CHAPTER II. THE FIRST NATIONAL DYNASTY
The next emperor was Vouti, a younger son of Kingti, and one of his earliest conquests was to add the difficult and inaccessible province of Fuhkien to the empire. He also endeavored to propitiate the Huns by giving their chief one of the princesses of his family as a wife, but the opinion was gaining ground that it would be better to engage in a war for the overthrow of the national enemy than to purchase a hollow peace. Wang Kua, a general who had commanded on the frontier, and who knew the Hun mode of warfare, represented that success would be certain, and at last gained the emperor's ear. Vouti decided on war, and raised a large army for the purpose. But the result was not auspicious. Wang Kua failed to bring the Huns to an engagement, and the campaign which was to produce such great results ended ingloriously. The unlucky general who had promised so much anticipated his master's displeasure by committing suicide. Unfortunately for himself, his idea of engaging in a mortal struggle with the Tartars gained ground, and became in time the fixed policy of China. Notwithstanding this check, the authority of Vouti continued to expand. He annexed Szchuen, a province exceeding in size and population most European states, and he received from the ruler of Manchuria a formal tender of submission. In the last years of his reign the irrepressible Hun question again came up for discussion, and the episode of the flight of the Yuchi from Kansuh affords a break in the monotony of the struggle, and is the first instance of that western movement which brought the tribes of the Gobi Desert into Europe. The Yuchi are believed to have been allied with the Jats of India, and there is little or no doubt that the Sacae, or Scythians, were their descendants. They occupied a strip of territory in Kansuh from Shachow to Lanchefoo, and after suffering much at the hands of the Huns under Meha, they resolved to seek a fresh home in the unknown regions of Western Asia. The Emperor Vouti wished to bring them back, and he sent an envoy named Chang Keen to induce them to return. That officer discovered them in the Oxus region, but all his arguments failed to incline them to leave a quarter in which they had recovered power and prosperity. Powerless against the Huns, they had more than held their own against the Parthians and the Greek kingdom of Bactria. They retained their predominant position in what is now Bokhara and Balkh, until they were gathered up by the Huns in their western march, and hurled, in conjunction with them, on the borders of the Roman Empire. Meantime, the war with the Huns themselves entered upon a new phase. A general named Wei Tsing obtained a signal victory over them, capturing 15,000 prisoners and the spoil of the Tartar camp. This success restored long-lost confidence to the Chinese troops, and it was followed by several other victories. One Chinese expedition, composed entirely of cavalry, marched through the Hun country to Soponomo on the Tian Shan, carrying everything before it and returning laden with spoil, including some of the golden images of the Hun religion. Encouraged by these successes, Vouti at last took the field in person, and sent a formal summons to the Tartar king to make his submission to China. His reply was to imprison the bearer of the message, and to defy the emperor to do his worst. This boldness had the effect of deterring the emperor from his enterprise. He employed his troops in conquering Yunnan and Leaoutung instead of in waging another war with the Huns. But he had only postponed, not abandoned, his intention of overthrowing, once and for all, this most troublesome and formidable national enemy. He raised an enormous force for the campaign, which might have proved successful but for the mistake of intrusting the command to an incompetent general. In an ill-advised moment, he gave his brother-in-law, Li Kwangli, the supreme direction of the war. His incompetence entailed a succession of disasters, and the only redeeming point amid them was that Li Kwangli was taken prisoner and rendered incapable of further mischief. Liling, the grandson of this general, was intrusted with a fresh army to retrieve the fortunes of the war; but, although successful at first, he was outmaneuvered, and reduced to the unpleasant pass of surrendering to the enemy. Both Li Kwangli and Liling adapted themselves to circumstances, and took service under the Tartar chief. As this conduct obtained the approval of the historian Ssematsien, it is clear that our views of such a proceeding would not be in harmony with the opinion in China of that day. The long war which Vouti waged with the Huns for half a century, and which was certainly carried on in a more honorable and successful manner than any previous portion of that historic struggle, closed with discomfiture and defeat, which dashed to the ground the emperor's hopes of a complete triumph over the most formidable national enemy.