Ming Dynasty: Reborn as Zhu Yunwen
Ming Dynasty: Reborn as Zhu Yunwen Chapter 81

Chapter 81: The Stingy Empress…

Ma Enhui may not understand what capitalism is, but she knows that the more contract quotas she can fulfill in the shortest time, the more money will flow into her hands.

They need a daily production of no less than four hundred boxes to complete three hundred thousand in two years.

But currently, they can only produce sixty, which is far from enough.

When Zhu Yunwen entered the Kunning Palace, Ma Enhui had already sent several groups of maids in succession. It seemed that the empress intended to vacate the Jingyang Palace, Yonghe Palace, and Yanxi Palace to establish textile factories.

It is not known whether the empress did this intentionally, but she did not utilize the spacious areas of the various departments and treasuries in the inner palace. Instead, she continued to encroach upon her own Eastern Six Palaces.

With this trend, it seems impossible to fill the Eastern and Western Twelve Palaces with concubines…

Capital, indeed, is something that makes people both love and hate it.

“Your Majesty, I am contemplating how to expand production, but the manpower in the harem is insufficient. What should I do?” Ma Enhui asked after bowing to Zhu Yunwen.

Zhu Yunwen held Ma Enhui’s hand, sat down, and replied, “If there’s a shortage, you can transfer some people from the Arts Troupe. As Murong Jing’er mentioned, the Arts Troupe is large and difficult to manage, not good at handling matters.”

Ma Enhui pouted slightly and tugged at Zhu Yunwen’s arm, saying, “With Your Majesty’s support, I can be at ease. Your Majesty, the Arts Troupe is highly profitable. It won’t be long before it surpasses the wealth of the Kunning Palace.”

Zhu Yunwen secretly took a deep breath, sensing something amiss in her words.

Could it be that the empress is jealous of the Arts Troupe?

It’s not surprising since ever since the Lantern Festival, the Arts Troupe has transformed into a fully commercialized operation.

Whether you are a royal relative, high-ranking official, low-ranking official, or a wealthy merchant in the capital, their performances are priced uniformly at 500 taels of silver for a two-hour show.

It’s said that their bookings are already full until May, with a minimum of two performances daily, earning over a thousand taels of silver per day. During this period, their total earnings have exceeded ten thousand taels.

As an organization within the inner palace, the Arts Troupe is technically exempt from taxes. However, Zhu Yunwen not only demanded them to pay taxes but imposed a heavy tax rate of 1/15.

The Ministry of Revenue naturally welcomed this decision, as the Performing Arts Troupe belonged to Zhu Yunwen, and he set the 1/15 tax rate, so no one could complain. With over a thousand taels of tax revenue from the Arts Troupe each month, it is more than enough to support the livelihoods of over thirty petty officials in a county office for a whole year. Why wouldn’t they be pleased?

Within the harem, the Arts Troupe is also unique.

Though Ma Enhui is the Empress of the Great Ming, she cannot easily intervene in the affairs of the Arts Troupe.

The Arts Troupe was previously known as the Music Office, but Zhu Yunwen abolished it, leaving behind a group of people with nowhere to go. He reorganized them into the Arts Troupe and appointed Murong Jing’er as its head to oversee its affairs.

Regarding the commercial operation of the Arts Troupe, Zhu Yunwen gave a decree entrusting Murong Jing’er with full authority.

In other words, the Arts Troupe managed by Murong Jing’er, although officially under Ma Enhui’s supervision, is practically highly independent. All matters, including personnel, finances, programs, and performance arrangements, are entirely decided by the Arts Troupe itself.

Initially, Ma Enhui didn’t mind because a single performance by the troupe cost five hundred taels, and how many in the capital could afford such a price? Who would waste so much money on a mere two-hour show?

However, Ma Enhui underestimated the enthusiasm of the people in the capital. Not to mention the kings like the King of Liao and the King of Min who enjoyed the performances, even other officials and wealthy merchants in the capital liked to watch the brilliance of the Arts Troupe.

After all, the troupe performed for the Emperor and the Empress, and we had the opportunity to experience royal treatment, who wouldn’t mind spending some money?

As for the five hundred taels of silver, yes, it was expensive, and only big households could afford it. For smaller households like ours, it was better to keep a low profile, gather a few officials, each contributing seventy to eighty taels, and form a group to attend the performance.

Ma Enhui felt unhappy; while the Arts Troupe needed to organize only one to two hundred people for a show and earned tens of thousands of taels in just half a month, she, on the other hand, had to mobilize hundreds of people, spend countless materials and efforts, working day and night. Even then, she could only earn a few thousand taels a month from selling medicinal gauze.

Comparing the two, Ma Enhui felt defeated, and what made her more upset was that the money the Arts Troupe earn was not her own…

Just as Zhu Yunwen was about to console Ma Enhui with words about employment and social value, a palace maid entered and announced that Murong Jing’er requested an audience with the Empress.

Ma Enhui gave Zhu Yunwen a deep look and asked, “I wonder why she’s coming.”

Zhu Yunwen stood up, smiling, and said, “Since she’s looking for the Empress, I will excuse myself for now and see what she has to say.”

Ma Enhui chuckled; how could the Emperor hide and eavesdrop?

Zhu Yunwen paid no attention to it and went behind the screen, took a chair, and began to doze off.

The Single Whip method, the reorganization of officials, and the restraint of land consolidation all harmed the interests of the gentry group. While it could be managed with officials in the capital, what about in the local areas?

How would those gentry groups, the so-called landlords, react?

Would they resist the court?

He wondered if they had the courage, or were the shadows of the massacres during the Hongwu era, imprinted deep in their bones.


Unlikely; the gentry groups had only a few thugs at their disposal, not enough for a rebellion.

Without widespread participation from farmers, most rebellions wouldn’t amount to anything.

By advocating for the welfare of farmers, there shouldn’t be a reason for them to oppose him.

With this approach, the gentry would have no choice but to compromise.

Once the issue of the livelihood of officials and petty officials were resolved through salaries and allowances, the Single Whip method could be fully implemented.

The reason why Zhang Juzheng’s reform was like a fleeting flower that lasted for ten years is primarily because the reform harmed the interests of officials, failed to gain their understanding and support, and lacked supervision and correction in the implementation process, leading to serious deviations in many reform initiatives.

Compared to Zhang Juzheng, he have greater advantages. The first advantage is that he is the Emperor, while Zhang Juzheng can only be considered the Grand Secretary’s “Emperor”.

Another advantage was his understanding of the problems with the Single Whip method and land consolidation. He had taken various safeguards and implemented reform 2.0, which should be an improvement over the previous 1.0 version.

Moreover, Zhang Juzheng’s reform lasted for ten years before he died. In contrast, he was only in his early twenties this year, so as long as he didn’t indulge himself or seek immortality, living to sixty or seventy should be no problem. With thirty years ahead of him, he was confident that he could tackle the land and governance issues at the grassroots level.

Just as Zhu Yunwen was feeling drowsy, the conversation outside the screen brought him back to alert.

After Murong Jing’er paid her respects to Ma Enhui, she presented a ledger and respectfully handed it to the Empress, saying, “Empress, this is the Arts Troupe’s accounting book for the first month. After deducting taxes, the balance is fourteen thousand taels. All the silver has been sealed and sent outside the Kunning Palace’s gate. Please verify it, Your Majesty.”

“What?!” Ma Enhui looked at Murong Jing’er with surprise. She had not expected Murong Jing’er to keep the slightest bit of money, and completely handed it over to herself.

“Your Majesty’s words are absolute. The Arts Troupe can independently manage its revenue and doesn’t need to submit it to the Kunning Palace,” Ma Enhui said, suppressing her puzzlement.

Murong Jing’er smiled lightly and replied, “Empress, the Arts Troupe is here following orders. The stability of the two thousand six hundred members of the troupe is all thanks to the grace of His Majesty and the Empress. Both the upper and lower ranks of the troupe are willing to hand over all the revenue to the Empress for disposal.”

Ma Enhui felt her face heat up. She realized she had been too petty, acting like a small-minded person and making unwarranted speculations. With a faint smile, she said, “In that case, I will manage it on behalf of His Majesty.”

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