Demetrius Charles Boulger

by Demetrius Charles Boulger

 

The favorable opinion which his father had held of Kiaking does not seem to have been shared by all his ministers. The most prominent of them all, Hokwan, who held to Keen Lung the relation that Wolsey held to Henry the Eighth, soon fell under the displeasure of the new emperor, and was called upon to account for his charge of the finances. The favor and the age of Keen Lung left Hokwan absolutely without control, and the minister turned his opportunities to such account that he amassed a private fortune of eighty million taels, or more than one hundred and twenty-five million dollars.

As China has now fairly taken her place in the family of nations, it is unnecessary to elaborate an argument in support of even the humblest attempt to elucidate her history. It is a subject to which we can no longer remain indifferent, because circumstances are bringing every day more clearly into view the important part China must play in the changes that have become imminent in Asia, and that will affect the security of our position and empire in that continent.

The early years of the new reign were marked by a number of events unconnected with each other but all contributing to the important incidents of the later period which must be described, although they cannot be separated. The name of Taoukwang, which Prince Meenning took on ascending the throne, means Reason's Light, and there were many who thought it was especially appropriate for a prince who was more qualified for a college than a palace.

The Chinese are unquestionably the oldest nation in the world, and their history goes back to a period to which no prudent historian will attempt to give a precise date. They speak the language and observe the same social and political customs that they did several thousand years before the Christian era, and they are the only living representatives to-day of a people and government which were contemporary with the Egyptians, the Assyrians, and the Jews.

AT the very time that the Emperor Taoukwang, by the dismissal of the Portuguese astronomers at Pekin and by his general indifference to the foreign question, was showing that no concessions were to be expected from him, an unknown legislature at a remote distance from his capital was decreeing, in complete indifference to the susceptibilities of the occupant of the Dragon Throne, that trade with China might be pursued by any English subject.

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 the first national dynasty, When the successors of Tsin Chi Hwangti proved unable to keep the throne, the victorious general who profited by their discomfiture was named Liu Pang.

The progress and temporary settlement of the foreign question so completely overshadows every other event during Taoukwang's reign that it is difficult to extract anything of interest from the records of the government of the country, although the difficult and multifarious task of ruling three hundred millions of people had to be performed. More than one fact went to show that the bonds of constituted authority were loosened in China, and that men paid only a qualified respect to the imperial edict.

The ignominious failure of the usurper Wang Mang to found a dynasty was too recent to encourage any one to take upon himself the heavy charge of administering the whole of the Han empire, and so the state was split up into three principalities, and the period is known from this fact as the Sankoue. One prince, a member of the late ruling family, held possession of Szchuen, which was called the principality of Chow. The southern provinces were governed by a general named Sunkiuen, and called Ou.

The events which caused the second foreign war began to come into evidence immediately after the close of the first; and for the sake of clearness and brevity they have been left for consideration to the same chapter, although they happened while Taoukwang was emperor.

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