CHAPTER XXI. THE REGENCY
This important defection did not bring in its train any certainty of tranquillity. Incited by the example of their leaders, every petty officer and chief thought himself deserving of the highest honors, and resolved to fight for his own hand. Ma Julung left Yunnanfoo for the purpose of seizing a neighboring town which had revolted, and during his absence one of his lieutenants seized the capital, murdered the viceroy, and threatened to plunder the inhabitants. Ma Julung was summoned to return in hot haste, and as a temporary expedient the priest Ma Tesing was elected viceroy. When Ma Julung returned with his army he had to lay siege to Yunnanfoo, and although he promptly effected an entrance into the city, it took five days' hard fighting in the streets before the force in occupation was expelled. The insurgent officer was captured, exposed to the public gaze for one month in an iron cage, and then executed in a cruel manner. Ma Tesing was deposed from the elevated position which he had held for so short a time, and a new Chinese viceroy arrived from Kweichow. The year 1863 opened with the first active operations against Tu Wensiu, who, during these years of disorder in Central Yunnan, had been governing the western districts with some prudence. It would have been better if they had not been undertaken, for they only resulted in the defeat of the detachments sent by Ma Julung to engage the despot of Talifoo. Force having failed, they had recourse to diplomacy, and Ma Tesing was sent to sound Tu Wensiu as to whether he would not imitate their example and make his peace with the authorities. These overtures were rejected with disdain, and Tu Wensiu proclaimed his intention of holding out to the last, and refused to recognize the wisdom or the necessity of coming to terms with the government. The embarrassment of Ma Julung and the Yunnan officials, already sufficiently acute, was at this conjuncture further aggravated by an outbreak in their rear among the Miaotze and some other mountain tribes in the province of Kweichow. To the difficulty of coping with a strongly placed enemy in front was thus added that of maintaining communications through a hostile and difficult region. A third independent party had also come into existence in Yunnan, where an ex-Chinese official named Liang Shihmei had set up his own authority at Linan, mainly, it was said, through jealousy of the Mohammedans taken into the service of the government. The greatest difficulty of all was to reconcile the pretensions of the different commanders, for the Chinese officials, and the Futai Tsen Yuying in particular, regarded Ma Julung with no friendly eye. With the year 1867, both sides having collected their strength, more active operations were commenced, and Ma Julung proceeded in person, at the head of the best troops he could collect, to engage Tu Wensiu. It was at this time that the imperialists adopted the red flag as their standard in contradistinction to the white flag of the insurgents. A desultory campaign ensued, but although Ma Julung evinced both courage and capacity, the result was on the whole unfavorable to him; and he had to retreat to the capital, where events of some importance had occurred during his absence in the field. The viceroy, who had been stanchly attached to Ma Julung, died suddenly and under such circumstances as to suggest a suspicion of foul play; and Tsen Yuying had by virtue of his rank of Futai assumed the temporary discharge of his duties. The retreat of Ma Julung left the insurgents free to follow up their successes; and, in the course of 1868, the authority of the emperor had disappeared from every part of the province except the prefectural city of Yunnanfoo. This bad fortune led the Mussulmans who had followed the advice and fortunes of Ma Julung to consider whether it would not be wise to rejoin their co-religionists, and to at once finish the contest by the destruction of the government. Had Ma Julung wavered in his fidelity for a moment they would have all joined the standard of Tu Wensiu, and the rule of the Sultan of Talifoo would have been established from one end of Yunnan to the other; but he stood firm and arrested the movement in a summary manner.