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Yong-le: Year 3, Month 10, Day 20

11 Nov 1405

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A stele inscription for Mt Zhen-guo ("the mountain that protects the country") was conferred upon the country of Melaka. At this time, the envoy of this country had said that his king admired righteousness, wished that Melaka like the administrative divisions of China (中國屬郡), could annually show its loyalty through offering tribute, and requested that their mountain be enfeoffed as protector of the whole country.

The Emperor commended them and instructed officials in the Ministry of Rites, saying: "The former Emperors enfeoffed mountains and rivers, fixed territories and allotted valuables to the border feudatories. This was intended to show special favour to those in the distance and to indicate that they were not outsiders. The Western mountain of the country [Melaka] can be enfeoffed as the protector mountain of the country, and a tablet erected upon it."

The Emperor personally composed the inscription for the tablet. It read:

"I hold that a ruler with the moral power of the Sage does great things for Heaven and Earth, counsels and assists, and aids in moulding all. Through him the Sun, Moon, stars and planets have their brightness and the seasons and years have their constancy. Heaven is Heaven through him and Earth is Earth through him. All things are in their place and at peace through him and all things are created and transformed by him. He moves all with one mind and arranges all things excellently. He is produced outside Heaven and Earth, is greater than Heaven and Earth and cannot be named. Previously, my Imperial father Tai-zu, Sage-like in his learning and might, initiator through Imperial perspicacity, perfect in his great moral power, ruler of Heaven and supreme in his filial respect, the Gao Emperor, occupied the position of the Sage and as the lord of the three powers [Heaven, Earth and man], he harmonized the Yin and the Yang, protected all of Creation, and pervaded the Universe, including all beyond Heaven and Earth. His knowledge encompassed all and he acted with divine understanding. Of all living things within Heaven and Earth, there is none on which his secretly-conferred benificence has not been bestowed, as they have been born and have grown. Yet they have remained unaware of this for 40 years. I have inherited the Great Undertaking, have respected and followed his glorious course, and have brought together the 10,000 states. In the ninth month of the third year of the Yong-le reign (Sep/Oct 1405), the envoy sent by you, king of the country of Melaka, came to Court and made known your sentiments. He said that your land is in harmony, the people are healthy, things are abundant, the customs are pure and splendid, that you cherish virtue and admire righteousness and wish to become like a division of China, so that you will be superior to the other border regions, and you would forever remain our subordinate state and annually carry out your tribute duties. Bowing your head and requesting our command, your perfect sincerity is to be commended. Truly, the plenitude of my Imperial father's righteousness and noble felicity have spread all the way to your land. They have extended even that far! The ancient Emperors enfeoffed mountains and fixed territories, allotted wealth and conferred protection, in order to show special favour to the 10,000 states. This was made known everywhere to indicate to all that there were no outsiders. As to the enfeoffment of the Western mountain of Melaka as the mountain protecting your state, and the poem conferred for inscription, it is to be engraved on pure white hard stone so that it will long serve as explanation to your endless line of descendants and to the people of your country, and like Heaven, will extend forever."

The poem read:

"To the vast seas in the south-west, China reaches out, Pervading Heaven and encompassing Earth, as always for 100 million years, Washed by the Sun and bathed by the Moon, a gleaming scene revealed, With rain-washed cliffs and dewy rocks amidst the lush vegetation, The people wear golden ornaments and precious filigree, and brightest reds and greens, A country there whose people all follow refined customs, And their king, devoted to all that is good and right, wishes to turn to our Court, He wants his country to become like the divisions within China and to follow Chinese ways, In coming and going to be increasingly guided by ceremony, And in manners and ritual to be reverent and respectful, Your loyalty is to be inscribed on pure white stone, And your Western mountain is to be enfeoffed in perpetuity, The lords of the mountains and the earls of the seas will all form a retinue, My Imperial father will ascend and descend in his loftiness, And together with Heaven will, in future, watch over your ever-increasing prosperity, While your many descendants enjoy great fortune and respect."

Tai-zong: juan 47.4a-b

Zhong-yang Yan-jiu yuan Ming Shi-lu, volume 10, page 0723/24

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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/yong-le/year-3-month-10-day-20, accessed October 17, 2019