The international Jewish conspiracy asks for more lectures from Yuan Tengfei, and more they shall have.
I started this series with the lecture on Chancellors, and followed with bureaucrats, because I thought it interesting to show how different the dynamics in China were from the West. China is *the* monarchy, they’ve had deified supreme emperors ruling over tens and hundreds of millions for millennia. Compared to that the monarchies of Europe are pretty much a sham. The Roman Emperors kept their pretenses of being Republican officers for centuries, until the Empire wasn’t even in Rome and didn’t even speak Latin. Later Medieval and Modern monarchs all had to constantly fight and appease their nobles, only to get their head axed, and those fortunate enough to win that battle would soon lose power to the bourgeoisie.
And that’s another funny one, municipal corporations with autonomy rights against the court. The first Chinese to study European history must have scratched their head hard about that. Nothing of the sort ever existed in China. Nobles weren’t much of a problem even back in the First Empire, and when the Han Dynasty founder, Liu Bang did give noble rights to his brothers, it didn’t take much for his successors to kill them all and stop the experiment. And so the landholding nobility was never an important political force. The absolute power of the monarch was never in question.
Which doesn’t mean there weren’t any politics, despise Moldbug. The political tensions in Chinese history are mostly those inside the Court, that is, the soap opera-ish fights between the Imperial Family, the eunuchs, bureaucrats, generals, empresses, concubines, male relatives of the concubines, etc. There was enough debate, intrigue, backstabbing to make present parliamentary politics really boring in comparison.
But what were the emperors doing all this time? Let’s see Yuan’s lecture. This episode isn’t that good but I might as well do it first to get to the latter ones:
Today we’re gonna talk about: Being Emperor ain’t easy.
These days, many compatriots take their history knowledge from TV series. But these TV series aren’t always accurate. Now a lot of people enjoy these, especially those majestic scenes with the emperor reviewing his ministers. You can tell very easily if an actor has played an emperor or not. Those who have get this awesome feeling, everybody kowtowing at them. But was being an emperor so nice really?
Being an emperor ain’t easy. Since the First Emperor of Qin established that the emperor was the empire, well being the empire means that you 1 guy has to do everything. You think that’s an easy job? It’s extremely tiring. Without to mention those farther back, let’s just see the Qing emperors.
The Qing emperors had a very strict ritual for all they did. First, they woke up at 4 AM. So what if you don’t wake up? Hell I wanna sleep more, I’m feeling lazy today. What if I don’t wake up? You get an eunuch at your door yelling “The sun will soon rise, there is much to manage”. And you can’t just get out and punch the fucker. Yelling is his right given by your ancestors. He’ll go on yelling until you wake up.
So the Emperor wakes up, bathes, gets dressed, what then? Breakfast? Nope, who’s hungry at that time? So it’s reading time. The Emperor wakes up and studies. Kids today complain, Dad goes to work at 8, so he leaves me at school at 6 to study. Well the Emperors did that. The Emperors read first thing in the morning, and spent 2 hours. Reading what? What did the Qing emperors read about? The notes and stories of their ancestors.
Say, the Kangxi emperor. He has to read the stories of his ancestors, but he didn’t have that many. His father Shunzhi, died after 18 years of rule. He may have not spoken that much. But imagine the Yongzheng emperor. Then you’re screwed. His father ruled for 61 years. All he said every day, all the issues he dealt with. What about Qianlong? His father Yongzheng was a professional emperor. Yongzheng was the most hard working emperor in the history of China. The craziest emperor of them all. How crazy? Every year, he would only rest the day of his birthday. In 13 years of rule, he left 18,000,000 characters [divide per 3 and you get a rough equivalent in english words] of handwritten records. Do the math, more than a million characters per year. More than me and I write best-selling books. And I’m a speaker, I speak and other write down and edit what I spoke. But the Yongzheng emperor was writing. 3-4k characters every day. A normal guy typing 4k characters on a PC gets tired. The Emperor wrote 3-4k with a brush!
You think the Emperor had time every day to think about this or that concubine? He didn’t have time for that. So when you look at the Qing palace and look at all those Travel Records of the Yongzheng emperor, pictures of him fishing, hunting, travelling, why did he had all those pictures made? He really envied that sort of life. He couldn’t do all that. So he got tired, got himself some Daoist potion of eternal life, and died of mercury oxide poisoning.
See? Being an Emperor ain’t easy. 4 AM wake up, then 7 AM there’s morning court session. Meet all military ministers, or any official he wants to talk to. At 9 AM he eats breakfast, 2 PM he has lunch, and that’s it, 2 meals a day. He might get some small bites at night. Every day of an emperor is full of stress, with little time for himself. The Emperor is seldom in his quarters, let alone going out and picking up the ladies. No way. The arrangements were very strict. Everything he did in a day was documented, every word he said was recorded by special bureaucrats.
And say the Emperor says something not very suitable and wants the recorded to omit it. Well he didn’t have that power. Every single word had to be recorded truthfully, to transmit to his descendents, so when his descendents take the throne, they can see how he handled things, step by step. So an Emperor’s day was always very busy.
In TV shows you can always see the characters talking about “going to court”. Now, going to court wasn’t a constant thing. In the Qing era there was court every 10 days. The Emperor didn’t go to court every day. And where was this court thing? Not inside the palace. Everybody’s been to the Forbidden City, the Hall of Supreme Harmony isn’t that big, is it? All the ministers didn’t fit up there.
So what’d they do? In the Qing era, the Emperor presided over the court on the Gates of Heavenly Purity, outside. The Emperor sat down on the gate, the ministers at the square. So imagine a 35º sauna day. Why did they have court at 7 AM in the morning? Well they’d all die if they did it at noon. They’d boil in their own sweat. So Morning Court was cool in summer, but what about winter? 7 AM in the morning, -30º cold, those days there was no urban heat island thing, no global warming, so it was freezing.
So what’d they do? Just do it. The Emperor had lots of layers of clothes, nice leather coats with fur and stuff, and the ministers had to stay there and listen too. Bureaucrats in old China didn’t have expense accounts. They had to buy their own housing, all expenses had to be paid from their own pockets, including court attire. Nobody gave them to you. If you got money, you wore fur, if you didn’t have money, you wore cotton, if you couldn’t afford cotton we’ll you’re screwed. Anyway the Emperor had all those nice fox tails on him, and you had to be there too in court.
Usually it was 1 court every 10 days, but in the time of Kangxi, Yongzheng and Qianlong, especially with Kangxi and Qianlong, they had court almost every day. I guess that their ministers didn’t have it easy either. Court every day, busy as hell. Being Emperor was really hard work, nothing awesome or romantic like those TV shows, with the Emperor constantly flirting with the concubines. Where there Emperors who did that? Well yeah. But those lewd Emperors in Chinese histories all had really bad endings. Chinese history has both tyrants and lousy emperors. The tyrants weren’t incompetent, they were quite capable, but used their ability to do bad things. But they did take care of government. Lousy emperors didn’t. Liu Bei’s son is the most typical one.