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his departure, gave utterance to seditious cries, repeating that he who could so worthily command the army should be raised to the throne. This disposition of the lower orders was confirmed by superstition; a skilful astrologer causing them either to see, or imagine they saw, two suns in the heavens, one of which eclipsed the light of the other, from which he deduced that the divine powers were favourable to the revolutionary project.
Tchao Kouang had pitched his camp for the night, and retired to rest, when he was awakened by the superior officers of his army, who entered his tent with drawn swords, and, with menaces, compelled him to assume the yellow habit, which, in China, indicates the wearer either to be an aspirant to or possessor of the imperial dignity.
The revolution was quietly effected in the city, about the same time as in the camp,
the deposed monarch being created Prince of Tching, and having a revenue assigned him.
Tchao Kouang, with the yellow habit, as is the custom with Chinese emperors, assumed another name, Taitsou, by which he is known in the imperial annals, and his dynasty he de
nominated Soung, or Song: it numbered eighteen monarchs, and a rule of three hundred and nineteen years, dating its foundation in the
The dynasty of the Soung is divided into two branches—that of the Pe Soung, and that of the Nan Soung. The first, signifying the northern Soung, includes a succession of nine emperors; the second, signifying the southern Soung, is thus called, because the nine sovereigns that also composed this line, invariably had their capital in what is regarded as the southern portion of the empire. The first emperor of the Nan Soung was Chao-tsong or Kao-tsong, who began to reign A.D. 1127.
In 1259, by the death of his brother, Mangu, third successor of Genghis, Kublai, known by the Chinese under the names of Houpelai and Chitsu, became chief of the Moguls, at which period he was engaged in the conquest of the Chinese province of Honan, and the invasion of that of Kiangnan.
It was at this juncture that Kyatsetao, who figures in the following pages, was first called to high office by the Chinese emperor, Lytsong. He was sent, at the head of the troops, to
oppose the Tatars
a task for which he was utterly incapable. In a paroxysm of fear at beholding his army daily decimated by the sword and by desertion, he offered terms to Kublai, which the latter at first refused, but at last accepted, upon learning that his brother, Artigbogha, was aspiring to his throne. It was stipulated that the Chinese emperor should recognise himself as a subject of the Moguls, paying to these an annual tribute in silk and gold, and that the river Yantse-kiang should be regarded as the boundary of the two empires.
The terms of the treaty having been ratified by both parties, Kublai returned to the north ; but Kyatsetao, with true Chinese duplicity, having attacked and killed some few of the Mogul rear-guard, represented to his own court that he had gained a great and complete victory, averring his own conduct and valour to have driven the Tatars out of the empire, closely concealing the infamous treaty he had made; and lest it should be divulged, he caused an ambassador of the Mogul monarch to be seized and detained.
On the death of Lytsong, Kyatsetao continued to enjoy the same degree of influence as ever under his successor, Tutsong, who ascended the throne A.D. 1265.
By the year 1270, an individual of the name of Ahama, the very counterpart of Kyatsetao for avarice, debauchery, and other vices, had risen to considerable power at the Mogul court; but
this difference between the contemporaries—Ahama had continually to fear the vigilance of an active monarch, Kyatsetao had no peril but the usual one of courtly intrigue ; for Tutsong was averse to business, and left everything at the disposal of his prime minister.
The period I have selected for the opening of my tale is the commencement of the year 1274. The constitution of Tutsong, exhausted by a life dedicated to debauchery, is broken to such a degree that his death is shortly expected ; Kyatsetao is scheming to retain his power, and perhaps to advance to greater; whilst the Moguls, under the command of Chinsan Beyan—or, as the Chinese pronounce it, Peyen—begin their serious efforts for the conquest of the Chinese empire.
Throughout my tale, I have adopted the present appellation by which towns &c. are distinguished, for were I
were I to employ the geographical terms of the Soung dynasty, my readers, in a map of the present celestial em
pire, would vainly seek the places I might name.
With this I conclude, begging my readers to accept the result of many years' toil with feelings of generosity towards a young author, who appears before them in the difficult character of an illustrator of the customs of a country entirely new to works of fiction, with the design of rendering his countrymen intimately acquainted with a most distant and strange people.
LONDON, November, 1845.