Ming Dynasty: Reborn as Zhu Yunwen
Ming Dynasty: Reborn as Zhu Yunwen Chapter 9

Chapter 9: New Regulations in the Imperial Harem and the Grand Secretariat

The reform in the Ming court had yet to begin, but the reform in the imperial harem quietly commenced.

On the 15th of June in the 31st year of the Hongwu reign (1398), Ma Enhui summoned the six bureaus and twenty-four offices of the imperial harem and announced a brand-new system. It included arrangements for food allocation, and daily routines, and innovatively introduced a system of visiting family and monthly rest days.

Both the palace maids and eunuchs were granted two days off each month, during which they were free to leave the palace and visit their families without constraint.

During the Spring Festival, palace maids were allowed to return home for half a month, with the possibility of extending the duration of the journey was long.

To ensure the smooth implementation of the new system in the imperial harem, Ma Enhui ordered that no internal officials were allowed to intentionally create obstacles or hinder the palace maids and eunuchs from visiting their families or taking their monthly rest days. Adjustments to their schedules were permitted if necessary.

It was also required that all eunuchs and palace maids who left the palace were prohibited from disclosing any internal secrets. Any breach of confidentiality would result in the cancellation of their leave and visiting privileges for all eunuchs and palace maids in their respective offices or bureaus, followed by disciplinary actions according to the internal palace regulations.

The introduction of the new system in the imperial harem brought joy and excitement to the long-muted palace. Every palace maid and eunuch eagerly spread the news, and some even spontaneously gathered outside the Chang’an Palace, crying and expressing gratitude for the grace of the Emperor and Empress Ma.

Within moments, the titles of “Holy Emperor” and “Holy Empress” spread throughout the entire imperial harem.

Shuangxi stood at the gate of the Chang’an Palace, watching the palace maids and eunuchs kneeling outside. His eyes were filled with tears as he saw Emperor Zhu Yunwen and Empress Ma Enhui emerge. he called out loudly, “Grace of the Emperor, Grace of the Empress!”

The crowd echoed in unison, their voices resounding throughout the inner palace.

Emperor Zhu Yunwen looked at the kneeling crowd with a stern expression and shouted, “If anyone slackens or fails in their duties, I will be angry. Return to your tasks and do not linger here any longer.”

Everyone kneeled once again and thanked them, and dispersed under the guidance of other eunuchs.

“Why are you crying?” Emperor Zhu Yunwen asked as he noticed Shuangxi choking up.

Shuangxi quickly replied, “Your Majesty, it’s just that I am deeply moved. Now, I feel like I have a purpose in life.”

Emperor Zhu Yunwen laughed heartily and said, “You should say that you feel like a human being now.”

Shuangxi nodded tearfully in agreement.

Indeed, that’s true.

During the reign of Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang, eunuchs lived without any dignity. Even the slightest mistake could lead to being beaten to death by Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang himself. Especially in the later period of his reign, he became even more ruthless and cruel in his actions. As a result, all eunuchs and palace maids lived in fear, choosing to remain silent and cautious.

Seeing her husband in a joyful mood, Ma Enhui also relaxed. Walking alongside Zhu Yunwen by the lake, enjoying the beautiful scenery, she couldn’t help but express her concern, saying, “Your Majesty, what is the purpose behind these reforms?”

Zhu Yunwen looked at his reflection in the water, unable to reveal the true reason that he no longer regarded eunuchs as human beings. Eventually, the eunuchs were bribed by Zhu Di and became his people.

“Only by bestowing broad and abundant grace can one become a benevolent ruler,” Zhu Yunchuan said calmly.

Ma Enhui nodded emphatically and echoed, “Your Majesty will surely become a revered ruler for generations to come.”

Zhu Yunwen waved his hand and said, “Let’s not talk about being a revered ruler for now. I simply feel that embarking on this journey without accomplishing something would be a letdown to my aspirations.”

“Embark on this journey?”

Ma Enhui looked at Zhu Yunwen with confusion.

Zhu Yunwen didn’t explain anything. He reached out and held Ma Enhui’s hand, saying, “I entrust the affairs of the inner palace to you from now on. Starting today, I need to focus on managing the court.”

Ma Enhui’s face blushed slightly as Zhu Yunwen held her hand in front of so many palace maids and eunuchs.

“Please rest assured, Your Majesty,” Ma Enhui said, lowering her head.

Zhu Yunwen looked at the shy Ma Enhui, gently pulled her closer, kissed her forehead, and then released her. He left bringing Shuangxi and other eunuchs who is holding back their smiles.

The next day, the court assembly was held in the Hall of Supreme Harmony.

Zhu Yunwen sat on the dragon throne, looking at the civil and military officials present, his gaze filled with determination.

He recognized some of the officials, but there were others whose names he couldn’t recall even from his memories.

Among the central officials, he could still recognize them. There was Chen Di, the Minister of Rites; Yu Xin, the Minister of Revenue; Bao Zhao, the Minister of Justice; Zhang Dan, the Minister of Personnel; Zheng Ci, the Minister of Works; and Ru Chang, the Minister of War.

Ministry of War’s Assistant Minister Qi Tai, Hanlin Academy’s Compiler Huang Zicheng, Hanlin Academy’s Attendant Lecturer Fang Xiaoru, Xie Jin, Duke of Wei Xu Huizu, Duke of Cao Li Jinglong, Marquis of Changxing Geng Bingwen, and other influential officials were also present without exception.

This is the second time during Zhu Yunwen’s reign that he has held court during the period of mourning. The last time was when he ascended the throne.

After contemplating for a long time, Zhu Yunwen realized that he lacked several qualities possessed by Zhu Yuanzhang. Firstly, he did not possess the same level of vigor and ability to handle hundreds of matters in a single day. Secondly, he lacked the ruthless methods of Zhu Yuanzhang, who would execute those he suspected without hesitation, even if there were occasional mistakes. Thirdly, Zhu Yunwen felt he did not possess the high level of wisdom required to control the officials effectively. Lastly, he couldn’t bear the thought of a compact life without leisure activities or moments of relaxation.

In summary, Zhu Yunwen realized that he couldn’t emulate Zhu Yuanzhang’s ability to directly manage the six central ministries, involving himself in every detail and personally attending to all matters, big or small.

Zhu Yuanzhang disliked the idea of sharing power with the Chancellor. Through the “Hu Weiyong Case,” he removed the Chancellor position and consolidated all power within himself. However, Zhu Yuanzhang underestimated the role of the Chancellor and overestimated his energy and capabilities.

Nearly every day, more than 200 memorials were submitted to Zhu Yuanzhang, and the number of matters requiring his approval was no less than 400.

Even though Zhu Yuanzhang had taken care of cows, went to war, and had a good physique, he couldn’t withstand the daily exhaustion. Eventually, he had to compromise and selected a group of scholars from the Hanlin Academy to assist him in reviewing the memorials.

And these scholars from the Hanlin Academy were similar to Zhu Yuanzhang’s secretaries. This was the prototype form of the Ming Dynasty’s Grand Secretariat.

Zhu Yunwen, not wanting to utter phrases like “I have seen the palace at three in the morning,” decided to establish the Grand Secretariat, delegating the power of the Chancellor and Holding the ultimate decision-making authority for himself.

The Imperial Palace Eunuch announces the imperial edict:

“By the mandate of heaven, the Emperor decrees: Since assuming the throne, I have shouldered the responsibility of governing the nation. However, I have come to realize the overwhelming complexity of the myriad affairs, making it impossible for me to attend to all matters with full attention. I am deeply concerned that any negligence may cause harm to the people and bring shame upon the founding emperor. Fortunately, with the assistance of esteemed ministers, the court has maintained order, and the hearts of the people remain united.”

“As I have reached the age of maturity, I acknowledge my limited experience in governance. Therefore, it is fitting for me to seek guidance from virtuous ministers and collectively govern the nation. I have long heard of the exceptional talents and abilities of Yuxin, the Minister of Revenue, Zhang Dan, the Minister of Personnel, and Xie Jin, the Assistant Lecturer of the Hanlin Academy. I hereby appoint Yuxin, Zhang Dan, and Xie Jin as Grand Secretaries and Grand Secretariat Officials, entrusted with the important affairs of the government.”

“The Wenhua Hall(Hall of Literary Brilliance)[1]The Hall of Literary Brilliance (simplified Chinese: 文华殿; traditional Chinese: 文華殿; pinyin: Wénhuá diàn), or the Hall of Literary … Continue reading shall be transformed into the Grand Secretariat Office. All memorials and reports from the six central ministries and the thirteen provincial administrations shall be submitted to the Grand Secretariat through the Office of Transmission. The Grand Secretariat officials shall review and annotate them before presenting them to the Emperor. After my seal is affixed, they shall be sent to the Office of Transmission, and then transmitted to the six central ministries and the thirteen provincial administrations.”

In ancient times, the Prime Minister held the power of decision-making, policy deliberation, and administrative authority.

The Grand Secretariat system, on the other hand, allocated the power of policy deliberation to the Grand Secretariat while assigning administrative authority to the six ministries. The Emperor retained control over the ultimate decision-making power.

The introduction of the Grand Secretariat left the officials in shock. They looked at each other, somewhat stunned.

Zhu Yuanzhang abolished the position of the Chancellor, but the new emperor ended up appointing three Chancellors in quick succession.

Although they didn’t bear the title of Chancellors, they performed the duties of Chancellors.

The discussions among the officials were heated, but Yuxin, the Minister of Revenue, Zhang Dan, the Minister of Personnel, and Xie Jin, the Assistant Lecturer of the Hanlin Academy, were particularly excited. This was especially true for Xie Jin, who had returned to the capital after seven years and immediately received such an important appointment, demonstrating the Emperor’s deep trust in him.

The three individuals stepped forward and shouted in unison, “Long live the Emperor!”

Zhu Yunwen issued another decree: “Appoint Assistant Minister of Ministry of War, Qi Tai as Minister of Personnel, Hanlin Academy’s compiler Huang Zicheng as Minister of Revenue, Fang Xiaoru as Hanlin Academician supervising the Grand Secretariat .”

Qi Tai, Huang Zicheng, and Fang Xiaoru immediately knelt to express their gratitude.

Zhu Yunwen deviated from historical precedents. In history, Qi Tai became the Minister of War, Huang Zicheng became the Minister of Rites, with the authority to participate in military and state affairs, and Fang Xiaoru almost became the Chancellor.

These three individuals have become Zhu Yunwen’s core advisory team. Eventually, Zhu Di managed to capture Nanjing!

From now on, history is about to be rewritten.

It’s probably best for Qi Tai given his abilities to focus on personnel matters rather than military affairs.

Although Huang Zicheng may not have many extraordinary abilities, if talented individuals were effectively utilized in the Ministry of Revenue, there shouldn’t be any major issues.

As for Fang Xiaoru, a person who strictly adheres to the principles of “Rites of Zhou” having him assist in overseeing the Grand Secretariat will prevent Yuxin, Zhang Dan, and Xie Jin from acting recklessly.

With the establishment of the Imperial Cabinet, Zhu Yunwen can finally allocate more of his energy to the overall situation and military reforms. In Zhu Yunwen’s view, a ruler should not be personally involved in every matter, but rather delegate power appropriately while maintaining control over the overall direction.

Especially now, Zhu Di remains his biggest adversary, necessitating caution and attention.

With the introduction of the Grand Secretariat, it was only natural that the timing of court meetings would be adjusted. Zhu Yunwen decided to hold court meetings on the first and fifteenth day of each month.

On ordinary days, there was no need for everyone to rush on the road in the middle of the night, risking accidents and drowning in ditches.

The workday started at the hour of the Dragon (around 8 a.m.) and ended at the hour of the Rooster (around 5 p.m.), compared to the previous practice of working for more than ten hours. It was indeed a great benefit.

After the court meeting concluded, Zhu Yunwen retained the three Secretaries and Fang Xiaoru for further discussion.

Yuxin, feeling somewhat excited, looked at Zhu Yunwen and suppressed his excitement as he spoke, “Your Majesty, as the Grand Secretariat is newly established, please kindly instruct us on how it should operate.”

The three secretaries were not fools either. They knew that they only held the power to discuss and advise, and they dared not make decisions on their own. Otherwise, they would meet the same fate as Hu Weiyong.

It would be better to clarify the boundaries early on, clearly stating what they could and could not do. This would provide reassurance and enable them to carry out their duties with peace of mind.

Zhu Yunwen looked at the four individuals before him with appreciation and nodded, saying, “I trust in the abilities of the esteemed secretaries to handle the affairs of the Grand Secretariat. I hope you will work together and ensure that the daily tasks are completed on the same day, without delay until the next day. You may select a group of assistants from the Hanlin Academy to support your work. If there are any unresolved matters, you may report them to the Wuying Hall.”

“For matters concerning military affairs, they should be handled by the Five Army Commandery. As for major national affairs such as appointments and dismissals of officials, and the financial matters of the state treasury, they should be promptly submitted for review. In the case of any border conflicts, there must be no delay in reporting them…”

After Zhu Yunwen made the necessary arrangements, he returned to the harem.

The execution capability of the officials in the Ming Dynasty was exceptionally strong. With the transformation of the WenHua Hall into the Grand Secretariat and the appointment of Grand Secretaries, a new vitality began to emerge in the Ming court.

The following day, Zhu Yunwen proclaimed to the world, bringing an end to the unjust cases of the Hongwu era. He granted amnesty to a group of innocent individuals and also reduced the tax in impoverished regions. He instructed the government to provide support and care for widows, orphans, and the disabled, and provide relief for those affected by disasters.

On the third day, arranging Xia Yuanji and others as envoys, to go around Ming dynasty for inspection.

Dear Readers, Sproutling here translating Ming Dynasty: Reborn as Zhu Yunwen, If you have enjoyed my translation and would like to show your support. Please consider donate to my Ko-Fi (Click here) page. Your help mean so much to me, Thank you in advance!


1 The Hall of Literary Brilliance (simplified Chinese: 文华殿; traditional Chinese: 文華殿; pinyinWénhuá diàn), or the Hall of Literary Glory or Wenhua Hall, is a hall in the outer court of the Forbidden City, located far east of the Hall of Supreme Harmony.[1] In the early Ming Dynasty, the hall was originally used as the residence of the heir apparent.[2] However, starting in 1536, Ming emperors began to use the building as a secondary hall.

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