Chapter 44: The First Year of Jianwen! Enthronement of the Empress!
Is a tax rate of 1/30 high?
The commercial tax rate in the Ming Dynasty was not set too high, but rather too low!
And the excessively low commercial tax rate was not beneficial for the development of the Ming Dynasty.
Zhu Yuanzhang advocated light burdens and low taxes, but he never read “Capital” nor engaged in a market economy. Instead, he relied on his own firmness to shape a relatively rigid Ming Dynasty.
He established a framework and set rules, which must be followed by future generations. Then he went to reunite with Empress Ma.
However, what he didn’t know was that society is progressive and dynamic, not static. Zhu Yuanzhang failed to understand the principle that running water does not grow stale and a door hinge does not gather termites. His so-called eternal law was nothing but a joke in the face of historical inevitability.
Zhu Yunwen did not continue discussing the issue of commercial taxes with Empress Ma’enhui. Although she was an almost perfect wife, she lacked a business perspective, so any further discussion would be meaningless.
However, he would surely convince her. Otherwise, how could he persuade those stubborn officials?
On the eve of the Lunar New Year, in the Kunning Palace,
Ma Enhui personally helped Zhu Yunwen dress, a task she never entrusted to palace maids.
Looking at Zhu Yunwen, who was dignified and yet elegant, Ma Enhui smiled gently and said, “After today, tomorrow will be the new year, and the whole country will enter a new era. Even the common people will offer you longevity tablets.”
Zhu Yunwen pulled Ma Enhui to sit down and said, “Starting from tomorrow, everyone will need to address you as the Empress. Although the harem is small, it is not easy to manage. Don’t overwork yourself. Delegate some tasks to others.”
“I understand, but there is something I would like to discuss with Your Majesty.”
Empress Ma Enhui looked at Zhu Yunwen with bright eyes.
“What is it?”
Zhu Yunwen picked up a teacup.
Empress Ma’enhui looked at Zhu Yunwen earnestly and said, “Your Majesty, at the beginning of the new year, everything is renewed. I plan to select a group of talented women to enrich the harem.”
Zhu Yunwen looked at Ma Enhui, put down the teacup he had spilled, and said, “Why bring up this matter again?”
Ma Enhui said with some resentment, “Currently, Your Majesty has only one son, Wengui. The bloodline is too thin. And, Your Majesty indulges me excessively. When it comes to sleeping together, you cannot always stay in the Kunning Palace, or else rumors will spread in the harem.”
Zhu Yunwen felt annoyed. Was there something wrong with being with his wife?
But then he realized that he had more than one wife. Empress Ma Enhui was his lawful wife, and the other concubines in the harem were also his wives in name.
The wicked feudal society, the wicked royal family—was it appropriate to have so many wives?
Zhu Yunwen couldn’t break free from the concept of monogamy, so he said, “Let’s forget about selecting talented women. Let’s not choose for three years. We can discuss it again after three years.”
Ma Enhui grew anxious.
The imperial family valued the inheritance of bloodlines, while ordinary households had three or four sons. Zhu Yunwen had only one child, which was indeed too few.
“I am still young, and so are you. We have plenty of time,” Zhu Yunwen made up his mind.
Ma Enhui sighed and then said, “In that case, how about selecting some concubines from within the palace to serve Your Majesty? Apart from the Consort Ning and the Consort Xian, the harem is empty, and this is not a good situation.”
Zhu Yunwen waved his hand, a little impatiently, and said, “You can make the arrangements.”
Ma Enhui smiled and agreed.
Shuangxi led the other eunuchs saluted Zhu Yunwen and Ma Enhui, exclaiming in unison, “Congratulations to Your Majesty and Empress for eternal blessings and everlasting health. Long live His Majesty, long live the Empress.”
Zhu Yunwen looked at the kneeling eunuchs and said with a wave of his sleeve, “Please rise. You worked hard by my side, and it’s always a bit more difficult for you. Shuangxi, have the treasury distribute some New Year’s money to everyone.”
“Thank you for Your Majesty’s grace.”
The eunuchs expressed their gratitude.
After the eunuchs dispersed, Shuangxi entered the palace and reported, “Your Majesty, the officials from the Grand Secretariat and Ministry of Rites have replied. The New Year’s edict, the decree of the Empress’s enthronement, golden tablets, and golden treasures are all prepared and currently in the Fengtian Hall. Tomorrow morning, the envoys Fang Xiaoru and Xie Jin will present the decree, golden tablets, and golden treasures to the Empress.”
“Then the two envoys should be commended for their efforts.” Zhu Yunwen nodded in satisfaction and looked at Empress Ma Enhui. He said, “Let’s go. We will go and pay respects to the Empress Dowager. After that, you need to return home. Speaking of which, I haven’t seen Father-in-law for a long time.”
Ma Enhui was the daughter of Ma Quan, The vice minister of the court of imperial entertainment.
Although Ma Quan holds a fourth-ranking official position, he rarely attends court sessions. This is mainly because Ma Enhui is concerned about her father attracting unnecessary attention and causing trouble. She never allows anyone from the family to take advantage of their relationship with the palace, and she rejects all requests and pleas made by Ma’s relatives.
Ma Enhui will become the Empress of the Ming Empire tomorrow, yet the Ma family remains low-key as if they don’t exist at all.
“If your Majesty wishes to meet them, I will arrange for them to enter the palace on another day,” Ma Enhui replied with anticipation.
After paying respects to the Empress Dowager, Zhu Yunwen and Ma Enhui had a meal together in her presence until dusk. It was only then that Zhu Yunchen escorted Ma Enhui to the carriage, watching her about to leave the palace with reluctance. He said, “During the New Year’s Eve, families gather together and celebrate. But I will be left without anyone by my side.”
According to the court ceremonial system, before the empress is officially conferred, she needs to return home and wait for the envoys to arrive.
Ma Enhui looked at Zhu Yunwen, who seemed a little downcast and smiled lightly, saying, “Your Majesty, just this once. In the future, I will always be by your side, never to part again.”
Zhu Yunwen patted the carriage and watched it slowly move away.
“Your Majesty, where shall we go?”
Shuangxi asked as Zhu Yunwen turned around.
Zhu Yunwen blinked, pushing away his melancholic emotions. He took a deep breath and said, “Let’s return to the Wuying Hall. Instruct the kitchen to prepare dumplings. I feel like having some.”
The first day of the first month, New Year’s Day.
On this day, the official history of the Ming Dynasty entered the first year of Jianwen!
Just after the hours of tiger(3 a.m to 5 a.m), Zhu Yunwen was awakened by Shuangxi. After changing into ceremonial attire, the drowsy Zhu Yunwen was fully awakened by the elaborate and heavy clothing.
“Has the envoys for the conferment ceremony left the palace?” Zhu Yunwen asked.
Shuangxi quickly replied, “The imperial decree, golden tablets, and golden treasures have been taken out. It’s estimated that they have arrived at the Ma residence.”
Zhu Yunwen’s lips curved into a smile as he said, “A new beginning. Good. This empire should have a new atmosphere.”
The Ma residence.
Ma Quan, along with all his family members and servants, knelt and paid their respects.
Fang Xiaoru read the imperial decree with great vigor.:
“By the mandate of the Emperor, it is proclaimed: We have heard that the harmony of heaven and earth establishes the order of the world, and the sun and moon symbolize the eternal cycle. It is through internal governance that the foundation of human relations is established, and the harmonious sounds embody the principles of royal transformation.”
“To you, Lady Ma of the esteemed Ma family, daughter of the Vice Minister of the Court of Imperial Entertainments, Ma Quan, your gentle and virtuous nature reflects the exemplary qualities of historical figures. As my Empress, you will accompany me in ruling the realm, bringing peace and contentment to our inner court. It is all thanks to your merits that I can ascend the throne and face the world without worries. At the beginning of this new era, I rely on your support to fulfill my heavenly mandate and uphold the dignified rituals of our royal position.”
“By the gracious decree of the Empress Dowager, I hereby dispatch envoys bearing the golden imperial decree and treasures to proclaim you as the Empress. May you uphold virtuous teachings and display proper decorum. Embrace the spring radiance of Chang Le, exemplify the purity of summer, the warmth of winter, and foster the refined elegance of the palace. Commendable are your diligence in attire and punctuality in meals. Maintain an attitude of reverence and frugality as you lead the six palaces. As you ascend to the position of Empress, we shall carry out the ancestral rites and announce our everlasting prosperity to the world. This decree is given with great respect!”
Fang Xiaoru is truly a great Scholar, delivered the decree with modulation and emotion.
Ma Enhui received the decree and accepted the golden tablets and golden treasures.
Fang Xiaoru and Xie Jin, leading the envoy, knelt and paid their respects to Ma Enhui, shouting, “Long live the Empress!”
After the ceremony, Ma Enhui ascended the imperial carriage, under the escort of the Imperial Court, eunuchs, and officials. She entered the Fengtian Hall, moving gracefully with the phoenix crown, captivating Zhu Yunwen.
After Ma Enhui paid her respects to Zhu Yunwen, the two of them ascended the throne hand in hand.
Zhu Yunwen took his seat on the throne, while Ma Enhui sat upright on the phoenix chair. The civil and military officials knelt down to congratulate them.
Afterward, Zhu Yunwen and Ma Enhui had to enter the ancestral temple to pay respects to their ancestors. From that moment on, Ma Enhui truly moved from Chang’an Palace to the Kunning Palace.
After a long and complicated ceremony, more than four hours had passed.
In the Fengtian Hall
Zhu Yunwen, with an empty stomach, listened to the eunuch reciting the decree for the New Year and the accession to the throne.
The content of the decree was nothing more than proclaiming the new emperor’s ascension and praising his contributions to the Ming Empire. Of course, these contributions were not solely the emperor’s doing. The Grand Secretariat had merits, the six ministries deserved recognition, and the contributions of the officials could not be ignored.
In short, everyone was doing well, and everything was fine.
The first year of Jianwen had begun, and everyone should roll up their sleeves and work hard.
According to the custom, when a new emperor ascended the throne, a general amnesty would be granted. However, Zhu Yunwen disagreed with this and informed the Grand Secretariat in advance.
A general amnesty?
Who came up with this damn idea? Have they ever considered the efforts and time spent by the people to catch those criminals? Those criminals haven’t even completed their transformation yet, and they’re going to be released just because of a change in reign?
It’s absurd to a certain extent.
Even though Xie Jin has repeatedly explained that the individuals being released are not major villains or evildoers, but rather some petty thieves and swindlers, their release can demonstrate the Emperor’s benevolence. It is said to be an act of bestowing grace and benefits upon the world.
Zhu Yunwen rejected Xie Jin’s proposal. Let those people continue to enjoy their “self-guided tour” in prison, with free food and accommodation. Not everyone gets such treatment.
After the decree of the new reign was read, Zhu Yunwen stood up and said, “All officials in the capital, regardless of rank, shall receive an additional three months’ salary. Except for the necessary personnel on duty, you shall have ten days of rest. On the eleventh day of the first month, we shall resume the morning court. My esteemed ministers, you may withdraw.”
The officials rejoiced and expressed their gratitude with loud cheers.
After Zhu Yunwen left the Fengtian Hall, the Grand Secretaries of the Grand Secretariat, Yu Xin, Zhang Dan, and Xie Jin, discussed together and decided who would remain in the Grand Secretariat during the ten days.
Yu Xin wanted to spend more time with his wife and children. He said that if he didn’t spend time with them now, it wouldn’t matter if his children didn’t recognize him, but it would be a big problem if his wife didn’t recognize him.
Zhang Dan slapped his leg and said that his rheumatism was acting up, and he needed to stay at home and recuperate for a while.
Xie Jin spread his hands and said that his elderly father’s health was not good, and he needed to accompany him to see a doctor and get some prescriptions. He would accompany him throughout the process, even without taking off his clothes.
The three senior ministers exchanged glances, and no one was willing to stay behind on duty.
Xie Jin gritted his teeth and clenched his fist, hiding it in his sleeve.
Seeing the situation, Yu Xin and Zhang Dan’s expressions turned serious, and they also hid their hands in their sleeves.
Tension filled the air.
Officials from the six ministries, including Fang Xiaoru, Huang Zicheng, and Qi Tai, gathered around, ready to watch the spectacle.
Xie Jin sneered, “If that’s the case, don’t blame me for being impolite. You lose, don’t go back on your word.”
“Bring it on!” Yu Xin shouted.
Zhang Dan nodded slightly and solemnly said, “Then let’s begin! Hands up, rock, paper, scissors!”
The officials from the six ministries who were watching fainted one after another…
In ancient times, Yuan Dan referred to the first day of the lunar year. After the founding of the country, Yuan Dan was set as January 1st in the Gregorian calendar. The game of “rock, paper, scissors” can be traced back to the Hand Gesture Command during the Han Dynasty, as recorded in Xie Zhaozhe’s “Wuzazu” during the Ming Dynasty.
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