Happy Birthday Singapore. My Wish For Singapore.

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Pic courtesy car examiner Vincent Lee

I just completed watching two period drama serials on Manchu China. Each comprises 40 chapters. The two blockbuster serials are about Emperors Kangxi and Yongzheng. I plan to watch Qianlong soon. I’ve gained much insight esp the historical and cultural aspects of ancient Chinese after watching them.

Most of us think that being the emperor of China is the best job in the world. He has everything in terms of wealth, power, women and so on. Actually, it’s not that simple. There are many unknown sad side behind this normal facade.

In the ancient Chinese context, the emperor is very powerful. He rules by edicts. He has absolute control over the country and people. He should be happy right? Not so.

The Chinese emperor is actually subjected to many rules and regulations. He is bound by ancient traditions when making decisions. There are also much vested interest groups from previous earlier emperors or generations ago when their ancestors fought and die along side in the early years of building the empire. Whatever the emperor does must take into account views of his ministers and top mandarins. He must justify his decisions even though his edict is final. Failure to comply with his edict means certain death.

For example, he can’t simply sentence an official to death. He must investigate and preside in the open court to convict him. Sometimes, the task is assigned to a minister to investigate and report the findings before punishment is meted out. Sometimes, even that also subject to the hundreds of mandarins in his court. If a majority of the ministers or mandarins kneel down begging the emperor to reconsider his decision to punish the corrupted minister or wrong doing minister by citing his past contributions to the empire etc, the emperor sometimes may relent.

Before any final decision is undertaken by the emperor, debate and discussions are held with all his senior ministers and top mandarins. After all views are heard, the emperor will then make the final decision by issuing an edict. Failure to comply may result in severe punishment.

The Manchu or Qing dynasty starting from Kangxi to Qianlong with Yongzheng in between is generally considered the glorious period. It was at its height with about 135 years of rule between the three emperors. Kangxi and Qianlong reigned slightly for more than 60 years each with Yongzhen only 13 yrs. The latter died due to work exhaustion and stress.

I’ll just quote few examples from the drama serials. They may be exaggerated. The events may not be true cuz it’s only fictional movies based on the actual historical figures.

I was shocked when I watched emperor Kangxi went under cover as a “beggar” in order to understand the living conditions and to investigate local corrupt officials. Of course, he brought along some of his trusted officials with him always within reach. On another time, he bought over the whole restaurant lock, stock and barrel selling porridge to disguise himself as the owner of said restaurant in order to carry out his discreet investigation of powerful corrupt local officials.

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Emperor Kangxi holding court

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Emperor Kangxi running the famous porridge restaurant

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“I’m also a beggar!”

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Emperor Kangxi’s new buddy. The young beggar’s parents were killed by corrupt officials

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Emperor Kangxi asking how to nail corrupt incompetent local officials?

Emperor Kangxi says that he’s always told by his ministers and mandarins that there are no beggars or poor peasants in his empire. The empire is so powerful that everyone is living very well! He wanted direct no nonsense feedback from the masses, so he dirtied himself, lived amongst the beggars with fleas all over his body etc. He vomited when he ate those beggars’ food which was actually leftover food. His loyal assistants had to think of ways to sneak in basic food for him. He appreciated the commoners’ decent food after going hungry for days!

Emperor Yongzheng – succeeded Kangxi, was trying to convince the Manchus to be farmers. Those Manchus from the northern grasslands near to Mongolia were traditionally horsemen and hunters. They were never farmers unlike the Han Chinese. The Manchus refused to plough the field. They had vast lands but never used for productive farming. The Manchus depended on the Han Chinese for their basic farm produce which was heavily taxed. Emperor Yongzheng was determined to stop this arrangement by implementing equality between the Manchus and the Han Chinese. The policy of “满汉平等” where everyone is equal irrespective of races. Equal rights and opportunities. This is for the overall long term good of the empire. He didn’t want the Manchus to be useless parasites and not working on the large swathes of farm land.

Click here to read about Manchu & Han policy.

First, Emperor Yongzheng identified an original ethnic Manchu peasant who embraced farming. He awarded the chosen Manchu an official post and title making him a role model. Next, he personally took up basic lessons on farming from the Manchu farmer. Emperor Yongzheg had to bow and pay respect to a commoner – just like a disciple paying respect to a martial arts teacher, in full view of all his ministers and mandarins gathered in the farmland under the scorching sun. This was to send a clear message to the Manchus in his empire that he meant business. Emperor Yongzheng was a farmer for the whole day working hard on the field with the entire hundreds of ministers and top mandarins in full ceremonial uniform witnessing him “Using his hands” campaign! That’s the crude form of propaganda and publicity overdrive in ancient 18th century China.

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Emperor Yongzheng in action on the field

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Hundreds of ministers and govt officials in full ceremonial uniform witnessing the emperor learning farming under scorching sun

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Emperor Yongzheng bestowing an official title and position to this Manchu farmer

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The Emperor paying respect to the Manchu farmer

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All the ministers and mandarins paying respect to commoner peasant as instructed by the Emperor

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Emperor Yongzheng’s sore and bruised feet

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Emperor Yongzheng back to work after a hard day in the field

When Emperor Yongzheng got back to the palace to catch up on his admin work which he had to set aside when he spent the whole day farming in the field. His enunchs broke down in tears when they saw his feet badly sored and his bruised hands not able to hold the brush (pen) to write! After all, he’s an Emperor never subject to hard manual work. Without resting, he continued his work throughout the night next to the candle lantern. There’s a pile of reports and petitions to read. Usually, it’s 5,000 to 10,000 petitions on a given day. He had to reply and consider every petition.

In the morning, it’s the usual court conference with all his ministers and mandarins. Sometimes in the day or middle of the night when there is a crisis, there would be more meetings with his senior ministers and mandarins etc. He is always worried about the frontiers or war front in the northern and north-western regions where those barbarians are always giving trouble. Sometimes, it’s the southern parts near to the present day Vietnam. If there’s a flood in the Yellow river, it’s going to be a big headache cuz those commoners suffer. Aid need to be directed to them. But sometimes inefficient or corrupt officials siphoned off part of the aid. In one instance, he personally went down to assess the situation and returned to the palace to rid of those incompetent corrupt officials and promoted efficient ones.

There are 40 chapters each in the two period China drama serials. It’s not easy to relate all the stories and anecdotes here. Now you know why I’m quite addicted to them. I’ve also watched the Taiwanese Justice Pao production. I’ll blog about Justice Pao on another time.

In Singapore, we live in a totally different world from the ancient Imperial China. Seemingly, we are world’s apart. But that doesn’t mean we can’t learn from them? The principles and virtues of an enlightened ruler will remain unchanged forever throughout the ages.

Today is our 47th National Day!

I wish our leaders will emulate the virtues of Emperors Kangxi and Yongzheng by really listening to the sentiments of the rakyat.

I do not expect our leaders to disguise themselves as “beggars” or “farmers” in order to understand the wretches, homeless poor and the downtrodden.

All I ask for is for them to be more humane and compassionate when implementing policy. Think of the poor and wretches in our country. Do not treat us as digits with dollars & cents or costs & profits as the bottom line for all policy. When we bring up issues or problems, pls don’t take the easy option by simply increasing the charges, fines or more draconian measures! That’s not the way.

For a start, pls don’t just issue parking summons like nobody’s business. Be flexible and selective on enforcing non criminal offences – I’m referring to parking offences. In our high density compact society with so much space constraints, there bound to be illegal parking here and there. No need to be harsh in it’s enforcement.

Remember, every summons ticket you issue deprives the poor despatch rider / biker’s wife and children the whatever little he earns. As a despatch rider, his daily pay is about $50 a day (monthly pay is $1,500), a parking summons ticket with offer of compound at $70 – touch your heart honestly and tell me how his family going to live and survive? Do you really feel their pain?

Be flexible with your laws especially non-criminal offences. That’s my wish for this National Day 2012!

Happy National Day!
Happy 47th Birthday Singapore!

Click here to read this excellent article.

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About Gintai_昇泰

I'm a Singaporean Chinese living in the Eastern part of Singapore. I tweet on current affairs & inspirational quotes. I blog on issues or events if they interest me. I also share interesting jokes, stories or anecdotes and observations on my blog. Thanks for visiting.
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20 Responses to Happy Birthday Singapore. My Wish For Singapore.

  1. Expensive price says:

    Ah but making false declaration abt speeding offences only cost $1000-00 . So u can see for yourself authorities do have a heart

  2. Your article is from Drama Perspectives, let me deal with historical angle.

    Last few Qing’s Emperor including XuanTong 宣统 brought down the empire. This was traditional historian views.

    Recently, scholars in China stated to question about this fact, so they trace back the entire history of the empire, and discovered the first sign of crack/fatal missteps that the empire made not even stated from son of QianLong’s JiaQing 嘉庆.

    It actually happened around the era of KangXi-YongZheng-QianLong succession, in particular, the last 7 to 10 years of KangXi 康熙, one of the two outstanding national leader in China’s history.

    My first reaction was surprise on this discovery, but eventually realize that no matter a regime how successful it was, could have BLIND SPOTS never spotted – the tremendously inward-looking of the empire from last numbers of years of KangXI and subsequently passed down to YongZheng and QianLong, and then it became an official norm.

    Ironically, QIanLong’s era the GDP (today’s modern economic term) was the highest as compare to the entire world, and yet it never hid the fact that the science and technology not only backward totally ignored, and of course totally ignored subsequently – resulting the strength of the empire was in the downward trend.

    That’s to say that We have to change the mindset and take bold steps to turn the tide whenever necessary.

    Majulah Singapura.

    market2garden gt 2012.08.09

  3. Anonymous says:

    My wish for this National Day: Our Government do some soul searching …yes, be more humane when implementing policies especially if these policies affect the poor and not so well off and stop coming out with so-called solutions to problems facing by its people which only resulted Government being ‘richer’. For a start, increase the ceiling of medisave that can be utilised for medical treatment (now is $600 per year), many cannot afford the high costs of medical treatment /check-up though they have funds in their medisave accounts.

  4. Anonymous says:

    What is the title of the show? I wan to watch!
    Thanks!

    • First, you need to install “PPS” app on your iPad or iPhone. Then go search for it under “period” tv serials of China origin. 古装 内地 There is only one title of Kangxi and Yongzhen there. It’s easy. Give a try. I may blog abt this apps. Look out for it.

  5. patriot says:

    They topped up our medisave as part of the piecemeal welfare. But, it cannot be used for outpatient consultation and treatment and a host of medicines.

    Anyway, Happy National Day and may it be one of the happiest.

    patriot

    • Not true. You can use for certain treatment or medicines in polyclinics or hospitals using your medisave with an yearly cap.

  6. Your article is from Drama perspective; let me deal with historical angle.

    Last few Qing’s Emperor including XuanTong 宣统 brought down the empire. This was traditional historian views. Recently, scholars in China stated to question about this fact, so they trace back the entire history of the empire, and discovered the first sign of crack/fatal missteps that the empire made not even started from son of QianLong’s JiaQing 嘉庆.

    It actually happened around the era of KangXi-YongZheng-QianLong succession, in particular, the last 7 to 10 years of KangXi 康熙, one of the two outstanding national leaders in China’s history.

    My first reaction was surprise on this discovery, but eventually realize that no matter a regime how successful it was, could have BLIND SPOTS never spotted – the tremendously inward-looking of the empire from last numbers of years of KangXI and subsequently passed down to YongZheng and QianLong, and then it became an official norm.

    Ironically, QIanLong’s era the GDP (today’s modern term) was the highest (over 30%) as compare to the entire world, and yet it never hid the fact that the science and technology not only backward but totally ignored subsequently – resulting the strength of the empire was in the downward trend.

    Thus it reminded us we have to change the mindset and take bold steps to turn the tide whenever necessary, to show the strength of collective wisdom.

    Majulah Singapura.

    market2garden gt 2012.08.09

  7. agongkia says:

    Disguise as beggars or farmers is not easy.Should disguise as Zorro or Cai Shen Yue .Everyone will be happy seeing Zorro or Cai Shen Yue thus resulting in seeing more smiling and happy faces .Can report back to palace and tell everyone commoners are happy people .Commoners happy,Emperor happy ,everyone happy poon pee pee..
    Happy National Day to all^^.

  8. patriot says:

    My apology!
    Partial payment can be made, but sad to say the percentage allowed is simply not worth paying the $3 levied for using Medisave.
    I sent my 97 year old mother for regular appointments at Tampines Polyclinic for years and had opted to pay cash due to the Aforesaid Reason.
    Imagine You can use only less than $10 for a bill of over $80 and levied a admin fee of $3. Will You do it?

    patriot

  9. patriot says:

    No need to disguise or pretend lah.

    Just get the eunuchs to read the Edict that the Imperial Palace has declared that all the people will be taken care of with much love. Soothe the daft sheeples with sweet nothing, brainwash the ladies and the oldies. And the emperor and his imperial court jesters can live happily amongst themselves.

    patriot

    • agongkia says:

      Patriot
      Imperial Edict cannot any how issue and read ok?
      I remember I seen a movie….
      Once upon a time, A concern Emperor send his Chiu Ping Kuan khakia (9th grade official) to interact with the commoners and to see the kind of life they are leading, whether they need help or are they happy and to report accordingly .
      But how to make false report knowing that the people of this county had been wrongfully taxed, abuse and bullied.
      Ho Say Leow, Khakia got good idea, dress like a joker, mingle with the commoners and see happy faces and report that all the commoners are happy and cheering when seeing him. Emperor sure trust him mah. He never tell lie mah, only hide the fact that the people are happy seeing him dressing as a crown.
      After this National Day, I want to be a happy commoner whether got joker or no joker.
      Let us be happy citizen.

  10. patriot says:

    Dear Agongkia:

    must say here that me am very impressed with your knowledge of political play that had repeated through out history. In fact there will be no end to it and it gets more sophisticated as time progresses.
    In the past, imperial jesters were sent to fool the people, emperors had to disguise themselves to get to know the true situations. Modern rulers do not have to leave their ivory towers to do that. They can appear in facebook, twitter, telly and even your mobile anytime. There are some members who still choose to play the jester in person as ‘zorro’, ‘cai shen yah’ or whatever clown to the people. More Singaporeans are not buying into their antics and the trust is getting thinner by the days. I am of the view that these jesters are not doing it for the people, they are doing it for themselves and their masters. As I can see that when these jesters got booed by the non elite intellectuals, paradoxically and ironically, they got to higher offices (appointment).

    This National Day(2012) shows clearly that despite the onslaught of propaganda dished out recently, the mood for celebration was almost non-existent. Many were interested in betting about a rumour. Some won and were happy, losers were of course sore and cursed.

    This Year shows that the Divide of the 40% versus the other 60% getting more defined, the 40% seemed to comprise of mostly non-elite intellectuals who are beginning to get the Ruling Elites worried. Some of the 60% are also getting unsure of their beliefs in their political leaders. We have got to say a big Thank You to those non-elites who had tirelessly and passionately made public their readings of our shared destiny. Before some of them migrate, retire from blogging or cease their civil/civic activities, let’s thank them. We will missed them, Gintai included.

    Me happens to have met Gintai here and then in person, glad to say that he is a candid, fun and unpretentious person. The Two of us shared a few common traits in smoking, drinking and discussion on social issues. As I had commented before in this Site that me sees no reason for him (Gintai) not to share with us his insights and knowledge, we are informed (also in this Site) by him personally that this Site will soon be history. Getting to read his blogs and knowing him personally added much joy to this National Day for me.

    patriot

    • Thank you my dear patriot. I just report and share what I see and know. If only we open our eyes and look around, you will see lots of things. The truth is what I seek.

  11. patriot says:

    Me visits the Lee Kuan Yew Watch Blogsite regularly and with the recent rumours about the Man coming very close to National Day 2012, the visit to the Site became almost a must for i expect the latest about Lee Kuan Yew to be there.

    Yes, I am fully in agreement with those who condemned whoever for creating and or spreading the Rumour about the demise of the Man. It was/is wrong and sinful to curse an oldie, be it that the cursed person is a politician or a lay person. However, must say that National Day is not mean for hero worship or worship of any individuals and no exaggeration must ever be made to do the worshiping.

    The struggles that Singaporeans have to made in the History of Singapore was during the Japanese Occupation when and where the locals had to fight or escape the Japanese Imperial army to in order to survive. And NOW; to work and struggle in old age in order to survive or be starved and become homeless. Some struggle very hard to become rich and powerful.

    The British Colonial Master gave independence to Singapore and made arrangement that It’s gift of independence came with military back-up to ensure that the Leadership taking over the Rule and the State given will survive. And it did for us to celebrate 47 years of it in 2012. Many will have to struggle to stay alive and more so to have the mood to celebrate coming ones. I wish them good luck to have their spirits lifted for the Next National Day Celebration and following ones as well.

    patriot

  12. Anonymous says:

    @ gintai u shd watch another version of Kangxi . name Kangxi Dynasty (康熙王朝): The movie main actor is Chen daoming. All the characters are from China. This version is more realistic & story lines are all depicts from real history.

  13. Pingback: Daily SG: 10 Aug 2012 | The Singapore Daily

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