Imágenes de páginas

than had been set on his own head, he quietly awaited their being laid at his feet.

* After waiting, however, a long time, and nobody bringing the heads of the offenders, Siu got tired, and wrote to the emperor for permission to withdraw to Canton, which he said, in a letter published in the Pekin Gazette, was threatened by the troops of Donna Maria da Gloria, Queen of Portugal! Served by lying, incapable mandarins, and defended by mercenary, cowardly troops, the whole of this gigantic empire was, indeed, threatened with dissolution from the moment that the insurrection declared itself; and, except in the occasional holding out of a walled city or stronghold, the Tartars appear never to have offered any very serious obstacle to the progress of the rebellion from the first moment of its existence, till from Kwang-si it had spread to Kiang-nan, and the patriots became masters of Nankin, the capital of the ancient dynasty, and the hereditary seat of a Chinese as distinguished from a Manchu empire.

The Manchu emperor actually aided the cause of the insurrection by his pride and his cruelty. Generals that allowed themselves to be defeated were at once degraded, or still more frequently put to death ; and governors who could not stay the insurrection were deposed, degraded, or exiled. There was no chance of escape except by a lying despatch, or that frequent resource of a Chinese official, self-immolation.* U-lantai, being deposed, wrote an account of an imaginary victory, and was restored to his dignities. This Tartar general was one of the few efficient Manchu dignitaries, and the Homers and Ariostos of the empire spoke of him as a hero and a conqueror; even the young emperor himself is said to have composed a poem descriptive of his feats of valour and paladin-like prowess.

The patriots, in the mean time, contented themselves with simple prose, and with acts instead of despatches and proclamations. They did not care even to keep the cities or citadels that fell into their hands. Fu Chu or Hin was alike indifferent to them ; they thought of nothing but marching forward in the career of conquest. They knew that when Pekin fell into their hands, all the rest of the empire would acknowledge the supremacy of the conqueror. This has been the principle upon which all barbarian chiefs have acted in those great invasions which are recorded in the pages of history.

Thus two more towns U-Hian and Cha-u-ping soon followed the fate of Ping-lu-fu and Yung-gan-chu. The emperor was so much annoyed at the fall of the latter city, that he sent orders to Sai-chang-ha to retake it before the lapse of a fortnight, or to send the heads of the generals Hiang-ing, U-lan-tai, and Tian-san to Pekin. The zeal of these brave Tartars was singularly animated by this edict; they marched against the insurgents, and, it is almost needless to add, were signally defeated. This new disaster was followed up by a proclamation from the city of U-chu-fu, in which the division of the empire into several sovereignties, and several princes of the dynasty of Han or Ming, was more plainly spoken of than heretofore. The proclamation was also no longer signed by Tian-ta but by Tian-ki-u. It called upon the people of the province of Canton to join the insurrectionary party. It also spoke of the decrees of Heaven, of prostration before the Supreme Being, after having learnt to worship God. These were formula unknown to the idolatrous Chinese, and foreign according to our two Catholic historians, Messrs. Callery and Yvan, to the language of the Catholics; it is to Protestantism that the honour is due of having introduced them into China, and it appears that a Protestant disciple of Gutzlaff enjoyed high rank, and exercised almost paramount authority among the patriots. This personage was a wellknown member of the secret society called the “ Chinese Union," which was founded by Gutzlaff before his death, and which had for objects the conversion of the Chinese to Christianity by the Chinese themselves. It does not, indeed, appear certain if this disciple of Gutzlaff's is not Tian-ta himself!

* The Manchu mandarins, in a spirit of retaliation that cannot be wondered at, practised the same cruelties upon the people that the court pursued towards them. Upwards of 700 suspected individuals were put to death in Canton-one of the few places where Europeans could get at positive information as to what was going on-and not a day passed but prisoners were removed from thence like wild beasts enclosed in bamboo cages to the province of Kuang-si..

The Tartar general, U-lan-tai, bent upon revenging these disasters, once more marched against the insurgents at the head of 13,000 men. The two armies met upon the borders of the Kuai-kiang. The imperial troops advanced, as usual, to the sound of gongs, bearing their shields, decorated with all kinds of hideous paintings, in front, making horrible grimaces, and yelling the most discordant cries. The insurgents appeared to be terrified by so frightful a demonstration. They abandoned their positions on the hills, and took refuge among some groves of bamboos. Unfortunately, the Manchus deemed it proper to pursue them there, and no sooner were they entangled in the wood, than a new force made its appearance on the heights, with a strong detachment of artillery. U-lan-tai found himself surrounded, and the gongs beat a retreat. It was too late, however, and the hero of the Pekin lyrists returned to his camp with only half his troops ; many had been slain, still more had prudently gone over to the enemy.

The Viceroy Siu swore by his moustache to take summary vengeance for this defeat, and to this effect he matured a plan which reminds one of the wooden borse of Troy and the foxes of Samson. Collecting four thousand buffaloes, he had torches of pine attached to their long horns, and these being lighted, they were driven by four thousand soldiers into the enemy's camp, where they were to produce the most frightful disorder, killing the enemy and firing their habitations. The insurgents allowed the buffaloes a free passage, and waiting for the Tartar cowherds, favoured by the vice-regal illumination, they put upwards of two thousand of them to the sword. This ingenious stratagem of the prudent Siu would scarcely be credited had it not been related at length in the columns of the Friend of China.

The strategetic system of the patriots served them to better purpose. A Tartar chief having ventured to pursue a body of insurgents amid the rocks of Hai-nan, the great islands south of the province of Canton, his troops were never afterwards seen. The general alone was found, in a state of starvation, with his ears and nose cut off.

The news that the insurrection had spread into the provinces of Hunan and Hu-pa, sometimes spoken of together under the name of Hukuang, or Hu-wang, produced a deep sensation at Pekin. The leaders of the new insurrection were said to be independent of those in Kuangsi, and the cities of Ta-u-chu and Kiang-hua were at once taken possession of. A chief from Kuan-si, called Tai-ping-wang, soon effected a junction with the new insurgents, and, notwithstanding that all the disposable forces of the neighbouring provinces were directed against them, they seized upon three more of the chief cities of the province, acquiring thereby immense additional resources. They still, however, always respected private property, contenting themselves with appropriating the public revenue and the riches of official personages.

The mysterious Tian-ta was all this time holding his court in a very strong position on the mountain of Si-hing, not far from Kuai-lin, and the governor of Kuang-si decided upon opening a diplomatic correspondence. With this view an embassy, composed of Siu, lieutenantgovernor, and of two men of letters, was despatched to seek an interview with the pretender. It appears that, after much ceremony, and being obliged to exchange the Tartar for the Chinese costume, they were admitted to an audience. The results were that Tian-ta reiterated his claim to being an eleventh descendant of the Emperor Sung-ching of the great dynasty of Ming, and said, that strong in his right, he intended to seize by force of arms the inheritance of his ancestors. “ You,” said Tian-ta to the ambassadors, “understand the doctrines of Confucius and of Mencius, how can you then disavow the legitimate prince, and remain peaceably the subjects of strangers ?” When the governor heard of the results of his embassy, it put him into such a passion as for a time to endanger his life.

Immediately after this interview, Tian-ta descended from the mountain unto the plains, and taking possession of Lu-chu, once more assailed Kuai-lin, but without success. This city, the capital of Kuang-si, stands upon a great river called Kuai-kiang, and the same as the river of Canton, it is defended by lofty walls, well provided with guns. The population is said to amount to 400,000. To the north is a range of mountains with a peculiarly sharp outline, and the rocky environs of the city constitute one of the delights of Chinese let us hope also one day of European tourists. Close by the banks of the river is an enormous rock, called by the Celestials Siang-pi-chan, “rock of the elephant's nose.” The pachydermatous quadruped is half covered with bamboos, and carries on its back a round tower, roofed with porcelain, and surmounted by dragons. At another point a great cone of rock rises out of the soil, a pathway is carried up in a circular ascent, with little oratories at each turning, while on the summit are two lofty masts, ornamented with streamers. This rock is called by the Chinese the Isolated Wonder, and according to the same authorities Kuai-lin abounds in marvels.

U-lan-tai was wounded in his gallant defence of this remarkable place. The advice of Dr. Parker, of the United States' mission at Canton, was sought for, but as the laws of the Celestial Empire would not allow the doctor to go to U-lan-tai, the Tartar general was obliged to go to Doctor Parker, and so the hero of an imperial epic died on his way to Canton.

Siu was busy in the mean time concocting a new stratagem, still more ingenious than the renowned onslaught of fiery-horned buffaloes. Having caught a petty chief of the Chang-ti, or Protestant rebels, as they

were generally designated, he sent him off to Pekin, carefully packed up in an iron cage, and ticketed as Tian-ta. This unfortunate captive was put to death, and a long confession, which incriminated the Christians and Gutzlaff's “ Chinese Union," was indited for him. This confession produced a great sensation, and the judicial death of the renowned Tian-ta was in everybody's mouth, when it was suddenly succeeded by another report of a totally different character, which was, that Tian-ta had gone with his followers into the Hu-kuang district, where he had commenced the erection of a temple to the Supreme Being. Certain it was that Tian-ta, executed at Pekin, was apocryphal; but Messrs. Callery and Yvan also reject the last rumour, for, say they, had such a thing occurred, the Catholics would sooner or later have united themselves to the insurrectionary party.

The mandarins, at the same time, did everything in their power to prejudice Tian-ta with the Europeans; they declared that his intentions were hostile to their interests, that he would shut the ports, and expel them from the country. All this Sir George Bonham's expedition in the Hermes has shown to be lies, the Chang-ti, or Protestant insurgents, being most anxious to establish the closest relations with Christian nations. Many missionaries dwell in the provinces held by the insurgents, and they have had reason already to congratulate themselves upon the change of rulers.

While Hung and Ki, two young patriots, were drinking their own blood mingled in a marriage-cup, preparatory to an invasion of Formosa, Siu had given battle to the insurgents in the neighbourhood of Lu-kingchang, and, as usual, the “tiger troops," as they are called, from the most common device on their shields, were vanquished. But the time had come when the patriots were to have their turn of disasters. The viceroy of Hu-kuang had raised a body of four thousand northern warriors ; the insurgents attacked at Cha-u-chu-fu lost two hundred men, and as many were made prisoners. A few days afterwards they were as rudely treated at Yung-chu-fu. Their fleet also engaged in pursuing the enemy, with fire-boats in advance, had the latter turned against themselves by a sudden change in the wind, and numbers of their own junks were devoured by the flames. But they took a cruel revenge for these disasters. Having taken the city of Kuai-yang by assault, it was delivered over to fire and sword ; all the public buildings were burnt down, ten mandarins had their heads cut off, and the principal inhabitants were only spared on condition of a heavy ransom. Ping-gan, which surrendered without firing a shot, was simply amerced in a sum of 200,000 taels.

In September, 1852, Tian-ta established himself with his suite and personal guard in the city of Hing-gan, not far from Kuai-lin before described. He was thus almost face to face with the ingenious and prudent Siu. Tian-ta, on his side also, as king of kings, could not take part in the progress of the war; that was left to his captains ; so for different apparent reasons, yet, perhaps, not so different in reality, the two chiefs were satisfied with each respecting the position held by his adversary. The new monarchy had been everywhere proclaimed, dating from the first year of Ming-ming. Attached to this monarchy there were three Kungs, nine Kings, twenty-seven Chu-hus, and eighty-one

Sis. This gives some idea of the value of these terminal and honorary syllables. Independent as a federal monarchy, still Hu-nan acknowledged the imperial rights of the descendant of the Mings. Ming-ming being, it is to be supposed, equivalent to Tian-ta, or rather Tian-ta represented the Ming of the Mings. Other leaders began at this time, and after the example thus set to them, also to claim the rights of federal sovereigns.

The year 1852 closed with a long list of disasters to the imperial troops; wherever they had ventured to give battle they had been defeated, and the number of towns captured by the Chang-ti had swelled up to a long and monotonous length. Only once had 40,000 imperialists assailed a town in the possession of the insurgents, and they had been repulsed with a loss of 3000 men killed and 500 taken prisoners to the patriots. This happened at Ta-u-chu, which the imperialists being unable to reduce, they turned into it the waters of the Ta-u-kiang, to the great discomfiture of the rats, the only sufferers by this unusually ingenious stratagem of the tigers.

Kuai-lin still held out. Su-ming-hu, the governor, attributed this impunity to the god Kuan, who supplied the garrison with additional artillery, fought in person in defence of the city mounted on a gigantic charger, brandishing a fiery sword; and betrayed a night-surprise by means of an immense lantern suspended in the clouds, and bearing for motto, “Great Felicity.” For all these services the governor claimed of the emperor new titles for the god Kuan, King of the Great Felicity.

Notwithstanding these happy omens, the emperor degraded Sai-chang. ha, and Siu was appointed to his place; a single lettered mandarin, Y, succeeding to the governorship of Canton. The old servants of the crown, Ki-chan, who had been disgraced for negotiating with the Eng. lish, and Ki-in and Hing-gan, both dismissed for their partiality to the barbarians, were called to the imperial councils, but unfortunately without affecting the imperial policy.

Our ingenious friend Siu made a brilliant start in his new capacity. He actually relieved the capital of Hu-nan, celebrated for its annual regatta—a race of boats, gilt and coloured to represent dragons, serpents, reptiles, and all kinds of antediluvian monsters, from a close siege, and obliged Tai-ping-wang to take refuge in a fleet of junks on the Siang, a tributary to the Yang-si-kiang, or Blue River. This slight advantage was of no avail to the Chinese. On the contrary, it seems purposely or otherwise to have established the insurgents on the great artery of Central China -the mighty Blue River. The imperial government was cramped by the greatest financial embarrassments: the governor of the insurgent provinces refused to give any further accounts of the public revenues, but demanded more money to carry on their war. Under these difficulties an extraordinary edict was published, advertising for sale all descriptions of places and titles. Governorships, magistracies, seats on the bench, titles, peacocks' feathers, were announced for sale; exile, degradation, imprisonment, and all other punishments, save death, could now be bought off by money!

The insurgents, however, were now, we have seen, in their junks on the Blue River, and before the month of February had expired they were masters of U-chang-fu, capital of Hu-pa. This city is one of three


« AnteriorContinuar »