Palace Memorial to Qianlong Emperor

Your Highness, The Qianlong Emperor

Though I am a humble servant of yours, my sense of right and justice impels me to send a palace memorial to you on a matter of grave urgency and public interest. It has been rumored that you are in the process of reopening the old case against Zeng Xing, the Hunanese writer, who was accused of treason and dissent against your father the Yongzhen emperor. It is my humble and earnest request to you to not to reopen the old case against Zengjing and reopening closed wounds and hurts. Your Highness, I sincerely request you to consider my account of the events occurred and my reasons as why such an action is neither necessary nor fruitful for you or our country. I have gone through all the records available on this matter which forcefully establishes this.  I am sure on rereading with care and judicious inspection of the attached documents, you will take a practical view of the matter.

The events as they happened are as follows.

Emperor Yongzheng

As you know your late departed father, salute to him, the Yongzheng emperor, was the fifth of the  Manchu –Qing dynasty to rule this great country. He had established a great reputation as an effective ruler with his military prowess and his running the country by controlling the budget. His rule was known for his efficiency and the effective way he managed to cut down corruption and for streamlining the governance. He made many important achievementsin his life time, including severe punishment for corruption and made the country into a great and reputed power. But before reaching these great heights, there was a time when his status and his succession to the throne was questioned.

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As you may have heard, Emperor Yongzeng’s ascension took place in controversial circumstances. There was a succession war between the sons of the KangXi emperor as to who will succeed to the heir role.The four sons were Yinzhi,Yinzhen,Yinsi, andYinti. The initial heir apparent Yunreng had fallen out of favour with the emperor and was removed from the heir apparent post twice later became insane and died after some years. Yinsi had the favour of the court bureaucrats but not that of the emperor .Yinsi supported YInti. Also,Yiinzhen did not have that big a mass support and there were reports that Yongzhen (Yinzhen) had the will of his father KangXi emperor modified by changing a few letter strokes to allow him to succeed his father to the throne.

Furthermore, he was also involved in political and military machinations to ensure that his brothers did not challenge him even though some of them tried to deceive him.Even though most evidence do point towards the succession being genuine, the fact that such rumoursexist made him presumably sensitive to any aspersions cast on the name of the emperor and also be suspicious of anything anti-Manchu in nature. Another theory suggests that Yinzhen had forged a new will.  Conflicting reports on the existence of the wills and to their originality, also added fuel to this controversy. He could have been suspicious of enemies who were trying to create problems for him by raising questions on his succession as according to the prevailing thoughts, it was only the appearance of ascent that mattered and not your qualities.

It was around this time, in late1728,  that he comes to know via his  loyal general YueYongxi of the writings of an anonymous writer which had reached him and alarmed him to such an extent that he informed the emperor rather than taking any other action than arresting him.

Who was Zeng Jing?

This whole incident set into place a series of extensive and often brutal investigations which led to the revelation of the identity of the writer as Zeng Jing. He was a failed Hunanese student writer who was hugely influenced by the anti-Manchu writings of Liu Liuliang, who had taken part in the anti-Manchu movement after the fall of the Ming dynasty and refused to accept the obedience to the current Manchu rulers whom he considered as barbarians.Zeng Jing conveyed this to his student Shun Zhi who decided to convey a message on this matter to YueYongxi, who they believed must share the same anti-Manchu feeling as themselves as his ancestors had fought against them. Instead, the staunchly loyal general reported this to the emperor.

Was it treason?

Our current system,  functions strictly on adherence to  a given protocol  and the appearance of anything which goes against it or was contradicting in the slightest way was considered treacherous and could invite the most severe and cruel  punishment. So when Yongzheng’sloyal general eceived a letter from Zeng Jing via his student,  inciting him to oppose the current emperor by questioning the validity  of the succession, the emperor decides to find out the truth behind this rumors and to control it. In that he goes against precedence, rather than summarily pronouncing judgement on Zengjing, he engages in a conversation with him  usingfacts and records and engaging in open and frank conversation on his views on the evidence presented to him in light of what he had known previously through statements.ZengJing, realised his mistake and his judgments based on rumors and he retracted his anti-Manchu statements. The whole of this conversation was then publicized by your father for transparency and an example of a fair treatment and to ensure anti Manchu rumor mongering was put at an end.This publication was the Da-Yi-Jiao-Mi-Luwas and the matter was amicably resolved, and pardon was granted. The kindness and wisdom of his majesty cannot be praised too much.

Why now?

In light of all these facts and how the matter was resolved, it is a wonder as to why this matter has become a subject for reopening. I believe your majesty must understand that we have more serious matters at hand to manage and solve. Though your Majesty has done a great deal towards contributing to the growth and splendour of our country, there are some very alarming signs we need to beware of , take note of and focus on.

  1. Increasing influence of unhealthy elements. It has been observed that you are being unduly influenced by some in the court with ulterior motives which are poisoning your mind and your judgements. It is possible that some may have motivated you to this act of reopening this case, to create more tensions, with some such intention of destabilisingyou.Not only that, it is painfully observed that you have been rather neglectful of essential duties and monitoring of what is going on in the governance of the country ever since you have attained fame. Rather it is common knowledge that your trusted officials are using your trust to fill their coffers with the country’s money.
  2. Authorities are increasingly becoming fearless about their corruption and dishonesty. This is leading to a troublesome situation and unless taken in hand it will not be good for the country. The rampant corruption is leading to the fleecing and exploitation of the common people, who are struggling to get their ends met, and the burden of bribes and other such gifts to be paid to officials to get a task done, makes their very lives unbearable. The authorities seem to have no fear of being discovered and are hands in glove with the degenerate and despot elements and daily there is a visible sense of deterioration of basic governance quality.
  3. Population has been increasing and there has been the stress of limited resources (including land) on the common people leading to increasing economic unhappiness and dissatisfaction. The unfair and unequal distribution, excessive taxation and confiscation of their properties on even the slight signs of opposition have reduced the common people to a pitiable level.
  4. Policies of Intolerance : Your policies of suppression and intolerance against those who express opinions against you is bound to turn the populace against you. Already, you have attained a brutal reputation for destroying and suppressing the works of writing which even remotely approaches criticism of the Qings. What is more unfair is that authorities are just indiscriminately judging statements without consideration and then persecuting the innocent in the most violent and horrible ways. Is that worthy of someone who is one of our country’s greatest ever emperors?
  5. Even though in your rule, the country’s treasury amount had reached an all time high, but owing to various factors such as cheating, corruption, defaulting on money payments, wasteful spending on trips and building of palaces, and other such things, the treasury has been depleted of a lot of money. As Emperor, it is your responsibility to account for this and correct them wherever needed.
  6. Your inability to bring in reforms in the political system is also depleting you of your ability to lead the country. Without reforms in this sector, there will be lack of good honest and diligent leaders.
  7. You are facing pressures from countries in the west which will put lot of political and economic stress on you and must be prepared to deal with the west in a way which does not dilute China’s importance while managing fruitful trade connections between the two sides. Your policy of maintaining aloofness from the foreign countries has left the current cultural relations we are having with the west in danger of falling apart. As the mighty emperor, it is a very essential duty of yours to foster and strengthen relationships with not only our neighbours but those countries which lie further than us. For this, we need to be more accommodating and less rigid on certain common issues we share with the British, or else our ties will reach a state of no return. Expecting them to be like us, is not an easy proposition as our cultural axes are far apart.
  8. The bureaucracy even though intellectual is currently focussed too much on the externals as compared to the internal qualities and tend to go on the basis of appearances. There is inflexibility and lack of openmindedness and that needs to go as otherwise it will interfere in taking wise and appropriate decisions and may inflict unfairness. One of the aspects you need to focus on is this. How to humanize the bureaucracy and lessen the rigidity which is making them suspicious of each and everything which differs from their norm.

I believe, these are more than enough reasons for you to reconsider your opening an issue which may have more serious consequences on public opinion. There are the facts which establish how there was perfect and clear understanding on the matter achieved on both sides, and how the distribution of the entire documentation so that anti-Manchu feelings could be brought to a logical and natural end, through persuasion using logic rather than violence, terror and force. It is evident through the  By reopening the case and possibly even undoing the judgment of your esteemed father, the king, you will lose the hard earned good will of the people and may even bring back the same vicious atmosphere of the early days. It is evident through a thorough read of the Da-Yi-Jiao-Mi-Luwas  that Zeng Jing was made to see the error of his thinking and that his actions was out of ignorance and  entirely based on rumors spread by others ( Liu Liuyiang). He has since then been very contrite and accomodative and it will be a grave injustice, if for whatever perceived slight or reason, you reverse this decision.

Also, an act reflective of wisdom and understanding, as exemplified by your father’s action, should be an outstanding example of how balance can be achieved in the relations between the emperor and the people.

Therefore, O esteemed emperor, my request is focus on the primary issues that affect our country’s very survival and prosperity and focus on progress, rather than regressing backwards into buried issues of conflict and antagonism.

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