Roger V. Des Forges
From 1644 to 2003, many Chinese historians and novelists debated the existence and the identity of a provincial graduate from Qi county in Henan province who reportedly helped the commoner rebel Li Zicheng overthrow the Ming polity (1368−1644) only to be suspected of disloyalty and killed by the rebel leader, thus clearing the way for the Qing that ruled China from 1644 to 1911. In 2004 there was discovered a genealogical manuscript that goes far towards solving the Li Yan puzzle and allows us to see how rumors were incorporated into histories and literary works that appealed to a wide variety of people over the course of three and a half centuries. In this essay, I compare and contrast the emerging mythistorical figure of Li Yan with other scholar-rebel-advisors in Chinese and world history and suggest that he was most akin to the Lord Chancellor Thomas More in sixteenth-century England who spoke truth to power and was celebrated in twentieth-century history and literature.
The physical spaces of imperial education during the Qing were carefully constructed sites of political architecture that sought to shape the behavior of princes, emperors, and their teachers while projecting dynamic images of power. This article examines a range of buildings associated with the Qing pedagogical apparatus. It argues that the changing spaces of imperial education drew on both classical ideals and international iconographies of power to create and disseminate a fluid vision of rule. In the eighteenth century, the Qianlong emperor ordered the construction of the Biyong Hall at the center of the Imperial Academy in Beijing for exclusive use by the emperor during the Imperial Lecture, combining classical Han Chinese and Manchu expressions of authority. Throughout the nineteenth century, heirs to the throne and young emperors were trained in classrooms filled with calligraphy penned by their ancestors. Aphorisms drawing on the Confucian classics, as well as Daoist and Buddhist texts, urged the young rulers to strive for dynastic renewal. Finally, at the start of the twentieth century as the Qing worked to transition to a constitutional monarchy, imperial classrooms around Beijing were infused with Western architectural styles, incorporating new strands of authority for the reforming Qing dynasty.