Reborn After Widowhood

Reborn After Widowhood – Chapter 173

Chapter 173


Hua Yang and her brother shared a common ancestor with these vassal princes, but this ancestor had passed away over two hundred years ago. The original batch of half-brother princes each continued their own bloodlines, and by this generation, many of the relatives merely shared a surname, and the kinship relationship had long been weakened.

In terms of prestige, the 82-year-old Prince Qin was the most respected, and the other vassal princes also implicitly regard him as the representative for the vassal princes entering the capital this time.

In terms of kinship, the first-generation Prince Heng and Prince Yi were both great-uncles of the Hua Yang’s siblings, only three generations apart, which was considered close. As of today, the 32-year-old new Prince Heng was the siblings’ uncle, while the 38-year-old Prince Yi was their cousin.

In addition to showing special respect to the long-lived Prince Qin, Emperor Yuanyou also favored Prince Heng and Prince Yi.

After greeting each other for half an hour outside the city, it was almost noon, and all the imperial relatives went into the palace for the banquet.

At the palace banquet, Empress Dowager Qi and Emperor Yuanyou sat in the main seats, Hua Yang and Chen Jingzong sat at the lower left, and Nan Kang and Meng Yanqing sat at the lower right.

The six of them had memorized their relationships with the vassal princes, so no matter which vassal prince spoke, they could accurately call out the corresponding generational title.

Not long after the banquet began, Nan Kang’s eyes suddenly turned red. At first she tried to hold it back, but gradually she could no longer conceal it.

Meng Yanqing’s heart was in his throat. He leaned his shoulder to try to stop his wife from sobbing and warned her in a low voice, “What are you doing!”

Nan Kang murmured quietly: “I miss my brother.”

Meng Yanqing’s whole body went cold. In such a situation, his wife actually thought about her rebellious brother. Was she trying to kill herself?

But the more he tried to cover up for his wife, the louder the commotion on this side became, and the twenty-one vassal princes looked over one after another.

Empress Dowager Qi could no longer pretend to ignore it and asked with concern: “What’s wrong with Nan Kang? Are you feeling uncomfortable?”

Nan Kang wiped her eyes with her sleeves in a hurry, stood up while lowering her head, and said with a slight choked voice, “Daughter is indeed not feeling well. I have ruined Mother Empress’ pleasure in entertaining all the clan members. Please forgive me, Mother Empress.”

Empress Dowager Qi said calmly: “Since you are not feeling well, then go down.”

Meng Yanqing was the kind of person who couldn’t help but feel weak in the knees when he saw these vassal princes. He quickly agreed and took the opportunity to help the crying Nan Kang to leave.

Empress Dowager Qi looked at Cao Li with a smile.

Cao Li clapped his hands, signaling the dancing singers to continue. The string music started and the atmosphere of the banquet returned to normal.

The vassal princes of the neighboring seats looked at each other, and felt a little heavy in their hearts.

Princess Nan Kang burst into tears, surely because she was saddened by the scene and thought of her brother, Prince Yu, who was deposed for rebellion. But they were also vassal princes, and they might be targeted by the court if they were not careful!

In the past few years alone, first Prince Xiang, then the Eight Princes of Henan, followed by Prince Jin last year, one-third of the thirty-one vassal princes have gone!

Regardless of whether these vassal princes sought death on their own or the imperial court killed the chicken to warn the monkey, for them, it was a bloody precedent.

The banquet lasted for an hour. Some vassal princes were drunk, while the older ones yawned and tried to stay awake.

Emperor Yuanyou instructed Chen Jingzong: “The lunch banquet is only for reminiscing about the past. Prince Consort will take the vassal princes to the capital’s posthouse to rest. We will discuss state affairs at the dinner banquet.”

All the vassal princes saluted in unison.

Chen Jingzong then sent them out of the palace. There was not much to say in the palace, but when they arrived at the capital posthouse, this group of vassal princes surrounded Chen Jingzong, hoping that the prince consort would reveal some information to them first. What state affairs did they want to discuss? Could it be that the court was going to take away their fiefdoms?

Chen Jingzong supported the white-haired Prince Qin and said to the other vassal princes with an innocent look, “I really don’t know about this. I’m only working in the guard station and have been busy straightening out the relationship between our family members recently. Grand Princess tests me every day and makes me run a lap if I get one wrong. One time, I was curious and asked her why His Majesty asked the clansmen to come to the capital. As soon as I asked, Grand Princess made me kneel down and blamed me for discussing state affairs!”

The vassal princes: …

Although Grand Princess’s prestige has long been known throughout the world, you are still the son of the Chief Minister. If Grand Princess didn’t tell you, why don’t you ask your father?

Someone tentatively mentioned Cabinet Elder Chen.

Chen Jingzong’s face darkened, but then he was worried about losing face in front of those princes, so he said in a forced friendly manner: “I have nothing to say to him. If any of Your Highness wants to see Cabinet Elder Chen, I can lead the way for you and personally send you to the Chen Mansion.”

The vassal princes: …

On their way to the capital, the small county magistrates in various places did not dare to get too close to them, for fear of being accused of “colluding with the vassal princes” by the court. If they dared to go to the Chen Mansion to ask to see Chen Tingjian today, Chen Tingjian would dare to personally tie them up and send them to the court!

“It’s alright, please go back, Prince Consort!”

After Chen Jingzong left, the palace servants sent by Empress Dowager Qi and Emperor Yuanyou were still watching them, so it was not convenient for the vassal princes to gather together, and they all returned to their own courtyards to rest.

Chen Jingzong went to the palace first to report. Because the couple had nothing to do with the palace banquet in the evening, he picked up Hua Yang and went back to Grand Princess Mansion.

When they arrived at the Qifeng Hall, Hua Yang asked him about the performance of the vassal princes.

Chen Jingzong: “There are a few old foxes, a few good-for-nothings, and some who are hard to tell whether they are truly honest or not.”

No matter how powerful the ancestors were, there was no guarantee that all their descendants would be outstanding. For example, the deposed Prince Xiang and Prince Yu were both useless dandies if placed in ordinary families. But because they had the noble status of vassal princes, the evils they committed due to greed for money and sex were far more serious than those of ordinary dandies.

In other words, if the palace wants to implement new policies this time, as long as they convince those shrewd vassal princes, the rest of the good-for-nothings would naturally obey.


At dusk, the twenty-one vassal princes entered the palace again.

This palace banquet was held in the Qianqing Palace. Empress Dowager Qi did not attend, and only the five cabinet elders accompanied Emperor Yuanyou.

There was no wine at the table, in case someone got drunk and cause mishap.

There was neither wine nor singing and dancing, and the sky had yet darkened when the dinner ended.

The palace servants moved the table away and replaced it with low tables and placed them in front of Emperor Yuanyou and the vassal princes.

The palace servants all retreated. At this time, Cabinet Elder Shen and Cabinet Elder Lu each took a stack of documents and distributed them to the vassal princes one by one, two copies for each person.

Emperor Yuanyou said solemnly: “This year Zhen intend to implement two new policies that will benefit the country and the people. They are related to whether our dynasty can restore the prosperity of the Taizu and Chengzu. Zhen dare not make a decision alone, therefore invite all the vassal princes to come to the capital for discussion. Please read them first.”

Upon hearing this, the vassal princes exchanged glances and picked up the documents in front of them.

On the two documents, it was written respectively “imperial clansmen, officials and gentry pay taxes together” and “the tax rate is distributed according to the land area”.

Some looked calm, some frowned, some had livid faces, and some looked confused. Although they knew the words, they did not understand them very well. After all, there were some smart and stupid ones among these vassal princes.

When everyone put down their documents, Chen Tingjian smiled, stood on the left side of Emperor Yuanyou, and explained it in concise words.

Some vassal princes who finally understood what was said immediately objected: “How can this be done? Our ancestors made it clear when they conferred titles on the vassal princes that all taxes and labor service would be exempted for the vassal princes and imperial clansmen. Our ancestors have followed this ancestral system for two hundred years. How can we change it so easily?”

A smarter approach would have been to not mention the tax payment by imperial clansmen but to mention the officials and gentry across the country, and to persuade Emperor Yuanyou to think twice from their perspective.

Twenty-one vassal princes, twenty-one mouths, and the hall was filled with a buzz of discussion.

He Qingxian suddenly shouted angrily, and said to Chen Tingjian across the seated Yuanyou Emperor: “I said that these roundabout reforms are useless. If you insist on reforming like this, what should you reform? Just restore the ancestral system of Taizu. The vassal princes and imperial clansmen who cause chaos to the people will have their property confiscated, their fiefs reduced, and they will be demoted to commoners. As for those corrupt officials who don’t want to work for the court and the people, don’t be polite, they will all be executed!”

The vassal princes: …

In terms of fame, the name He Qingxian and He Qingtian were more famous than Chen Tingjian!

Chen Tingjian frowned and said, “All of them are imperial clansmen and have the same ancestry as His Majesty. How can you easily call for violence and punishment? There are so many officials and gentry in the world and it’s difficult to investigate them one by one. It’s not something that can be solved by you saying to deal with them according to the law.”

He Qingxian pointed at the vassal princes and said, “But even these twenty-one vassal princes do not agree with the new policy. How can you convince the officials and gentry to pay taxes?”

Chen Tingjian earnestly explained to the vassal princes the urgency and necessity of implementing the new policy.

The vassal princes all reacted indifferently, and even those who had a good attitude were ambiguous.

He Qingxian started arguing with Chen Tingjian again. While arguing, he looked at these vassal princes, wishing he could get rid of them as soon as possible.

Amid the noisy atmosphere, Emperor Yuanyou suddenly slammed the table and asked the cabinet elders to leave first.

The five cabinet elders retreated outside the hall with different expressions.

The vassal princes looked at the young emperor who was only sixteen years old, and they all felt relieved.

Prince Lu of Shandong stroked his beard and said to Emperor Yuanyou earnestly, “Your Majesty is young and full of vigor. You are eager to establish your monarch foundation and make the people rich and the country strong. However, the imperial family relies on the officials and gentry to govern the world. The ignorant people are easily instigated by the officials and gentry. These two new policies will never be tolerated by the officials and gentry. Your Majesty should be cautious. Cabinet Elder He is just a scholar and thinks too simply.”

Emperor Yuanyou glanced at him and suddenly called out “Cao Li”.

Cao Li clapped his hands again, and two young eunuchs came in carrying a large brazier and placed it in the middle of the hall.

There was no charcoal fire in the brazier, only letters of petition, some of which were old, some of which were brand new.

Emperor Yuanyou said to Prince Lu, “Uncle Prince said that Cabinet Elder He is a scholar, but you didn’t know how much Cabinet Elder He respected the teachings of our great ancestor. Before these two new policies were formulated, Cabinet Elder He’s proposition was to kill all corrupt officials in the world. He hates corrupt officials, and even hates the vassal princes of various places who failed to live up to our great ancestor’s high hopes and exploited the people. There were too many corrupt officials, so Cabinet Elder He first sorted out the memorials of officials from various places who had sued vassal princes for illegal acts over the past few decades and brought them to Zhen all at once.”

The faces of all the vassal princes changed!

Emperor Yuanyou walked to the brazier, picked up one at random, looked at the cover, and turned to Prince Su of Lanzhou: “Memorial from Lanzhou, afraid to sue Brother Prince Su.”

Prince Su left the table immediately, walked out and knelt down, “This minister is innocent. This minister just inherited the title only two years ago. In the past two years, this minister has been restraining the children in the Prince Mansion and dare not do anything against the law. Please investigate, Your Majesty!”

Emperor Yuanyou smiled, threw the memorial back into the brazier, and asked Cao Li to get a fire starter and put the fire inside.

The flames gradually grew brighter, illuminating the faces of the vassal princes.

Emperor Yuanyou sat back on the dragon throne and glanced at the vassal princes one by one: “In this vast world with tens of millions of people, only all of you that sitting here are Zhen’s relatives, Zhen’s flesh and blood family. How can Zhen easily punish Zhen’s own relatives just because of the instigation of officials and gentry?”

All twenty-one vassal princes stood up and knelt, praising the emperor for his wisdom.

Emperor Yuanyou looked at the heads, some black, some white, and some gray, and said calmly, “But what Zhen said is not alarmist talk. As early as the reign of Emperor Wuzong, the national treasury was already stretched to the limit. Not only was there no money to pay the army and provide disaster relief, but even the salaries for the clan members were in arrears year after year. During the reigns of Emperor Shizong and the previous emperor, the situation did not improve at all. It’s very difficult for Zhen to be the emperor.

“If Zhen doesn’t reform, the officials and gentry will become more and more greedy, and the people will become more and more miserable. Zhen doesn’t have money to quell the internal troubles, nor do Zhen have money to consolidate the borders. If the borders are unstable, foreign enemies will surely seize the opportunity to invade. By then, the people will be eager to assist the new dynasty in overthrowing the foundation of our ancestors, and the officials and gentry will hide their property and join the new dynasty. Foreign enemies want to appease the people and win the support of the officials and gentry, but they also need money. You tell, who will they attack first?”

The vassal princes all had heavy faces.

If the day ever came when the country was destroyed, the emperor and the empress dowager would not survive, and these vassal princes would also be the thorns in the eyes of foreign enemies and they would eliminate them first.

Emperor Yuanyou: “Zhen is implementing the new policy not only to save the court, but also to save you. If the skin is gone, where will the hair be attached!

“The officials and gentry in the world are so intertwined that the imperial court alone may not be able to convince them. That’s why Zhen want all the vassal princes to pay taxes together. If you all cooperate with the new policy, the officials and gentry will have no reason to object. If the officials and gentry pay taxes, the imperial court will have money to strengthen the border defenses and pay the military salaries. Our ancestors’ country will be stable and passed down for another two hundred or two thousand years. Only then can all the vassal princes and relatives enjoy the blessings together.”

As soon as these words were spoken, Prince Heng and Prince Yi were the first to express their willingness to cooperate with the new policy.

The white-haired Prince Qin glanced at the pile of memorials that had not yet been completely burned in the brazier, and then thought about the northwestern border that was in urgent need of help from time to time, and expressed his support with a trembling voice.

What Prince Qin could see clearly, the other old foxes could also see clearly.

Although Emperor Yuanyou seemed to have burned those memorials that sued the vassal princes, he was actually threatening them in disguise. Only with cooperating with the new policy would they be saved. If the vassal princes dared to disobey, Emperor Yuanyou could easily get these memorials again. By then, they would follow the footsteps of the deposed Prince Xiang and Prince Jin!

Which one is more important, money or life?

Although the young emperor was young, he had Chen Tingjian by his side, and Chen Tingjian appointed a large number of officials and generals who listened to him through the examination method.

Even if twenty-one princes rebelled at the same time, only one or two would have a chance of succeeding in the end, and the others would be killed by the imperial court first.

Who could guarantee that they would survive to the end?

“Your Majesty is far-sighted. We, the ministers, are willing to support the new policies and follow your lead!”

The author has something to say:

Emperor Yuanyou: Look, I can play with fire!

The vassal princes: ….

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One thought on “Reborn After Widowhood – Chapter 173

  1. Nicely done! No fuss, no hem-hawing, no (outright threat of physical) violence, just getting them to capitulate based on their own selfish interests.

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