Beacon Lights of History, Volume 14 eBook

John Lord
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 311 pages of information about Beacon Lights of History, Volume 14.

It was there his character was formed, on native models; there he carried off the higher prizes of the literary arena; and there he became fitted for the role of China’s typical statesman.

His career in outline may be stated in a few words.  His native province being overrun by rebels, he passed from the school-room to the camp, and got his earliest lessons in the military art under the leadership of the eminent viceroy Tseng Ko Fan.  The neighboring province of Kiangsu falling into the hands of rebel hordes a few years later, he won renown by recapturing its principal cities, by the aid of such men as the American Ward and the English Gordon.  His success as a general made him governor of Kiangsu, and his success as governor raised him to the rank of viceroy, holding for many years a post at one or other of the foci of foreign trade north or south.

Beyond the borders of China he was twice sent on special embassies, and once he made the tour of the globe; but his most brilliant achievement was in twice making peace on honorable terms, when his country was lying prostrate before a victorious enemy.

It remains to expand this incomparable catalogue; but to make intelligible that remarkable series of events in which he bore such a conspicuous part, we must first invite our readers to accompany us in a historical retrospect in which we shall point out the opening and growth of foreign intercourse.

I.

INTERCOURSE WITH CHINA BY LAND.

Of the nature of that intercourse in its earlier period, there exists a monument that speaks volumes.  That is no other than the Great Wall; which, hugest of the works of man, stretches along the northern frontier of China proper for one thousand five hundred miles from the sea to the desert of Gobi.  Erected 255 B.C. it shows that even at that early date the enemies most dreaded by the Chinese were on the north.  Yet how signally it failed to effect its purpose!  For since that epoch the provinces of Northern China have passed no fewer than seven centuries under Tartar sway.  Two Tartar dynasties have succeeded in subjugating the whole empire, and they have transmitted beyond the seas a reputation which quite eclipses the fame of China’s ancient sovereigns.

In fact, that which first made China known to the western world was its conquest by the Mongols in the thirteenth century.  Barbarous nomads, with longing eyes forever directed to the sunny plains of the south, they also conquered India, bringing under their sceptre the two richest regions of the globe.  Of Genghis and Kubla, it may be asserted that they realized a more extended dominion than Alexander, Caesar, or Napoleon ever dreamed of.  But

     “Extended empire, like expanded gold,
      Exchanges solid strength for feeble splendor.”

Their tenure of China was of short duration,—­less than a century.  In India, however, their successors, the great Moguls, continued to maintain a semblance of sovereignty even down to our own times, when they were wiped from the blackboard for having taken part in the Sepoy mutiny.

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Beacon Lights of History, Volume 14 from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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