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Jia-jing: Year 15, Month Intercalary 12, Day 1

12 Jan 1537

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Tang Zhou, vice minister of the left in the Ministry of Revenue memorialized, remonstrated in respect of the punitive expedition against Annam, as follows:

"Recently, as Annam had not come to Court, officials of the Embroidered-Uniform Guard were sent to investigate the situation and Imperial commands were sent to those in China and abroad to prepare their troops and await orders of despatch. I have humbly noted the recent events and suggest that if it is just desired that [Annam] send tribute, then not only are troops unnecessary, but even investigating officials need not be sent. If there is a desire to punish them, then that is a more major matter, and several points of warning must be noted. Between the Chinese and the yi, like between Heaven and Earth, there are natural divisions, and the Emperors do not use China's laws to rule the yi. Thus, under the Gao Emperor, troops were despatched only irregularly, and it was noted in the Ancestral Instructions that Annam should not be subject to attack. Your Majesty should respect this. This is the first point. When Tai-zong punished Li Ji-li's crime of assassinating his ruler, and defeated him, descendants of the Chen family were sought. However, none were found. It was only then that that the land was divided into prefectures and counties. What was obtained thereby however did not meet the expenses. During the reign of Ren-zong (1425), this was considered regrettable. At the beginning of the Xuan-de reign (1426-35), the Zhang Emperor fulfilled the wishes of his Imperial ancestor and abolished all the prefectures and counties. Today, that arrangement should be followed. This is the second point. 

"In the past, at times when Annam was powerful, Qin Subprefecture, Lian-zhou, Lian Subprefecture and Yong Subprefecture all suffered repeated calamities. After Gao Pian of the Tang Dynasty (618-907) engaged in his punitive expedition, through the Five Dynasties and the Song, there were successive rulers of the eight surnames Qu, Liu, Shao, Wu, Ding, Li(黎), Li (李) and Chen, and external alarms became progressively fewer in the coastal prefectures and counties of Ling-nan. When the yi and di are divided and disordered, it is to China's advantage. We should not subject them to investigation. This is the third point. If it is considered that Annam is China's ancient territory, the opportunity presented by the disorder should be grasped and the territory should be seized. I have studied Ma Yuan's southern expedition. It had to proceed through great waves and high seas and nearly one half of the troops died. He set up a bronze pillar as the border of the Han. It was close to today's Si-ming Prefecture. In the fifth year of the Yong-le reign (1407/08), Zhang Fu pacified Jiao-zhi. In the following year, Jian-ding suddenly assumed a title and rebelled. In the eighth year (1410/11), Chen Ji-kuo also rebelled. All the areas then responded, and all that remained under control was the one city of Jiao-zhou. Only in the 11th year (1413/14), was [Chen Ji-kuo] captured. In the 13th year (1415/16), Chen Yue-hu also rebelled. In the second year of the Xuan-de reign (1427/28), Li Li rebelled and many of our civil and military officials, including Liu Zi-fu, He Zhong, Yi Xian (Alt: Ma Xian), Li Ren and Gu Fu, were killed. The soldiers and materials lost numbered in the hundreds of thousands. For China's utmost efforts over 10-plus years only the hollow names of a few tens of prefectures and counties were obtained. We cannot again go on such an expedition. For example, Song Tai-zong and Song Shen-zong as well as Yuan Shi-zu and Yuan Xian-zong all lost their armies and brought harm to their majesty. Their experiences can be used as bright mirrors of warning. This is the fourth point. When the yi and di come to offer tribute, it is to their advantage. On the one hand, they obtain the Chinese calendar with which to awe their neighbours and on the other hand they profit their country through trading. Thus, although now in Annam there is fighting and chaos, they still repeatedly submit memorials, salutory messages and local products. They come to the border passes and request entry but because the name of he who sent the envoy is not the same as that of he who was enfeoffed, the grand coordinator and regional inspector send them away. They want to bring tribute but are not allowed. It is not that they are relying on an isolated and dangerous location to not come to Court. This is not in accord with statements made. This is the fifth point.

"The raising of an army requires finances. During the Yong-le reign (1403-24), 800,000 troops were employed and they advanced separately from Yun-nan and from Guang-xi. The rations were supplied unendingly by land and sea. Now it is proposed that the rations be supplied from the closest four provinces. However, Si-chuan has duties in the procurement of timber, Gui-zhou has a hungry army and the grain supplies of Guang-dong/Guang-xi have long been exhausted by the expedition against Cen Meng in Tian Subprefecture. With the major tasks which have been repeatedly imposed on the provinces, their treasuries are all close to empty. Added to this is the reduced income resulting from tax exemptions in response to floods and droughts. The finances are thus far from those available during the Yong-le reign. This is the sixth point.

"These points are all recorded and can be verified. The fears of the man of Qi are also many. The decline of the Tang began with Xuan-zong's expedition against Nan-zhao. The decline of the Song also began with Shen-zong's expedition against Liao. Now the Imperial treasury has only four million (liang of silver ?) remaining. The state farm administration is in disarray and the fields are becoming overgrown. The salt administration is in difficulties and the merchants are becoming increasingly few. The northern lu are daily becoming stronger and they have occupied our territory in the great bend of the Huang River. The border troops have repeatedly revolted and the screen of feudatories has almost vanished. The concerns about the northern situation are now increasing and yet there are proposals for a southern expedition. If the troops encounter unexpected troubles, who will take the blame? This is the seventh point. Further, the Embroidered-Uniform Guard military people are ignorant of the Great Principles. If, perchance, they quest for private gain, and they bend the truth, this could give rise to troubles. Then, if subsequent investigations reveal the situation, it will not be possible to proceed in an attack and will not be possible to refrain from proceeding in an attack. This would result in a dilemma. Now the troops are readied and await orders of despatch to be issued. As soon as they proceed, the danger of invasion, plunder, disturbance and troubles will appear on all sides. Then the worries will not be among the yi in the four directions, but within the state! I hold that we should not proceed against them, and also request that the Embroidered-Uniform Guard investigation officers be stopped and that all orders to prepare troops and grain be cancelled."

When the memorial was submitted, the Ministry of War also held that the proposals were sincere. An Imperial order was issued stating that the matter should wait until the Embroidered-Uniform officials who had been sent reported and then be further discussed.

Shi-zong: juan 195.1a-2a

Zhong-yang Yan-jiu yuan Ming Shi-lu, volume 80, page 4115/17

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Preferred form of citation for this entry:

Geoff Wade, translator, Southeast Asia in the Ming Shi-lu: an open access resource, Singapore: Asia Research Institute and the Singapore E-Press, National University of Singapore, http://epress.nus.edu.sg/msl/reign/jia-jing/year-15-month-intercalary-12-day-1, accessed November 20, 2019