To Khubilai Khan 忽必烈汗 (Hūbìliè hàn); Great Khan 大汗 (Dàhàn); founder of the Yuan Dynasty 元朝 (Yuán cháo); the Great Yuan (大元, Dà Yuán):
I am grateful to be employed as your adviser. I swear to provide You with the right advice. I will not tell You to do things as I would do them because I am not a 大汗 and could never be. What I can do is draw upon a millennium and a half of philosophy and history and guide You toward the right thing to do. If You follow my instruction the era of the Yuan Dynasty will be a glorious one and the demographic, tens of millions of subjects in your vast realm, will be prosperous and sing your praise, as they do for Yao 堯 (Yáo), and many centuries from now literati, Shi 士 (shì), and Junzi 君子 (Jūnzǐ) the world over will study your history. The Yuan will not be short-lived!
We have many political, economic, and cultural issues to discuss and many political, economic, and cultural remedies to administer; commerce. So allow me to tell You a little about my beliefs and my advising style.
I have studied the classics, poetry, philosophy, Daoism and the way of the Cosmos (Dào 道), Confucianism 儒學 (Rúxué), and Buddhism, amongst other worldly things like the manner of the Universe 理 (Lǐ) and the entire everything 氣 (Qì). I have also passed official examinations in the examination system 科舉制度 (Kējǔ zhìdù). All of these things have informed me but I do not prescribe to any one of them wholly. You will find that my advice draws upon all of these and other inspirations.
As the Emperor 皇帝 (Huángdì) You face diverse circumstances. Therefore You require diverse advice for diverse solutions; especially now, as the world map grows. I do understand that You are a warrior and a military ruler and that You seek glory; but You are also a man and capable of Humaneness 仁 (rén) as 孔子 (Kǒngzǐ) would describe it. I plan on advising You toward that end. I could envision You being attracted to the autocracy and punishments of Legalism 法家 (Fǎjiā) as prescribed by Han Feizi 韓非子 (Hán Fēizǐ). However, I do not offer fear-based advice and solutions. I would prefer that your officers do not compete for each other’s jobs. I would also imagine that the militaristic legend Sunzi 孫子 (Sūnzǐ) has influenced You with The Art of War 孫子兵法 (Sūn Zǐ Bīng Fǎ). Sage 聖人 (Shèngrén) that I believe 孫子 to be, I would argue that there has been enough war as each Dynasty attempts to expand their borders by annexing land. Enough Warring States! No return to that! Allow your people to contemplate the Five Phases 五行 (wŭxíng) of fire (火, huǒ), water (水, shuǐ), earth (土, tǔ), metal (金, jīn), and wood (木, mù), the knowledge that nature moves predictably. This has been called the Cosmic Resonance Theory 感應 (Gǎnyìng).
An example of my Way would be my advice that You should ban the practice called “foot binding”. With so many Buddhists in the realm we should not be bringing harm to the body 體 (tǐ) of a sentient being, as Buddhists are opposed to it. It is likely done so that a father can receive praise on his daughter’s wedding day. If I felt that it was steeped in ancient ritual 禮 (Lǐ) I could at least understand that some importance exists somewhere in it, but only the wedding aspect appears ritualistic. I do wonder when women will rise against this. In what future Dynasty or century will women, or even one woman, take to even writing her opposition to this practice? Moreover, I also believe that cruel punishments and styles of executions should be banned. One in particular, having one’s limbs pulled off, does not belong in our Heavenly Chinese civilization.
As we continue to conquer the Sea, trade is going to loom larger and larger. The world desires our silk; we desire their silver. Pirates and smugglers will be a major threat and force. They come from here, Japan and elsewhere. We must be sure to capture and punish the actual pirates and smugglers. We must not confuse them with legitimate merchants because merchants spur our economy.
Our philosopher Laozi 老子 (Lǎo Zǐ) a Daoist, believed that we should take no action; that we should not act against the natural state of things. By that he meant, for instance, if everyone were to agree on what is beautiful then ugly would exist; ugly would have been created; so do nothing and avoid this distinction. Now, one could apply this to a ruler’s actions. If a ruler were to do nothing good then his or her (as in Empress Lü 呂后 [Lühou]) subjects would not know what bad is and would therefore make no judgement that good was not being done. Or to take it even further, the ruler could do bad incessantly and the subjects would never understand good. I, though, will advise You according to what some before You have noted: if the ruler leads, the subjects will follow. Lead not as a Hegemon 霸 (bà) but as the ancient Chakravartan King, powerful and enlightened.
Another way that You could galvanize your realm would be to draw from the past. In this case I do not mean to study Confucian Classics 五經 (Wǔjīng). I mean that the Yuan should build enormous bronze statues to the Buddha. Long ago there were pogroms against Buddhists in our land. There were slaughters of peaceful monks and nuns within various Sangha 僧 (sēng), various enclaves. This was shameful. Realizing the horrific error of their bad intentional action, or bad karma 業 (yè), the Kingdom built beautiful statues in honor of Buddhism. Buddhists are extremely peaceful and require very little in order to survive. They are precisely the type of subject that the kingdom should desire. Any monk could be the awaited Buddha, the Maitreya 彌勒佛 (Mílè fó). Buddhist texts came to our land through serendipity via the Silk Road 絲綢之路 (Sīchóu zhīlù). More should be done to memorialize their holocaust. With this in mind I would also instruct You to watch for portents and omens. A natural disaster is always a sign that something is out of order in the Realm. The Ruler’s life is at risk! So we must be in harmony with Heaven 天 (tian), subject to the opposing forces of female and male, dark and light, Yinyang 陰陽 (Yīnyáng).
Long ago, before the completion of the Great Wall of China 長城 (Cháng chéng), in an effort to pay for defense against invaders (your ancestors, Mongols 蒙古人 [Ménggǔ], your lineage) from the north (north of the Yellow River 黃河 [Húanghé] and for the most part east of the Gobi Desert 戈壁 [Gēbì]), the government took control of the iron, salt, and alcohol industries. Oh! So much debate occurred; the Salt and Iron Debate 鹽鐵論 (Yán tiě lùn). This had the effect of relegating previously enterprising subjects who had worked in those industries to the role of traders, setting us back economically by negatively affecting the money supply. I would advise You to never allow the government to run industry. Ultimately our rivers run west to east and despite the low cost of water transportation on, for instance, the Yangzte River 長江 (Chángjiāng), north to south trade is fundamentally hampered. The more expensive land transportation must be employed more often, which means a greater bronze coin and silver outlay for the business man and a potential coin minting/inflation problem for the government. The ruler must do everything he or she can to facilitate profits for the merchants.
With our population growing agricultural production must be increased. With so many empty stomachs to fill and having so much fertile land (sown) available I would advise You to look to a past dynasty again and to reinstate a program called the Equitable Field System 均田制度(Jūntián zhìdù). With this program all kinds of people, not just farmers by trade, could be given farms by the government. The size of the farm would be determined by how fertile the land is. The land taxes collected would be considered rent. And each farm would be required to produce a minimum of crops each year. My belief here is aligned with the Civil Party, who seek to fund government through farming. Mongol tax collectors, Daraghachi 達魯花赤 (Dálǔ huāchì), could facilitate this system. As leader of the entire political body, the Khanate 汗國 (Hànguó), You can implement this. I see only one downside to this program: the potential for barbarian opium production. Opium entraps the youth. Those with no literacy yet run the risk of being hopeless their entire life. A young opium addict is incapable of exhibiting love to the parents, filial piety 孝 (Xiào). These youth need to overcome this problem by being educated, (jiàohuà) 教化. I believe in their future!
I shall say farewell now 大汗.