CHAPTER XII. A SHORT REIGN AND THE BEGINNING OF A LONG ONE

Immediately after the death of Kanghi, his fourth son, who had long been designated as his heir, was proclaimed emperor, under the style of Yung Ching, which name means "the indissoluble concord or stable peace." The late emperor had always favored this prince, and in his will he publicly proclaimed that he bore much resemblance to himself, and that he was a man of rare and precious character. His first acts indicated considerable vigor and decision of mind. In the edict announcing the death of his father and his own accession he said that on the advice of his ministers he had entered upon the discharge of his imperial duties, without giving up precious time to the indulgence of his natural grief, which would be gratifying to his feelings, but injurious to the public interests. As Yung Ching was of the mature age of forty-five, and as he had enjoyed the confidence of his predecessor, he was fully qualified to carry on the administration. He declared that his main purpose was to continue his father's work, and that he would tread as closely as he could in Kanghi's footsteps. While Yung Ching took these prompt steps to secure himself on the throne, some of his brothers assumed an attitude of menacing hostility toward him, and all his energy and vigilance were required to counteract their designs. A very little time was needed, however, to show that Kanghi had selected his worthiest son as his successor, and that China would have no reason to fear under Yung Ching the loss of any of the benefits conferred on the nation by Kanghi. His fine presence, and frank, open manner, secured for him the sympathy and applause of the public, and in a very short time he also gained their respect and admiration by his wisdom and justice.

The most important and formidable of his brothers was the fourteenth son of Kanghi, by the same mother, however, as that of Yung Ching. He and his son Poki had been regarded with no inconsiderable favor by Kanghi, and at one time it was thought that he would have chosen them as his successors; but these expectations were disappointed. He was sent instead to hold the chief command against the Eleuths on the western borders. Young Ching determined to remove him from this post, in which he might have opportunities of asserting his independence, and for a moment it seemed as if he might disobey. But more prudent counsels prevailed, and he returned to Pekin, where he was placed in honorable confinement, and retained there during the whole of Yung Ching's reign. He and his son owed their release thirteen years later to the greater clemency or self-confidence of Keen Lung. Another brother, named Sessaka, also fell under suspicion, and he was arrested and his estates confiscated. He was then so far forgiven that a small military command was given him in the provinces. Others of more importance were involved in his affairs. Lessihin, son of Prince Sourniama, an elder brother of Kanghi, was denounced as a sympathizer and supporter of Sessaka. The charge seems to have been based on slender evidence, but it sufficed to cause the banishment of this personage and all his family to Sining. It appears as if they were specially punished for having become Christians, and there is no doubt that their conversion imbittered the emperor's mind against the Christian missionaries and their religion. It enabled him to say, or at least induced him to accept the statement, that the Christians meddled and took a side in the internal politics of the country. Yung Ching saw and seized his opportunity. His measures of repression against the recalcitrant party in his own family culminated in the summary exile of Sourniama and all his descendants down to the fourth generation. Sourniama vainly endeavored to establish his innocence, and he sent three of his sons, laden with chains, to the palace, to protest his innocence and devotion. But they were refused audience, and Sourniama and his family sank into oblivion and wretchedness on the outskirts of the empire.