CHAPTER XXI. THE REGENCY
The next step was the proclamation of a new regency, composed of the two empresses, Tsi An, principal widow of Hienfung, and Tsi Thsi, mother of the young emperor. Two precedents for the administration being intrusted to an empress were easily found by the Hanlin doctors during the Ming dynasty, when the Emperors Chitsong and Wanleh were minors. Special edicts were issued and arrangements made for the transaction of business during the continuance of the regency, and as neither of the empresses knew Manchu, it was specially provided that papers and documents, which were always presented in that language, should be translated into Chinese. Concurrently with these measures for the settlement of the regency happened the closing scenes in the drama of conspiracy which began so successfully at Jehol and ended so dramatically at Pekin. For complete success and security it was necessary that all the ringleaders should be captured, and some of them were still free. The bravest, if not the ablest, of the late Board of Regency, Sushuen, remained at large. He had been charged with the high and honorable duty of escorting the remains of Hienfung to the capital. It was most important that he should be seized before he became aware of the fate that had befallen his colleagues. Prince Chun volunteered to capture the last, and in a sense the most formidable, of the intriguers himself, and on the very day that the events described happened at Pekin he rode out of the capital at the head of a body of Tartar cavalry. On the following night Prince Chun reached the spot where he was encamped, and, breaking into the house, arrested him while in bed. Sushuen did not restrain his indignation, and betrayed the ulterior plans entertained by himself and his associates by declaring that Prince Chun had been only just in time to prevent a similar fate befalling himself. He was at once placed on his trial with the other prisoners, and on November 10 the order was given in the emperor's name for their execution. Sushuen was executed on the public ground set apart for that purpose; but to the others, as a special favor from their connection with the imperial family, was sent the silken cord, with which they were permitted to put an end to their existence. In the fate of Prince Tsai may be seen a well merited retribution for his treachery and cruelty to Sir Harry Parkes and his companions.
Another important step which had to be taken was the alteration of the style given to the young emperor's reign. It was felt to be impolitic that the deposed ministers should retain any connection whatever in history with the young ruler. Were Hienfung's son to be handed down to posterity as Chiseang there would be no possibility of excluding their names and their brief and feverish ambition from the national annals. After due deliberation, therefore, the name of Tungche was substituted for that of Chiseang, and meaning, as it does, "the union of law and order," it will be allowed that the name was selected with some proper regard for the circumstances of the occasion. Prince Kung was rewarded with many high offices and sounding titles in addition to the post of chief minister under the two empresses. He was made president of the Imperial Clan Court in the room of Prince Tsai, and the title of Iching Wang, or Prince Minister, was conferred upon him. His stanch friends and supporters, Wansiang, Paukwen, and Kweiliang, were appointed to the Supreme Council. Prince Chun, to whose skill and bravery in arresting Sushuen Prince Kung felt very much indebted, was also rewarded. With these incidents closed what might have proved a grave and perilous complication for the Chinese government. Had Prince Kung prematurely revealed his plans there is every reason to suppose that he would have alarmed and forewarned his rivals, and that they, with the person of the emperor in their possession, would have obtained the advantage. His patience during the two months of doubt and anxiety while the emperor remained at Jehol was matched by the vigor and promptitude that he displayed on the eventful 2d of November. That his success was beneficial to his country will not be disputed by any one, and Prince Kung's name must be permanently remembered both for having commenced, and for having insured the continuance of, diplomatic relations with England and the other foreign powers.