CHAPTER III. A LONG PERIOD OF DISUNION
Taitsong was not so fortunate in his relations with Corea, where a stubborn people and an inaccessible country imposed a bar to his ambition. Attempts had been made at earlier periods to bring Corea under the influence of the Chinese ruler, and to treat it as a tributary state. A certain measure of success had occasionaly attended these attempts, but on the whole Corea had preserved its independence. When Taitsong in the plenitude of his power called upon the King of Corea to pay tribute, and to return to his subordinate position, he received a defiant reply, and the Coreans began to encroach on Sinlo, a small state which threw itself on the protection of China. The name of Corea at this time was Kaoli, and the supreme direction of affairs at this period was held by a noble named Chuen Gaisoowun, who had murdered his own sovereign. Taitsong, irritated by his defiance, sent a large army to the frontier, and when Gaisoowun, alarmed by the storm he had raised, made a humble submission and sent the proper tribute, the emperor gave expression to his displeasure and disapproval of the regicide's acts by rejecting his gifts and announcing his resolve to prosecute the war. It is never prudent to drive an opponent to desperation, and Gaisoowun, who might have been a good neighbor if Taitsong had accepted his offer, proved a bitter and determined antagonist. The first campaign was marked by the expected success of the Chinese army. The Coreans were defeated in several battles, several important towns were captured, but Taitsong had to admit that these successes were purchased at the heavy loss of twenty-five thousand of his best troops. The second campaign resolved itself into the siege and defense of Anshu, an important town near the Yaloo River. Gaisoowun raised an enormous force with the view of effecting its relief, and he attempted to overwhelm the Chinese by superior numbers. But the better discipline and tactics of the Chinese turned the day, and the Corean army was driven in rout from the field. But this signal success did not entail the surrender of Anshu, which was gallantly defended. The scarcity of supplies and the approach of winter compelled the Chinese emperor to raise the siege after he had remained before the place for several months, and it is stated that as the Chinese broke up their camp the commandant appeared on the walls and wished them "a pleasant journey." After this rebuff Taitsong did not renew his attempt to annex Corea, although to the end of his life he refused to hold any relations with Gaisoowun.
During the first portion of his reign Taitsong was greatly helped by the labors of his wife, the Empress Changsun-chi, who was a woman of rare goodness and ability, and set a shining example to the whole of her court. She said many wise things, among which the most quotable was that "the practice of virtue conferred honor upon men, especially on princes, and not the splendor of their appointments." She was a patron of letters, and an Imperial Library and College in the capital owed their origin to her. She was probably the best and most trustworthy adviser the emperor had, and after her death the energy and good fortune of Taitsong seemed to decline. She no doubt contributed to the remarkable treatise on the art of government, called the "Golden Mirror," which bears the name of Taitsong as its author. Taitsong was an ardent admirer of Confucius, whom he exalted to the skies as the great sage of the world, declaring emphatically that "Confucius was for the Chinese what the water is for the fishes." The Chinese annalists tell many stories of Taitsong's personal courage. He was a great hunter, and in the pursuit of big game he necessarily had some narrow escapes, special mention being made of his slaying single-handed a savage boar. Another instance was his struggle with a Tartar attendant who attempted to murder him, and whom he killed in the encounter. He had a still narrower escape at the hands of his eldest son, who formed a plot to assassinate him which very nearly succeeded. The excessive anxiety of Prince Lichingkien to reach the crown cost him the succession, for on the discovery of his plot he was deposed from the position of heir-apparent and disappeared from the scene.
After a reign of twenty-three years, during which he accomplished a great deal more than other rulers had done in twice the time, Taitsong died in A.D. 649, leaving the undisturbed possession of the throne to his son, known as the Emperor Kaotsong. There need be no hesitation in calling Taitsong one of the greatest rulers who ever sat on the Dragon Throne, and his death was received with extraordinary demonstrations of grief by the people he had ruled so well. Several of his generals wished to commit suicide on his bier, the representatives of the tributary nations at his capital cut off their hair or sprinkled his grave with their blood, and throughout the length and breadth of the land there was mourning and lamentation for a prince who had realized the ideal character of a Chinese emperor. Nor does his claim to admiration and respect seem less after the lapse of so many centuries. His figure still stands out boldly as one of the ablest and most humane of all Chinese rulers. He not only reunited China, but he proved that union was for his country the only sure basis of prosperity and power.