Hong-xi: Year 1, Month 11, Day 27
5 Jan 1426
The Emperor held Court in the Wen-hua Hall and, summoning Yang Shi-qi and Yang Rong, asked of them: "Yesterday's Imperial instructions to the Rong-chang Earl and the others, have they been despatched?" The ministers replied: "They have already been despatched". The Emperor said: "I have something to say which I have thought about for a long time. Now, I will only speak of it with you two ministers and you must not divulge this to others. Previously, in Nan-jing, when captured rebels arrived from Jiao-zhi, my father said to me: `When the Tai-zu Emperor first pacified all under Heaven, the first of the four border peoples to come to allegiance was Annam. Later, the Lis usurped the throne from the Chens, so they had to be punished. At that time, a successor to the Chen line was sought, but one could not be found. Thus, the region was divided into subprefectures and counties. If a successor to the Chen line is found, he is to be put on the throne. This would have been Tai-zu's wish in order that the area be at peace.' I replied: `If the Court were to act thus, it would certainly show Imperial kindness.' My father then laughed and said: `These words must not be divulged.' Subsequently, I retained this in my mind and have not forgotten it. Now, I think that, if there are descendants of the Chen family, we should select one and appoint him as ruler, so that he can fulfil the duties of a tributary state minister and send tribute once every three years. This would be like during Hong-wu's reign. The people would thereby be pacified and China could rest her border troops. How fitting that would be! If this is done, there will be some who will say that I have abandoned my ancestor's cause. However, I will have restored a broken line of succession and this will accord with the will of my Imperial forebears." Shi-qi and Rong replied: "In the third year of the Yong-le reign (1405/06), the generals were ordered to subdue the Li bandits. All Imperial commands and orders were written by the various ministers in the personal presence of the Emperor. At that time, the Tai-zong Emperor's Imperial will lay in being caring and attentive and in trying to restore the broken line of succession. His precious words are all on record and all those inside and outside China know of them." The Emperor said: "At that time, I was young but I remember a few things. The Imperial words were as you ministers have noted. You two ministers are to know of my will but are to say nothing. Within a few years, I must implement this idea." Subsequently, wine and delicacies were conferred upon the ministers, after which they withdrew.
Zhong-yang Yan-jiu yuan Ming Shi-lu, volume 16, page 0315/16