In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

386 China Review International: Vol. 4, No. 2, Fall 1997 Edward L. Farmer. Zhu Yuanzhang and Early Ming Legislation: The Reordering ofChinese Society Following the Era ofMongol Rule. Sinica Leidensia , vol. 34. Leiden, New York, and Köln: E. J. Brill, 1995. x, 259 pp. Hardcover $79.50, isbn 90-04-10391-0. The roU call ofvisionary founding fathers of new regimes in China's long history, of superhuman figures whose grand designs for state and society became orthodox inspirational models for later generations, can probably be reduced to a short list of three: the Duke ofZhou (fl. twelfth century b.c.); Zhu Yuanzhang (1328-1398); and Mao Zedong (1893-1976). But Mao's case as institutional creator and moral guide has come under severe criticism since his death; and fhe Duke of Zhou was technically a regent and advisor, not a king or ruler, and his reputation is mainly posthumous. So that leaves Zhu Yuanzhang, the founder of the Ming dynasty, as arguably the sole member ofhis class, overpowering as emperor and lawgiver in his own day, whose reputation, though faded (Sun Yat-sen's tomb is much bigger), has never seriously been challenged or criticized, at least not in China. As Farmer's subtitle states, Zhu aimed to effect nothing less than a "reordering of Chinese society." Because he left behind a large and miscellaneous file ofwriting that appears to have been done by his own hand, some aspects of the great man's mind and personality are accessible to the modern researcher. These do not make an attractive picture. There is little to be found of the self-reflection, the observant curiosity , or the humanness of, say, the Kangxi emperor (1654-1722). What his own testimony reveals is a one-dimensional, fire-breathing prophet—a man of obscure social origin, who embraced with an air of absolute and uncompromising certitude the "teachings of the Sages and Worthies," which he had picked up only as an adult; whose sole mission as emperor was to "restore antiquity," that is, to reinculcate in the minds of everyone, through propaganda and violence, the altruism and stern formality enjoined by the Confucian classics; and who found himself, despite all his titanic efforts, frustrated at every turn by the greed, mindless villainy, and incorrigible moral worthlessness of the great majority of the people he had to rule. Zhu Yuanzhang took upon himself the Classics-inspired dual role ofnational ruler and national teacher (junshi), ofpunisher and educator. As teacher and educator, he either wrote or sponsored a long list of publications for the ediy niversi y fication and enlightenment ofhis wayward people. He believed it was not enough for him just to follow custom and sit on his throne and issue commands and rescripts day after day. His desire was to bring about the ethical-behavioral transformation of China, and in order to do that, he had to inform the people of ofHawai'i Press Reviews 387 China in detail just what he expected ofthem, and to show them in detail just what terrible punishments befell fhose who faded to take his lessons and urgings to heart. Much ofZhu's personal writing was forgotten and became rare after he died, but some ofthat which was codified under his direction lived on through one or more Ming and Qing revisions to the present century. Zhu Yuanzhang needs a skUled biographer, but perhaps his getting one should wait until we understand more about him. Edward L. Farmer, Hok-lam Chan, Edward L. Dreyer, Charles O. Hucker, Jack Langlois, Thomas P. Massey, and Romeyn Taylor are some ofthe leading names ofthose in the West who have done the most to throw light on Zhu Yuanzhang's life, thought, and policies as emperor. Farmer's long-standing interest has been in Zhu's role as lawgiver and provider ofplans for the restoration of an orthodox social and moral order in China. The present book, ofwhich portions have been made available earlier in article form, gives us the best introduction so far to the "far-reaching plans" of the Ming founder, the operational guides to social rectitude that he and his government compiled over the course ofhis thirty-year...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1527-9367
Print ISSN
1069-5834
Pages
pp. 386-388
Launched on MUSE
2011-03-30
Open Access
No
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.