Xuan-de: Year 1, Month 4, Day 3

9 May 1426

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After holding Court, the Emperor retired to the Wen-hua Hall where the four persons Jian Yi, Xia Yuan-ji, Yang Shi-qi and Yang Rong were in attendance. The Emperor said: "The Tai-zu Emperor's ancestral instructions note: `The various yi on the four sides and the small man states to the South are separated from us by mountains and seas and are secluded in distant corners. If their land is obtained, it could not supply sufficient to maintain it. If their people are obtained, we could not employ them.' They also note: `If without due consideration, they come and disturb our borders, it will be their misfortune. If they do not trouble China and yet we raise troops to attack them, it will likewise result in misfortune. I am worried that the later generations might rely on China's strength and take a liking to off-handedly seeking military achievements and to raising troops and bringing harm to the people for no reason. It must be borne firmly in mind that this cannot be permitted.' Later, because the Lis killed their ruler and brought harm to the people of the country, the Tai-zong Emperor had no alternative but to raise an army by which to console the people and punish the rebellious. His initial aim was only to eliminate the Li bandits and then to seek a male descendant of the king to place on the throne. This was a virtuous idea of restoring a line of succession which had been broken. However, all the sons and grandsons of the former king had been killed by the Li bandits.

Thus, in accordance with the requests of the native people, subprefectures and counties were established and officials appointed to administer them. This was not the original wish of the Tai-zong Emperor. From that time on, there has not been a year when troops have not been employed in Jiao-zhi. Large numbers of people in the region have already been killed and a large number of Chinese people have been exhausted carrying out orders. My Imperial father often thought of this and was greatly distressed. Thus, since coming to the throne, my proclamations have demonstrated grace towards the people there. Yesterday, having despatched a general and an army, I found that I was uneasy all night and could not bear to think of the souls of the innocent. I thought of this over and again and wished that the situation was like that during the Hong-wu reign and at the beginning of the Yong-le reign when, as a country, it regularly brought tribute. This would preserve the lives of the people of the region and would also allow the people of China and the others to see rest. How would that be?" Yi and the others did not respond. The Emperor said: "This certainly would not go against the wishes of my ancestors." Yi and Yuan-ji replied: "The Tai-zong Emperor battled hard to pacify that region. Now some minor wretches are engaged in evil. How can we suffer this and not subdue them! If, in an instant, we give up 20 years of great efforts, how can this fail to do injury to Imperial prestige? It is hoped that some more thought be given to this matter."

The Emperor sought counsel from Shi-qi and Rong, saying: "And what do you two ministers say?" They replied: "Your Majesty's ideas are truly those of Heaven and of your Imperial ancestors. In the great days of the Emperors Yao and Shun and in the Three Ancient Dynasties, Jiao-zhi was outside the Southern borders. At that time, we did not have that territory, but Yao, Shun, Yu, Tang and Wen and Wu were still Sage rulers. The Tai-zong Emperor initially wished to re-establish the Chen line and this was a Sage-like desire. Since the Han and the Tang dynasties, although Jiao-zhi has at times been administered through commanderies and counties, it has alternated between rebellion and submission. The soldiers who have been killed and the funds expended are incalculable. Yet, have we obtained the use of another coin or another soldier? In the time of the Yuan Emperor of the Han dynasty, Zhu-ya rebelled. Troops were despatched to attack it, but for years it remained unpacified. Some officials suggested sending more troops, but the Yuan Emperor accepted Jia Juan's suggestion and gave up Zhu-ya. The previous histories attest this. The Yuan Emperor was the ruler of China and was still able to show benevolence and righteousness such as this. Your Majesty is the father and mother of all under Heaven. What gains are there in struggling for generations with these jackals and pigs?"

Yuan-ji said: "Allow we four ministers to further examine and consider this and then report to you." The Emperor said: "Granted. But my Will has always been thus. It is not a question of how to employ troops!" The following day, when Shi-qi and Rong advised that memorialized matters had been completed, the Emperor said: "Yesterday we spoke of Jiao-zhi. I am still thinking about it. You two ministers have ideas similar to mine. However, we must not be hasty in our words."

Xuan-zong: juan 16.1b-2b

Zhong-yang Yan-jiu yuan Ming Shi-lu, volume 17, page 0420/22

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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/xuan-de/year-1-month-4-day-3-1, accessed January 17, 2021