Hong-wu: Year 30, Month 2, Day 21
20 Mar 1397
The Messengers Chen Cheng and Lu Rang reached Annam and issued Imperial instructions to the king Chen Ri-kun, ordering him to return to Si-ming Prefecture that land which Annam had invaded and occupied. Discussions went backward and forward and even after long discussions, no agreement was reached. Cheng felt that the interpreter was not making the meaning clear and so he personally wrote to Ri-kun, saying: "Recently, Huang Guang-cheng, the native official of Si-ming Prefecture, memorialized that Annam had attacked and occupied their territory. The Court examined the records and maps and sent me as envoy with a notification instructing you to return that which you had usurped. Since I arrived in your country, I have made known the Emperor's wishes. I have explained the facts and principles involved, but those who are handling the matter grow ever more obstinate. They have refused to acknowledge and accord. Now, I explain for you what was recorded by former generations in regard to the border situation. According to the records, Jiao-zhi was in ancient times Jiao-zhou. During the Latter Han dynasty, the woman Zheng Ce rebelled. Emperor Guang-wu sent Ma Yuan to lead an army to put down her rebellion. Subsequently, he erected a bronze pillar to commemorate his victory. Thus did he also delineate that which is within from that which is outside. In the Tang dynasty, this area was one of the five administrative regions and was administered by a protector-general. In the Song dynasty, Li Qian-de raided the border region. Guo Kui led an army to punish him and captured the false Heir Apparent Hong Zhen (Alt: Hong Xia). Qian-de was frightened and he gave up the areas of Guang-yuan, Men-zhou, Si-lang, Su-mao and Guang-lang in surrender. So, at that time, these places still were China's. Were not those areas north of the bronze pillar, such as Qiu-wen, and other places even more so? In the time of the Yuan Emperor Shi-zu, your ancestor Guang-bing offered tribute and declared himself a subject. When Ri-xuan inherited the throne, he neglected the duties of a subject. Thus, Shi-zu raised an army to chasten him. Ri-xuan hid beneath the undergrowth and concealed himself in the jungles. The people were greatly endangered and the cities and suburbs were left almost deserted. When Ri-zun inherited the throne, he prayed for sympathy and requested forgiveness. Shi-zu sent an envoy to issue an Imperial proclamation of instruction, requiring him to come to Court. This proclamation also spoke of returning territory. Ri-zun said: `Recently, the Imperial envoy was demeaned by having to come to our small country. We welcomed him at, and escorted him back to, Lu-zhou. Our small country is afraid that we may have infringed into Chinese territory. We usually bade farewell at Qiu-wen.' If we look at this, it is clear that the land from Qiu-wen to the North belongs to Si-ming. However, Annam has infringed into Yuan and Tuo, transgressed into Ru-Ao and Qing-yuan and has taken them all. Were not these obtained by default, just by taking advantage of the disorder at the end of the Yuan dynasty? The day we arrived, your ministers all said: "This territory was Annam's from past times, but we do not know how this came to be.' The two dynasties of the Chen and the Li followed one after the other. How could those managing affairs have held to the previous claims of the land being their ancestor's without examining whether there was any basis for the claim? If what those in charge of your affairs say is so, then were the words of Ri-zun as recorded in the histories nothing but false and frivolous talk? Or is the king fearful that he has infringed into Chinese territory and thus obstinately hides behind these unverified words? Our Emperor was granted bravery and wisdom by Heaven to display what is correct to the myriad states. Those who persist in their wrongful ways, even if their mistakes are small, he will not forgive, while those who mend their ways, even after serious errors, will receive his pardon. The Zhuan say: `When one transgresses and is able to change his ways, there can be no greater excellence.' They also say: `If someone transgresses and does not subsequently change his ways, it can be said to be a real transgression.' Changing one's evil ways leads to prosperity. The affair of Zhao Zong-shou in Long Subprefecture last year demonstrates this. Those who cling to their transgressions and invited disaster in recent years include the chieftains of the Nan-dan and Feng-yi man. These telling examples and their decisive results are known to all. If you, king, can avoid calamity and usher in happiness by returning the seized territory. Would this not bring your ancestors peace and the people of your country prosperity? Give it up and do not scheme for it. If you do struggle for it without yielding,then as an unrepentant transgressor, you will bring calamity down upon yourself. Anyway, it is only those in charge of your affairs who are scheming for this." Ri-kun wrote in response to Cheng and the others. His letter read: "Recently, I was honoured to receive your gracious letter, with its many earnest exhortations. In the section of your letter about Si-ming being occupied, you mention that the meeting and sending off of [Chinese] envoys only extended to Qiu-wen, when these envoys made their repeated missions to our small country. This was simply a matter of the greeting and sending off of the envoys. It was not something indicating the border. This was simply because Qiu-wen is astride an important thoroughfare. In the past, the area from Si-ming to the Lu-zhou Circuit was, and now the area from Ping-xiang to the Dong-deng Circuit is, within our small country's wild forested area. Because it was not convenient to establish a station there, we established a station at Qiu-wen, where there is a county official's office and the county officials could offer housing and hospitality. As to the actual handing over of horse attendants and bearers, this was always done at the border, that is, the present-day Po-luo and Wei Pass. At the beginning of the Yuan dynasty, Qiu-wen was already a part of our small country. Those of Si-ming have said that in was not until the disorder at the end of the Yuan dynasty, that we went past the bronze pillar by 200 li and occupied five places including Qiu-wen. On examination it is seen that the words of the Si-ming people are not trustworthy. If the mistake in this is recognized, then other things will become clear. As to what is recorded in the histories, since the Han and Tang dynasties, there have been many changes. Can we use their accounts of former occurrences as a guide for today's actions? As to the other matters, they are detailed in our written reply and I should not be needlessly repetitious." When Cheng and the others received the letter, they continued to argue the disagreements. The king of Annam presented Cheng and the others with two ding of gold, four ding of silver, as well as gharu-wood, sandalwood and other aromatics. Cheng and the others were firm in refusing them. The king of Annam said: "It is polite to give parting gifts. From the time of Lu Jia this has been so. It is not necessary for you to be too modest." Cheng said: "Wei Tuo wished to use his petty state of Yue to contest with the Son of Heaven. Thus, he invited calamity on himself. Lu Jia accepted their gold and divided it among his sons. He was someone who accepted illicit gain. How could you, king, be so unworthy as to put yourself in the place of Wei Tuo and assume that we are thus to be dealt with as a Lu Jia!" The king of Annam had no reply. Subsequently, the king of Annam again sent a despatch to the Ministry of Revenue. It read: "I humbly note that your superiors, in response to Si-ming's memorial concerning the occupation of land, sent the Messengers Chen Cheng and Lu Rang with orders to our inferior country commanding us to return the occupied land. Our inferior country has the five counties of Qiu-wen, Ru-ao, Qing-yuan, Yuan and Tuo and these have, since the earliest times, paid taxes and provided labor to our inferior country. Po-luo and Wei Pass have been handed down for generations, and Dong-deng is a part of Yuan County. On the road by which the envoys come and go, the Ping-xiang people of Si-ming every year handed over the tasks of horse attendants and porters to the people of Yuan County at the Ping-xiang border. Now the people of Si-ming say that our inferior country has occupied their territory of Dong-deng. How perverse! As to setting up stations and occupying the area with a desire to obtain this land and its people, we have had the land and its people since ancient times. What use would be setting up stations? The setting up and abolition of stations is done in accordance with the conveniences of place and time. The head of the station is in Qiu-wen, which is convenient in terms of place. The temporary establishment of the station in Dong-deng is convenient in terms of time. Recently, as our minister Wu Guan and others had been engaged in a campaign to inspect the borders, they had grass huts built in which they could rest and sleep. These have already been removed. How can this be said to be preparation for invasion. If these were not ordinarily our land or our people, and we were trying to invade it, would it not have been the case that whenever we attacked, we would have destroyed? When we established the station, the head of the area and his people folded their arms and looked on, without asking who we were or why we were there. They also provided their taxes and their labor. Would not this have been very strange if this was not our land? Also, you speak of the events by which, in the Yuan dynasty, the Great Army twice attacked Jiao-zhi and, on departing, established the Yong-ping Stockade, sent troops to guard the Jiao-zhi border and made Jiao-zhi responsible for supplying the grain rations. I venture to inform you that on the two occasions of expedition, even the commander of the army, the Zhen-nan Prince, simply turned back without stopping (不止而餞歸). The Yuan history concealed this and did not detail it, while embroidering the facts of his withdrawal. It states that when `the Zhen-nan Prince was at the Nei-pang Pass, a large number of bandit soldiers had gathered to cut off the returning army. The prince then hurried from Dan-ji County to Lu-zhou, travelling via a by-road.' So, from looking at this, the military situation at that time can be discerned and the route by which he returned can be identified. How could he have taken the return route to Yong-ping, deployed troops to garrison the border and even order Jiao-zhi to supply grain rations! You also said that our inferior country has encroached 200 li past the bronze pillar and occupied five counties there, including Qiu-wen. I beg to inform you that it was in the 19th year of the Han Emperor Jian-wu (43/44 A.D.) that Ma Yuan punished the Jiao-zhi woman surnamed Zheng and erected the bronze pillar. This was over 1,350 (Alt: 1,500) years ago. Over 1,000 years, there are many changes in worldly affairs. Who can now differentiate those things! You also said that you have obtained a statement from the old man Huang Bo-yan who said this and that. However, Bo-yan is a Si-ming person. How could he say anything different form that he wishes to be true? Even if there were 1,000 Bo-yans, could we believe them? You also claim that the former native officials neglected to explain things clearly but that recently the person who inherited the position of magistrate has now drawn maps and detailed all, and has used the history of the Jian-wu reign (A.D. 25-58) as explanation. How can it be that [Huang] Guang-cheng's great grandfather did not know of ancient affairs and could not explain them, but that Guang-cheng, who has only arrived recently, already understands ancient matters and can explain them so clearly? Our inferior country borders on Si-ming and the people of Si-ming have often occupied our country's land, killing and carrying off people and livestock. Our inferior country is distant and it is difficult to report a complaint. Si-ming is versed in seeking small advantage but now desires great gain and has thus made these false claims. Our inferior country is extraordinarily afraid and we are fully engaged in protecting ourselves. How could we dare to engage in any attack and occupation. If these areas had been attacked and occupied it would not be difficult to return them. However, as they have not been occupied, how can they be returned? These five counties are territory which has been traditionally passed down and protected by our inferior country. Knowing that it has been so carefully guarded, how can we dare to hand over to Si-ming this territory which our forefathers protected? We both should guard the fixed border, so as to serve the Heavenly Court. How could we dare to long for territory and snatch it away, giving trouble to your senior officials? The sagely Son of Heaven looks on all equally and is as virtuous as Heaven and Earth. Our inferior country relies on this in daring to pour out our heart and explain all, rudely opportuning you to listen. If guilty, how could we dare to flee? Now I respond to your notification with my report. I humbly beg that you, Sir, pass it on to the greatly virtuous Son of Heaven, so that he will have compassion on us distant people in our inferior country. If the Emperor would enquire into this and decide how to resolve it, our inferior country would be fortunate indeed!" Cheng and the others reported this and the Emperor called together the officials to discuss it. It was felt that Annam was resisting the orders of the Court and should be punished. The Emperor said: "Since ancient times, there has been wrangling between the man and the yi. Those who remain wayward and do not submit, in the end, bring calamity upon themselves. Let us wait for a while."
Zhong-yang Yan-jiu yuan Ming Shi-lu, volume 8, page 3620/27