The aim of this essay is to analyze two documents, namely Emperor Kangxi’s Validatory Edict (1717) and Magistrate Huang Liu-Hang’s “manual”. In addition, the essay defines the notion of “benevolent rule” meant to for the Chinese Emperor Kangxi from the Manchu Qing Dynasty and for the magistrate in the context of early modern China.
The emperor became famous for his rational and kind rule. It becomes clear from the Validatory Edict that Kangxi was quite hardworking and persistent in what he did from his childhood. He describes himself as a healthy child with strong muscles. At the same time, he admits, “I have never recklessly killed a single person.”
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The emperor wrote the edict in the time when he had been already ruling the country for over fifty years. Hence, he could clearly look back and analyze his life and reign in China, reflecting on what had been done well and what needed corrections. In the emperor’s understanding, “benevolent rule” meant ruling his country and people the way that it was best for them. Kangxi stated that a ruler should “act as a father to the people… protect the state… and govern well…and maintain the balance between leniency and strictness” for the sake of his people. In addition, the emperor mentions the vices which one has to keep away from: “be careful with drink and sex, and guard against mean people”.
According to Magistrate Liu-Hang Huang, the duties of provincial authorities, such as the treasurer, the governor, and the judge, included, but were not limited to “promotion of good social customs, and encouragement of exemplary conduct”. Thus, both authorities were supportive of each other’s power despite the fact that they were on different subordination levels. Having compared the ideas of emperor Kangxi with magistrate Huang’s ideas, it becomes clear that the ideas of both authorities are complementary to one another.
Kangxi clearly admits that the concentration of power in his hands is not just a virtue. He learned the history and other subjects and became quite knowledgeable. The emperor could analyze both positive and negative methods of the ruling of his ancestors and the outcomes they led to. Therefore, Kangxi was not taking his rule for granted or as the god’s gift. He was wise and rational in running China because he was trying to find a middle ground that would fit all his people in the best possible manner. Thus, for the emperor, “benevolent rule” meant a wise and rational rule. For the population of China, he became a great country leader during whose times they prospered and grew in number. Thinking about the future of his country, Kangxi felt responsible for choosing the best ruler as his successor. His great family grew to a number of 150 members, including all his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Thus, he admitted that it was not that easy to choose a person who would continue his rule.
In conclusion, Kangxi’s work the Validatory Edict shows what a rational and responsible ruler he was. He cared not only about himself and his family, but also the people of his country, their well-being, conditions of work and life, even their happiness. Kangxi knew that only a wise ruler could be an emperor for a long time. Therefore, he did his best to be not too strict and not too mild. His “benevolent rule” made China a prospering country and his people happy. Unlike any other ruler of the preceding dynasties, Kangxi ruled the for the longest period of time in the history of China.