cut short, and the nobles, disregarding the claims of Cheliemên, proclaimed as emperor Mangu, the eldest son of Tu-lé. Under this monarch the war against Sung was carried on with energy, and Kublai, outstripping the bounds of Sung territory, made his way into the province of Yun-nan, at that time divided into a number of independent states, and having attached them to his brother’s crown he passed on into Tibet, Tongking and Cochin-China, and thence striking northwards entered the province of Kwang-si.
On the death of Mangu in 1259 Kublai (q.v.) ascended the
throne. Never in the history of China was the nation more
illustrious, nor its power more widely felt, than under
his sovereignty. During the first twenty years of
emperior. his reign Sung kept up a resistance against his authority. Their last emperor Ping-ti, seeing his cause lost, drowned himself in the sea. The Sung dynasty, which had ruled southern China 320 years, despite its misfortunes is accounted one of the great dynasties of China. During its sway arts and literature were cultivated and many eminent writers flourished. His enemies subdued, Kublai Khan in 1280 assumed complete jurisdiction as emperor of China. He took the title of Shit-su and founded what is known as the Yuen dynasty. He built a new capital close to Chung-tu, which became known as Kaanbaligh (city of the khan), in medieval European chronicles, Cambaluc, and later as Peking. At this time his authority was acknowledged “from the Frozen Sea, almost to the Straits of Malacca. With the exception of Hindustan, Arabia and the westernmost parts of Asia, all the Mongol princes as far as the Dnieper declared themselves his vassals, and brought regularly their tribute.” It was during this reign that Marco Polo visited China, and he describes in glowing colours the virtues and glories of the “great khan.” His rule was characterized by discretion and munificence. He undertook public works, he patronized literature, and relieved the distress of the poor, but the Chinese never forgot that he was an alien and regarded him as a barbarian. He died unregretted in 1294. His son had died during his lifetime, and after some contention his grandson Timur ascended the throne under the title of Yuen-chêng. This monarch died in 1307 after an uneventful reign, and, as he left no son, Wu-tsung, a Mongol prince, became emperor. To him succeeded Jên-tsung in 1312, who made himself conspicuous by the honour he showed to the memory of Confucius, and by distributing offices more equally between Mongols and Chinese than had hitherto been done. This act of justice gave great satisfaction to the Chinese, and his death ended a peaceful and prosperous reign in 1320. At this time there appears to have been a considerable commercial intercourse between Europe and China. But after Jên-tsung’s death the dynasty fell on evil days. The Mongols in adopting Chinese civilization had lost much of their martial spirit. They were still regarded as alien by the Chinese and numerous secret societies were formed to achieve their overthrow. Jên-tsung’s successors were weak and incapable rulers, and in the person of Shun-ti (1333–1368) were summed up the vices and faults of his predecessors. Revolts broke out, and finally this descendant of Jenghiz Khan was compelled to fly before Chu Yüen-chang, the son of a Chinese labouring man. Deserted by his followers, he sought refuge in Ying-chang Fu, and there the last of the Yüen dynasty died. These Mongol emperors, whatever their faults, had shown tolerance to Christian missionaries and Papal legates (see ante § The Medieval Cathay).
Chu Yüen-chang met with little opposition, more especially as his first care on becoming possessed of a district was to suppress lawlessness and to establish a settled government. In 1355 he captured Nanking, and proclaimed Ming dynasty. himself duke of Wu, but carefully avoided adopting any of the insignia of royalty. Even when master of the empire, thirteen years later, he still professed to dislike the idea of assuming the imperial title. His scruples were overcome, and he declared himself emperor in 1368. He carried his arms into Tatary, where he subdued the last semblance of Mongol power in that direction, and then bent his steps towards Liao-tung. Here the Mongols defended themselves with the bravery of despair, but unavailingly, and the conquest of this province left Hung-wu, as the founder of the new or Ming (“Bright”) dynasty styled himself, without a foe in the empire.
All intercourse with Europe seems now to have ceased until the Portuguese arrived in the 16th century, but Hung-wu cultivated friendly relations with the neighbouring states. As a quondam Buddhist priest he lent his countenance to that religion to the exclusion of Taoism, whose priests had for centuries earned the contempt of all but the most ignorant by their pretended magical arts and their search after the philosopher’s stone. Hung-wu died in 1398 and was succeeded by his grandson Kien-Wên. Aware that the appointment of this youth—his father was dead—would give offence to the young emperor’s uncles, Hung-wu had dismissed them to their respective governments. However, the prince of Yen, his eldest surviving son, rose in revolt as soon as the news reached him of his nephew’s accession, and after gaining several victories over the armies of Kien-wên he presented himself before the gates of Nanking, the capital. Treachery opened the gates to him, and the emperor having fled in the disguise of a monk, the victorious prince became emperor and took the title of Yung-lo (1403). At home Yung-lo devoted himself to the encouragement of literature and the fine arts, and, possibly from a knowledge that Kien-wên was among the Buddhist priests, he renewed the law prohibiting Buddhism. Abroad he swept Cochin-China and Tongking within the folds of his empire and carried his arms into Tatary, where he made new conquests of waste regions, and erected a monument of his victories. He died in 1425, and was succeeded by his son Hung-hi.
Hung-hi’s reign was short and uneventful. He strove to promote only such mandarins as had proved themselves to be able and honest, and to further the welfare of the people. During the reign of his successor, Süen-tê (1426–1436), the empire suffered the first loss of territory since the commencement of the dynasty. Cochin-China rebelled and gained her independence. The next emperor, Chêng-t‛ung (1436), was taken prisoner by a Tatar chieftain, a descendant of the Yüen family named Yi-sien, who had invaded the northern Erovinces. Having been completely defeated by a Chinese force from Liao-tung, Yi-sien liberated his captive, who reoccupied the throne, which during his imprisonment (1450–1457) had been held by his brother King-ti. The two following reigns, those of Chêng-hwa (1465–1488) and of Hung-chi (1488–1506), were quiet and peaceful.
The most notable event in the reign of the next monarch, Chêng-te (1506–1522), was the arrival of the Portuguese at Canton (1517). From this time dates modern European intercourse with China. Chêng-te suppressed a formidable insurrection headed by the prince of Ning, but disorder caused by this civil war encouraged the foreign enemies of China. From the north came a Tatar army under Yen-ta in 1542, during the reign of Kia-tsing, which laid waste the province of Shen-si, and even threatened the capital, and a little later a Japanese fleet ravaged the littoral provinces. Ill-blood had arisen between the two peoples before this, and a Japanese colony had been driven out of Ningpo by force and not without bloodshed a few years previously. Kia-tsing (d. 1567) was not equal to such emergencies, and his son Lung-king (1567–1573)sought to placate the Tatar Yen-ta by making him a prince of the empire and giving him commercial privileges, which were supplemented by the succeeding emperor Wan-li (1573–1620) by the grant of land in Shen-si. During the reign of this sovereign, in the year 1592, the Japanese successfully invaded Korea, and Taikosarna, the regent of Japan, was on the point of proclaiming himself king of the peninsula, when a large Chinese force, answering to the invitation of the king, appeared and completely routed the Japanese army, at the same time that the Chinese fleet cut off their retreat by sea. In this extremity the Japanese sued for peace, and sent an embassy to Peking to arrange terms. Struggle with Japan for Korea. But the peace was of short duration. In 1597 the Japanese again invaded Korea, defeated the Chinese army, destroyed the Chinese fleet and ravaged the coast. Suddenly, however, when in the full tide of conquest, they evacuated Korea, which again fell under the direction of China. Four years later the missionary Matteo Ricci (q.v.) arrived at the Chinese court; and though at first the emperor was inclined to send him out of the country, his abilities gradually won for him the esteem of the sovereign and his ministers, and he remained the scientific adviser of the court until his death in 1610.
About this time the Manchu Tatars, goaded into war by the injustice they were constantly receiving at the hands of the Chinese, led an army into China (in 1616) and completely defeated the force which was sent against them. Three years later they gained possession of the province of Liao-tung. These disasters overwhelmed the emperor, and he died of a broken heart in 1620.
In the same year T‛ien-ming, the Manchu sovereign, having declared himself independent, moved the court to San-ku, to the east of Mukden, which, five years later, he made his capital. In 1627 Ts‛ung-chêng, the last emperor of Manchu invasion: 17th century. the Ming dynasty, ascended the Chinese throne. In his reign English merchants first made their appearance at Canton. The empire was now torn by internal dissensions.