9.the Imperial Inspection

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   THE IMPERIAL INSPECTION TOURS IN THE MING DYNASTY AND ZHENG HE’S VOYAGES TO THE WESTERN OCEAN (INDIAN OCEAN) HE PINGLI,   ZHOU CHANGMING     Jin Shu·Li Zhi Xia (Chapter of Rites in TheBook of Jin ) says, ”There were no emperors in ancient China who would not embark Xunshou or an inspection tour of their realms”. The Chinese character  Xun  means patrol, go on circuit, cruise and  Shou  means winter hunting or imperial tour. The combination of two characters  Xunshou  is defined as making an inspection tour of the realm. Xunshou srcinated from the armed inspection activities undertaken by tribal chiefs in the primitive societies with military democratic system in ancient China. Such activities were intended to awe most would-be enemies into submission and intensify their tribal alliance. Up till pre-Qin period, the imperial Xunshou was gradually institutionalized, systemized and ritualized, thus becoming a ruling pattern underlying feudal regalism. It is not only a demonstration of Confucian ideas about feudalism such as a united whole under the sun, rule by rites, rule by morals and personal rule and diligent government by emperors, but also an implementation of the strategy for safeguarding their countries and pacifying their borders. Therefore, imperial xunshou is a force-backed activity involving military force, politics, economy, culture and religion. 1  During the periods of the Yong Le Emperor (1360–1424) and the Xuan De Emperor (1398–1435), Zheng He (1371–1433) was placed as an envoy to undertake seven voyages to the western ocean. He had traversed more than one hundred thousand li of immense water spaces and visited over 30 countries in  Asia and Africa. His expeditions have left a laudable chapter in the maritime   HE PINGLI, Professor Emeritus of political science, Dean of College of Political Science and Law, Shanghai University of Political Science and Law.      ZHOU CHANGMING, Professor of English studies, Dean of College of Foreign Languages, Shanghai University of Political Science and Law.  He Pingli, Zhou Changming 14 history of both China and the world as well as in the history of Sino-western cultural exchange. At the same time, Zheng He’s gigantic fleet on his voyages to the western ocean not only reflected the unrivaled economic strength of the Ming Dynasty at the high tide of China’s feudal society, but also exhibited the unique powerful navy fleet in the world at the time. Just as Dr. Joseph Needham (1900-1995) indicated that the navy of the Ming Dynasty might have been more powerful than that of any Asian country in history, even more powerful than that of any other European country of the times. Even if the European countries were united, their navy was still not powerful enough to be compared with the Ming Dynasty’s navy force. 2  Around the motives or purposes behind his seven expeditions to the western ocean, there have been different views, such as looking for Emperor Jianwen (1398–1402), containing Timurid Empire (1370–1405) pacifying territorial waters and establishing tribute trade. As a matter of fact, if a research is conducted on the history of imperial inspection tours of several thousand years, the main motive of Zheng He’s voyages was self-evident, i.e. to embark imperial inspection tours to overseas tributary countries or kingdoms on behalf of Emperors of Ming with a view of establishing and consolidating the tribute system and opening up a grand scenario in which nations are all the guests of the Ming Dynasty and the world is at peace. In all, its intention was to particularly demonstrate the feudal politics of Cheng Zu of the Ming Dynasty, such the concepts as divine right of emperors, imperial virtue and benevolence, and a united whole under the sun. * 1. ”Make Manifest Transforming Power of the Imperial Virtue and Treat Distant People with Kindness” Zhu Di (1360–1424) was said to usurp the throne to become Emperor Cheng Zu of the Ming Dynasty after a coup. His rebelling act was entirely against the traditional legitimism held by intellectuals and historians in China. That is why the prominent historian Fang Xiaoru would rather be punished with the extermination of ten agnates than refuse to write the inaugural address for his accession. When he was executed, he wrote his last poem at the execution site:  Everyoneknows why therewas a nationwidedisorder likethis, Sopresumptuous weretreacherous court officials,  Theimperial inspection tours in theMingDynasty…  145  Loyal ministers cried with blood and tears,  And willingly madesacrificetotheEmperor (Jianwen Emperor) for nothingelse,  Alas, I takethis for no regret in conscience.  In fact, the popular belief that Zhu Di usurped the throne from Jianwen Emperor shadowed his whole life. Such an opinion was not only prevalent in the Ming Dynasty, but also even in the Qing Dynasty. So, in order to ‘get rid of the old and creating the new’ in terms of ideology and belief and to establish himself as the legitimate successor of the Hongwu Emperor (1328 –1398), he spared no efforts to create a grand scenario, i.e. nations came to pay tribute to him and the whole empire was ordered and united under the Heaven. He intended to let people know that such a scenario could only be established by the true son of the Heaven who had imperial virtue and benevolence. Instead of launching any religious and superstitious campaign to do so, Cheng Zu of the Ming Dynasty was determined to build up a united and prosperous empire to justify that he was chosen by the Heaven as the legitimate successor. In general, he is considered the greatest emperor of the Ming Dynasty, and to be among the greatest Chinese emperors in the Chinese history of over 2000 years. That is why Ming Shi ( theHistory of Ming ) said, ‘Cheng Zu used force to pacify the land and the sea, awe nations into submission and dispatch envoys all over to establish friendly relations with foreign countries…to go as far as to the most northern of the northern countries and to the most southern of the southern seas, to the place where the sun rises and the place where the sun sets, to the place where a wagon or ship can go.’ In one word, he wanted to build a great Ming Dynasty which would be bigger than the three previous dynasties. In order to fulfill his ambitions, Cheng Zu of the Ming Dynasty led his army to fight against the Mongol forces up to the north and consolidated his rule at home without a stop. Because of this, the risk-taking xunshou to tributary nations beyond the horizon and from the ends of the earth was left to his favorite eunuch or court officials. So, Zheng He’s voyages to the western ocean were the actual embodiment of the will of the Ming government to inspect or patrol countries overseas. His mission and activity pattern were similar to those of emperors in ancient China who undertook xunshou to their realms. On the whole, Zheng’s voyages to the western ocean did not go beyond the traditional implications and the category of concepts of xunshou. In an edict descended by Ming Tai Zu (the Hongwu Emperor,  He Pingli, Zhou Changming 14 1328 –1398), he said, ‘Since ancient times when an emperor came to throne, he would impose his imperial control over barbarians within his land and force barbarians outside his land into submission.’ 3  So, to emphasize the legitimacy of his accession, Cheng Zu of the Ming dynasty acted on the imperial traditions of the Ming Dynasty and gave his edict to foreign nations or kingdoms upon the departure of Zheng He’s voyages by stating as follows: ‘  I, upon theorder of theHeaven, ruletherealm. My will is just likethewill of the Heaven that spreads morals and benevolence. I hopethat as far as thesun and themoon shineand thefrost and dewimmerse, my subjects, old and young, can settledown for a livingand havetheir own shelters. I order ZhengHetotakemy edict toyou. You should followthewill of theHeaven, abideby my words, disciplineyourselves and avoid breakinglaws; Donot bully thewidows and donot humiliatetheweak; I hopethat all of you enjoy a happy and peaceful life. If you would liketovisit my dynasty sincerely, all of you will beawarded. This edict will represent my presenceby my envoy.’ 4   In the 14 th  of Yong Le (the year 1416), Nanjing Tianfei Palace Stele which was erected in Nanjing after the return of their first western voyage, in 1407, also recorded the purpose of Zheng He’s voyages by stating as follows: When His Majesty Taizu (Emperor Hongwu) began to rulethefour seas (thewholeworld), his realmwas as vast as what theHeaven can cover and as far as theEarth can extend. Every subject at homeand abroad is grateful to His kindness. Peopleknowtheir responsibility and dowhat they should. Everythingwas in good order. I, thesovereign, succeeded his grand Dynasty, kept in mind thewill of theancestors, dared not to belethargy and constantly followthechangingsituations homeand broad. So I send my envoy tospread my imperial virtueand benevolenceto overseas countries, guidingthemwith rites and persuadingthemtochangetheir barbarian customs. 5  In order to impetrate and thank the bless of Tianfei (the Celestial Spouse), Zheng He and his colleagues founded Stele of Record of Tianfei Showing Her Presence and Power before their 7th western voyage in Fujian province. The stele also revealed the purpose of Zheng He’s expeditions as follows, “to ascend more than one hundred large ships to go and confer presents on them in order to make manifest the transforming power of the (imperial) virtue and to treat distant people with kindness.” So, from the mentioned above, you can see, one of the important objectives of Zheng He’s voyages is to “moralize” the barbarians and aliens overseas. This is exactly the same as the objectives of Xunshou sponsored by


Jul 23, 2017
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