CHAPTER XXI. THE REGENCY
While Ma Tesing exercised the supremacy due to his age and attainments, the young chief Ma Sien led the rebels in the field. His energy was most conspicuous, and in the year 1858 he thought he was sufficiently strong to make an attack upon the city of Yunnan itself. His attack was baffled by the resolute defense of an officer named Lin Tzuchin, who had shown great courage as a partisan leader against the insurgents before he was intrusted with the defense of the provincial capital. Ma Sien was compelled to beat a retreat, and to devote himself to the organization of the many thousand Ijen or Lolos recruits who signified their attachment to his cause. For the successful defense of Yunnan Lin was made a Titu, and gradually collected into his own hands such authority as still remained to the emperor's lieutenants. On both sides preparations were made for the renewal of the struggle, but before the year 1858 ended Ma Sien met with a second repulse at the town of Linan. The year 1859 was not marked by any event of signal importance, although the balance of success inclined on the whole to the Mussulmans. But in the following year the Mohammedans drew up a large force, computed to exceed 50,000 men, round Yunnanfoo, to which they laid vigorous siege. The imperialists were taken at a disadvantage, and the large number of people who had fled for shelter into the town rendered the small store of provisions less sufficient for a protracted defense. Yunnanfoo was on the point of surrender when an event occurred which not merely relieved it from its predicament, but altered the whole complexion of the struggle. The garrison had made up its mind to yield. Even the brave Lin had accepted the inevitable, and begun to negotiate with the two rebel leaders, Ma Sien and the priest Ma Tesing. Those chiefs, with victory in their grasp, manifested an unexpected and surprising moderation. Instead of demanding from Lin a complete and unconditional surrender, they began to discuss with him what terms could be agreed upon for the cessation of the war and the restoration of tranquillity to the province. At first it was thought that these propositions concealed some intended treachery, but their sincerity was placed beyond dispute by the suicide of the mandarin Hwang Chung, who had first instigated the people to massacre their Mohammedan brethren. The terms of peace were promptly arranged, and a request was forwarded to Pekin for the ratification of a convention concluded under the pressure of necessity with some of the rebel leaders. The better to conceal the fact that this arrangement had been made with the principal leader of the disaffected, Ma Sien changed his name to Ma Julung, and received the rank of general in the Chinese service; while the high priest accepted as his share the not inconsiderable pension of two hundred taels a month. It is impossible to divine the true reasons which actuated these instigators of rebellion in their decision to go over to the side of the government. They probably thought that they had done sufficient to secure all practical advantages, and that any persistence in hostilities would only result in the increased misery and impoverishment of the province. Powerful as they were, there were other Mohammedan leaders seeking to acquire the supreme position among their co-religionists; and foremost among these was Tu Wensiu, who had reduced the whole of Western Yunnan to his sway, and reigned at Talifoo. The Mohammedan cause, important as it was, did not afford scope for the ambitions of two such men as Ma Julung and Tu Wensiu. The former availed himself of the favorable opportunity to settle this difficulty in a practical and, as he shrewdly anticipated, the most profitable manner for himself personally, by giving in his adhesion to the government.