The Emperor, fully aroused to the gravity of the danger, assembled his army, and placing himself at its head marched against the Tartars.
Continuing Tartars Invade China 200 BC,
our selection from History of China by Demetrius Charles Boulger published in 1884. For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages. The selection is presented in three easy 5 minute installments.
Previously in Tartars Invade China 200 BC.
Time: 200 BC
His first act was to proclaim an amnesty to all those who had borne arms against him. In a public proclamation he expressed his regret at the suffering of the people “from the evils which follow in the train of war.” During the earlier years of his reign he chose the city of Loyang as his capital — now the flourishing and populous town of Honan — but at a later period he removed it to Singanfoo, in the western province of Shensi. His dynasty became known by the name of the small state where he was born, and which had fallen early in his career into his hands.
Kaotsou sanctioned or personally undertook various important public works, which in many places still exist to testify to the greatness of his character. Prominent among those must be placed the bridges constructed along the great roads of Western China. Some of them are still believed to be in perfect condition. No act of Kaotsou’s reign places him higher in the scale of sovereigns than the improvement of the roads and the construction of those remarkable bridges. Kaotsou loved splendor and sought to make his receptions and banquets imposing by their brilliance. He drew up a special ceremonial which must have proved a trying ordeal for his courtiers, and dire was the offence if it were infringed in the smallest particular. He kept up festivities at Singanfoo for several weeks, and on one of these occasions he exclaimed: “Today I feel I am emperor and perceive all the difference between a subject and his master.”
Kaotsou’s attention was rudely summoned away from these trivialities by the outbreak of revolts against his authority and by inroads on the part of the Tartars. The latter were the more serious. The disturbances that followed Hwangti’s death were a fresh inducement to these clans to again gather round a common head and prey upon the weakness of China, for Kaotsou’s authority was not yet recognized in many of the tributary states which had been fain to admit the supremacy of the great Tsin emperor. About this time the Hiongnou[ 1] Tartars were governed by two chiefs in particular, one named Tonghou, the other Meha or Mehe. Of these the former appears to have been instigated by a reckless ambition or an overweening arrogance, and at first it seemed that the forbearance of Meha would allow his pretensions  to pass unchallenged.
[1: Probably the same race as the Huns.]
[2: Meha had become chief of his clan by murdering his father, Teou-man, who was on the point of ordering his son’s assassination when thus forestalled in his intention. Tonghou sent to demand from him a favorite horse, which Meha sent him. His kinsmen advised him to refuse compliance; but he replied: “What! Would you quarrel with your neighbors for a horse?” Shortly afterward Tonghou sent to ask for one of the wives of the former chief. This also Meha granted, saying: “Why should we undertake a war for the sake of a woman?” It was only when Tonghou menaced his possessions that Meha took up arms.]
Meha’s successes followed rapidly upon each other. Issuing from the desert, and marching in the direction of China, he wrested many fertile districts from the feeble hands of those who held them; and while establishing his personal authority on the banks of the Hoangho, his lieutenants returned laden with plunder from expeditions into the rich provinces of Shensi and Szchuen. He won back all the territory lost by his ancestors to Hwangti and Moungtien, and he paved the way to greater success by the siege and capture of the city of Maye, thus obtaining possession of the key of the road to Tsinyang. Several of the border chiefs and of the Emperor’s lieutenants, dreading the punishment allotted in China to want of success, went over to the Tartars, and took service under Meha.
The Emperor, fully aroused to the gravity of the danger, assembled his army, and placing himself at its head marched against the Tartars. Encouraged by the result of several preliminary encounters, the Emperor was eager to engage Meha’s main army, and after some weeks’ searching and manoeuvring, the two forces halted in front of each other. Kaotsou, imagining that victory was within his grasp, and believing the stories brought to him by spies of the weakness of the Tartar army, resolved on an immediate attack. He turned a deaf ear to the cautious advice of one of his generals, who warned him that “in war we should never despise an enemy,” and marched in person at the head of his advance guard to find the Tartars. Meha, who had been at all these pains to throw dust in the Emperor’s eyes and to conceal his true strength, no sooner saw how well his stratagem had succeeded, and that Kaotsou was rushing into the trap so elaborately laid for him, than by a skilful movement he cut off his communications with the main body of his army, and, surrounding him with an overwhelming force, compelled him to take refuge in the city of Pingching in Shensi.
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