Reborn After Widowhood

Reborn After Widowhood – Chapter 168

Chapter 168

 

Hua Yang entered the palace in late winter, just in time for the busy period when officials from various departments of the court were summarizing their achievements for the year.

The harem could not interfere in government affairs, which means Hua Yang could not take the initiative to ask her brother about state affairs, let alone intervene. But if Emperor Yuanyou himself wanted to talk to his sister about this, Hua Yang would certainly listen.

That evening, after the family of three had finished their meal, Emperor Yuanyou took his sister to the imperial study and took out a memorial and handed it to her.

Hua Yang sat comfortably on the warm couch by the window, holding an exquisite copper hand warmer inlaid with various gemstones in her hands. She glanced at the memorial in front of her, then looked at her brother with little interest: “What memorial do you want to show me? You’re not afraid of Mother Empress’ reproach, but I don’t want to hear it.”

Emperor Yuanyou said with a smile: “It’s something that makes people happy. Besides, Cao Li is guarding outside. As long as Sister doesn’t say anything, how can Mother Empress know about it?”

Hua Yang snorted: “You’re the one that begged me to read it, so don’t blame me in the future.”

Emperor Yuanyou: “I know, Sister, take a look!”

Hua Yang then changed to holding the hand warmer in one hand and opening the memorial with the other.

She browsed casually, and then her face lit up with joy: “Nine million hectares of farmland? I remember that our Founding Emperor only had more than eight million hectares at that time, right?”

All lands under heaven belongs to the monarch. Hua Yang was the grand princess of the imperial family and had a lot of land of her own, so of course she would be happy.

Emperor Yuanyou’s face was full of smiles, his eyes sparkling, “Yes, this Land Measurement was very successful. We sent out the Jinyiwei, deposed Prince Jin, and raided more than a dozen wealthy families that led the riots. The imperial clansmen from all over the country cooperated honestly, and the officials and gentry no longer dared to hide anything. There may still be some fish that slipped through the net, but I don’t think there are that many.”

Hua Yang looked at the memorial with great delight and suddenly asked, “How many fields were registered last year?”

Emperor Yuanyou immediately gnashed his teeth and said, “It’s only 4.7 million hectares.”

Hua Yang also gritted her teeth, “They hid nearly half of the land. They’re really greedy.”

Emperor Yuanyou showed a bit of ruthlessness: “They won’t be greedy for long. Tomorrow the cabinet will present a new tax proposal.”

Hua Yang: “Has the cabinet reached a consensus? I heard from Prince Consort that Cabinet Elder Chen and Cabinet Elder He often quarreled during court meetings.”

Speaking of this, Emperor Yuanyou pinched his forehead and said, “I guess we will have another argument tomorrow. Among the five cabinet members, Cabinet Elder Lu, Cabinet Elder Liu and Cabinet Elder Shen all listen to Cabinet Elder Chen. But Cabinet Elder He claimed that he has also prepared a new policy. Tomorrow, he wants to ask Mother Empress and I to judge carefully to see whether we should use his new policy or Cabinet Elder Chen’s.”

Hua Yang said with regret, “It’s a pity that I can’t witness such a grand occasion. Speaking of which, I have known Cabinet Elder Chen since I was six or seven years old. In the past ten years, apart from seeing him getting angry at Prince Consort, I don’t think I have seen him arguing with others until his face turned red.”

Emperor Yuanyou: “This is simple. Tomorrow Sister will listen to court with us.”

Hua Yang raised her chin toward the window and asked, “Will Mother Empress agree?”

Emperor Yuanyou: “It doesn’t matter. Anyway, as long as they start arguing, none of us can get a word in.”

The next day was the twenty-ninth day of Eleventh Month. Emperor Yuanyou had to attend a court meeting, while Hua Yang accompanied her mother.

When Emperor Yuanyou wanted to hear the cabinet’s report, Empress Dowager Qi would also go.

Hua Yang hugged her mother’s arm coquettishly and said, “Mother Empress, I heard from Brother that Cabinet Elder Chen and Cabinet Elder He are going to quarrel again today. I also want to go and see the fun.”

Empress Dowager Qi said sternly, “It’s an important event of the imperial court, how can it be a child’s play?”

Hua Yang: “Just this once. From now on, even if you and Brother ask me to watch, I won’t come.”

Empress Dowager Qi: “No.”

Hua Yang blinked and lowered his head again: “If Father Emperor were here, he would definitely listen to me.”

Empress Dowager Qi: …

It’s all thanks to late emperor’s indulgence!

“Forget it, I’m leaving. I will never come to the palace to trouble you again.” Hua Yang let go of her mother’s hand, bowed politely, turned around and walked away.

Empress Dowager Qi pursed her lips.

As she watched her daughter walking further and further away and about to step out of the door, the image of Princess Nan Kang’s smiling face, trying to please her, emerged in Empress Dowager Qi’s mind.

One was born to the late emperor and another woman, and the other was her own daughter. Of course, Empress Dowager Qi loved her own daughter more.

If Nan Kang didn’t come, she knew her daughter was living well outside the palace and wouldn’t miss her too much. But every time Nan Kang came, Empress Dowager Qi couldn’t help but think of Hua Yang. If she really had the free time, she would rather chat with her daughter about family life.

“Fine, but only this time, and it won’t happen again.”

Hua Yang had just put one foot outside of the door when she heard her mother speak. She immediately ran back, hugged her mother and acted coquettishly for a long time.

But Hua Yang was a grown up after all, and it was impossible for her to sit in the emperor’s arms or hide under the desk like she did when she was a child. Empress Dowager Qi pointed to the side room of the hearing hall.

Hua Yang hid behind the gap in the curtain and watched the five cabinet elders walk in one after the other. Her father-in-law and Cabinet Elder He stood at the front, and the other three stood at the back row with their eyes lowered.

After saluting, Chen Tingjian presented the memorial in his hand to Emperor Yuanyou.

Emperor Yuanyou did not accept it and instead said, “Sir, please read it again. Zhen and Mother Empress will listen together.”

Chen Tingjian nodded, held the memorial in both hands, lowered his eyes slightly, and began to read it in a rhythmic manner.

The fifty-five-year-old Chief Minister was thin and tall, wearing a scarlet official robe. He had a handsome and elegant face and a clear voice. When he stood there, he outshone the other four cabinet elders, at least in terms of appearance and demeanor.

Hua Yang looked at her father-in-law and recalled the young cabinet elder she had met when she was a child accompanying her brother to class.

At that time, Hua Yang liked Cabinet Elder Chen very much. It was like a junior admiration towards an elder, and hoped that Cabinet Elder Chen could be her teacher too.

Among the five children in the Chen family, Dalang and his brothers revered her father-in-law, while Wan Yi had always liked him very much.

Hua Yang could especially understand Wan Yi, because girls like them had only experienced the gentle side of her father-in-law.

As for the new policy that her father-in-law was talking about, it was the One Whip Law that was implemented in the third year of Yuanyou in her previous life, which combined various land taxes and corvée imposed on the people into one levy. The unified taxes and corvée were directly handled by local officials, which could not only prevent officials at all levels from making up excuses to exploit the people, but also put an end to the malpractice of the head of the village and the grain chief embezzling the divided funds.

This new policy was advocated by my father-in-law, but unfortunately he passed away on the Eight Month of that year and did not see the effectiveness of the new law – the surplus of the national treasury in the third year of Yuanyou was as high as 4 million taels of silver!

Despite this, because her father-in-law was convicted, all the new policies implemented by him were abolished.

Hua Yang looked at her brother resentfully.

Emperor Yuanyou was listening attentively, nodding from time to time.

However, as soon as Chen Tingjian finished speaking, He Qingxian, who was standing beside him with his head held high, suddenly let out an undisguised laugh.

Chen Tingjian raised his eyebrows.

The three cabinet elders behind looked at each other and continued to pretend to be dumb.

Emperor Yuanyou looked at He Qingxian and asked, “Cabinet Elder He, do you think there is something wrong with Cabinet Elder Chen’s tax reform?”

He Qingxian: “It’s not that there’s something wrong with it, it’s totally wrong!”

Emperor Yuanyou was already used to it, and said with a smile: “Please enlighten, Cabinet Elder.”

He Qingxian turned to Chen Tingjian and asked him, “This year’s Land Measurement revealed more than 4 million hectares of unreported farmland, but the bulk of this land is still in the hands of vassal princes, imperial clansmen, and officials and gentry. The land of imperial clansmen is exempt from taxes, and officials and gentry also have a large amount of exemption. Only the unreported land of the landlords and tyrants can be taxed by the court, which is just a drop in the bucket.

“In other words, your reform is still only targeting the land in the hands of the common people, which are destined to be annexed by imperial clansmen, officials and gentry. The amount of land is decreasing. Even if you eliminate the officials’ embezzlement and skimming, the taxes collected by the court are still the hard-earned money of the common people. This does not change the fact that the common people are getting poorer and poorer. When the people suffer, the court may be able to stabilize for ten or twenty years by squeezing them for silver, but once the people can no longer survive, a major upheaval will inevitably occur!”

Chen Tingjian: “It’s true that the amount of land owned by the common people remains the same, but the tax reform has reduced their taxes, so they will only live better than they do now. How can they not survive?”

He Qingxian: “Where has it decreased? In the past, they could pay taxes in grain, but now you ask them to convert it all into silver. It’s hard for the common people to earn even a copper coin. Where does the silver come from? When wealthy people exchange silver for copper coins, one tael of silver worth about twelve to thirteen hundred copper coins. Conversely, common people have to spend twelve to thirteen hundred copper coins to get one tael of silver! The court may benefit from collecting silver, but what about the extra two to three hundred copper coins that the common people have to pay?”

Chen Tingjian: “People can directly exchange grain for silver.”

He Qingxian laughed sarcastically: “There is no businessman without fraud. I can tell you today that once your new law is implemented, when the people sell grain in the autumn harvest, the purchase price of grain merchants will definitely be at least twenty to thirty percent lower than usual! Cabinet Elder Chen, Cabinet Elder Chen, you have indeed put a lot of thought into filling the treasury, but you are too lazy and too crafty. You dare not offend those who have land and money, so you only dare to suck the blood and sweat of the common people!”

Chen Tingjian’s face turned pale.

Hua Yang was so nervous that she could hardly breathe. How dare He Qingxian slander her father-in-law like that without showing any mercy!

Emperor Yuanyou also couldn’t find the words to say.

Empress Dowager Qi reminded him, “Cabinet Elder He, please do not be rude. If you have different political opinions, you can discuss them. How can you hurt others with your words?”

He Qingxian looked at Empress Dowager Qi, then at Emperor Yuanyou, and stood up straight: “This minister doesn’t mean to hurt him, but this minister just can’t stand the fact that he has other ways that are more beneficial to the court and the people, but he doesn’t dare to use them because he is afraid of offending the officials and gentry!”

Empress Dowager Qi: “What wise opinion does Cabinet Elder He have?”

He Qingxian took out his memorial.

Cao Li bent over and presented the memorial to Emperor Yuanyou.

Before Emperor Yuanyou opened the memorial, He Qingxian suddenly pointed to the sky and said, “Half of the land in the world is in the hands of the vassal princes and imperial relatives. The remaining half, two parts of that of the land is occupied by officials and gentry, and only three parts is occupied by tens of millions of common people! There will be more and more imperial relatives, and they will snatch more and more land from the people, while the officials and gentry are getting more and more greedy. They bully the weak and fear the strong, and they will also rack their brains to exploit the people. If the court doesn’t find a way to solve these two huge tumors, when the people can’t survive, it will be the day when the water surges and the boat overturns!”

These words exploded like thunder, silencing the entire hall, even the sound of breathing was gone.

Hua Yang had to lean against the doorpost, her whole body trembling slightly.

Finally, Chen Tingjian asked calmly, “What good plan does Cabinet Elder He have to protect the country?”

He Qingxian: “First, the vassal princes and imperial relatives, except for the land granted by the court and the wasteland they reclaimed, all the land they plundered from the people must be returned to the people, and they shall no longer allow to purchase land from the people in any way to eliminate the source of annexation. Second, the whole country should thoroughly investigate corrupt officials and bullies, and punish them severely according to the law. As long as no official dares to be corrupt, the people will be safe and the country will be peaceful.”

Chen Tingjian: “The imperial clansmen are also people. As people, they can trade real money and silver. How can the court prohibit them from buying land? Your method will not convince the public at all.”

He Qingxian: “Then investigate thoroughly. The Founding Emperor did not confer titles on vassal princes to allow them to oppress the people. Many vassal princes in various places have committed evil deeds, but the court always takes them lightly, and the people are the ones who suffer.”

Chen Tingjian: “Investigate, investigate, investigate! Who should be sent to investigate? How many upright officials like you can be used by the imperial court?”

Emperor Yuanyou pursed his lips.

He also knew that He Qingxian’s idea was good, but how could the vassal princes and imperial relatives be easily moved? If they were pushed too hard and all rebelled, with over twenty princely relatives, what if one of them turned out to be a formidable figure and succeeded?

This included all the officials and gentry in the country. If the common people couldn’t survive, they would rebel, and the officials and gentry would also be driven to desperation.

The court needed money, but it could not adopt overly radical measures so as not to endanger the stability of the court.

He was about to speak, but He Qingxian seemed to have expected that his words would not be recognized by the emperor and the empress dowager. He smiled and slightly withdrew his momentum: “Since we can’t investigate, then we should set a new tax-free quota for the imperial clansmen and officials. Those who exceed the quota should pay taxes together with the people! So many fields are in their hands. The court is so poor that it can’t even make ends meet, but why are they so rich?

“Your Majesty, please think about it carefully. Instead of trying to extort money from the people and causing resentment, wouldn’t it be better to just add millions of hectares of taxable land?”

The author has something to say:

Cabinet Elder Chen: You take too big steps, aren’t you afraid of pulling your hips?

Cabinet Elder He: If you take small steps every day, your hips will probably be useless!

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One thought on “Reborn After Widowhood – Chapter 168

  1. just nominate hua yang imperial inspector and have her go around whipping all those impeial relatives ….. that dawang whip conferred by the late emperor is there catching dust

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