« ZurückWeiter »
One of the characters in a play that these failed to meet the exigencies of had some vogue in London a dozen or Salic Law, to select for posthumous fifteen years ago declared, nightly, that adoption to the deceased Emperor a he was at his 37th conspiracy. The child during whose minority the widEmpress-Dowager Tze-hsi-tuan-yu has owed Empress Ah-lu-tê would become not yet rivalled that record, but she is regent in turn. Such women as Tzegetting on. When persons have at- hsi, however-for it is she who has altained to the position of Empress, ways been credited with the initiativemoreover, they no longer conspire; rise superior to rules. The possibilities they make coups d'état. The Empress connected with the Empress Ah-lu-tê Tze-hsi has made several. The first were ignored. The obligation to select was in 1861, when she combined with as heir a child capable of adoption to Prince Kung and her sister Empress, Tung Che was ignored; the succession Tze An, to seize the reins of power was fixed, on the contrary, upon one after the death of their consort, the who had the inestimable qualification, Emperor Hien Fung. The next was in the Empress's eyes, of being a minor, in 1875. Having grasped the reins in but had the disqualification of being 1861, the two ladies succeeded in hold- of the same generation as his predecesing them and governing, as regents, sor and incapable, therefore, of per during the long minority of Hien forming the ancestral rites. The EmFung's son and successor, Tung Che. press Ah-lu-tê's claims were ignored, They had to retire for a while when and shortly obliterated by death-dethe latter came of age, in 1873; but his clared to be suicidal, but so convenient death, two years later, gave them an- that it was always spoken of with a other opportunity which they were shrug. prompt to seize. Tung Che died child- The selection of an Emperor, under less, but leaving a widow, Ah-lu-tê, such circumstances, devolves really who might hope to give him a posthu- upon the heads of the Imperial Clan. mous heir. The due procedure, under Tsai Tien, as the present Emperor those circumstances, would have been Kwang Su was originally named, to await the course of events, and if seemed an outside chance. He is a at
1 It may conduce to lucidity to explain at the outset that Tze-An was the Empress proper, but was childless. The present “Empress-Dowager"
was not originally an empress at all, but was given that honorary rank as the mother of Hien Fung's only son, Tung Che.
son of Yih Hwan, Prince of Chun, the their Majesties the Empresses Tse An seventh son of the Emperor Taokwang and Tze-hsi, in the following terms:(who was reigning at the time of the Treaty of Nanking), and brother Let Tsai Tien, son of Yih Hwan, the of Hien Fung (who was reigning Prince of Chun, become adopted as the
the date of the Treaty of son of the Emperor Wen Tsung Hien Tientsin). There
(Hien Fung), and enter upon the in
· heritance of the great dynastic line as his birth to distinguish him above
Emperor by succession. others; while he labored under defect which we may estimate by re
The second edict announces the recalling the supreme importance, in
ceipt of another mandate from the Em. Chinese eyes, of the ancestral rites.
presses, as follows:His mother was a sister of the Empress Tze-hsi, who is his aunt, there.
Whereas His Majesty, the Emperor, fore, by blood as well as by marriage;
has ascended upon the Dragon to be a but considerations other than those of
guest on high, without offspring born relationship were held to have influ. to his inheritance, no course has been enced the choice. It was, at any rate, open but that of causing Tsai Tien, upon Tsai Tien, who was at that time son of Prince Chun, to become adopted only three and a half years old, that
as the son of the Emperor Wen Tsung
Hien, and to enter upon the inheritance the choice of the Imperial Clan Court
of the great dynastic line as Emperor fell. The death of the Emperor Tung by succession. When a Prince shall Che, the selection of a successor and have been born to the Emperor, he the appointment of the Dowager-Em- shall be adopted as inheritor of His presses as regents, are described in a Majesty now departed.” series of edicts possessing curious interest, both on account of the insight
A third decree appoints certain Magthey give into the customs of the Court nates to arrange the obsequial rites. A and the quaint eloquence of the lan
fourth degrades the two Imperial physi. guage employed.
of cians. The fifth purports to be an ac. thought in Europe is, le roi est mort: knowledgment, by the child Emperor, vive le roi; but the practice, at any rate,
of the benign mandate of the Emin China is diametrically opposite. The presses "commanding him to enter first thing is to proclaim a new Em- upon the inheritance of the great peror; then the latter announces his succession;" grief, eulogy of the predecessor's death. Tung Che died late Emperor's character, and awe on the 12th January, 1875; at least, that
at the magnitude of the trust was the date officially given; and the bequeathed are expressed in pathetic Peking Gazette of the 13th contained language; and the Ministers and sera series of edicts announcing the fact
vants, high and low, in the ranks of the and the choice of a successor-or
civil and military administration, are rather the succession and the death. exhorted to "strive in uprightness and In the first, eight of the Imperial loyalty to maintain an ever-improving Princes and twenty-one Ministers and
rule.” The sixth purports to be a valeMagnates of the Court state that they dictory edict by the deceased monarch, have received the benign mandate of penned in recognition of the fact that
: To perform the ancestral rites one must be a son; but a son must be of a posterior generation. Tsal Tien could, therefore, be introduced into the succession only by adoption to Hien Fung.
this left Tung Che without an heir, it is promised that Kwang Su's first son shall be adopted to Tung Che.
for some days past his strength had acts of homage to his own child. Prince gradually failed, until the hope of re- Chun was excused, therefore, from takcovery had passed away; "mindful of ing his place in the ranks of attendance the graver interests of the dynastic to offer homage on His Majesty's enline, he feels that it behooves him to thronement, but was enjoined still to transmit his charge to worthy hands," attend to the ceremonial at the various and states that he has received the be- ancestral temples and the annual sacnign mandate of the Empresses ap- rifices at the eastern and western maupointing Tsai Tien to succeed him; the solea, and was made a Prince of the latter is exhorted to accept with rever- first order with perpetual hereditary ence the trust that is bestowed; to succession. exert himself continually, to choose his Waters which had been so violently servants wisely, and to cherish filial disturbed were not likely to subside at devotion for the Empresses; while the once. It was felt that the natural Ministers and officials are to unite in course of succession had been diverted, upright and loyal efforts that they may to serve the ambition of the Dowagers; "uphold for him a more and more glo- but they were able to make good their rious rule."
position. The death of the young EmOn the 15th January the Empresses press Ah-lu-tê, two months after her formally accept the Regency which husband, cleared the way. A distinthey had practically assumed. The guished literate was found with courformality is accomplished through the age to denounce the disturbance of medium of a memorial from the various the line of descent which left Tung Che magnates of the Court, which the Em- without a son to perform the ancestral peror “reverently presents for the af- rites, and to commit suicide by way of fectionate perusal of their Majesties.” emphasizing and expiating his protest. The latter reply that it has made them But all passed without external disfeel with added poignancy the sorrow turbance; and the august ladies enthey are unable to dispel; "the institu- tered upon a second Reganıy which tion of a Regency from behind the cur- lasted-in the case of Tze An, till ber tain is essentially a temporary expedi- death in 1881, and in the case of her ent; in consideration, however, of the still surviving colleague, till Kwang Su fact that His Majesty, who has suc- came of age, in 1889. ceeded to the throne, is at present of Chinese names are a weariness to a tender age; and moreover that, in the European flesh, and the interest of times so filled with trouble, the Princes Chinese dynastic episodes to the Euroand Ministers cannot be left without a pean reader is in inverse ratio to their source to look to for authority, we have importance at Peking. The interests no choice but to yield consent to their of Great Britain in the Far East are, entreaty until His Majesty shall have however, considerable; and it is befulfilled the period of his education." cause these may be considerably afA decree of the 16th announced that fected by ambitions which disregard the designation “Kwang Su" had been every canon of Chinese propriety that chosen as the style of the new reign. I have ventured to recall the leading Another, of the 21st, relieved Prince features of a story which finds its seChun from the embarrassment to which quel in the incidents of the last two he was subjected as being father to an months. Some may have been puzzled Emperor, but subject to a son. It is by the stress laid, in recent telegrams contrary to all Chinese notions of pro- from China, on the adoption of an heir priety that the father should perform to the throne who is to rank as heir
to Tung Che. Having discovered the scholars, who saw their venerable curkey to that riddle, we shall find that riculum in danger of change; among we have obtained the key to much else Palace creatures and Placemen, who that may have seemed obscure in re- saw their sinecures in danger; and cent intrigues.
among the whole host of Permanent The Empress-Dowager retired, avow- Officials, who saw their perquisites and edly, from the Regency on Kwang Su's the stereotyped routine of things likely coming of age, in 1889; but her con- to be thrown into the crucible. The tinued influence was repeatedly made Emperor was backed by thousands of manifest in edicts which the Emperor the younger literati, mandarins and admitted having received her instruc- merchants in the provinces, and by tions to issue or endorse. Dowager- some of the highest officials in the EmEmpresses are traditionally a Power, pire. But the coup d'état was effected in Peking. We find, for instance, the in Peking, where the reactionaries Emperor Tao Kwang, who was by no practically held the field. All that they means a fainéant, paying extraordinary wanted was a leader; and ignorance of respect to the lady who occupied that the forces really at work combined position in his day; and the tradition of with personal fears and personal amprolonged tutelage would combine with bition to throw the Empress-Dowager the prestige of position to give excep- into their hands. On the 22nd Septemtional influence to an able, determined ber she openly seized the reins of power, and ambitious woman like Tze-hsi. It in pursuance of an edict issued in the would be superfluous to recapitulate at Emperor's name, declaring his lack length the circumstances of the Em- of capacity and begging her to resume peror's revolt against that influence, the guidance of affairs. Six of the and practical supersession, in 1898; nor men who had prominently supported need we attempt to ascertain the pre- him in his schemes of reform were put cise measure of his individual capacity to death without form of trial. Kang and force. What is certain is, that he Yu-wei, the most prominent of all, stood for reform, and that the Empress- escaped to Hong-Kong, and thence to Dowager stands for reaction. He had Japan; leaving behind him, however, surrounded himself with reforming ad- an open letter addressed to the Foreign visers, and had issued a number of Ministers, in which certain unamiable edicts designed to get the State-carriage characteristics that have been ascribed out of the ancient ruts into which it to the Empress are frankly catalogued. had sunk. Such attempts have excited She is compared, more sinicâ, to the antagonism enough, upon occasion, in Empress Wu, who also succeeded in the comparatively young countries of keeping her son in tutelage, and keepthe West. They excited something ing hold of power during a long and akin to horror among moss-grown licentious life. She is charged with
3 The Empress Wu Tsi-tien, who flou rished durIng the greater part of the seventh century, was originally a concubine of the Emperor Tai-tsung (A. D. 627-50), one of the most famous sovereigns in Chinese history. It was during his reign that the Nestorians came to China, and were allowed to set up the famous monument which stands to this day at Singan, the capital of Schense. He was succeeded by a son, Kao-tsung, wbose indolence and incapacity were more remarkable by contrast with the vigor of his predecessor, but whose reign derived notoriety from the extra
ordinary career of Wu Tsi-tien. Wu, who had entered the harem of Tai-tsung
age of fourteen, is said to have retired to a Buddhish convent at his death; but Kao-tsung, who had seen and been fascinated by her, brought her back to the Palace, where she soon succeeded in gaining absolute control. Aspiring to the position of Empress, she accomplished her
purpose by strangling her own child and charging the crime against the actual Empress, who was tried, degraded, imprisoned, and eventually died. Installed in her stead, Wu gradually engrossed the management of affairs, which she succeeded in retaining after her husband's death.
and what would happen at her death? If the Emperor regained power, there would be a fresh era of reform; and not of reform only, but of revenge, perhaps, for wrongs suffered and indignities imposed. So a fresh combination was devised. The promise of adopting a posthumous son to Tung Che had never been fulfilled, as Kwang Su has not fulfilled his share by providing the child. It was consistent, under these circumstances, to propose that one should be selected from among the younger members of the Imperial Clan. A son (adopted or otherwise) of Tung Che would stand out as heir to the Throne, and a whole vista of possibilities was opened up! On the 23rd January, 1900, accordingly, the Peking Gazette contained the following de
having tried to corrupt the Emperor, and with having poisoned her former colleague, the Empress-Dowager of Hien Fung, and her daughter-in-law, the Empress-Dowager of Tung Che. She is characterized as an Usurper, having deposed an Emperor who was full of brightness and promise; and is told that she is, after all, but a concubine-relict of Hien Fung, “whom, by her acts, she made die of spleen and indignation." Chang Yin-huan, who had been in England twelve months before as Special Envoy at the Queen's Jubilee, was banished to Turkestan, having been hardly saved from death, it is believed, by the interposition of H.B.M. Minister. High provincial officials, guilty of progressive tendencies, were displaced right and left, and their places filled by Manchus and reactionaries. It was frankly anticipated, at the time, that a drama which opened with such amenities would be consummated by Kwang Su's death; but an explosion of remonstrance from the Provinces combined with representations by H.B.M. Minister of the evil impression that would be produced by such an event to arrest the design. He was allowed to, live, under close tutelage and control, and the Empress Tzebsi has ruled openly in his stead.
Having turned the tables on her adversaries, and recovered the power which those who have once tasted it are reputed to love, the Empress might have been content; though even she might grow weary of combating the hostility to her régime which centres round the personality of Kwang Su. But the reactionary clique was not happy. All was safe for the moment; but their mistress is advanced in years,
The Grand Secretariat is hereby commanded to transmit our instructions to the following
persons:-Pu Wei, Prince of Kung, 1st Order; Princes Tsai Lien and Tsai Ying, 3rd Order; and Duke Tsai Lan; also the members of the Grand Secretariat, Lord Chamberlain, Ministers of the Presence, Grand Council, Board of ComptrollersGeneral of the Imperial Household Department, the Manchu and Chinese Presidents of the Six Boards and Nine Ministries, and the Heads of the Imperial Academy and Library. The above-named are bereby commanded to assemble in the Palace to morrow morning, and await further instructions.
The object was to choose-or sanction the predetermined choice of-a child, who should be given as heir to Tung Che; and it is part of the irony of things that the result was announced
Kao-tsung left the throne to his son, Chung-tsung; but Wu displaced him in favour of his brother; herself retaining the reins of power till she was displaced in her old age by a Palace conspiracy, dying at last at eighty-one. A bigoted Buddhist,
she allowed Christianity, which Tai-tsung had tolerated, to be slandered and persecuted. Accused of murdering all who opposed her will, and of gratifying her pride by assuming semi-divine titles, the example of her reign has been held up as striking evidence of the evil of allowing women to meddle in politics.