Chapter 97: Steam Engine? Lets call it a day.
Zhu Yunwen shook his head slightly. While he understood the principles of physics and knew that steam energy could be converted into mechanical energy, However, one cannot confuse the act of lifting the lid of a kettle with steam and the manufacturing of a steam engine.
They were two entirely different things.
One shouldn’t assume that knowing the principles of a steam engine meant you could simply point and tinker for a moment to build one.
Did they know that after Thomas Newcomen created the first practical industrial steam engine, it took sixty years of continuous optimization and improvement by generation after generation before it could only be used for mine drainage?
By the time James Watt came along, it took another twenty years of improvements before they had the “versatile prime mover,” which allowed humanity to enter the age of steam.
Considering the current technological foundation in Ming Dynasty, even if he presented blueprints, they wouldn’t be able to manufacture one.
Setting aside the fact that the cylinders, gears, and connecting rods required high-strength steel, where would they get the high-strength steel for the high-temperature, high-pressure boilers?
How would they manufacture the specialized components?
How would they address safety concerns?
He couldn’t just put on a helmet and pick up a hammer every day and become an engineer by himself.
Relying on oneself alone, starting from scratch to research and produce, one’s lifetime dream of seeing a steam engine and a train? Don’t kid yourself.
Ah, one must learn mathematics, physics, and chemistry to be fearless in traveling the world.
But now, look around the entire court, other than rough people who only know how to wield swords and stick, who are constantly eyeing other people’s throats, are those who are full of empty talk and uphold the principles of propriety, righteousness, integrity, and filial piety, it’s difficult to find a few who can handle accounting, let alone engage in scientific research in mathematics, physics, and chemistry.
Let’s call it a day.
“Your Majesty, is it too early?” Ma Enhui glanced at the sky. It’s not even evening yet, and you want to sleep? Could it be that Your Majesty has been working too hard these past few days?
Zhu Yunwen came back to reality and looked at Ma Enhui. Had he just said all that out loud?
Zhu Yunwen changed the subject.
Ma Enhui stood up, gracefully twirling, her slender figure dancing with her long sleeves fluttering. She looked at Zhu YUnwen with bright eyes and said, “Your Majesty, this stove is indeed extraordinary. Not only does it eliminate the coal smoke, but it also provides warmth like late spring. It’s a remarkable treasure.”
“Haha, with this treasure, we won’t have to worry about poisoning in the winter. I plan to select a group of people from the palace to be in charge of Yeontan coal production, manufacturing the new stoves, and sales. Empress, do you have anyone in mind?”
Zhu Yunwen approached Ma Enhui, his gaze filled with affection.
Ma Enhui looked at the stove and the heating pipes beside it, saying, “Using palace maids might not be appropriate. In my opinion, the Vice Eunuch director of the Directorate of Imperial Accouterments, Zhao Gui, is loyal and capable in his daily duties. I think he should be entrusted with this task, and there should be no problems.”
“Zhao Gui, then? Very well, let it be him. Shuangxi, summon Zhao Gui.”
Zhu Yunwen agreed.
Ma Enhui looked at Zhu Yunwen and said softly, “Your Majesty, I had some biases about commerce a few days ago. Please forgive me.”
Zhu Yunwen pulled Ma Enhui, sitting her down on the couch, holding her hand and sighed, “Empress, you can still reconsider, but those courtiers haven’t grasped it yet. Implementing new commercial policies in Beiping and Suzhou has already caused quite a stir in the court. It shows that they are not in favor of these new commercial strategies becoming widespread.”
Ma Enhui smiled and said, “Your Majesty, they only see the increasing from a 1/30 to 1/15 tax. They are not interested in the other commercial policies, so naturally, they oppose it. I’ve heard that even though many officials don’t directly engage in business, there are quite a few merchants affiliated with them.”
“I see,” Zhu Yunwen said gently.
This was the typical integration of officials and merchants.
Although the “Great Ming Law” stipulated that officials above the fourth rank were forbidden from engaging in business, and they would be stripped and paraded if found guilty of embezzling sixty taels of silver, for Ming Dynasty officials, business was not an uncommon affair.
With such low commercial taxes and the power they held, why wouldn’t they try to make a bit of money?
Of course, these officials still want some dignity; they wouldn’t be like the two kings, appearing on the frontlines. Instead, they would manage their businesses through their relatives and servants.
For example, the notorious corrupt official Yan Song not only engaged in bribery but also made a fortune in the grain trade, becoming extremely wealthy.
Yan Song’s hometown was in Yuanzhou, Jiangxi, which consisted of one prefecture and four counties. Seventy percent of the land there belonged to the Yan family, and they didn’t have to pay taxes on it. When they had too much grain, what did they do? They exchanged it for silver.
Then there was Xu Jie, who managed to eliminate Yan Song. While he was known as a virtuous and wise statesman, he also engaged in business. He had around two hundred thousand acres of land in his hometown Huating, and he had established a large textile factory. They produced a significant amount of fabric each year, not only for domestic use but potentially for export as well. After all, Huating was not far from the sea, and they had small sailing vessels.
During Zhu Yunwen’s reign, Ming Dynasty officials weren’t this audacious. The ministers and high-ranking officials were relatively clean, but when it came to officials below the fourth rank, including local officials, it was a different story.
However, Zhu Yunwen wasn’t in a hurry. Even though he allowed the two kings to engage in business, opening up this opportunity, these officials seemed to overlook one thing: all of the two king’s land was confiscated, leaving them with only the income from their king title and what they earned from business.
In the future, this could serve as a template. Officials who wanted to engage in business were allowed, but they had to pay a price. For kings, it meant confiscating their land. For officials, it meant resigning from their official positions. If they wanted to be officials and businessmen at the same time, they were deluding themselves.
The dangers of the exchange of power and money were something Zhu Yunwen deeply understood. The thought of a lowly clerk receiving bribes worth hundreds of millions made it impossible to talk about fairness and justice in the market.
Commerce needed regulations, but at the moment, Ming Dynasty commerce was like a stumbling foal, far from the point where it needed a bridle.
Zhao Gui, the vice eunuch director of the directorate of imperial accoutrements arrives.
After explaining the specific tasks, Zhu Yunwen asked, “Are you willing to leave the palace to handle this?”
“I am willing!” Zhao Gui quickly agreed. How could he refuse such a good opportunity that had fallen into his lap?
Zhu Yunwen nodded slightly and said seriously, “Listen carefully. When you leave the palace to handle this, you must forget your identity in the inner palace. Whether you are buying coal, selling yeontan coal, or dealing with stoves, you cannot use the identity of the inner palace! Whatever price you should buy at, you must buy at that price, and you cannot exert pressure or use force to take things forcefully!”
“If someone comes to buy or sell, you must treat them well. Even if they scold you and vandalize your shop, you cannot claim to be from the inner palace! Do not think that Empress and I will support you! After leaving the palace, you are a merchant, and you must conduct yourself accordingly. Do you understand?”
Zhao Gui was a bit surprised and didn’t understand why Zhu Yunwen was doing this. If he used his position in the inner palace to directly acquire coal, no one dare to have any objections. After he had it produced, he could just sit back and enjoy the profits.
Why go through the trouble of buying, manufacturing, and selling like a common merchant? And not defending himself when people attack? Was this appropriate?
“I understand,” Zhao Gui said, even though he was puzzled, he remembered it.
Zhu Yunwen nodded slightly and said, “Choose three to five capable individuals from the directorate of imperial accouterments to go with you. You will learn the ways of business under the two kings for a month, and then I will personally assess your progress. If you do well, the business outside the palace will be entrusted to you.”
Zhao Gui’s eyes brightened, and he knelt and said, “I will do my best and won’t let Your Majesty and the Empress down.”
Zhu Yunwen waved his hand, letting Zhao Gui leave. He walked to the desk and unfolded a map of the Ming Dynasty, his gaze filled with worry.
Ma Enhui approached and, seeing Zhu Yunwen staring northward on the map, asked with concern, “Your Majesty, is there anything happening in the northern region?”
Zhu Yunwen shook his head slightly and sighed, “There is a major issue with the new army policies in Beiping. I don’t know if Zhang Bing and Ping’an can find a solution.”