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Xuan-de: Year 6, Month 5, Day 3

12 Jun 1431

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The chieftain He Li and others, who had been sent by Li Li of Annam, presented a memorial admitting guilt and offered tribute of local products. The memorial read: "In the eighth month of the fifth year in the Xuan-de reign (Aug/Sep 1430), the eunuch and the chieftain Tao Gong-zhuan and others whom I had sent, returned from the capital, bringing with them Imperial orders reading: `Military weapons are for protecting the people. The people of Annam are all my children. Whether people are there or here, it makes no difference. We will not pursue that matter further.' I and all the people of the country are extremely grateful for the Imperial favour. There were also again, however, instructions in regard to the officials, clerks, troops, civilians and their family members and also instructions in respect of the Chen family. I confess that my crimes have been of great seriousness and there is no place where I can hide. I humbly note that the vastness of Heaven and Earth embraces every single thing and the brightness of the Sun and the Moon illuminates even those things which are in themselves bright. I have repeatedly received and respected the Imperial instructions and repeatedly sent people with memorials. I have memorialized several times, but my request has still not been granted. I have thus been pained in my heart and have been unable to stop myself from crying out to Heaven and Earth, and to you as the mother and father of all things, to again show my sadness. Earlier, in the second year of the Xuan-de reign (1427/28), I compiled a register of all the government troops who had been sent and who remained, and presented it to the Court. The military and civilian personnel, those who had been officials and clerks and those who had been defending the various guards and prefectures were led back by the Cheng-shan Marquis and Regional Commander Wang Tong and the eunuch official Shan Shou. Subsequently, I repeatedly received Imperial orders of instruction requiring me to seek out those remaining. I again enquired around the country, but the previously recorded people had already all been sent back. The sick had also been treated by local doctors and, after recovery, escorted to the Guang-xi border and allowed to return by themselves. The chieftains and elders in the various areas all confirmed that there were none of these persons remaining. Now, I have again received Imperial instructions on the afore-mentioned matter and I am deeply unsettled and cannot put myself at ease or allay my worries knowing that my loyalty, as insignificant as that of a weevil or an ant, is too remote to be noticed and that a light beneath an overturned beaker cannot be seen. Moreover, it is as in the case when members of my family and other people of the country were originally captured by the government troops, and on the day the troops were withdrawn, all of these people were brought back. I and the people of the country only looked on and wept, for even though there were fathers and sons, and younger and elder brothers, they were so fearful that they did not even dare acknowledge each other. How could they have dared to detain China's people, violate the orders of the Court and bring down punishment upon themselves? It has been noted that when the previously-mentioned persons were on their return journey, throughout the mountains and on the seas there were great winds and billowing waves, and miasmic vapours appeared bringing illnesses and disease which led to deaths. Those in the families of the deceased did not know the cause of the death of their family members and thus repeated worrisome plaints were made to the Court. The Court with deep concern and Imperial pity sent instructions in respect of the orphans and widows. Although I am stupid and lowly, how could I not feel great sympathy, given that the Sage Son of Heaven has such concern for the people? However, as the previously-noted troops are truly not here, it is difficult to accord with the orders. I bend before Heaven and kneel to the Earth, and my fear grows increasingly great. As to the male descendants of the Chens, when Ji-li usurped the country, all such persons were massacred. Only the dullards such as Jian Ding and Ji-kuo remained alive. During the years of the Yong-le reign (1403-24), they continued to diminish in number and, after the Imperial army carried out its extermination actions, there was none who remained. Now that I have received the Imperial instructions, I have again gathered the people of the country and again carried out a thorough enquiry and search. There are truly no descendants remaining. I look to the Emperor's compassion and bow before the Court, hoping that it will sympathetically consider pardoning me for my mountains of crimes and soak me with the rain and dew of Imperial grace. This would not only bring me personal happiness but would also bring great prosperity to all living things in the region." Li and the others had also brought a memorial from their chieftains and elders, seeking an enfeoffment. It read: "We have respectfully received the Imperial orders acknowledging our memorial noting that Li Li is respectful, loyal and sincere, has shown capacity to pacify and govern the region, has wholly won the hearts of the people and can meet the demands of supervising. Your Majesty stated: `I am pleased with this'. We were also instructed to gather the people of the country and make further enquiries about the Chen family and that, if there were truly no descendants, we were to jointly memorialize so that arrangements could be made. Of the people in the country, there were none who were not greatly pleased and jumping for joy. Their happiness was exceeds all expectations. We respectfully gathered the people and widely carried out investigations. It was found that there truly were no remaining male descendants of the Chens. We all feel that this country must have someone to supervise it, but Li Li has not received the Court's orders. Thus, we are obliged to entreat with these sincere words. We bow before the Emperor, prostrate ourselves in the hope that he will have pity on the feelings of the masses and that the people's wishes will be followed, that our request be approved and that we will be soaked with the vast grace of the Emperor. Thereby, Li Li would be enabled to defend the Southern borders and offer tribute to the Court. Above, there would be the great Sage Son of Heaven looking on all equally and below the lives of all living things would be relieved." The Emperor accepted the memorial (納之).

Xuan-zong: juan 79.2a-3a

Zhong-yang Yan-jiu yuan Ming Shi-lu, volume 20, page 1823/25

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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-6-month-5-day-3, accessed November 17, 2019