I was inspired to take little snippets from the book “Self-portrait of Kang-hsi” by Jonathan D Spence. In the hope it would encourage people to read the book.
A must for anyone wanting to better know the greatest Emperor China ever had.
Thoughts Of The Kangxi Emperor
“Open country, flat sand
Sky beyond the river
Over a thousand hares daily
Trapped in the hunters ring
Checking the borders
I’m going to stretch my limbs
And keep shooting the carved bow
Now with my left hand, now my right” Kangxi (1695)
Be kind to men from afar and keep the able ones near, nourish the people, think of the profit of all as being the real profit and the mind of the whole country as being the real mind.
Be always diligent and always be careful and maintain the balance between leniency and strictness, between principle and expediency, so that long-range plans can be made for the country
All the knowledge I have learned about hunting, was instilled in me by my guards officer. Undauntedly he would correct my mistakes.
Hunting is not only for exercise and sport, but also training for war, a test of organisation and discipline and to gain practice at mounted archery.
Anyone who is no good at riding, will never be good at mounted archery. You must begin at an early age and be able to control and understand the the steed beneath you without fear.
The youth who can take the horse at full gallop with abandoned eagerness, will learn to handle a horse correctly when he grows into a man.
When the warriors go out hunting, you will see a mastery that defies words. The hunters and horses are as one, as they chase their prey.
For man can bring out the best of his horse and the horse the best out of its master. When both understand and respect each other.
Whether out hunting or campaigning the choice of a base camp is essential. One must never return to a site previously used. An old Manchu custom which must be honoured.
How many animals I have killed when we form the hunting circle I cannot count. Ordinary people will not kill in a life time what I have killed in a single day.
When beyond the great wall, the air restores the spirit. Out in untamed country with mountains densely packed with trees. There I feel a sense of freedom.
“The Good Horseman and the well trained horse
Brings happiness to the heart and the eye” Kangxi
“For forty years you served around Peking,
Soldiers and people praised your measured goodness
I protected and favoured you all the way
And all now weep that you have died
You didn’t fear the thugs, you kept the laws.
While you guarded the money, honesty reigned
Now you are in the underworld, but your office remains.
Riding past I think of your insignia – hanging there.” Kangxi (1705)
The fore-bearers of our dynasty were men who obeyed Heaven and lived in harmony with other men, and the empire was pacified.
Be considerate to officials and act as a father to the people, protect the state before danger comes and govern well before there is any disturbance.
Bestowing life to some, while executing others, these are the attributes of an Emperor. He also knows while administrative mistakes can be corrected, the felon who has been executed cannot be resurrected.
In war time there must be executions for cowardice and disobedience, but the sentence of a lingering death must be passed in cases of treason.
A ruler must always proceed carefully before executions and hold hope that men will get better if they are given a chance.
Of the many things I find unpleasant, giving the final verdict on the death sentence surpasses them all.
I was strong from childhood onward, with fine muscles; I could bend a bow with the pull of 15 li and fire a fifty-two inch arrow. I was good at using troops and confronting the enemy, but I have never recklessly killed a single person.
Its is a good principle to look for the good in people and ignore the bad. For if you are always suspicious of people they will start to suspect you.
When a plan is to be executed, the events must be carefully judged, if there will be benefit to the country, then it is time to begin the action.
In heaven as amongst men. Arrogance will lead to sorrow. We should take this as a warning. For it is not something to shy away from.
The superior man does what is proper to the station in which he is, he does not desire to go beyond this, nor does he treat with contempt his inferiors.
After a longish period of peace men forget about warfare and the youngsters need to learn from the veteran.
“Like the timing of thunder that rolls across the sky
So the well trained army marches into battle” Kangxi
The skill originated in the West,
But, by learning, we can achieve the artifice;
Wheels move and time turns round
Hands show the minutes as they change
Red-capped watchmen, there’s no need to announce dawn’s coming.
My golden clock has warned me of the time,
By first light I am hard at work,
And keep on asking “Why are my memorials late” Kangxi 1705
Every Emperor and ruler has been subject to the mandate of Heaven. Those fated to enjoy old age cannot prevent themselves from enjoying old age; those fated to enjoy a time of great peace cannot prevent themselves from enjoying that great peace.
Keep an open mind and you will learn things; you will miss other people’s good quality’s if you just concentrate on your own ability.
Ask questions about everything; things will start to go well when you are not fooled by books.
I attend to all matters, whether they are great or small. Even if it is just one character wrong in a memorial, I always correct before forwarding it. Not to neglect anything, that is my nature
Careless handling of one item might bring harm to the whole world; a moments carelessness could damage all future generations. Failure to attend to details will end up endangering your greater virtue.
So we draw our ideas of principles from experience rather than study, though we need to be aware of both.
In history one needs the facts, not hollow words or literary elegance. In general, when recording something, we must desire to get the facts.
The great plan section of the book of history says of the five joys: The first thing is long life, the second is riches; the third is soundness of body and serenity of mind; the fourth is love of virtue; the fifth is an end crowning the life. The end crowning the life is placed last because it is so hard to attain
Lucky starts, auspicious clouds, unicorns and phoenixes, chili grass and such like blessings, or burning pearls and jade in front of the palace, or heavenly books sent down to manifest heaven’s will. Those are all empty words and I don’t presume so far. I just go on each day in an ordinary way and concentrate on ruling properly.
All men who live, must die. And as Confucius said “Live contentedly and await heavens will”
“Strive on day by day.
Brook no interruptions” Kangxi 1684
How many now are left
Of my old court lecturers
I can only grieve as the decay of age
Reach ruler and minister. Kangxi 1720
When I was young, Heaven gave me great strength and I didn’t know what sickness was, but now my health is in decline.
In the past I fixed my mind on my responsibilities to the country; to work until death comes was my goal.
Now that I am ill I am querulous and forgetful, and terrified of muddling right from wrong and leaving my work in chaos. I exhaust my mind for the country’s sake and fragment my spirit for the world
The throne of this country is of the utmost importance. If I were to relive myself of this burden and relax in comfort, disentangling my mind from every problem, the I could certainly expect to live longer
I tried to emulate the wise rulers of the three dynasties, and desired to bring lasting peace to the whole world, and make all men happy in their work.
You can say that my good fortune has been extensive. Even if I should suddenly die my mind would be truly contented.
No dynasty in history has been as just as ours in gaining the right to rule.
Among the ancients only those who were not boastful and knew not to go too far could attain a good end.
There are three kinds of students: those who are diligent, those who are vacant, those who are doltish. The doltish may, with care, be rendered diligent, but the vacant are the most difficult to handle, they are unable to learn from their mistakes.
We hurt the children we spoil, for those who have been overindulged grow up to be either dim-witted, or sickly, with imbalanced appetites and intolerance to extremes.
When there is no treatment that can work, then we pray and hope heaven hears us.
What I have said to you over and over again is really sincere. Then that will complete this fitting end to my life. There’s nothing left within me to reveal. I will say no more
“As Yu the Great treasured each moment;
So must you value time in its passing.” Kangxi 1684