Chapter 101: Come on, Lets hold a debate competition.
Indeed, on the day after the ritual to honor Confucius, Zhu Yunwen received nearly twenty memorials opposing the reform of the Imperial Academy, with one common theme:
The study of miscellaneous arts does not belong in the halls of great knowledge.
Zhu Yunwen looked over these memorials and sighed. These officials might not necessarily be opposing the reform of the Imperial Academy; instead, they found an outlet to oppose him.
The Single whip method and the policy of curbing land consolidation had indeed won the favor of the common people but also made these officials bleed.
They couldn’t oppose the national policy, but they could oppose the reform of the imperial academy.
It seems that the introduction of the new salary system has only made these officials praise it in public, while privately they continue to harbor their own thoughts and opinions.
Fine, if you want to oppose, let’s do it on a grand scale.
Zhu Yunwen personally drafted an edict and instructed the office of transmission’s Yan Xubo to read it in the Grand Secretariat.
Yu Xin, Zhang Dan, and Xie Jin knelt to receive the decree.
Yan Xubo cleared his throat and read aloud: “By the grace of the heavens and carrying the mandate of the Emperor, this decree proclaims: The Imperial Academy is the place where talents are nurtured in the empire, and it is crucial for the rise and fall of the country. Previously, there was a memorial by director Xu listing the ten major shortcomings of the Imperial Academy, and now there is a movement among the officials opposing the reforms. I am torn with indecision and filled with concern. Therefore, I now intend to promote a way of debate to hear the sincere opinions of my subjects.”
“The purpose of this debate is to clarify right from wrong, establish the rules for managing chaos, distinguish similarities from differences, examine the truth behind names, consider interests and harms, and resolve suspicions. By emulating various aspects of the world, we shall discuss and compare different viewpoints. We will use names to substantiate reality, employ rhetoric to express ideas, elucidate the reasons behind our arguments, and settle the matter.”
“Through this method, we will decide whether the reforms at the Imperial Academy should proceed. To this end, I command the Grand Secretariat and all officials to select five individuals who oppose the reforms as Team A. I myself will choose five individuals who support the reforms as Team B. All the officials and scholars will be present to witness this debate, and the outcome will determine the future of the Imperial Academy!”
After Xie Jin and others accept the edict, Yan Xubo returned to report.
Looking at the content of the imperial edict, Yu Xin chuckled and said, “His Majesty wants to use a debate to decide whether or not to implement the reform of the Imperial Academy. This method is quite refreshing. What do you think, Xie Dashen?”
Because Xie Jin supported the reform of the Imperial Academy curriculum, which was at odds with the views of Yu Xin and Zhang Dan, the two had some grievances and isolation towards Xie Jin.
Listening to Yu Xin’s ambiguous tone, Xie Jin furrowed his brows and said, “Secretary Yu, the Imperial Academy has its shortcomings, and reform is a natural course of action.”
Knowing that continuing the discussion would lead to no results and might damage their relationship, Zhang Dan said, “Since his Majesty wants to decide the outcome through a debate, then let’s have a debate.”
“Why, Secretary Zhang, do you plan to participate in the debate personally?” Xie Jin looked at the confident Zhang Dan and asked.
Zhang Dan smiled lightly and said, “With a large number of officials and scholars from the Imperial Academy available, there’s no need for us to personally engage in the debate. To speak from the heart, Director Xu’s memorial on the ten major shortcomings of the Imperial Academy indeed has its merits. If the reforms involve other aspects, I have no objections. However, if the reforms pertain to the curriculum and introduce various miscellaneous studies such as agriculture, commerce, craftsmanship, medicine, astronomy, mathematics, and physical education into the Imperial Academy’s courses, I believe many officials will not be in favor of it.”
Xie Jin shook his head slightly, adjusted his official attire, and said, “If the debate indeed results in supporting the inclusion of miscellaneous studies in the Imperial Academy curriculum, how will you all react?”
“How? Well, if that’s really the case, it means that we are no longer capable of governing the country, and we should yield to the capable.”
Yu Xin spoke frankly.
Xie Jin sighed and said, “When the time comes, I will prepare some wine to honor official Yu.”
“Hmm, but what if you’re the one who has to leave?”
Yu Xin’s face turned cold.
Xie Jin chuckled and said, “Then I will definitely drink a few extra cups of official Yu’s wine.”
“Alright, as grand secretariat’s secretary, there’s no need for this. His Majesty has issued his decree, and we should obey. As for the outcome, after ten days at Imperial Academy, the decision will naturally be made. We don’t need to argue anymore.”
Zhang Dan was feeling a bit troubled.
In this day and age, even being a peacemaker was challenging.
As for the court officials and the selection of debaters, Zhu Yunwen wasn’t too concerned. Instead, he summoned Yao Guangxiao, Xia Yuanji, Yang Shiqi, Li Zhigang, and Wu Yun from the Hanlin Academy.
“I have been a student for a long time and deeply understand the depth of knowledge needed to govern a country. Even if I spend my whole life, I won’t be able to explore it fully. Our empire requires a wide range of talents for its myriad affairs. But how many talents can the Imperial Academy produce today?”
Zhu Yunwen looked at the five individuals before him with a solemn expression and continued, “The path of learning is not limited to the Four Books and Five Classics. As Minister Xia mentioned, if we only study the Four Books and Five Classics without mastering subjects like mathematics, understanding the intricacies of taxation, and knowing about agriculture and the livelihoods of common people, how can the Ministry of Revenue manage our finances? How can they understand where our funds come from, where they go, and how to balance the budget?”
“All knowledge under the heavens can be considered as part of learning. Whether it’s axes, hooks, and spears, or salt, iron, rice, cloth, or even astronomy, water currents, and mountains, all things contain knowledge. Have you ever wondered why birds can fly, but humans cannot? Why does the wind come from the east in spring and from the north in winter?”
“I’ll tell you, relying solely on the Four Books and Five Classics will never allow Ming to truly become a prosperous era! Farmers don’t need the Four Books and Five Classics; they need better farming tools! Is tool manufacturing not a form of knowledge? Is it not an accomplishment? Soldiers don’t need the Four Books and Five Classics; they need strong military strategies, tactics, and weaponry. Are these not forms of knowledge?”
“Among the Four Estates, scholars are the only ones who need the Four Books and Five Classics. Ironically, it is scholars within the court who are resisting the inclusion of agricultural, industrial, and commercial knowledge in the Imperial Academy. Today, I tell you this in the hope that you understand that knowledge is meant to be applied, not just to hold official positions. Since the court officials oppose the reform of the Imperial Academy and the inclusion of agricultural, industrial, and commercial knowledge, they even use the teachings of Confucius and Mencius to oppose it!”
“So, I want you to use the teachings of Confucius and Mencius, your wisdom, talent, insight, and intelligence to refute them. Debate until they are left speechless, and debate until they acknowledge the truth! Tell me, can you do that?!”
Yao Guangxiao, Yang Shiqi, and the others replied in unison.
“Prepare the materials, prepare for the debate. Yao Guangxiao will be the chief debater, Xia Yuanji will be the second, Yang Shiqi will be the third, and Li Zhigang and Wu Yun will assist by identifying flaws in the opponent’s arguments.”
Zhu Yunwen arranged the debate tasks and provided some basic debate techniques before instructing them to develop their debate strategies as soon as possible.
Meanwhile, the court officials received the news and, after making some sarcastic remarks about the Emperor’s overconfidence, began selecting their representatives. With so many officials, and mouths aplenty, who wouldn’t want to make a name for themselves?
From the Ministry of Rites to the Six Ministries, from various ranks of deputy ministers to seventh-rank officials, even scholars from the Imperial Academy enthusiastically volunteered. Even some from the Censorate joined in.
But there were only five slots.
No, to be precise, only three.
Chen Di argued that he is the Minister of the Ministry of Rites, which had jurisdiction over the Imperial Academy, his ministry should have one slot. Wasn’t that reasonable?
Cheng Shizhou, the Chancellor of the Imperial Academy, insisted that, as the highest authority at the Imperial Academy, he should have a seat to share a few words. Wasn’t that reasonable?
I am too old?
Fine, then it would be left to Zhang Zhi, the Director of Studies of Imperial academy.
With three slots left, a group of people scrambled and argued. Two days had passed, and the selections were still pending. Meanwhile, Yao Guangxiao and his team had already submitted their debate strategies to Zhu Yunwen…