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.

在我的前两篇文章里,我介绍了书的作者黄仁宇先生,写作的起源和主要观点。今天我想介绍书的组织和它的第一章。
《万历》由七章组成,每一章关注一个当时重要的历史人物。黄先生说这样是为了易读性。
第一章讲的是当时在位的万历皇帝。他在严格的母亲,富有正义感而渊博的老师和很维护他的太监的监护下长大。他八岁即位,年轻时更像是个傀儡。以上提到的监护人在背后主事。即使这样,他以古代明君为榜样,勤勉得学习治国术,也不厌其烦得参加各种各样的仪式。

然后一个反转发生了:他几年来努力把宠爱的幼子立储可文官集团以长子继承法为由来反对他。他最终失败了而这在他留下了很大的阴影。他慢慢从传统美德的典范转变为懒惰,消极的统治者。他开始不去参加常规仪式,比如早朝和十天一次的经筵。他的统治是明朝第二长,仅次于他的祖父嘉靖。死后他被葬在皇后旁边而不是他最爱的嫔妃。
黄先生写道,万历是明朝政治系统的牺牲品。