CHAPTER XVIII. TAOUKWANG AND HIS SUCCESSOR

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. Bands of robbers prowled about the country, and even the capital was not free from their presence. While one band made its headquarters within the imperial city, another established itself in a fortified position in the central provinces of China, whence it dominated a vast region. The police were helpless, and such military forces as existed were unable to make any serious attempt to crush an opponent who was stronger than themselves. The foreign war had led to the recruiting of a large number of braves, and the peace to their sudden disbandment, so that the country was covered with a large number of desperate and penniless men, who were not particular as to what they did for a livelihood. It is not surprising that the secret societies began to look up again with so promising a field to work in, and a new association, known as the Green Water Lily, became extremely formidable among the truculent braves of Hoonan. But none of these troubles assumed the extreme form of danger in open rebellion, and there was still wanting the man to weld all these hostile and dangerous elements into a national party of insurgents against Manchu authority, and so it remained until Taoukwang had given up his throne to his successor.

In Yunnan there occurred, about the year 1846, the first simmerings of disaffection among the Mohammedans, which many years later developed into the Panthay Rebellion, but on that occasion the vigor of the viceroy nipped the danger in the bud. In Central Asia there was a revival of activity on the part of the Khoja exiles, who fancied that the discomfiture of the Chinese by the English and the internal disorders, of which rumor had no doubt carried an exaggerated account into Turkestan, would entail a very much diminished authority in Kashgar. As it happened, the Chinese authority in that region had been consolidated and extended by the energy and ability of a Mohammedan official named Zuhuruddin. He had risen to power by the thoroughness with which he had carried out the severe repressive measures sanctioned after the abortive invasion of Jehangir, and during fifteen years he increased the revenue and trade of the great province intrusted to his care. His loyalty to the Chinese government seems to have been unimpeachable, and the only point he seems to have erred in was an overconfident belief in the strength of his position. He based this opinion chiefly on the fact of his having constructed strong new forts, or yangyshahr, outside the principal towns. But a new element of danger had in the meantime been introduced into the situation in Kashgar by the appointment of Khokandian consuls, who were empowered to raise custom dues on all Mohammedan goods. These officials became the center of intrigue against the Chinese authorities, and whenever the Khan of Khokand determined to take up the cause of the Khojas he found the ground prepared for him by these emissaries.

In 1842 Mahomed Ali, Khan of Khokand, a chief of considerable ability and character, died, and his authority passed, after some confusion, to his kinsman, Khudayar, who was a man of little capacity and indisposed to meddle with the affairs of his neighbors. But the Khokandian chiefs were loth to forego the turbulent adventures to which they were addicted for the personal feelings of their nominal head, and they thought that a descent upon Kashgar offered the best chance of glory and booty. Therefore they went to the seven sons of Jehangir and, inciting them by the memory of their father's death as well as the hope of a profitable adventure, to make another attempt to drive the Chinese out of Central Asia, succeeded in inducing them to unfurl once more the standard of the Khojas. The seven Khojas - Haft Khojagan - issued their proclamation in the winter of 1845-46, rallied all their adherents to their side, and made allies of the Kirghiz tribes.

When the Mohammedan forces left the hills they advanced with extreme rapidity on Kashgar, to which they laid siege. After a siege of a fortnight they obtained possession of the town through the treachery of some of the inhabitants; but the citadel or yangyshahr continued to hold out, and their excesses in the town so alienated the sympathy of the Kashgarians, that no popular rising took place, and the Chinese were able to collect all their garrisons to expel the invaders. The Khojas were defeated in a battle at Kok Robat, near Yarkand, and driven out of the country. The affair of the seven Khojas, which at one time threatened the Chinese with the gravest danger, thus ended in a collapse, and it is remarkable as being the only invasion in which the Mohammedan subjects of China did not fraternize with her enemies. Notwithstanding the magnitude of his services as an administrator, Zuhuruddin was disgraced and dismissed from his post for what seemed his culpable apathy at the beginning of the campaign.