Breaking the Chains

Page 33

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About two months before Francis Xavier died, Matteo Ricci was born. Thirty years later he arrived in China. Ricci took European science to China. He maintained that the Jesuits 'gave such clear and lucid explanations on all these matters which were so new to the Chinese, that many were unable to deny the truth of all that was said; and, for that reason, the information quickly spread among all the scholars of China'. Among the matters so new to the Chinese was the work of Euclid. Little is known of Euclid's life beyond the fact that he founded a school at Alexandra during the reign of Ptolemy 1 Soter (323 - 285/283BC). The most influential work produced by Euclid is his 'Elements'. It is a treatise on geometry. The Elements was the primary source of geometric reasoning until the arrival of non-Euclidean geometry in the 19th century. One of the books produced in Chinese by Ricci was 'The First Six Books of Euclid'.

Ricci died in Peking on 11 May 1610. Adam Schall von Bell arrived in China in 1622. He died in Peking on 15 August 1666. Ferdinand Verbiest followed Schall. He advised the K'ang-hsi emperor on many occasions and, as previously stated, it was Verbiest who advised the emperor on the construction of cannon for use in The Revolt of the Three Feudatories.

This conflict seems to have been caused by a suspicion that three Chinese generals, who had been given 'kingdoms' in southern China for services rendered to the Manchu, would eventually unite to become a rival state. The generals in question were: Keng Chi-mao (Fukien), Shang K'o-hsi (Kwangtung), and Wu San-kuei (Yunnan). In 1673, when the emperor was nineteen years old, an opportunity to forestall the South's rise to power presented itself. Shang K'o-hsi wanted to retire. Shang had been a Ming general. In 1634 he transferred his loyalty to the Manchu and by 1644 he was a leading Ch'ing general. As the 'prince who pacifies the south' Shang was sent in 1649 to conquer Kwangtung. It became his 'kingdom'. Shang ruled as king of Kwangtung until 1673 and then asked the emperor to allow him to retire. K'ang-hsi gave his consent. General Keng Chi-mao and general Wu San-kuei were placed in an awkward position -should they, if only to be polite, also offer to retire? Fearing his power would be constrained Wu San-kuei rebelled. Shang remained loyal to the emperor but Shang's eldest son arrested Shang and then joined Wu San-kuei and Keng Chi-mao in rebellion.

General Wu San-kuei was seen as the main threat. He had been the Ming general responsible for defending the northeast frontier against the advance of Manchu forces. General Dorgon was his most important enemy. After the bandit Li Tzu-ch'eng took Peking in April 1644, the month in which the last Ming emperor killed himself, general Wu San-kuei approached general Dorgon for help. General Dorgon's forces entered Peking in June 1644, and on 30 October 1644 Fu-lin became the first Ch'ing Emperor (Shun-chih). He was six years old. Loyal Ming officials asked Wu to help them restore the Ming dynasty but he would not. In 1659 Wu was given responsibility for the mopping up any pockets of Ming resistance left in the southwest. Wu San-kuei subsequently became 'king' of Yunnan and Kweichow until the rebellion of 1673. Wu decided upon the name Chou for his rival dynasty. He intended to be the first emperor. Initially the rebels met with success. In 1674 Wu San-kuei's forces advanced into central China. There they lost the advantage. General Wu died of dysentery soon after. The rebellion, under the leadership of Wu's grandson, lasted until 1681.

Before moving on it might be useful to briefly outline the career of the Manchu general Dorgon. He died about twenty-three years before the Revolt of the Three Feudatories. To begin with Dorgon and general Wu had been enemies. But when the Ming dynasty fell to the Chinese bandit Li Tzu-ch'eng, it was to Dorgon that general Wu turned to for help.

Prince Dorgon (born on 17 November 1612) was a son of Nurhachi: founder of the Manchu state. Under Nurhachi's successor Dorgon was made an Imperial prince. Nurhachi's successor was Dorgon's brother Abahai, Nurhachi's eighth son. Dorgon had fifteen brothers in all; fourteen were older, one was younger. After the war against Chahar Mongols Dorgon was made prince of the first degree. During Abahai's attempt to conquer China, Dorgon led one of the army groups that breached the Great Wall and sacked a number of cities. Abahai died in 1643. Dorgon was nominated his successor. He refused to take the imperial title. Rather than become emperor Dorgon chose to act as regent for Abahai's five-year-old son Fu-lin. Fu-lin became the first Ch'ing emperor. Dorgon established Peking as the capital and laid the foundation for Manchu rule over China. Not only did Dorgon establish Fu-lin as the first Ch'ing emperor in 1644, he also busied himself pacifying the Chinese provinces of Shensi, Shantung, and Honan (home of the Shao-lin temple). By 1646 Dorgon had subdued several other provinces: Kiangnan, Hopeh, Kiangsi, Szechwan, and Fukien. The remaining Ming forces were driven into the southwestern parts of China.

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