{[ promptMessage ]}

Bookmark it

{[ promptMessage ]}

1857 The Ming dyansty in declined

1857 The Ming dyansty in declined - 4 mm— 1587,AYEAR OF...

Info iconThis preview shows page 1. Sign up to view the full content.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Background image of page 1
This is the end of the preview. Sign up to access the rest of the document.

Unformatted text preview: 4 mm— 1587,AYEAR OF NO SIGNIFICANCE designated for various ceremonial functions into which he, as heir appar— ent, must be initiated. Between the changes in wardrobe, he was instructed to kneel down, stand up, turn around, hold a scepter, and drink wine from a special cup—all to the accompaniment of music and the chanting of ceremonial officials. The proceedings took the whole morning. The next day the boy sat stiffly to receive the formal congratulations of the court officials.3 u Several months later came the death of his father, the Lung-ch’ing em- peror. As heir designate he met the imperial court in mourning. The as- sembly of officials had prepared polished pieces of literature declaiming the urgent reasons why he must now take over the vacant throne. Twice Wan-1i, who had been carefully coached, declined on the ground that he was too grief-stricken. Only to the third round of persuasion did he give his assent. From that moment on ceremonies became inseparable from his life. During the past fifteen years the emperor had sacrificed to heaven and earth, performed ritual motions offarming, and celebrated New Year’s Day and the ferry boat festival that fell on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month. He had sacrificed to imperial mausoleums and the family temple and meticulously observed the birthdays and dates of death of all preceding emperors and empresses of the dynasty. He received missions from foreign tributaries and retiring officials who bade him farewell. He reviewed troops, issued battle banners, and accepted prisoners of war after the im— perial army’s major and minor battles. .. The disposal of war prisoners was usually one of the most awe-inspiring occasions of the emperor’s court. He sat on the tower atop the Meridian Gate overlooking the granite—paved courtyard, flanked by general officers who held noble titles. Lined up next to them was a full battalion of imperial guards, soldiers of gigantic stature clad in shiny armor and helmets adorned with red tassels. Down below, while thousands of courtxofficials and soldiers watched, the prisoners, in chains and red cloth with holes cut out for their necks, were forced to kneel on the stone pavement. Then the ministerof justice came forward to read aloud a list of the crimes those prisoners had committed against humanity. Upon completion of the charges, he petitioned the emperor that the prisoners be executed in the marketplace. The reply from the throne—“Take them there; be it so ordered”—could not have been heard by all present. The order, however, wasrepeated by the two nobles standing immediately next to the sovereign and then echoed in succession by four, eight, sixteen, and thirtyfiwo guardsmen, until it touched off a thundering shout of the same order by the entire battalion of soldiers, their chests inflated.‘ THE WAN-LI EMPEROR 5 Every year, in the eleventh lunar month, the emperor received the follow- ing year’s calendar and proclaimed it to the populace, so that they would know when to plant their seeds for food and when to sweep their family graves. With the same degree of solemnity he received all important literary works compiled by the Han—lin Academy. Every work accepted by the throne was made official writ. It was placed on a portable lectern and carried through all the ceremonial gates and the entire length of the court- yard, accompanied by academicians and musicians and escorted by por- ters who carried burning incense.5 With full formality, the emperor granted princely ranks to his cousins and remote relatives, authorized their weddings, and bestowed honors upon their wives. He had, upon his succession, named his principal mother, the former empress, the August Empress Dowager Jen-sheng, and his natural mother, formerly the imperial consort, the August Empress Dow- ager Tz’u—sheng. The latter was particularly important to him, perhaps the only person in the world who had given him the kind of love due to a child.6 Many years later, on her birthday in the eleventh lunar month, he still went to the Imperial Polar Gate to accept the good wishes of his courtiers on her behalf, even though by that time he had discontinued many ceremonial proceedings. But ever since his capping Wan-1i had become a public personality. When he constructed a palace building for her, the dowager’s appreciation was not expressed orally but was incorporated into a letter of thanks solemnly read to him While he lay prostrate on the ground. The letter was then kept ‘ in an imperial archive as a state paper. When Wan-1i entertained his two . mothers with stage plays by a palace troupe, he had to kneel in the court- , yard awaiting their arrival, rising only when the empresses dowager had ’1 dismounted from their sedan chairs. Thus, in becoming emperor, Wan-1i lost much of his personal identity 7: nd had little private life. Even when he moved about inside the palace mmpound, he was accompanied by a large retinue led by eunuchs who ' fired the path with whips. ! When he decided to elevate his favorite concubine, Lady Cheng, to the lition of imperial consort, the proceedings were announced beforehand that the ceremony might be prepared. This act caused a supervising ‘ : rotary to protest on the ground that the honor should go to Lady Wang, A a had given birth to the emperor’s first son, whereas Lady Gheng was :7 mother of only his third son. This objection started a controversy that " to alienate the monarch from his court and rock the dynasty for the of its duration. At the time, however, the ceremony proceeded as ...
View Full Document

{[ snackBarMessage ]}

Ask a homework question - tutors are online