrase of the Chinese historians, "after long abiding disunion, union revived." The strong and capable man always appears in one form or another, and the Chinese people, impressed with a belief in both the divine mission of their emperor and also in the value of union, welcome with acclaim the advent of the prince who will restore their favorite and ideal system of one-man government. The time is still hidden in a far-distant and undiscoverable future when it will be otherwise, and when the Chinese will be drawn away from their consistent and ancient practice to pursue the ignis fatuus of European politics that seeks to combine human equality with good practical government and national security. The Chinese have another and more attainable ideal, nor is there any likelihood of their changing it. The fall of dynasties may, needs must, continue in the ordinary course of nature, but in China it will not pave the way to a republic. The imperial authority will rise triumphant after every struggle above the storm.

CHAPTER II

THE FIRST NATIONAL DYNASTY

As the Chinese are still proud to call themselves the sons of Han, it will be understood that the period covered by the Han rulers must be an important epoch in their history, and in more than one respect they were


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