MM The First Dynasty, nam'd Hia, which contains Seventeen Emperors in the Space of 458 Years.
Cycle 3.THE Second Year of this Cycle, which is the Year 2217 before Christ, Yu, or Ta yu, which signifies, Yu the Great, governed the Empire alone, and kept his Court in the Province of Chan si. A Son of the Emperor Chun, grieved to see a Stranger on the Throne, endeavoured to raise a Rebellion, but being forsaken by the Nobles and the common People, his Attempts only help'd to establish Yu, whose Virtue and great Genius had entirely won the Hearts of his Subjects. The Knowledge he had acquir'd of the Nature of Lands, enabled him to write an excellent Treatise of Agriculture, in which he taught how to cultivate, to sow, and manure Lands. He afterwards caused the Slopes and higher Grounds to be level'd, that the Water might flow to those Places which most wanted it. He divided his whole Dominions into nine Provinces, and caused as many great brazen Vessels to be made, on each of which a Map of a Province was engraved : In succeeding Times these Vessels became very precious, for 'twas believed that the Safety of the State depended on their Preservation, and whoever could get Possession of them thought himself sure of the Crown. The Empire became Hereditary under this Prince, as well as the Priesthood, which was before united to the Crown, and has remained to this time inviolably attach'd to it, it being Death for any other Person to offer Sacrifices.
It was the way to gain the Emperor's Favour, to admonish him of his conduct ; and he thought no Employment so becoming a Monarch, as that of doing Justice to his People : For this end he gave Access at all Hours, and at the Gates of his Palace were fix'd a Bell, a Drum, and three Tables, one of Iron, another of Stone, the third of Lead, and he ordered all Persons to found one of these Instruments when they wanted Admittance ; the Bell was to distinguish Civil Affairs, the Drum was to be beat for Business related to the Laws or Religion, the Table of Lead for Matters of the Administration, the Table of Stone to denote a Complaint of Wrong done by some Magistrate and lastly the Table of Iron, to complain of some hard Usage. The Emperor received every body graciously that came to give him with any Information , or to implore his Justice ; it is related, that he arose from Table twice in one Day at the Sound of the Bell, and another Day, that he came three times out of the Bath to hear some Complaints.
He used to say that a Prince ought to be as cautious of his Conduct, as if he walk'd upon Ice ; that nothing was more difficult than to govern ; that Dangers surround a Monarch ; that he has every thing to fear, if he gives himself up to his Pleasure ; that he should avoid Idleness, choose good Ministers, and follow their Counsels ; and when once he had made a Resolution, he should execute it without Delay.
In this Reign Y tie invented Chinese Wine : This Drink is made of Rice, and as soon as the Emperor tasted it, he express'd his Concern thus, this Liquor, says he, will cause the greatest troubles in the Empire ; and forthwith banishing the Inventor, forbid the making any Under severe Penalties: This Precaution prov'd of no Effect for the Art of making it was preserv'd, and it is at present esteem'd one of their greatest Delicacies.
TI KI, the Son of Yu, succeeded, and the People observing the same great Qualities in the Son, which they had admired in the Father, were more easily Comforted for their Loss.
The Beginning of his Reign was disturbed by a War with a tributary Prince, who ill treated his Subjects, and design'd to make himself absolute. The Emperor therefore put himself at the Head of his Army, and, with the Assistance of six tributary Princes, reduced the Rebel. The People did not long enjoy the Benefits of this Prince's Wisdom, for hie died in the 29th Year of this Cycle, and his Son Tai kang succeeded.
TAI KANG began his Reign by making several Principalities, which he divided among his five Brethren, in order to lessen the Jealousy they might entertain on seeing him preferred , but this was the only wise Action of his Reign.
He abandoned the Care of the Government, to give himself wholly to irregular passions ; his Palace was , full of loose Women ; he spent whole Days in the Woods hunting wild Beasts, his Horses and Dogs, ravaged the Country, and destroy'd the Harvests : The People in general complained grievously of this Tyranny ; but Complaints and Remonstrances having no Effect, there followed a general Revolt.
One of the Emperor's Chief Officers undertook to dethrone him : He was General of the Army, which entirely confided in him ; with the Consent of the Nobility he made the Emperor Prisoner, while he was hunting in the Woods, where he had been upwards of three Months, sent him into Banishment, and see his younger Brother Tchong kang on the Throne : This Revolution, which happened in the 47th Year of this Cycle, was effected without any Disorder.
Tchong kang would never take the Title of Emperor while his Brother was living, so that the Years of this Reign are computed from the Death of Tai kang.
He discover'd as much Prudence as Modesty in this conduct : He was afraid that Y would on some occasion make life of his Power to dethrone him, as he had done his Brother ; nevertheless he found an Expedient to reward his Services, and to secure himself.
He declar'd that the wise Counsel of so skilful a Minister as Y was absolutely necessary to him, and desired to have him near his Person ; Y was caught in the Snare, and expected to make himself soon Master of the Emperor, and to govern the Empire in his Name : The Employments of Privy Counsellor and General were never given to the same Person. Tchong kang gave the Command of the Army to Tcheou, an Officer of approved Fidelity : This prudent Measure help'd greatly to fix him on the Throne.
Y finding, by the Consequence, that he had no Share in the Favour or Confidence of Tchong kang, vow'd in Revenge to destroy the Imperial family ; yet he disguised his Resentment, and finding he could not execute his Projects while tcheou was at the Head of the Army, he tried several Ways to displace him, but in vain. All his Attempts proving abortive, he contented himself with gaining the Good-Will of the Chief Officers, and had the Address to insinuate himself into the good Graces of the next Heir to the Crown, till he had an Opportunity of effecting his Design : While these things were in Agitation Tai kang died, the 58th Year of this Cycle, and then Tchong kang took the Title of Emperor. The second Year of this Cycle, or the sixth as others say, there was a remarkable Eclipse of the Sun in the Constellation Tang: The two Astronomers Hi and Ho, who presided in the Tribunal of the Mathematicks, were put to death because they had not foretold this Eclipse, but by excessive Drinking had neglected to compute and observe the Celestial Motions : This caused some Defect in the Calendar entrusted to their Care, which was a capital Crime, Some believe these Mathematicians privately favour'd the Treason that Y was secretly plotting, and that they lost their Lives partly on this Account. Tchong kang died the 13th Year of the Cycle, and Ti Siang succeeded him the Year following.
THE Folly of Ti siang was the Cause of his Ruin, and was very near being the Destruction of his whole Family ; instead of following the conduct of his Father with regard to Y, by keeping him out of all considerable Employments, he became his chief Confident, and he was so blind as to displace the faithful Tcheou, and give the Command of the Army to this Traitor.
Y being restor'd to this important Post began to think of executing his Design ; he first gained the love of the Soldiers, and used them by degrees to pay less regard to the Commands of the Emperor than to his own ; in short he carried on so many Intrigues, that the Emperor was obliged to take Refuge in the Court of two Tributary Kings his Relations.
Y, while he was in Favour, had raised a great number of his Creatures to the highest posts of the State, but fearing lest other Tributary Princes should join the Emperor, he did not openly declare his Rebellion : He had recourse to the common Artifices ; he wrote a very submissive Letter to the Emperor, full of assurances of his Fidelity, entreating him to return to m Palace : He added that they were his greatest Enemies who had given him those unjust Suspicions, and accused them falsely of several Crimes, for which they were banish'd, or put to death, and their Employment given to his own Creatures.
Y, expecting soon to enjoy the Fruits of his Villainy, perish'd by a Treachery equal to his own : Among his Dependants there was one Han tso, a dissembling artful Fellow, in whom he chiefly confided, and given him the greatest Post in the Army. This ambitious Villain thought he should possess the Crown , if one Blow he could destroy both his Patron and his Sovereign: For this end he ordered Soldiers, whom he could trust, to assassinate Y as he was hunting, and give out that it was done by the Emperor's Orders: This succeeded to his Wish, and his Death was look'd upon as the just Punishment of a rebellious Subject.
Nothing remain'd but to dispatch the Emperor, which he effected by the following Contrivance : He sent for the Son of Y, and excited him to revenge his Father's Death, and furnish'd him with Means, by privately detaching a Part of the Troops he commanded. Kiao marches towards the Emperor, who had only Time to raise a small Army, gives him Battle, entirely routs his Forces, kills the Prince with his own Hand, and extirpates his whole Family.
The Empress alone escaped his Rage , who being pregnant with great difficulty took Refuge in the Mountains. Han tso immediately seized the Crown, and rewarded the signal Services of Kiao with a principal City.
THE Empress was delivered of a Son among the Shepherds in the Mountains, whom she called Chao Kang.
The Birth of this Prince was a Secret many Years, and he arrived to an Age of Maturity before the Usurper knew of it. The young Prince being inform'd that he was fought after, retired to the Court of a Tributary Prince, and serv'd in his Family as a Domestick, where he pass'd for a Shepherd's Son : Yet his Master observ'd something Grand and Noble in his Air, above what is generally seen in an obscure Birth and a rural Education, upon which he sent for him one Day, and being alone with him enquired the Particulars of his Family.
Chao kang told him ingenuously all his Misfortunes, which he had heard from his Mother : The Prince, who had been before informed of his Story, embrace Chao kang, gave him his Daughter in Marriage, and Part of his Principality for a Portion : In this Station the young Prince discover'd his fine Talents, and prov'd himself worthy of the Throne.
His Father-in-law immediately wrote to all the great Men, who were Friends to the late Emperor ; and being secure of the People, who hated the Usurper he rais'd an Army, and engaged the Tyrant in the 18th Year of the Cycle : Han tso making a faint Resistance was deseated, taken Prisoner, and put to an infamous Death : At the same Time Chao kang was restor'd to the Throne of his Ancestors with general Acclamations.
A S soon as Chao kang was seated on the Throne, he ordered his Troops against the Murderer of his Father : Kiao defended himself, but his little Army being cut to Pieces he was taken Prisoner and beheaded. The Death of these Rebels restor'd the Tranquillity of the State ; the Laws regained their Vigour , the Emperor often convened the Tributary Princes to reform the Disorders which had insensibly crept into the Government : His Orders were exactly obey'd ; his Reputation drew several Embassies from foreign Princes, and his Reign was glorious and peaceable. He died in the 40th Year of the Cycle, and was succeeded the next Year by his Son Ti chu,
THIS Reign affords us nothing remarkable : The Reputation this Prince had acquired in the Wars, kept every one in perfect Obedience ; there was indeed some little Disturbance toward the Sea, but it was quieted ,most as soon as it appear'd. Tt chu died the 57th Year of the Cycle, and the same Year his Son Ti hoai ascended the Throne.
THE Peace and good Order of the State had rendered the Empire so flourishing, that some neighbouring Nations sent Ambassadors to Ti hoai, the new Emperor, in the 60th Year of the Cycle, desiring his Protection on paying a yearly Tribute. It appears by History that these Ambassadors came by Sea, and consequently Navigation was then in Practice :
This Prince growing effeminate by the ease of a long Peace, became a Slave to his Pleasures, he pass'd the rest of his Life shut up in his Palace among Women and Eunuchs, leaving the Care of his Government entirely to his Ministers : He died the 23d Year of the Cycle, and the next Year his Son succeeded him in the Empire.
Ti mang was, like his Father, an indolent Prince, tho, not so much a Slave to his Pleasures ; all that he did worth Notice was transferring the Court towards the Yellow River, and visiting some Parts of his Dominions : He died the 40th Year of the Cycle, and was succeeded by his Son Ti sie, who began his Reign the Year following.
TI SIE deserv'd Praise for his Love of Justice, and the Care he took to preserve the Peace of his Dominions. the Petty Kings, who had made themselves Tributary, came in Person to pay their Homage, whom he honour'd with Titles to reward their Fidelity, He died the 57th Year of the Cycle, and left bis Crown to his Son Ti pou kiang,
IT IS surprizing that nothing happen'd in this long Reign worth the Notice of History, which only applauds the Equity of the Emperor, and the Peace which the Empire enjoy'd during his Reign. He Died the 56th Year of the Cycle.
He named his Son Kong kia for his Successor, but his Uncle Ti kiong usurp'd the Throne, and drove out his Nephew,
TI KIONG the Usurper peacefully ascended the Throne, the 57th Year of the Cycle, and, to deprive his Nephew of all Hopes of the Crown, named his Son Ti kin his Successor. He died the 17th Year of the Cycle, and his Son ti succeeded him.,
TI KI N continued the Usurpation of his Father, and reigned as long, but his Lewdness rendered him odious ; yet he kept the Crown till his Death, which happened the 38th Year of the Cycle: He could not give the Crown to his Son, but it was restored to Kong kia the lawful Heir.
KONG KIA did not Answer the People's Expectation ; forty Years Trouble should have learned him to govern his passions, yet as soon as he was in Power he became the most lewd and effeminate Prince that ever reign'd.
He left the Care of the Government to his Ministers, of whom he made a very ill choice, bestowing the most important Posts on Sycophants rather than Men of Merit.
This conduct made him so little regarded that the Tributary Princes refused to pay him Homage, and he never had the Courage to oblige them to do their Duty.
Tching tang, the Founder of the following Dynasty, was born the 5 th Year of this Cyclecycle 9., and the 11th Year Kong kia by his Death yielded the Crown to his Son Ti cao .
THE Vices of the late Emperor had rendered the Succession precarious, and this Prince did not help to establish it, but too much like his Father made his Palace the Seat of the most infamous Pleasures : His Excesses shorten'd his Days, and he died the 20th Year of the Cycle.
TI FA his Son succeeded, whose Character is not known ; History only mentions the Homage which was paid him by the Tributary Princes at his Accession, and his Misfortune of being the Father of Kie, the worst of Men, who was his Successor, and who was the last Prince of this Dynasty.
KIE succeeded the 40th Year of the Cycle, the Emperor dying the Year before : He proved a Monster of Cruelty, like the Nero of Europe, and to give so bad Prince the vilest Character, they say He is another Kie: He was born with some good Qualities, and a wonderful Strength of Body, but they were eclipsed by the numerous Vices to which he was addicted. His Wife was more cruel and wicked than himself, whole Commands he blindly obey'd; the Blood of his Subjects was every Day shed to please the barbarous Humour of this Princess. Kie caused a large Space of Land to be dug like a Lake, and having filled it with Wine commanded three thousand Person's to throw themselves into it : There was a private Apartment in the Palace, where, in the Presence of the Emperor and Empress, the most abominable Excesses were committed.
These horrid Actions caused a general Revolt, the whole Body of the People taking up Arms, but the Chief Ministers stopt the Insurrection, having yet some Remains of Love for his Person ; They represented to him, in an humble Manner, the Dangers he has exposed to by his licentious and tyrannical Conduct ; but these Remonstrances made him still more furious, and the Minister who spoke the Sense of the rest was condemned and executed in his Presence.
The Emperor's Fury did not lessen the Zeal of his wise Ministers ; they presented to him a Memorial, in which they freely reproached him with his abominable Cruelties : He had scarcely read it, but in a transport of Rage he resolved to put the Authors to Death. Tching tang , one of the Tributary Princes, who was most esteem'd for his Wisdom and Virtue, having join'd his Remonstrances to those aforementioned, was imprison'd in the 21 st Year of the Cycle, but his Confinement was of short Duration. These violent Proceedings, which encreased every Day, united all Orders of Men against the Tyrant : By general Consent they chose Tching tang to supply his Place, and obliged him to declare War against the Emperor.
This virtuous and disinterested Prince declared he had no Right to the Crown, and that if he took up Arms it was only to make the Emperor sensible of his Errors, and oblige him to return to his Duty. His Army was soon raised, each Prince furnishing his Quota: The Emperor also endeavoured to raise an Army, but could only get together a handful of Men : He tried to engage the Tartars in his Service by great Promises, but without Success, being equally abhorred by those People.
Being thus universally abandoned, he had recourse to Dissimulation, confess'd his Crimes, and seem'd penitent, desiring they would only grant him his Life.
Tching tang relented, and thinking the Emperor's Repentance sincere not only spared his Life, but also restored him the Crown. He immediately quitted his Post in the Army, and returned to his little Dominions, giving an Example of Moderation, which Was admired by the whole Empire.
The Emperor was scarcely replaced on the Throne but he began his usual Extravagances ; nay more, he raised an Army against Tching tang, whom he treated as a Rebel and a Traitor, Tching tang immediately put himself in a Posture of Defence, but when the twp Armies met, the Emperor's Soldiers deserted to Tching tang, and throwing their Arms at his Feet acknowledged him their Sovereign.
Kie had no Refuge left but Flight ; he banish'd himself from the Empire, and after three Years Exile, finish'd his criminal Life, which has made his Name and his Memory an Abomination to all Posterity.