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Bai Lien / White Lotus Society

The great Mongol warrior, Kublai, having destroyed the Chinese armies opposed to him and driven the faithful Luh Sin-fu, when all was lost, to embrace and jump with the last of the Sung line, the ill-fated boy-emiperor Ti Ping ui his arms, to meet death in the Canton River, ascended the throne of China, in AD 12S0, as the first emperor of the Yuan dynasty. He and his two immediate successors were wise and powerful, and, by their sagacity and vigor, suppressed all opposition to their rule. But after the death of the Emperor Wu Tsung, the reins of government were held by feeble princes, who were simply the tools of their ministers, ennuchs and concubines. The country was consequently misruled and the Chinese driven to murmur against the barbarian Mongol Government.

It always happens in China that, whenever a desire for a change of governuient is kindled amongst the people, omens presaging he downful of the dynasty appear and become common as the desire increases. So they multiplied towards che close of the shortlived Yuan dynasty, especially from the time Shun Li ascended the throne until the empire was prepared for the rebellions that undermined the Mongol power and finally overthrew their dynasty.

The White Lotus society is said by some to go back to the fourth century, but seems really to have been organized in the first years of the Mongol dynasty. Han Shan-tung invigorated the White Lotus Society, which had been founded by his grandfather, and, by burning incense in worship and proclaiming the advent of Mili or Maytreya, the Bnddhist Messiah, gave it a religions character. He was soon joined by multitndes who believed in him and by bandit chiefs.

These pretended be was a descendant in the eighth generation from Hwei Tsiung, an emperor of the Sung dynasty who ruled China from 1101-1126, and set him up as their rightful ruler and raised armies to support his cause. His soldiers, like the Triads in later times, wore red turbans as a distinguishing mark. Han Shan-tung was captured at the commencement of the insurrection, but his son Han Lin-erh carried on the rebellion, which rapidly spread thronghout Central China.

As the rebellion progressed, other chiefs, or self-styled kings, appeared on the scene with large armies, as competitors for the empire. Among these was the quondam Buddhist acolyte, Chn Yuan-chang. He possessed a genins for warfare and government far superior to all his rivals, whom, with the Mongols, he finally subdued and then ascended the throne of China, under the style of Hung Wu, as the first emperor and founder of the Ming dynasty.

This was the first appearance of the White Lotus Society in history. Its members sowed the seed of sedition from which grew the rebellion they started with the intention of re-establishing the Sung Dynasty: but it happened that a more mighty chief than theirs, snatched away the fruit.

There appears to be nothing further known of the White Lotus Society until towards the close of the Ming Dynasty, when, after two-and-a-half centuries of luxury, the Ming rulers had gradually become enervated and pusillanimous. Again, ennuchs and favorites usurped imperial power, and mis-governed the country, and, to add to the people's distress, dronghts and famines prevailed in some provinces, and Mongols and Manchus invaded and ravaged the frontiers. So, in the reign of Tien Ki, 1621-1628, insurrections were rife; and amidst the intriguing for power, that was ruining the country, Su Hung-u, one of the insurgent leaders, employed the White Lotus Society to advance his ambitious political aims. This man had made great progress, and was already proclaimed emperor, under the style of Hsing Sheng, when he was defeated and slain in battle. This appears to have damped the ardour of the society, for it remained inactive during the few succeeding years of rebellion by Li Tzn-sheng and other chiefs that tore the empire to pieces, and paved the way to the throne for the Manchus.



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