Chapter 84: Spring Examination reformed into College Entrance Examination, Laundry Outsourcing
In early February, under the recommendation of the Ministry of Rites, Zhu Yunwen honored his biological father Zhu Biao as Emperor Xiaokang, with the temple name Xingzong. His mother, Lady Chang, was honored as Empress Xiaokang, and his mother, Concubine Lv, was honored as the Empress Dowager.
After the matter was settled, Chen Di, the Minister of Rites, remained dissatisfied.
This was because Zhu Yunwen had discounted the Ministry of Rites’ recommendation by not enfeoffing his own younger brothers as regional kings, nor designating his son as the crown prince.
This did not conform to the traditional protocol.
Designating a crown prince?
Zhu Yunwen was quite speechless, looking at Zhu Wenkui, who could barely walk steadily. Making such a young child the crown prince? Pairing him with officials from the Eastern Palace to educate him every day?
No, traditional education made him very uneasy. Could you explain why flowers are so red?
If you can’t explain, then step aside and let me take care of him for a few years.
While Zhu Yunwen was concerned about his son’s education, Chen Di, the Minister of Rites, was worrying about the nationwide education issue.
Due to Zhu Yunwen’s rash decisions, the spring examination originally scheduled for the following year was moved up by a year to June 6th of this year.
Since it was now scheduled for June, the term “spring examination” clearly wasn’t appropriate.
June is scorching hot.
How about calling it the “college entrance examination (高考)”?
With the adjustment of the time for the imperial examination, the provincial-level examinations (乡试, xiangshi) needed to be aligned with the higher-level examinations (会试, huishi). Therefore, they could only be arranged in February.
“乡试” is not to be taken literally as a test in the countryside. The “乡” here refers to local areas, and the “会” in “会试” refers to the central government. So “乡试” can be understood as provincial-level examinations.
In previous years, it was scheduled for August, during the autumn examination. After the provincial-level examination, individuals would become “举人” (juren), also known as “孝廉” (xiaolian).
The top scorer was called “解元” (jiexuan), the second was “亚元” (yayuan), the third, fourth, and fifth were “经魁” (jingkui), and the sixth was “亚魁” (yakui).
“举人(Juren)” has the qualification to become an official; otherwise, why do you think Fan Jin went mad? Besides the remnants of the feudal society, it can only be said that he was so delighted that he lost his mind.
Once stepping into the system, young people find it hard to sleep for several nights, let alone an old man?
However, being a Juren only means having the qualification to become an official, not necessarily becoming one.
Just like buying a lottery ticket, you definitely have the chance to win, but who can say for sure if you will win?
Throughout nearly three centuries of the Ming Dynasty, the juren who passed the examination during the Hongwu reign were the luckiest; their chances of winning the lottery were the highest.
When Zhu Yuanzhang purged the officials by the thousands, leaving many positions vacant, how could they handle it? The government offices needed people to stamp and handle affairs. There was no choice but to recruit juren to make up the numbers.
Thus, many juren were excited and went to the county government with their lottery tickets. However, before Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang could fulfill the promise of five wens on the lottery ticket, they were sent to the underworld.
In the present Jianwen era, there weren’t many opportunities for the juren to become officials. After all, these years didn’t have large-scale cases to sweep through, and there weren’t many vacant positions. They couldn’t just draw circles all day and curse the officials to retire sooner or join Emperor Taizu.
In comparison, it was better to carry a schoolbag and participate in the metropolitan examination in the capital.
The provincial examination of the Ming Dynasty was held in the capital cities of the Southern and Northern zhili provinces, as well as the administrative centers of various provincial administrative offices.
The capital of the Southern Zhili province was none other than Nanjing, where the chief examiners were Fang Xiaoru and Chen Di.
As for the idea of advancing the imperial examination, although the Grand Secretariat and the Six Ministries didn’t oppose it, they still held doubts in their minds.
No one is clear about why Zhu Yunwen is doing this.
Zhu Yunwen couldn’t tell them that he was causing chaos just to let two individuals step onto the historical stage ahead of time.
After handling the matters of the harem, Ma Enhui looked at Zhu Yunwen, who was telling stories to Zhu Wenkui, and smiled, “Your Majesty, I haven’t heard of the stories you’re telling. What is Alibaba?”
Zhu Yunwen smiled faintly and said, “It’s just a name.”
“What a strange name, certainly not a name from the Ming Dynasty,” Ma Enhui took over Zhu Wenkui, looking pleased, and said, “Seeing Your Majesty so close to the crown prince brings great joy to us. When you were in the Eastern Palace, you didn’t have so much time to spend with Wenkui.”
Zhu Yunwen smiled awkwardly, changed the topic, and asked, “How is the weaving progress?”
Ma Enhui looked at Zhu Yunwen and said helplessly, “Although we’ve added more weaving machines and recruited some manpower, it’s still not enough. We produced four hundred boxes yesterday, which is far from the six hundred boxes I aimed for.”
Zhu Yunwen pondered for a moment and earnestly said, “Empress, solving this matter is actually quite easy, but I don’t know if the Empress is willing…”
Ma Enhui became interested and said eagerly, “If it can solve the weaving crisis, I will agree. However, among the twenty-four bureaus, many have already been seconded. If we continue to transfer people, it might affect the daily affairs of the harem.”
Zhu Yunwen stood up and said, “Empress, you mentioned transferring people, but in my opinion, there’s one bureau within the Eight Bureaus that doesn’t need to exist. If we abolish it, not only can we free up enough space, but it can also address the shortage of weaving personnel.”
“The Eight Bureaus?”
Ma Enhui frowned slightly.
The Eight Bureaus, namely the Palace Armament Bureau, Jewelry service, Laundry service, Caps and Kerchief services, Sewing service, Weaving and Dyeing service, Condiments service, and Garden service.
The Eight Bureaus were directly related to the palace’s food and clothing expenses. None of these bureaus could be abandoned.
“I truly can’t think of any.”
Ma Enhui shook her head.
Zhu Yunwen pointed to the clothes and said, “Empress, I believe the Laundry service can be abolished and replaced with a palace weaving bureau, specifically responsible for producing medical gauze and alcohol-soaked materials.”
“The Laundry service?”
Ma Enhui looked at Zhu Yunwen in disbelief.
The Laundry service was responsible for cleaning the palace’s clothes. If they abolished it, who would wash the clothes in the future? Surely she wouldn’t have to do it herself?
Zhu Yunwen smiled slightly and said to Ma Enhui, “Empress, there are two advantages to abolishing the Laundry service. First, it’s a difficult place to work, and you remember what Lady Luo’s hands looked like, I believe you recall. Second, the Laundry service has enough personnel, is located outside the palace, has plenty of space, and it’s convenient for stocking and delivering.”
Ma Enhui sighed and said, “Then, Your Majesty, answer me one question: after abolishing the Laundering service, which bureau will be responsible for cleaning the palace’s clothes?”
Zhu Yunwen confidently looked at Ma Enhui and said two words, “Outsourcing.”
Ma Enhui looked at Zhu Yunwen, confused by another term she didn’t understand, and asked, “What is outsourcing?”
Zhu Yunwen walked to the table, picked up the abacus Ma Enhui often used, and said, “Empress, consider it this way: after abolishing the Laundry Service, convert everything to weaving workshops. How much daily revenue does it bring? Then calculate: if we find a group of people within the capital to clean the palace’s clothes, at a rate of three to four hundred wens per day, how many people are needed and what’s the expenditure?”
“If the revenue gained exceeds the expenditure, it means there’s still profit to be made daily. If there’s profit, why not give it a try? It could also provide a way out for those palace maids.”
Ma Enhui understood. Zhu Yunwen meant to have the Laundry service handle weaving, while a different group of people would handle laundering.
However, finding those people would likely require spending money…
“What Your Majesty says makes sense. However, entrusting outsiders to handle the palace’s clothes might not be appropriate. If there are problems, how should we address them? Furthermore, if news of this reaches the officials, it might cause a disturbance.”
Ma Enhui expressed her concerns.
Zhu Yunwen approached Ma Enhui and said lightly, “Empress, do you know how many widows without support are in the capital? If, as the empress, you use the name of the harem to assign the task of the Laundry service, and support their livelihoods, even if officials hear about it, they would only praise it in their memorials. What kind of disturbance could it cause?”
Ma Enhui’s eyes brightened. If it worked out that way, wouldn’t she gain both fame and benefits?
This might be a feasible solution.