Book Review—1587: A Year of No Significance (3)

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Nov 27, 2019 17:45
In my last two entries, I introduced the author Dr.Huáng, the origin, and the main points of the book. Today, I’d like to write about its organisation and first chapter.

The book consists of several chapters, each focusing on one historical figure at that period of history. Dr.Huáng‘a claimed this way of organising his book made it more readable.

The first chapter centres around the incumbent emperor Wánlí. Wánlí grows up under the tutelage of his strict mother, some righteous and knowledgable teachers and a protective eunuch. He ascends the throne at eight and is more of a puppet during his young ages. His primary teacher, mother and the eunuch pull the string. In spite of this fact, he is modelled on some diligent, thrifty and wise monarchs. He studies statecraft very hard and is not bothered to attending numerous and tedious ceremonies.

Then a twist of the plot occurs: he struggles to appoint his favorite cadet (son) as hair for several years but the powerful mandarin class rejects all his proposals on the ground of the primogeniture, by which I mean the rule of the oldest son inheriting the title of his father. He fails eventually and this casts a dark shadow on his life. He slowly veers away from a model of conventional virtues to a lazy, passive governor. He starts not to attend usual ceremonies such as daily counselling and the lectures held every ten days by senior mandarins. His reign lasts for the second longest time after his grandfather, Jiājíng, over the course of the Míng Dynasty. When dead, Wánlí is interred along his queen rather than his favorite concubine.

Mr.Huáng drew the conclusion that Wánlí was the victim of the whole system.