« VorigeDoorgaan »
tranquillity to his empire. As humane and far-seeing as he was courageous, Hung Wu softened defeat to his enemies by treating them when in his power with consideration. The grandson of the last Mongol Emperor having been taken prisoner by his troops, Hung Wu's councillors urged that this prince might cause trouble, and urged that, following the example set by the greatest of the Sung emperors under similar circumstances, Hung Wu should have the captive prince put to death in the ancestral hall of the Imperial family.
I know [replied Hung Wu] that this emperor caused Wang Shechung to be put to death in the hall of the Ancestors. I doubt very much whether he would have done this had the person in question been a member of the family of Suy, his predecessors on the throne. Let the wealth brought from Tartary be put into the public treasury to defray the expenses of the suite. With regard to Prince Maetelepala, his ancestors have been masters of the empire nearly a hundred years; mine were their subjects; and even were it customary to put to death the members of a family expelled from the throne, it is a severity to which I could never yield. The Emperor then conferred on the captive prince the title of a prince of the third rank, desired him to assume Chinese dress, and assigned him a palace in which to reside with the princesses who were his wives. Before long the Emperor sent the captive prince back to his father in Tartary, commanding the escort to treat him with all honour, and that the greatest care should be taken that no harm befell the heir of the Mongol throne on the journey; for such was the position of the captive prince.
Little is heard of the White Lotus Society during the rule of the Ming Emperors; but after the throne had again fallen into the hands of a foreign dynasty--namely, the Manchus—the White Lotus League began to cause uneasiness in high quarters, and in 1763 the Emperor Kien-lung issued an edict against it, as also against the two kindred societies of Illustrious Worthies and the White Cloud Sect. The object of these societies was the restoration of their native Ming Dynasty. The White Lotus are said still to exist in the northern portion of China, but sunk into obscurity with the increasing importance of the Hung League, known as the Heaven and Earth League, or Triad Society. Like nearly all secret societies, the Hung League lays claim to an origin of almost mystical antiquity; it probably has an ancient descent, but did not assume a position of importance till the downfall of the Ming Emperors, when its avowed object became the restoration of that dynasty and the expulsion of the Manchus.
For long it was almost impossible to obtain any accurate information about the real objects and obligations of the Triad Society ; both in China and the colonies the league was proscribed by severe laws, and though the literati and gentry were
often members of the forbidden league, prejudice or fear made them unwilling to speak on the subject to outsiders. In 1863, however, a number of books were found by the police at Padang in Sumatra, which, on investigation, proved to contain the statutes, oaths, rites of initiation, catechism and so on of the Triad Society; and in Hong Kong from time to time similar volumes belonging to the association containing its laws, symbols, signs and so forth fell into the hands of the detective force.
The traditional account given by the Triads of their assumption of a political aim is that in the reign of the Manchu Emperor Kang-bi, the monks of a certain Buddhist monastery, which had existed for about a thousand years in a secluded and romantic spot in the hills of the Tachin prefecture, volunteered their services to the Emperor to free the empire from the incursions of a tributary prince, who had thrown off his allegiance to China. Though Buddhists, the monks had devoted a portion of their time to studying military tactics and strategy, and had become adepts in the warlike arts of the day; accordingly, when a proclamation was issued offering great rewards to all persons, whether noble or mean, males or females, or Buddhist or Taoist priests, who would come forward and subdue the terrible Silu State, and free China from her foe,' a certain man named Cheng Kiuntah, who had studied and taken high honours in this monastery of Shao-lin, saw the proclamation and hurried off to consult the monks on the steps he proposed they should take with regard to it. The 128 monks in the Shao-lin monastery determined unanimously to offer their services to the Emperor, and went in a body and took down the proclamation, which was the sign that they undertook the matter referred to in it. The Imperial Guard then took charge of the proclamation, and escorted the monks to the Court. The Emperor granted them an interview and inquired into their military capabilities. Having satisfied himself on this point, the Emperor gladly accepted their proffered services, and offered them whatever assistance they deemed necessary in men and money. The monks answered that they needed horses and provisions, but would not want a single soldier.
Their request being granted, the Emperor conferred plenary powers on the monks, and gave them a sword and a triangular jade seal on which characters were engraved. Equipped with these marks of imperial favour, and having selected a lucky day for their start, the monks set forth on their enterprise ; and having cut their way through mountains, bridged rivers, and overcome numerous obstacles, the band at length reached the territory held by the rebel prince; there they encamped and built themselves a strong stockade. Before long the Silu army appeared and attacked the entrenchment. The monks did not long remain on the defensive, but sallying out rode through the barbarian soldiers, hacking and slashing them to pieces as easily 'as if they were splitting bamboos.' The valiant monks gained fight after fight in similar fashion, till at length the Prince of Silu, despairing of victory, sued for peace, which the monks granted on his undertaking to return to his former allegiance and tribute.
It only took three months to accomplish this feat, and amid songs of triumph from the people wherever the little band passed, the victorious monks returned to the capital.
So delighted was the Emperor at their success that he wished to bestow on them whatever offices they chose, but the monks desired no such favours; all they asked was to be allowed to retire to the seclusion of their monastery.
Your subjects (said they) lead a pure life, and are priests who follow the doctrine of the divine Buddha. We would not have dared to transgress his pure precepts, if it had not been that the country was ruined by the soldiers of Eleuth (i.e. Silu); so we have destroyed and exterminated them; but now we ought again to obey those pure precepts, forbidding us to desire worldly happiness and accept inconsiderately of high posts. We all wish to return to our convent Shao-lin, there again to worship Buddha, to say our prayers, to sanctify our life, and to correct our minds, that we may reach perfection and enter Nigban (Nirvana). We only accept of the presents which your Majesty bestows upon us, in order to requite your divine favours.
The Emperor in person accompanied the monks to the door when they left the palace, and crowds of country-people welcomed them on their return to their beloved and beautiful monastery.
In this convent for several years they lived in peace and honour, but unhappily the Emperor Kang-bi died, and in the reign of his successor a' cruel and treacherous official was given high office in the province, who, coveting the precious gifts bestowed on Shao-lin by the late Emperor, continued to inspire the mind of the ruling monarch with doubts as to the loyalty of the monks, hoping to destroy them and himself obtain possession of the treasures guarded in the monastery. This treacherous official insinuated to the Emperor that it would be easy for monks who had conquered the Silu army to subdue the Empire itself, and pointed out that the fate of the country was in the power of these men, who might overthrow the dynasty 'as easily as they turned round their heads. Unhappily this villain so wrought upon the mind of the Emperor that he became alarmed, and asked, if the monks were indeed so unassailable, what could be done against them. The treacherous official answered that if his Majesty would give him command of three or four hundred
men of the Imperial Guards, he would himself destroy the monks of Shao-lin.
At first the Emperor ridiculed the idea of so small a force being of any avail against such formidable warriors, whereupon the cunning official assured the monarch that it was his intention secretly to set the monastery on fire and blow it up with gunpowder. Convinced at last of the feasibility of the plan, the Emperor placed some hundreds of his guards at the disposal of the traitor, and as soon as it was possible the expedition started, but so secluded was the position of the monastery that in vain they attempted to discover it. While reconnoitring the forest, however, they came upon a renegade monk who had been expelled from Shao-lin on the discovery being made by the brethren that their erring companion was carrying on an intrigue with the wife and the sister of Cheng-Kiun-tah. This disreputable monk had ranked seventh in the brotherhood, and had been flogged and ignominiously driven from the convent on the discovery of the scandal, and he was still burning with rage and hatred against his former companions; so on learning the object of the expedition, he gladly volunteered as the tool for carrying out the terrible work on hand. In the silence and darkness of the night he guided them to the ill-fated monastery. Silently they stole up to the surrounding wall, piled gunpowder against it, heaped up inflammable materials, and when the soldiers set the trains on fire the buildings were speedily enveloped in flames. The greater number of the monks perished in the con. flagration, eighteen of them succeeded in escaping from the burning building, but of these, thirteen were so terribly burnt and injured that they died on the road while flying from their ruined monastery; hence the saying of the members of the Triad Society :
They died on the Huang-chun road, and though a myriad years pass, they shall be avenged.' The number seven is tabooed by the society, and the word Kat, meaning 'good luck,' substituted for it, owing to the fact of the traitor who betrayed the brotherhood having been seventh amongst the monks.
After many hardships, many narrow escapes, and several miraculous interpositions saving them from capture, the five surviving monks were wandering one day along the banks of a river, when their attention was arrested by something drifting along in the current. On dragging it out they were surprised to find it was a large tripod-shaped incense burner, on which was inscribed the sentence, ‘Subvert Tsing, restore Ming.' Greatly marvelling, the monks placed the incense burner on a stone to serve as an altar, and being destitute of the proper materials to use in worship, they substituted guava twigs for candles and blades of grass for incense, and offered libations of water, not
VOL. LXXI-NO. 422
having any wine. Amazed at the wonderful recovery of the tripod, they knelt and prayed that the destruction of their monastery by a Tsing Emperor might be avenged by a Ming ruler. As they knelt another wonder occurred, for behold, the twigs and grass burst into flames and began to burn of their own accord! Three times they had prayed for a sign; three times had thrown the divining blocks, and every time the blocks had turned favourably, so they knew their prayer would be granted. They returned to the Red Flower pavilion where they had found refuge, and related the wonderful things that had happened to their host, who said : 'It is the will of heaven that the Tsing dynasty should be overthrown and the Ming reinstated; undoubtedly the time for vengeance is fixed.'
Then they all agreed to unite themselves before heaven and earth, like the three famous ones of old, who swore in the Peach Garden to remain friends for life and death. They all pricked their fingers and mingled the blood with wine, they drank of it, and swore an oath to be like brethren, and go all over the world, to buy horses, raise braves, and enlist men for the cause.
It was agreed that those already of the society should be termed elder brothers, those who came later to be styled younger brothers, and all were to take the oath in the Red Flower Pavilion. That night as they gazed heavenward they saw the southern sky open, and brilliant stars form the words : Heaven's manifestation to the country,' a motto afterwards inscribed on the banner of the brotherhood. The night was one of portents, for a bright red light gleamed in the eastern sky, and caused them to adopt the name of Hung as that of the brotherhood; Hung (meaning red) when pronounced has the same sound as the characters in Chinese 3–8—20and 1, which represent heaven and earth, the odd numbers 3 and 1 standing for heaven, the 8 and 20 representing earth; therefore the word Hung was adopted as meaning both red, and heaven and earth, as the designation of the society. These mystic numbers are thus alluded to in the following lines used as one of their numerous watchwords, or rather verses, by the Triad Society, as the Hung brotherhood is usually called amongst Europeans :
The third month sees the pearl tree blossoming ;
The eight immortals come to fix the date,
By one word, through all time is known our fate.
After the formation of the Heaven and Earth League on political lines, the revolts and disturbances which broke out in China from time to time were often due to the influence of the Society, and the brethren were active participators in such rebellions.