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CHAPTER LXXX.

DEPOSITION OF THE EMPEROR;
THE PRINCE OF HAN CHUNG CLAIMS TO BE THE TRUE

SUCCESSOR. Hua Hsin was the spokesman of the deputation of officers that went into the palace, and he spake thus: “Since the inauguration of the Prince of Wei virtue has spread to the four corners of the empire and humanity has permeated all the earth to a degree unexcelled in all the ages, even in the days of the ancient rulers T'ang and Yü. We, your servants, have taken account of these things and have reached the conclusion that the race of Han is worn out, wherefore we trust Your Majesty, in imitation of the great prototypes Yao and Shun, will yield the empire to a more able guardian and high priest of the sacrifices in the person of the Prince of Wei, thereby pleasing Heaven and satisfying the hearts of men, and enabling Your Majesty to enjoy the happiness of freedom and repose from the exacting duties of the chief ruler. The happiness of your ancestors and of humanity at large would thereby be enhanced. Having thoroughly debated this matter, we have come to lay it before you."

The Emperor listened in amazement, and for a time could not reply. Then, looking at the assembly, he said sadly, “How can I abandon my empire for the sake of repose; the empire won by my Great Ancestor, its Founder, when he slew the Snake and restored Right, and consolidated when he reduced Ts'in and overwhelmed Ch'u; the empire which has been handed down for four centuries? Though I possess not brilliant talents, yet I have done no wrong. Go back and debate this again in a just and moderate spirit.”

Then Hua Hsin led forward Li Fu and Hsü Chih nearer the throne, saying, "If Your Majesty thinks we may be mistaken, pray ask these two, who will explain.'

Said Li Fu, “Since the Prince of Wei has taken his seat the Ch'i-ling has descended, the Phænix has appeared, a yellow Dragon has come forth, the Grain of Felicity has flourished and Sweet Dew has watered the earth. All these things augur that Heaven decrees a change and Wei must replace Han."

Hsü Chih continued, “The astrologers, watching the aspect of the skies at night, have seen the blazing light of the star

of Han gradually fade away and Your Majesty's own star become dim. On the other hand, the aspect of the sky and the attitude of the earth have been wholly in favour of Wei to a degree hard to state in words. Moreover, the lots have been cast and they gave the word 'devil' at the side of 'sent,' and there must be an inroad upon Han. Another lot, 'words and east of noon,' gave two words which, joined, compose Hsü. A third gave 'two suns, one on the other, which is chang. These signs are unmistakeable, for when put together the whole reads, 'Wei at Hsüchang is to receive the abdication of Han. If you consider, Your Majesty must admit this.”

"All empty words and madness, this talk of auguries and lots! Is it reasonable that I should suddenly abandon the great heritage for such nonsense ?

Then Wang Lang said, "Wax and wane has been the law of all things from the beginning; every period of glory is followed by one of obscurity. Has any rule endured for ever or any House never failed? The Rule of Han, handed down through four centuries to Yourself, has lost its vigour and the time has come to yield. Retirement may not be delayed or confusion will ensue."

The Emperor wept aloud and retired to his private chamber, while the officers left the hall laughing.

Next morning they assembled in the court, but the Emperor did not appear. So they sent the palace officers to request his presence. Still he feared to show himself. The Empress Ts'ao asked him why he did not hold the court as usual, especially when he was requested to go out.

"Because your brother wishes to depose me and become Emperor himself. He has set the whole host of officers against me to force me to abdicate, and I will not expose myself to this compulsion.'

"But what can have induced my brother to do such a dreadfully rebellious thing?" said she.

Just as she spoke, Ts'ao Hung and Ts'ao Hsiu, both armed, forced their way into the inner apartments and requested His Majesty to come to the Hall of Audience.

The Empress broke out into abuse. “So you are two of the disorderly rebels who, for the sake of your own ends, have conspired to upset all the good service of my father. Though he overshadowed the whole land, yet he never dared to aspire to the sacred Throne. But my brother, who has only just succeeded him, sets no bounds to his ambition and temerity and would usurp the Throne. Heaven will surely cut off his offspring!"

She wept bitterly as she went away, and the attendants sobbed and wept too. But Ts'ao Hsiu and Ts'ao Hung still urged the Emperor to go to the Hall of Audience, and at last he had to yield. There Hua Hsin took up the question again. "Your Majesty should act as was advised yesterday and so avoid any misfortune."

The Emperor sobbed, "All of you have eaten of the bounty of Han for years, and among you are many whose fathers and grandfathers were conspicuous for merit. How can you bring yourselves to act thus improperly toward me?"

"If Your Majesty refuses to follow advice I fear that there will soon be trouble in the family. Really we are not disloyal.”

“Who would dare to murder me?”' cried the Emperor.

“Everyone knows that Your Majesty lacks the happy attributes of a successful ruler and that is why there is so much confusion in the country. If it was not for the presence of the Prince of Wei in your court many a man would murder you. Your Majesty has never yet learned how to treat men; is your sole desire to set men against you?"

The Emperor, alarmed at the violence of his language, shook out his sleeves and rose to go away. Then Wang Lang glanced at Hua Hsin, who rushed forward and seized the Emperor by the sleeve.

"Is it consent or not?" cried he angrily. “One word!" The Emperor was dumb with terror.

"Where is the Keeper of the Seal?" shouted Ts'ao Hung and Ts'ao Hsiu, drawing their swords.

“The Keeper of the Seal is here," said Tsu Pi, stepping calmly to the front.

They tried to force the seal from him, but he said it belonged to the Emperor and he would not yield it. Ts'ao Hung called up the executioners and told them to behead him, which they did. He abused the ruffians to the last breath.

Dethroned by wicked traitors was the ruling House of Han,
They falsely claimed as precedent the deeds of Yü and T'ang.
The crowd of officers at court were all on Ts'ao P'ei's side

Save one, the Keeper of the Seal, and loyally he died. The Emperor was in a state of abject terror, and when he saw the whole court filling up with armed men, all the soldiers of Wei and so enemies, he burst into tears.

Yes; I will give up the throne to the prince, if haply I may be spared to live out the few years Heaven has assigned me, wailed he.

“The prince will always take care of Your Majesty," said Chia Hsü. “It would be as well to prepare the abdication manifesto quickly so as to preserve tranquillity.”

Such a hint could not be missed, and Ch'ên Chün was directed to draft the document. As soon as it was finished, Hua Hsin followed by a host of officers, took it off to the palace and presented it, with the seal, in the name of the Emperor. Very joyfully, Ts'ao P'ei read this writing :

“During the whole of my thirty-two years of reign the land has been in a state of turmoil, but the spirits of my ancestors have preserved me in the midst of danger. Now from the signs of the heavens and the hearts of the people I see that the virtue of the Hans is exhausted and happy fortune has devolved upon the House of Wei, as may be seen from the success in war enjoyed by the late prince and the resplendent virtue of the present prince, which answers to the times.

“By all noble principles the empire is no private possession, but a public trust. Wherefore the Great Yao, to his eternal glory, passed over his own son. How I admire this deed! Now in imitation thereof I have resolved to abdicate in favour of my Prime Minister, the Prince of Wei, who will not, I hope, disappoint my wishes.'

Ts'ao P'ei heard this and was going to accept it as final. But Ssúma I said no. Although the declaration and the seal had been sent, yet decorum demanded refusal at first so as to silence men's criticism. Then Wang Lang drafted a memorial modestly declining the proposal of succession on the ground of unfitness and asking that some other be sought. When this reached the Emperor he was much perturbed and asked what was to be done next.

Replied Hua Hsin, “When his father was offered a princedom he declined thrice; but he finally accepted. Wherefore Your Majesty should renew the offer. The prince will end by acceptance.”

There was no help for it, and so Huan K'ai was bidden to draft another declaration of offer, which was sent by the hand of the officer of the Dynastic Temple, Chang Yin, together with the emblems and the seal.

This new declaration read thus:

“To the Prince of Wei. You have sent your modest refusal of Our offer to abdicate. But I have long since seen that the virtue of Han is passing and I could only rely upon the late prince, your father, who virtuously undertook the great task of removing the evil oppressors and purging the land. Now his son P'ei has succeeded. His perfect virtue is resplendent, his fame universal and his benevolence is wafted to all parts. The divine choice rests upon him. In the days of old, Shun, after his twenty labours, would abdicate, and did so in favour of Yü the Great, who possessed merit. The House of Han succeeded in the course of ages to the work of Yao and now passes on the sacred trust, to promote the repose of the Earth and manifest the command of Heaven.

"By the hand of the Censor Chang Yin this is sent with the emblems and the seal.”

Greatly rejoicing, Ts'ao P‘ei received this. But he said to Chia Hsü, “Although I have received two such declarations, yet I fear that I may not escape being branded as a usurper by posterity.”

“That is easily arranged," replied Chia Hsu. Direct Chang Yin

to take the seal back again and tell Hua Hsin to cause the Emperor to set up a Terrace of Abdication and select an auspicious day for the ceremony. Then assemble all the officers at the terrace and cause the Emperor to offer the seal with his own hands and surrender the empire to you. Thus can you dissipate all doubts and prevent any cavillings." So the seal was once more rejected with a memorial to say

Chang Yin returned and the Emperor enquired of the courtiers how he was to understand this act. Then Hua Hsin said, "Your Majesty can set up a Terrace of Abdication and assemble nobles, officers and common people to witness the act of abdication. Thereafter the descendants of your House shall receive favour at the hands of Wei."

The Emperor consented and sent officers to select a site at Fanyang. And there they built a terrace of three storeys, and they chose the day keng-wu of the tenth month for the act of abdication. On the appointed day the Emperor Hsien requested Ts'ao P'ei to ascend the terrace and receive his abdication. At the foot of the terrace stood the officials, more than four hundred, and the Imperial Guards and the Tiger Guards, and soldiers to the number of thirty legions. Thereupon the Emperor presented the seal, which Tsao P'ei received into his hands. Then all those about the terrace knelt to listen to the reading of the manifesto.

“To the Prince of Wei. In days of old, Yao yielded the empire to Shun, and Shun in turn gave it to Yü. The will of Heaven does not follow the way of mortals, but seeks the virtuous. The rule of Han has lost its virility and the times are out of joint. When my turn came to rule, great disorder arose, and evils stalked abroad till the empire was in danger of subversion. I trusted to the military genius of the late Prince of Wei to restore order and purge away the evil, whereby to ensure tranquillity to my House. What could my single hand do to correct this and ensure peace for my Nine Domains?

“The present prince has succeeded to his father; he is also resplendent in virtue, capable as Wên and Wu of the great task, brilliant in the glory of his father. The spirit of empire is upon him; gods and men declare his worth. To him be the bright reward, and let him accept this mandate. For all say his capabilities fit him to stand beside Shun.

As did my great predecessor, I respectfully retire that you may be set up. The revolution of Heaven brings the glory upon your person, and you will accept the high office and comfort all men by reverently obeying the decree of Heaven.”

The reading finished the Prince of Wei, Ts'ao P'ei, proceeded to the terrace and ascended to the place of the Emperor. Then Chia Hsü, at the head of the great concourse of officers,

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