Hong-zhi: Year 8, Month 10, Day 28
14 Nov 1495
Gu-lai, the king of the country of Champa, memorialized that Annam had repeatedly invaded his country and killed his people and that, although Annam had received the Court's orders and been instructed to maintain friendly relations, while outwardly according, it had covertly disobeyed, persisting in evil without repentance. Thus, Gu-lai had sent his nephew Sha-gu-xing to the Court to request that senior ministers go there and arrange a settlement. His words were filled with great grief. The memorial was sent to the Court ministers who jointly deliberated upon it and advised:
"In the past, senior ministers have never been sent to discuss the settlement of disputes between foreign yi. It is requested that the Guang-dong/Guang-xi defence officials be ordered to send a despatch to Annam, instructing it to maintain good relations with neighbouring states and to return the land they have occupied. Also, Gu-lai should be instructed to soothe his people, to prepare military defences and to make plans for self-protection. When the matter is settled, the two countries should be required to memorialize the facts."
When the deliberations were notified to the Emperor, the Emperor wanted to send officials. However, the Grand Secretary Xu Pu and others said:
"The country of Champa has requested that senior ministers be sent to that country to arrange for all the land which Annam has occupied to be returned. The various offices have twice deliberated upon this and have both times considered it unnecessary. It is requested that the Directorate of Ceremonial be ordered to make this known. The Emperor's wish to send officials to proceed to instruct them is, we respectfully observe, a manifestation of the Emperor's desire to look on all equally and to not differentiate between the yi and the Chinese. However, we have humbly considered the matter in terms of the principles of action. The Spring and Autumn Annals notes: ‘A prince does not govern the yi and the di.’ The way of handling the yi is different from the way of ruling the within. Although those of Annam has accepted the Court's calendar and carried out its tribute duties, in the end they are still foreign yi. There have thus often been situations where they have relied on their own dangerous location and strength to violate orders and engage in aggression. The rule of the Emperors of successive dynasties extended everywhere but did not give special attention to anyone. In respect of places like Champa, so small and so distant, we have humbly examined the instructions of the Ming ancestors. One instruction notes that because Champa and such countries brought merchants when coming to offer tribute and were often guileful, they were stopped from coming. They were stopped in the eighth year of the Hong-wu reign (1375/76) and were only allowed to come again in the 12th year of the Hong-wu reign (1379/80). Later, in the seventh year of the Cheng-hua reign (1471/72), Champa was invaded by Annam and they repeatedly came to memorialize their plaints. The Xian-zong Emperor frequently ordered the censor-in-chief and regional commander of Guang-dong/Guang-xi to make arrangements. However, Annam memorialized insisting that it had already returned the territory it had occupied. Actually, they never reported the true situation or admitted guilt. Now, if Imperial orders are issued and officials are sent to that country far in the distance and we just waste words, it will be difficult to demonstrate majesty and there will be no way to investigate matters in the vast maritime regions. How could Annam be suddenly willing to repent and give up in a moment the benefits it has gained over decades? It will, at least, cover up its crimes and offences and could, more seriously, persist in its ways and defy orders. Thus, the ministers will not be able to carry out the orders of the Court and the border generals will not be able to flourish majesty and might abroad. This will damage national prestige and bring calamity to the region. At that time, how will things be handled! If their crimes are ignored and not investigated, the harm to the Imperial majesty will be greater, while if they are to be punished for their crimes and an army is raised, then ensuing calamities will be greater. We have further examined the ancestral instructions. Another notes:
‘The various yi in the four directions live in the hills or by the seas and are isolated in their secluded corners. If their land is obtained, it will not be sufficient to supply its own needs, while if their people are obtained, there will be no way to employ them. If without consideration, they come and disturb our borders, they will find themselves unfortunate. If they do not bring calamities to China, but we still raise forces and proceed against them, that will also be unfortunate. I am concerned that my sons and grandsons will presume on China's wealth and strength, will covet military victory and will raise troops without cause, leading to injury and death. They should bear in mind that this is not to be permitted.’
“The all-embracing Imperial words will truly be taken as reference for 10,000 generations. Now, if we consider the state's situation and the troop and cavalry strength, expending a great amount of funds to obtain a worthless place will be a venture without benefit and can even less be permitted. Ha-mi has been occupied by Turfan for 23 years. Officials and generals have been repeatedly sent and Turfan has alternately returned Ha-mi and re-occupied it. Today, there is still no peace. The native officials of the various areas are constantly feuding and killing each other and this cannot be stopped through the use of Imperial law. It is the usual nature of yi and di to fight each other. Now Champa, still with its former name and still bringing tribute to the Court as before, has claimed that its territory has been invaded. We still do not know if this is true or false. Although their situation is to be pitied, the principles do not allow action to be taken. It is sufficient to just have an office send a despatch instructing them. Why is it necessary to give Imperial attention to this and especially send officials there? Further, there are no major matters of the Court on which the joint ministers are not consulted. Now the assembled voices have unanimously advised that this should not be done. However, such words were just based on the principles. At such a critical moment, when a despatch is to be sent to a foreign country, would we dare to not speak fully? We are engaged in important matters of state and we bear great responsibilities. If we do not speak our mind to the Emperor and, by chance, troubles result, our deaths would not be any compensation. That we are being troublesome and annoying stems from the fact that this matter affects the Emperor, the land and the people. We do not dare to simply agree with the ideas of others. If the time and the situation were suitable and the proposals non-injurious, we would of course assist the Emperor to implement them. If we did not think the proposals inappropriate, why would we dare to speak words which grate upon the ear!"
The Emperor received their advice and subsequently approved the proposals by the joint ministers.
Zhong-yang Yan-jiu yuan Ming Shi-lu, volume 55, page 1922/25