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Chapter 7

Chapter 7: False Imperial Edict, Increasing Punishments

Zhu Yuanzhang heard Zhu Shoucheng’s words and swallowed his saliva. He could hardly believe what the other party had said. Fifty thousand taels of silver to buy a courtyard—what a grand gesture. Even if it eventually sold for twenty thousand taels, two hundred courtyards would at least yield four thousand taels.

The more he thought about it, the more afraid he became. The entire Ming Dynasty’s annual tax revenue was just over a thousand taels of silver, the rest being grain. If they could really obtain so much silver at once, it would accomplish many things. The generals in the northern campaigns had asked him many times for financial support. The Yellow River floods also required money and grain support. The entire Ming Dynasty’s finances were already stretched thin. If they had these forty million taels of silver, it could solve major problems.

At this moment, he began to waver, unsure of how to make a decision. He still had one question in his mind: If these people could produce so much money, why not just send soldiers to arrest them, confiscate the money into the national treasury, which would not only enrich the treasury but also save face for himself? Why not?

He made up his mind and immediately asked Zhu Shoucheng, “Can these merchants really come up with so much money?”

Zhu Shoucheng quickly shook his head and hurriedly explained, “These merchants certainly don’t have that much money. Therefore, the county magistrate allows these merchants to take loans from bank to buy lands. They only need to pay a 20% down payment to secure the land, then pay the bank according to the agreed term and interest!”

Zhu Yuanzhang felt his brain was already malfunctioning. The new things in Fengyang had been constantly overwhelming his brain. Unfortunately, his brain couldn’t keep up. The pain felt like his brain was being stretched.

He turned to Empress Ma and asked directly, “Honey, did you understand?”

Empress Ma shook her head. Li Fan’s method was really incomprehensible. She had no idea what was going on in his mind. But one thing was certain: the emperor was no longer as angry as before. She then suggested, “Since Your Majesty doesn’t understand, why not let Li Fan explain it to you in person?”

Zhu Yuanzhang pondered for a moment. Now was not the time to meet Li Fan. It seemed these merchants were not that rich, at most only two or three thousand taels per person.

Confiscating and exterminating them would be unprofitable, akin to draining the pond to catch fish, or killing the goose that lays golden eggs. But continuing to allow such behavior was impossible, especially since they intended to meddle with the imperial city.

How was this different from brazenly entering the imperial palace and sleeping with the concubines? Once it spread, what would happen to the emperor’s face? Moreover, these merchants were joking and laughing, showing no respect. Did they think the imperial city was a place they could come and go as they pleased?

If we don’t deal with this, Fengyang County is really going to turn upside down!

Zhu Yuanzhang then asked Zhu Shoucheng:

“Why are these merchants daring to take out money to buy lands in the imperial city? Aren’t they worried about problems arising?”

Zhu Shoucheng, trembling with fear, just hoped to survive this situation. He answered everything the emperor asked without any concealment, hastily saying:

“The county magistrate posted a notice stating that this is no longer the imperial city. Your Majesty permitted the construction of buildings, and the money from the sales is to be used for the northern expedition’s military expenses!”

Haha! They even dare to issue false imperial edicts! Li Fan is becoming more and more audacious!

When he first became a top scholar, I thought he was just a young man with great ambitions, full of abilities, ready to serve the court. Who would have thought that in just three years his true nature would be revealed?

When did I ever issue an edict saying the imperial city was no longer needed? It seems that if I don’t deal with Li Fan now, who knows what other troubles will arise. This person constantly challenges my bottom line. It’s only because I’ve become more magnanimous since becoming emperor that I haven’t already had Li Fan executed.

He was about to head to the county office to confront Li Fan when he suddenly saw a familiar figure. Filled with surprise, he hurriedly called out:

“Tiande, what are you doing here?”

Xu Da had rushed to Fengyang to inquire about the northern expedition’s military funds. Seeing many merchants eager to participate today, he knew the funds were secured. Just as he was about to return to report to Li Fan with joy, he heard someone calling his name. Turning around to see who it was, he was shocked to find it was the emperor. He quickly walked over and bowed:

“Your servant pays respects to Your Majesty!”

Zhu Yuanzhang was curious why Xu Da was in Fengyang, and moreover, why he was coming from the imperial city. Could it be related to the auction of the imperial city? He urgently asked:

“Tiande, what brings you to Fengyang?”

Having followed Zhu Yuanzhang for many years, Xu Da could gauge the emperor’s mood from a few words. Seeing the emperor’s grim expression, he knew his mood was bad. He needed to choose his words carefully. Xu Da quickly replied:

“I came to Fengyang mainly to oversee the situation with the northern expedition’s military funds. Li Fan has already raised the funds for the court.”

Zhu Yuanzhang now understood Xu Da’s purpose in coming to Fengyang and pointed to the imperial city:

“Are the funds you mentioned from selling the imperial city?”

Xu Da instantly understood why the emperor was angry—it was because of the auction of the imperial city. He felt responsible and obliged to explain everything clearly to the emperor, otherwise, if the emperor were truly angered, it would be troublesome to make amends. He hurriedly said:

“Reporting to Your Majesty, you previously ordered the Ministry of War that as long as sufficient funds could be raised, the northern expedition could proceed! The imperial city in Fengyang was never actually built. Li Fan suggested to me that we sell this land to raise the military funds!”

Hearing Xu Da’s explanation, Zhu Yuanzhang found it hard to believe what he was hearing, especially that the entire imperial city was already abandoned. How could he accept this? However, since Xu Da was speaking, he surely wouldn’t deceive him. Zhu Yuanzhang urgently asked:

“What exactly is going on? I ordered the Ministry of Revenue to allocate money and grain every year for the construction of the imperial city. How could it be abandoned? Could someone have embezzled the funds?”


           



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Collecting Taxes as a Corrupt Official During the Hongwu Reign, Taxed up to 2050

Collecting Taxes as a Corrupt Official During the Hongwu Reign, Taxed up to 2050

洪武朝当贪官,收税收到2050
Status: Ongoing Author: Native Language: Chinese
During the Hongwu era of the Ming Dynasty, Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang received multiple reports that Li Fan, the county magistrate of Fengyang, was extorting excessive taxes and living off the state while the people suffered. This top scholar, personally appointed by the emperor, had his integrity questioned, prompting Zhu Yuanzhang to investigate personally. Li Fan was accused of blocking roads to collect tolls, arbitrarily imposing harsh taxes, paying lip service while disobeying imperial orders, inventing excuses, and extorting excessive taxes. Tax collection had become so excessive that it felt like it had continued into the year 2050. The people of the Ming Dynasty had become impoverished, raising concerns about their ability to live well. Zhu Yuanzhang: Today we will execute this treacherous official Li Fan. I doubt the Ming Dynasty can last two thousand years with such corruption. Empress Ma: Li Fan is a crucial minister of the state! Ensuring the continuity of the Ming Dynasty for two thousand years! Zhu Biao: Father, Li Fan only collects taxes from the wealthy, allowing the common people to live in peace and prosperity! Zhu Di: Father, Li Fan helped me defeat the Franks and said we should collect taxes for five thousand years first!

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