China By Demetrius Charles Boulger

 -  Whatever dangers the emperor might be exposed to in the
streets of Pekin, where the members of the hated and - Page 172
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Whatever Dangers The Emperor Might Be Exposed To In The Streets Of Pekin, Where The Members Of The Hated And

Dreaded secret societies had as free access as himself, it was thought that he could feel safe in the interior

Of the Forbidden city - a palace-fortress within the Tartar quarter garrisoned by a large force, and to which admission was only permitted to a privileged few. Strict as the regulations were at all times, the attempt on Kiaking and the rumors of sedition led undoubtedly to their being enforced with greater rigor, and it seemed incredible for any attempt to be made on the person of the emperor except by the mutiny of his guards or an open rebellion. Yet it was precisely at this moment that an attack was made on the emperor in his own private apartments which nearly proved successful, and which he himself described as an attack under the elbow. In the year 1813 a band of conspirators, some two hundred in number, made their way into the palace, either by forcing one of the gates, or, more probably, by climbing the walls at an unguarded spot, and, overpowering the few guards they met, some of them forced their way into the presence of the emperor. There is not the least doubt that Kiaking would then have fallen but for the unexpected valor of his son Prince Meenning, afterward the Emperor Taoukwang, who, snatching up a gun, shot two of the intruders. This prince had been set down as a harmless, inoffensive student, but his prompt action on this occasion excited general admiration, and Kiaking, grateful for his life, at once proclaimed him his heir.

Toward the close of his reign, and very soon after the departure of Lord Amherst, Kiaking was brought face to face with a very serious conspiracy, or what he thought to be such, among the princes of the Marichu imperial family. By an ordinance passed by Chuntche all the descendants of that prince's father were declared entitled to wear a yellow girdle and to receive a pension from the state; while, with a view to prevent their becoming a danger to the dynasty, they were excluded from civil or military employment, and assigned to a life of idleness. This imperial colony was, and is still, one of the most peculiar and least understood of the departments of the Tartar government; and although it has served its purpose in preventing dynastic squabbles, there must always remain the doubt as to how far the dynasty has been injured by the loss of the services of so many of its members who might have possessed useful capacity. They purchased the right to an easy and unlaborious existence, with free quarters and a small income guaranteed, at the heavy price of exclusion from the public service. No matter how great their ambition or natural capability, they had no prospect of emancipating themselves from the dull sphere of inaction to which custom relegated them. Toward the close of Kiaking's reign the number of these useless Yellow Girdles had risen to several thousand, and the emperor, alarmed by the previous attacks, or having some reason to fear a fresh plot, adopted strenuous measures against them.

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