Living Leisurely in Tang Dynasty Chapter 15

The Emperor is of the opinion that heavy laws should be used only during troubled times. Although Han Fei and Shang Yang’s teaching are not wrong, they are more suited for chaotic periods where people lack the means to sustain basic livelihood. Now days are prosperous and peaceful, there isn’t a need for such laws.

Especially given the controversy on how he rose to power, Li Er needed to work hard to portray a forgiving and virtuous personality and abstain from doing things that would make him bear more infamy. In the early years of his reign, Li Er was once furious and ordered his officials from the Dalisi Judicial Court to be dragged off and beheaded. He however regretted his actions afterward and has since then dictated that all such orders can only be executed after three reviews.

After all, this is the first time Li Er is playing the role of an Emperor so everything is being learned from trial and error.

The most important virtue that Li Er wants to redeem is his morality, therefore he attaches importance to Confucianism. When he handles government affairs every day, he often talks with his ministers and discusses the techniques of governing the country and about the importance of compiling history and books. He even sent Wei Zheng, Yu Shinan, Fang Xuanling, and other well-educated scholars to be responsible for this task.

Li Yuanying obviously didn’t know about his brother’s mentality thus he answered in a straightforward manner that the book was very interesting.

As <<Han Zi>> wasn’t a reading assignment from Xiao Deyan, Li Yuanying only hastily scan over the difficult parts and only focused on reading the parts that he was interested in.

After reading dozens of volumes, Yuanying managed to sum up nearly around two hundred interesting stories from it.

He felt that reading these books was not in vain, after all he has enough stories to keep the children entertained for a long time!

Li Yuanying really didn’t have much care about his brother’s mood, he instead enthusiastically shared the story about the suspicious neighbor to him and left his honest opinion about how he felt: “I was initially felt that Old man Kong meant to insult my handwriting when he gifted me an inkstone. But now that I think about it, I am at fault for gauging a gentlemen’s action with a villainous heart! [1]means to unfairly gauge another’s action through one’s own despicable mind

Kong Yingda was among the group of officials present and his face turned black hearing those words. This is in reaction to Yuanying’s advocacy on <<Han Zi>> and also his messy speculation about his gift-giving intentions!

Before Han Fei time, legalism was divided into three schools of thought – law, skills, and power and each was used for governing separately. However, Han Fei came and then merge all three into a compatible theory on legalism thinking.

Therefore, this school of thought is not liked by most Confucius disciples as its doctrines are like a sharp sword that destroys all as soon as it is unsheathed.  And this doctrine was one that is most attractive to a ruler. For who in high position wouldn’t want to own the right to life, death and power in their own hands?

In the past, the King of Qin was sold on Han Fei’s doctrine and although Han Fei has passed away he still governed his empire using this teaching.  

After seizing the throne, the Emperor place great importance to Confucianism. Although the Imperial College has separate subjects like law studies and mathematics and so on, the imperial examinations placed heavy importance to literature and political studies. Teachings like <<Han Zi>> would only be read by those who are in charge of the judicial court and the crime department!

I can’t believe that this kid who just thought of taking his studies seriously a few days ago would be reading such books!

Kong Yingda considering that His Majesty is present kept quiet and didn’t advise Yuanying about not influencing the other children negatively. However, the Emperor would not stay still and let Yuanying disrespect his elders. Li Er raised his hand and hit Yuanying’s forehead: “Didn’t I teach you how to address your elders? Have you forgotten?”

Li Yuanying held onto his forehead and refused to repent.

No one else present paid attention to this troublemaker, they left it up to him to decide how he wants to address others.  

Everyone was thinking that this kid would only read <<Han Zi>> as a script without understanding its meaning. How could he be capable enough to understand its deep teachings?

Surprisingly, that kid was able to do so much to everyone’s surprise.

……

Within the next two days, Yuanying finished all remaining volumes of <<Hanzi>>, and the system appeared in due course and indicated that he could archive this achievement into his personal library.

Yuanying asked curiously: “Has anyone read <<Analects>> or <<Book of Rites>>?”

Silence….

“Like I said, no one reads them, putting this new book into the collection is a waste of time and effort!’’

Silence….

Seeing that the system was quiet, he gave up and archived <<Han Zi>> as part of his collection.  The system quickly scans it and tabulated the results.  The book was rated as excellent in completeness and readability and next shows him a list of rewards he Yuanying can choose from.

The system showed rewards related to art. Within it was three books <<Introduction to drawing 1000 examples>>, <<Beginner techniques on drawing comic characters>> and <<How to draw a complete comic book>>.

Upon confirmation, the books appeared in Li Yuanying’s personal library. Yuanying already had talent in painting so when he saw these art-related books he sat around with a glass of coke and started reading them.

Yuanying’s started off with the book on introduction to drawing. It illustrated how to quickly outline various foods, characters, objects, and tools. Although the drawing tools were different (pens vs brushes), there were many paintings of items that he has never heard of. What are airplanes, trains, and cars!

Fortunately, the system was patiently explaining each item to him so he could roughly make out what they were.    

One thing Yuanying was more competent than anyone else is his ability to treat any and every incident as no big deal. For example, when he heard that airplanes can fly and that trains can transport more cargo than ships, he only had a skeptical expression that says “Are you for real? I think you’re bullsh*tting me”.   This prompted the system to show him the entire process of passengers boarding the plane to it taking off.

He was happy reading about such things, he then made full use of the system to help him in recognizing these foreign objects.  After familiarizing with what they are, he slyly tried to pry how they were made. However, the system was able to discern this and firmly told off Yuanying stating that he had insufficient authority and cannot inquire about such content.

Though he couldn’t pry info on creation methods, he was not discouraged. He instead started to practice the painting skills that he had just learned and managed to quickly master the skills of simple strokes. After that, he picked up two comic-related tutorials and read them.

As he finished the two books, a new door opened before his eyes!

This comic is great! With only few words but many pictures, it was suitable for the children! When his grand-nephew grows up, he can then gift it to him! Coincidently he just finished reading much so he had a variety of writing materials. He rubs his palms together getting ready to draw <<Han Zi Fables>> to coax his lovely juniors!

Li Yuanying usually doesn’t like staying in Myriad Realm Library for long but now that he has a grand plan in mind, he stayed behind and started writing and drawing with plan to give his friends a big surprise.    

A few days later, Yuanying did the unexpected and seek out Kong Yingda to ask a question: “Old man Kong, who is responsible for making our books?”

Kong Yingda was responsible for compiling textbooks for the children so he would definitely have an answer. It was rare for Yuanying to initiate conversations with Yingda.

“What are you asking about this? Just because you read <<Han Zi>> a few days ago you think you can now create a book about it?”

“Can’t I?” said Yuanying with a proud face.

Yingda saw that the young boy couldn’t hide his excitement and arrogance and so he wanted to see what the kid could do.

“That’s easy. Just find someone to copy them for you.”

Most books created during this era were copied by hand.

“No, that won’t work. The book I want to create is different.”

Li Yuanying recalled the books he saw in his library; they were not kept in volumes but rather conveniently kept as books where you could turn the pages one by one [2]Books in this context were created in rolls similar to scrolls so each volume was kept as different rolls whereas modern books are compiled together and were flip to read the next page!  Yuanying wants to create such a book!

Furthermore, if you were to leave the rewriting to another person, he might not be able to draw them according to his original manuscript. Therefore, Yuanying hopes to find a way to print them directly!

Li Yuanying internalized his thoughts and told them to Kong Yingda.

“Then the book will look like a Buddhist scripture. Books currently are all written in rolls by volume and only certain Buddhist scriptures are recorded by pages done using materials called Palm-leaf manuscripts.  If you really want such a book, look for erudite scholar Li Chunfeng and ask.”

Li Chunfeng was originally a Taoist priest but later became an official to the imperial court. He came along to Jiucheng Palace to escape the summer heat and is usually on duty at Taichang Temple; usually responsible for picking auspicious dates. Occasionally when the Emperor has doubts he will summon him to check his fortune.

He’s also the one who compiled <<Mohist canon>> [3]ancient Chinese text from the Warring States period that explains the philosophy of Mohism and has created many novelty objects.  If Yuanying is able to describe what he’s looking for perhaps Li Chunfeng would be able to help him figure out a solution!

Li Yuanying nodded his head while taking notes before running away leaving Kong Yingda alone.

Kong Yingda is already familiar with Yuanying’s habit of crossing the river and tearing down the bridge [4]means to discard one’s helpers after they are no longer of no use so he left him be.  He instead discussed with his colleagues about Yuanying’s whimsical attempt to write a book.

Someone obviously held a grudge against Yuanying so he shook his head and said: “This kid doesn’t know the immensity of heaven and earth [5]means to not know one’s own limitations/ability. If he really writes an actual book, I will promote it on his behalf out on the street!” 

“Don’t speak too early, he might really be able to do it.” Kong Yingda who had heard from Li Er how the boy told stories to Princess Jinyang thinks that if it was a book about nothing he would succeed in writing it with ease.   

If only Li Yuanying could hear Kong Yingda’s words, he would be touched and might feel that his teacher is willing to be fair to him! However, it’s a pity that he has already ran off to find Li Chunfeng.

Yuanying being the youngest brother of the Emperor would not be stopped by anyone in Jiucheng Palace; it didn’t take long for him to reach his destination and he found his target who was sorting documents.

Li Chunfeng is thirty-seven and instead of wearing a Taoist gown, he wore a light blue official gown and looked very young.

Li Yuanying thinks that this man is not as deity like as scholar Xiao.

Though he felt that Li Chunfeng was not very reliable, Yuanying still met him to explain his intentions for coming. He even pulled out a piece of paper and drew a diagram of what he wanted including the book cover and the internal page layout.

  

“If you want to print a book, there exist a printing method from the south of Yangtze River. If you want to connect the book by pages, you can do it with a rope.”

After hearing Li Chunfeng’s advise his scepticism towards him disappeared and he then actively asked him to explore further.

Yuanying is planning to print a hundred copies and give one book to each of his friends. He even plans to give his teachers a copy. The former is to share good things with his friends and the latter is to annoy the people who looked down on him.

A hundred books were really not that many as he’s for a big family. Nephews and nieces alone already amount to more than twenty to thirty in number.

Hearing how Yuanying plans to be so generous, Li Chunfeng reminded that it will cost him much money.

Printing a book is not that simple, you’ll need money for wood, for carving, and even more for paper and ink. If it weren’t so expensive, how come most people cannot afford books?

“I have money!”

Li Chunfeng remembered that Yuanying is rich in assets for it is rumoured that when the previous Emperor passed away he left most of the inheritance to him! If it hadn’t been for Li Er who take Yuanying under his wings in Taiji Palace, the boy would have been torn alive by his other brothers!

Li Chunfeng was happy to suggest new ideas to Yuanying.

“Your Royal Highness, then I shall look for experience engravers and get them to try making a few engravings. If you are satisfied, then we can start printing.”

References

References
1 means to unfairly gauge another’s action through one’s own despicable mind
2 Books in this context were created in rolls similar to scrolls so each volume was kept as different rolls whereas modern books are compiled together and were flip to read the next page
3 ancient Chinese text from the Warring States period that explains the philosophy of Mohism
4 means to discard one’s helpers after they are no longer of no use
5 means to not know one’s own limitations/ability

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