Dzi dynasty

The Dzii dynasty (齊, dzii or dziai, 752 – ?) was a dynasty that governed Themiclesia and a number of foreign territories in modern-day Columbia, Maverica, and Meridia. It was founded in the wake of the financial crisis at the end of the Meng dynasty and was itself replaced by the Drjen dynasty, excessive military expenditure triggering an aristocratic revolt. The dynasty saw rule by 19 monarchs in 15 generations.

History

Financial crisis

The Meng dynasty (孟, mrangs) introduced the concept of the Mandate of Heaven to Themiclesia. This named the holder of the Mandate the supreme monarch of world and was justified through the ruler's righteous conduct and strengthened by the appearance of foreign states bearing tribute. When the Meng ruling house lost the last of its territories in Menghe and sought refuge in Themiclesia, it was concerned to have lost its Mandate; thus, in Themiclesia, it vigorously sought re-affirmation in the form of tributary activity. However, since Themiclesia did not maintain a standing army that could dominate surrounding polities, the Meng court used bribes to solicit them, with promises of more gifts once tribute was paid. In the 500s, this economized on military expense and generated the prestige desired; however, as news of free gold and brocade spread throughout the continent, expenditures mounted, sometimes accounting for 50% or more of annual outlays.

The court obtained its gold by conscripting peasants close to gold mines irrespective of their normal activities; the secondment of agricultural labour injured the financial interests of some of the nobility, who demanded changes to this foreign policy. To provide the labour-intensive silk brocades (surviving examples show double- and triple-cloth work), female prisoners were condemned to a life in weaving. In 684, an edict directed judges to "increase prison sentences to contribute to the defrayment of public expenses." In the final decades of the Meng dynasty, agricultural taxes reached half of total product, and peasants were further obliged to provide free labour for public works and to remit fabric as well as local peculiarities. Access to forests and rivers and the resources found in them were further dutiable. Of the revenue collected, half was regularly spent on foreign gifts, a quarter to finance the expenses of the imperial court, and the other quarter to pay civil servants' salaries.

Establishment and stabilization

Despite the obvious problems the Meng dynasty's foreign policy posed for the fiscal soundness of the state, courtiers were unwilling to alter the policy. The Dynasty's political legacy, to which was attached its foreign policy, was too powerful for any faction to challenge openly; those who spoke out against it were often branded as disloyal and were removed from power along with their families. In 721, Siaw Gjong and his nephew Siaw Mjangs, both aristocrats, rose to prominence. By shrewd negotiations with visiting diplomats and strategic alliances with other aristocratic families, they were able to reduce short-term expenditures on the Dynasty's foreign policy while avoiding humiliations at the same time. The restructuring of the public census also permitted them to penalize aristocrats that opposed them, while favouring those supporting. In the three final decades of the Meng dynasty, the Siaw clan acquired more land and tenancies, some at royal largess for specific policy successes; additional income permitted them to assist in diplomacy, which reflected as their achievements in office, further strengthening their reputation. In 745, Siaw Mjang's son, Siaw Tek-djing (later Emperor Mjen), was appointed Marshal of the Corridors, giving him considerable influence over the appointment of junior aristocrats to office. In 751, the final Meng emperor was persuaded by a near-unanimous coalition of civil servants to abdicate in favour of the Prince of Dzii, as Siaw Mjangs was known by this point.

After the Prince of Dzii took the throne, the renewal of the Mandate of Heaven permitted some profound policy changes to be made, without as much concern for the historical legacy of the Meng state. Siaw Mjangs, aged 69 when crowned emperor, ruled for only five years before his death, but taxation levels were reduced from half of total yield to a quarter, easing social tensions that had plagued the Meng dynasty. Siaw Mjangs also ordered his successors to swear an oath not to build new palaces except with five years of increasing revenues. While the dynasty claimed succession from the Meng dynasty (which began in 192 BCE in Menghe), early emperors were content with receiving only an eighth as many tributary states; instead, the funds saved were used to forge more useful, local alliances, in some cases making them satellite states. Diplomats became more versed in taking advantage of difficulties facing other polities to compel an alliance with Themiclesia. This policy contrast with the Meng's desire simply to have as many tributary states as possible and is called, by some, a success of pragmatism over vanity. This policy continued during the reigns of Emperors Mjen and Drjing.

Diplomatic crisis and expansionism

Emperor Djing unexpectedly died in 797, aged 31, and his eldest son, Siaw Gwreps, succeeded him at the age of 8. As his mother, the Empress, had died before Emperor Djing, the court appointed his uncle, Siaw Mrjan, as his regent; however, because Mrjan did not wish to appear to overpower the Emperor, which would expose him to political enemies, he did not make an effective regent or arrange for an adequate education for the minor Emperor. Mrjan's policies largely are a continuation of those under Emperor Djing. Lacking an adult ruler to emulate, Emperor Mja began to show signs of tyranny as soon as he came of age, which only became more apparent as his court did not take him seriously, particularly due to his lack of education and respect for the establishment. During his predecessors' reigns, Themiclesia had acquired the allegiances of four Gramuchan princes, forming a considerable buffer between them and hostile princes further south. To the north, Themiclesia also restored relations with two of the four [Iroquois] nations.

With no major war for five decades, population rose under the Dzii to between 12 and 14 million (contra est. 7–8 million under the late Meng); rising population, with adequate land to settle, meant increased revenues, which in turn permitted the Dynasty to construct new palaces. To support this endeavour, the customary quarter of land tax diverted to the Privy Treasury was enlarged to a third, made possible by reductions in military expenditure. This in turn was made possible by ensuring the friendliness of bordering states. Changes in the ratio of soldiers in rotation and on furlough finally permitted the army to become, during peacetime, self-sufficient. Transport of grain to remote bastions was expensive, so the state ordered soldiers (and their families) on furlough to settle and cultivate areas closer to the border; this not only relieved the long supply chain but also opened new farmland and created irrigation works. The reduction in grain levy first benefited the landed aristocracy, which was then able to charge higher rents on their tenants. These structural changes engendered a great reluctance of the aristocracy to support any military action that deviated from the "established norm" of self-sufficiency, and Emepror Mja would come into conflict with them over this issue.

In 810, a change of alignment precipitated in Columbia, resulting in the execution and scalping of several Themiclesian diplomats, whose remains were send back across the Halu'an Sea. The court was embarrassed but divided as to the appropriate response. Emperor Mja heavily advocated for military action, which the civil service rejected outright. They contended that any military action would first demand massive shipbuilding, which would entail conscription of shipwrights; removed from commercial shipbuilding, commercial revenues would suffer. Furthermore, supplying an army across the Halu'an Sea is exactly the sort of endeavour that would require additional revenues be raised in an inefficient manner, damaging aristocrats' financial positions. Emperor Mja made personal visits to homes of leading ministers, to no avail. The War Secretary was particularly hostile to beginning hostilities abroad. Though Emperor Mja made appeals to his great-grand-uncle, who successfully led a campaign against Maverica, the War Secretary replied that the campaign was "only a publicity stunt" and irrelevant to the one he proposed.

The following year, rumours began to circulate that the deaths of the diplomats were a sign that Emperor Mja was a tyrant who could not command the affections of foreign princes. The Council of Correspondence counselled the Emperor to "reduce tax rates, temper personal ambitions, and reflect on past ills". Though the Emperor openly accepted the remonstration, he became convinced that diplomacy would not solve the continent's problems without force, even if not a full-scale invasion. When the Left Minister (foreign minister) was asking for volunteers to re-negotiate terms of friendship with the native societies, most aristocrats, aware of the fate of the previous delegation, were reluctant to accept. Rather than mobilization, he thought that he could support a smaller force that would retaliate in exactly the same way his diplomats were killed, which in his words, would "be economical but send a clear message to the continent". Since the Privy Treasury received 1/3 of the annual revenues of the state in addition to duties from accessing natural resources, the Emperor did have some financial resources with which to execute this operation. However, assembling such a force proved difficult.

Eventually, the Emperor exploited the military garrisons that protected known trade routes and also functioned as local markets. The Director of Ports and Passes, which charged a toll for passing through the trade route, controlled them; these tolls were part of his revenues. Seizing upon the threats that the several polities posed to the revenues from his trade routes, he attempted to persuade his ministers that military response was appropriate or at least within his prerogative. The Council did not object but pointed out that the Emperor should not have control over any soldiers, since "violence of warfare would impinge on the dignity of the throne". The Emperor asked to lead this expedition by himself, which the Council firmly refused. After months, the Appropriations Secretary relented, to the chagrin of his colleagues, to countersign the Emperor's edict. His rationale was that, without tending to, the situation in Columbia would lead to further changes in alignment that could grow to hurt commercial revenues; however, the Emperor would have to pay for this expedition by himself without using public funds.

Columbian invasion and Navy's beginnings

With the Appropriations Secretary's support, Emperor Mja sent the Director of Recruitment (募人令, mah-njing-mlings) and other palace officials to recruit about 1,000 men, which was about as much as he could support with provisions, armour, and weapons with a single year's budget. However, his recruitment campaign was ineffective and returned only about 100 men. Later, he ordered that all merchants who had a license (with a light fine) to trade with foreign lands had to supply one man to his cause; records suggest that most objected heavily, and only about 400 were recruited this way. In 804, he further decided that violent criminals would be a good source of soldiers; however, this too was censured by the Council of Correspondence, who said that criminals were needed in Themiclesia to mend city walls and perform other public works. Trading a regiment of his own engineers, he obtained the Council's approval to enlist 600 criminals volunteers, since "their crimes do not warrant the suffering of making war in a foreign land". Then, lacking ships to sail his army across, the Emperor wished to borrow 85 boats from the Army's war fleet in the Inland Lake; however, the Army pointed out that the river that led to the Sea was too shallow for any ship that could withstand the Halu'an's waves to pass.

As a result, his army became stranded on the coast until he could procure a fleet. Having ravaged their sons, the Emperor was afraid the merchants would balk at the thought of lending their seafaring ships to his soldiers, which had already become famous as "criminals on the loose". Though the regular Army recruited criminals as well, they underwent training that instilled some discipline, which the Emperor's troops did not. Ultimately, he made another concession with the shipwrights on the coast: the West Woods would be open to their logging use, if they would agree to furnish the Emperor's navy with warships of various descriptions. To do this, he ordered that all shipwrights be grouped into guilds, from which one or several would be dedicated to the navy's ships for a given amount of time per annum. Since the Emperor's forests were nearer at hand, and its larger trees less tapped, the shipwrights were surprisingly enthusiastic to provide ships for the Emperor. It is debated at this point whether the Emperor desired to create a permanent military deployment in Columbia, since if this was a one-time offensive, he could have simply purchase ships rather than create a permanent source for them.

In 806, Emperor Mja's army decisively defeated the [Iroquois] and arrested 46 chieftains to return to Themiclesia. Before they landed, however, the Foreign Secretary, through the network of traders, have already received word of their defeat. Emperor Mja was overjoyed by these results and demanded to have the chieftains publicly tortured and executed; the Council of Correspondence, however, objected, at the instigation of the Foreign Secretary. The Emperor argued that if these "rebels" were not executed, his army's casualties could not be justified; his ministers, uncharacteristically united, said that they would not have suffered casualties except for the Emperor's own ambitions, so it was his fault rather than the chieftains'. Rje Snjang, one of the princes of the Meng dynasty, witnessed the leading of the chieftains into Kien-k'ang and described it this way:

Foreign princes are clothed like slaves and drawn through the avenue like farm animal. They claim the Heavenly Mandate from the Great Meng of the past, yet they pretend this an achievement of the current Dynasty. I see only savagery in place of humanity and farce in place of government.

Humiliated, the Emperor threatened to abdicate; Privy Councillors counselled him against it successfully.

Historians differ in their interpretation of this event. While the chieftains were in prison, the Foreign Secretary offered to exchange their freedom if they would bear tribute to Kien-k'ang subsequently. He also frankly reminded them that the Emperor has a system of raising ships that could support another invasion immediately. To show sincerity, he showed them a back copy of a paper he wrote to the Emperor arguing for their release; the paper was, however, very sharply worded and highly likely to provoke the Emperor, making their release more unlikely instead. The paper itself is recorded in the Royal Archives, but the Emperor never penned a reply or ordered any of his secretaries to do so. Some historians believe this was the Foreign Secretary's attempt to appeal to both the Meng (i.e. traditionalists who opposed the Emperor's military actions vehemently) faction through an open, critical paper and to the chieftains for future commitments of a personal nature; while others argue that there is no such consideration and appeasement of the Meng restorationists was only meant to stabilize the polarized court. Two months later, the chieftains were released and sent home by merchants who knew the way to their respective domains.

Maverican incursion

Examination system

Decline and fall

Government

Society and culture

Science and technology

Population

List of monarchs

Posthumous Name Temple Name Personal Name Courtesy Name Reign Years
Emperor Kaw 高皇帝 Great Temple 太祖 Siaw Mjangs 蕭望 Trjungs-mjen-djeng-pja 仲文成父 752-757 5
Emperor Mjen 文皇帝 Siaw Tek-drjeng 蕭德程 Trjungs-snul-pja 仲綏父 757-784 27
Emperor Drjeng 成皇帝 Siaw Le 蕭飴 Stjuk-hmui-pja 叔恢父 784-797 13
Emperor Mja 武皇帝 High Temple 高宗 Siaw Gwreps 蕭櫰 Trjungs-lial-pja 仲宜父 797-831 34
Emperor 'an 安皇帝 Siaw Gweng-'an 蕭弘諳 ? 831-850 21
Emperor Kwang 光皇帝 Siaw Ngral 蕭岸 Prak-sun-pja 伯孫父 850-864 14
Emperor Tshjik 刺皇帝 Siaw Nga-len 蕭吾寅 Trjungs-rjang-pja 仲量父 864-887 23
Emperor Mjuk 穆皇帝 Siaw Gwreih 蕭匯 Prak-tun-gwal-pja 伯敦桓父 887-894 7
Emperor Hngjans 獻皇帝 Siaw Trjung-dek 蕭衷特 Krjei-mrjin-pja 季憫父 894-920 26
Emperor 'jit 懿皇帝 Perpetual Temple 世宗 Siaw 'wei 蕭隈 Trjungs-skljul-pja 仲筍父 920-965 45
Emperor Rjais 厲皇帝 Siaw Gwrans 蕭奐 Prak-sgljul-pja 伯詢父 965-967 2
Emperor Ngjuan 元皇帝 Middle Temple 仲宗 Siaw Ngja 蕭晤 Prak-hwal-pja 伯歡父 967-988 21
Emperor 'jen' 隱皇帝 Siaw Le-njing 蕭以仁 Trjungs-drjeng-pja 仲成父 988-992 4
Emperor Snjang 襄皇帝 Beautiful Temple 康宗 Siaw Le-ka' 蕭以古 Stjuk-rjeng-pja 叔齡父 992-1015 22
Emperor Mrjing 敏皇帝 Siaw Ljeh 蕭似 Stjuk-'an-pja 叔安父 1015-1044 29
Emperor K'u' 考皇帝 Siaw Kjung-njing 蕭恭人 Trjungs-'wen-pja 仲溫父 1044-1053 9
Emperor Daw 悼皇帝 Siaw Gars 蕭和 Prak-shljuns-pja 伯順父 1053-1058 5

See also