« PreviousContinue »
put to death by the sword. It was after a very long interval of quiet, and perhaps instigated by Russian emissaries, · that they broke into insurrection in 1862 in the mountainous province of Shensi. Though that province is only separated from the deserts of Mongolia by the Great Wall, it is the most ancient part of China; and its capital Signan is dear to the Chinese as having been the seat of the Tang dynasty, and of the great Emperor Tai-tsung, who established the system of literary examinations, drew up the Celestial code, pacified the whole country, and extended bis sway, so that westward it was only limited by a line stretching from Behar in India to the Caspian Sea. The greater part of the inhabitants of Shensi are Mohammedans, so the Rebels had little difficulty in taking the capital and slaughtering many of the Emperor's adherents; but the revolt was soon put down, partly by force, partly by arrangement, as a similar one was managed in last century by Kiep Lung.
In 1855 certain other circumstances occurred to rouse the Mohammedans. Bebind Shensi there is the immense province of Kansub, or “ Voluntary Reverence," for the most part a howling wilderness of sand and snow, extending over about 400,000 square miles beyond the Yellow River and the Great Wall, and inhabited chiefly by Buddbists. Behind this, again, still to tbe north-west and near the “Roof of the World,” there is the kingdom of Ili, surrounded by savage deserts and mountains covered with perpetual snow, and inhabited by Mohammedans proud of their isolation and devoted to their faith. These Turkestanes are quite out of the way of Chinese government; but a century and a half ago, the principal cities of the district being in perpetual feud, their chiefs besought the Chinese to put an end to these disturb
ances. After much hesitation the Celestials granted this request so far as to assume military command of Ii, leaving the entire civil administration in the hands of the native authorities.* By position, race, and religion, this wild high-lying country has naturally as little to do with China as it has with India ; and when the pressure of the Tai-ping Rebellion weakened the power of the Chinese Government to suppress the feuds of its Turkestani tributaries, it was only to be expected that the latter would throw off the Foreign military government to which they had voluntarily subjected themselves. The connection of China with this and similar dependencies about the “Roof of the World” was only a source of weakness to the Imperial Government, and continued simply because the inhabitants of these regions were solicitous for it. When the Mohammedans there severed the connection, no objection was made by the Celestial Government; but it was a different matter in regard to the more properly Chinese provinces of Shensi and Kansuh. When the Mohammedans who populate the former of these heard of the excitement among their co-religionists in Turkestan, they made a renewed outbreak in 1866, but with so little success that, instead of advancing eastward in the direction of Peking, they were pressed back by the Imperialists out of their own peculiar province into Kansuh, which, as bas been remarked, is inhabited chiefly by Buddhists, who consequently are not favourable to their pretensions. This caused a good deal of suffering to the people of Kansub, whose capital was taken and burnt by the Rebels; but instead of being an indication that the Mohammedans are making any real progress in the north-west of China,
* See Vambéry's "Travels in Central Asin,' and William's Middle Kingdom,' vol. i. chap. iv.
it only shows that they have been beaten back from their own proper ground into a thinly populated, halfdesert country, where it could not be expected that any efficient obstacle could be opposed to them, until an Imperial army, sent for the purpose, has time to come up from the south-east. The establishment of a Mohammedan state up in that little-known part of the world is not likely to cause any one much anxiety; and if formed, it will likely be soon dealt with by Russia.
There are other disorderly sections of people in China, who are occasionally raised to the rank of Rebels, and sometimes even identified with the extinct Tai-pings. Among these the most prominent are the Miaou-tsz, or supposed aborigines of the country, who have remained distinct from the Chinese for ages, and are even mentioned as such in some of the earliest chapters of the • Historical Classic,' relating to a period of about 2000 years B.C. The progress of Chinese civilisation drove these savages into the more inaccessible mountains of Yunnan and other south-western provinces, where they still linger, resembling a good deal the aboriginal hilltribes of India, and sometimes living in peace with their more cultivated neighbours, sometimes descending for the purposes of plunder. The Hakkas, also, in the south of China, keep up a great deal of local conflict, with which the Mandarins rarely interfere, and which is accepted by the people almost as one of their amusements. At the other end of the Celestial Empire, in Manchuria, there have been of late some roving bands of mounted banditti, one of which lately threatened the open port of Newchwang. Wherever, also, village braves are allowed to gather together in large numbers, or Imperialist troops are kept very long without pay, disturbances are apt to arise. These usually involve
OTHER CHINESE REBELS.
destruction of life and property, but none within the last two years have assumed formidable dimensions. The Central Government is still unwilling, and probably still too weak, to interfere promptly with cases of local disturbance; but it does not allow matters to go beyond a certain point, and of late has exercised more control and power of this kind over China than it could put forth during the years
of the Great Rebellion.
CHINA EMERGING FROM A PERIOD OF DISTURBANCE AND TRANSITION
-CAUSES OF SUCH PERIODS-OVER-POPULATION FALSEHOODS
THERE is a remarkable contrast between China as described by the older European travellers, from Marco Polo to the mission of Macartney, and the China of to-day, or of the last twenty years.
The prevailing impression left by the former vision is one of ease, order, peace, luxury, silks, and sumptuousness, such as war