The Human Emperor - Chapter 99: Regional Commanders!
There was always a limit to everything before becoming excessive. Wang Chong was certain that with his previous performance, even if he did nothing, grandfather would surely value him highly and groom him just like his older brothers.
However, what happened afterward surpassed Wang Chong’s expectations.
“Gen-er, what has the royal court been discussing recently?”
Just as the old master and his subordinates were chatting, he suddenly turned to Big Uncle Wang Gen and asked.
‘In the lofty court they worry for the civilians, upon retirement they worry for the emperor’, even though these old officials have already handed over the mantle to the next generation, they were still concerned over the matters of the royal court.
Wang Gen’s lips moved for a while, and it seemed that he intended to say something. However, after hesitating for a moment, he changed his mind.
“There’s been nothing much recently, just that the royal court has been discussing changing the protectorates into circuits, and nominating a ten regional commanders to take charge of the circuits!”
Upon hearing the words, regional commanders, Wang Chong body immediately shuddered. As though a huge storm swept through his mind, he fell into turmoil.
Wang Chong didn’t expect to hear these two words here. This was the ‘source of calamity’ of the empire. Wang Chong had always known about this, but he didn’t know when it all began.
By the time Wang Chong learned of this matter, it was already too late, and the damage had already been done. Just like many others, Wang Chong only knew about the result, and not the process of it.
Wang Chong didn’t expect to hear the words, ‘regional commander’ in this conference room. Furthermore, judging by Big Uncle Wang Gen’s words, this matter was already under work.
“Regional commander, regional commander…”
In Wang Chong’s stormy mind, these words lingered.
The matter regarding the ‘Consort Taizhen’ had attracted the attention of the entire royal court, and Wang Chong was certain that the matter which caused big uncle to hesitate was probably that.
However, that commotion had averted everyone’s eyes from the the true danger. While everyone’s attention was pulled to the matter of ‘Consort Taizhen’, no one noticed the flower of calamity sprouting beneath everyone’s eyes.
Take Wang Chong for example, if big uncle didn’t bring it up here, he wouldn’t have noticed this seemingly insignificant matter which would eventually result in the downfall of the empire.
Wang Chong knew that the matter regarding ‘Consort Taizhen’ would have a deep impact on the empire, but it was insignificant in comparison to the matter of nominating ‘regional commanders’.
At the very least, the matter of Consort Taizhen only involved the fate of King Song and the Wang Clan, but the ‘matter of the regional commanders’ involved the fate of the entire empire!
Wang Chong’s gaze swept across the room, and regardless of whether it was big uncle, grandfather, Elder Ye, Duke of Hu, Elder Ma… Not a single person noticed the severity of the matter.
Even Big Uncle Wang Gen, an authoritative official who was well aware of the proceedings of the matter, treated this matter lightly. Even he failed to notice the severity of the matter and the possible risks!
“Eldest gongzi, what do you mean by regional commander?”
Frowning slightly, Elder Ye asked.
“This is the newest motion in the royal court. In the northeast, there are the Khitan, Kumo Xi, and Goguryeo. In the north, there are the Eastern and Western Turkic Khaganate. In the west, there’s Ü-Tsang. In the south, there are the Six Tribes of Erhai and Suyab. Then, further west from the Kona Sheher are the Abbasid Caliphate and Charax Spasinu. In the past few years, these countries have been growing rapidly and their national strength has been on a steady rise. As a result, they are gradually becoming more and more aggressive, and there has been unrest in those regions.”
Hearing Elder Ye’s question, Wang Gen spoke of the matter regarding the regional commanders without hiding anything.
“The empire is surrounded by enemies, and the pressure it faces increases by the day. Thus, the emperor considered retracting the protectorates to nominate regional commanders instead. Other than taking on the original responsibilities of the protectorate, each commander would be given two prefectures for the ease of utilizing the strength and resources in the region to fend off enemies!”
“Currently, the prime minister is trying his best to push this matter forward. Other than that, he has been advocating the breaking of conventions to promote all talents, including the Hu, to fend off foreign aggressors!”
(Hu refers to foreigners i.e. tribes who live on the land they have annexed and so)
Upon hearing Big Uncle Wang Gen’s words Wang Chong felt as though a magnitude 12 earthquake was triggered within him. The true danger was always hidden beneath a calm surface.
Big uncle has always been sensitive to political matters, but he, too, failed to notice the true motive behind the recommendations of the prime minister.
‘Breaking conventions to promote all talents, including the Hu, to fend off foreign foreign aggressors’
There was another historical saying for these thirteen words. ‘Obstructing Talents From Becoming Generals and Ministers Strategy’!
Fortune comes in pairs, and calamity doesn’t strike alone. The ‘regional commanders system’ coupled with the advocacy of the utilization of Hu formed the basis of the prime minister’s ‘Obstructing Talents From Becoming Border Generals and Ministers Strategy’, and these two policies would eventually go on to become two sharp swords stabbing into the core of the empire.
They were also the main trigger for the swift collapse of the empire!
“These policies don’t seem to be appropriate. Even in the previous dynasties, there isn’t a precedent of utilizing the Hu as border generals or allowing border generals to become governors.”
By the side, Elder Zhao said. He was in charge the logistics of the army previously, and he instinctively felt that something was wrong with the policies. However, he only felt that it was inappropriate to grant the Hu the power of governance, and other than that, he didn’t think that anything else was amiss.
“This is the Sage Emperor’s intentions.”
Big Uncle Wang Gen spoke helplessly.
“I’ve heard that the prime minister told His Majesty that academics were too cowardly to serve as generals, and they would be unable to be as decisive and courageous as true soldiers who have been through war. Thus, it would be better to utilize the impecunious Hu, who have experienced suffering from young. Not only are the Hu courageous and they are accustomed to fighting, they come from shallow backgrounds as well, making it impossible for them to form factions with one another. As long as His Majesty showers his benevolence upon them, they would surely repay the gratitude with their loyalty and life. After hearing those words, His Majesty felt that it was reasonable, so he has been considering the matter seriously.”
Everyone stared at one another. If this matter truly involved the will of the emperor, then it would become troublesome. After all, those who object to the policies would be objecting to the Sage Emperor’s will as well.
Furthermore, these policies weren’t necessarily bad.
“Replacing the protectorates with regional commanders, this matter doesn’t seem unfeasible. Furthermore, the Hu are adept to fighting. Great Tang has already been established for many centuries, and the Hu in our territories have already integrated into our society. During the era of Emperor Taizong, there were Qibi Heli and Ashina Shier, and later on, there were Zhishi Sili and Fumeng Lingcha. They are all loyal officials to the royal court. Just like the prime minister said, as long as the Hu are treated rightly, they would surely be willing to give up their lives for the royal court.”
Duke of Hu nodded.
As old officials, they knew that it would be best not to stand against the emperor on unimportant matters. This was the way a subordinate should act, as well as the way to ensure one’s survival in the political field.
Utilizing the strength of the Hu could pose some problems, but Duke of Hu thought that it wasn’t too much of a problem.
“Un, as long as these policies is carried out well, it’s actually feasible.”
“Un, the six great protectorates have been carrying out their responsibilities for nearly a century now, and it’s time for some change to be implemented!”
“Establishing the regional commanders would make it convenient to fend off enemies. This way, we could skip past the troublesome and time-delaying administrative matters, which might possibly cause one to miss an ideal timing. So, these policies aren’t without their benefits.”
The other elders also nodded in agreement.
The Great Tang has been established for several centuries, and the Hu population in its territories has been increasing.
During the era of Emperor Taizong, Qibi Heli killed much more Hu than the number of his tribesmen.
Furthermore, under the influence of the culture of the Central Plains, the Hu were gradually integrating with the Han, and some of them had even assumed Han names. For example, if one just heard the name Li Xiaode, no one could have imagined that he was the crown prince of Kucha who was often summoned by the emperor to the royal court to converse on numerous matters.
(Han refers to the indigenous population of the Great Tang)
Compared to their original tribes, the Hu in the territories of the Tang Dynasty had changed significantly.
In fact, many Hu volunteered to sign up for the border army, and when they fought with the Eastern and Western Turkic Khaganate, they didn’t hold back at all.
Thus, taking this in mind, the elders weren’t prejudiced against the idea.
Furthermore, factional wars had always been the greatest taboo in the royal court. In the previous generation, Zhou Chang was killed due to engaging in factions, and he even implicated the old King Song, who was jailed and tortured for three months.
Everyone knew of this.
His Majesty’s intentions of destroying factions and utilizing talents from the Hu weren’t unacceptable.
The more Wang Chong listened, the more awful his complexion became. Eventually, his face was completely dark.
It was one thing for others, but those in the conference hall were all old officials of the royal court, and they possessed incredible foresight on national affairs.
They could sense the treat from the Eastern and Western Turkic Khaganate in the north, but none of them realized the potential threat that the ‘regional commanders’ policy and the ‘utilizing the talents of the Hu’ policy posed to the empire.
Even grandfather’s old subordinates thought nothing of the matter, so how could the officials in the royal court notice anything?
Wang Chong finally knew how these policies was passed in the royal court back then.
“No! These policies must not be passed! ——”
Wang Chong couldn’t hold himself back any longer. If no one in this conference hall could realize the potential dangers of this policy, then no one else in the royal court and the world could.
By the time the policies were established, it would be too late to change anything!
‘The more one speaks, the more errors in one’s words’. Wang Chong intended to remain silent for the rest of the meeting, but if he didn’t speak up against this matter, he wouldn’t be able to forgive himself for the rest of his life.
Wang Chong’s interjection caused the entire conference hall to fall silent. All gazes immediately fell upon the figure sitting beside Elder Ye.
“Young Master Chong?!”
The elders in the room were astonished.
Wang Chong’s sudden outburst has shocked everyone within the room. Even the closeby ‘Elder Ye’ turned his head to look at Wang Chong in astonishment.
The impression that Wang Chong left them before wasn’t bad. Not only was he respectful to his elders, he had his own initiative on matters as well. His current reaction broke through all preconceptions they had of him.
The elders were discussing, and no one asked for him to speak up. Furthermore, they have already reached an agreement on the matter regarding the regional commanders. Wang Chong’s sudden outburst was a lapse in decorum, and it could be considered as an extremely disrespectful action.
“Wang Chong, what are you doing? It isn’t your place to speak during the discussion of the elders, sit down!”
Wang Gen’s face darkened.
It was difficult for Wang Chong to build up a good impression of himself with the elders. Wasn’t he ruining his own efforts through this?
Even though the old master didn’t say anything, his white eyebrows couldn’t help but furrow into a slight crease.
The son of his Third Son Wang Yan had given him a good impression, but to dare to talk back to his elders on such an occasion, he better have a good explanation for that!
“Hahaha, there’s no need to get so solemn. Young Master Chong, feel free to speak your mind!”
Eventually, it was the militaristic Elder Ye who chuckled and soothed the tense atmosphere.
Elder Ye favored Wang Chong greatly, and even though he was astounded by Wang Chong’s sudden outburst, he deeply believed that this child had a good reason for doing so.
An offspring of Duke Jiu couldn’t possibly be reckless and impertinent!
Regional Commanders, also known as jiedushi (google the latter), is a military system established in AD711 to counter external threats.
What it does is to establish into ‘military district’ in certain areas and have a regional commander to take charge of the ‘military district’. These regional commanders would also gain the power of governance over two provinces near the ‘military district’. They would have the rights to groom their own army, collect taxes, and etc. In other words, it’s a ‘warlord’ system
The recommendation that the prime minister made (aka meritocracy regardless of race) made it possible for all Hu to be promoted to become regional commanders.
Since regional commanders are guarding the area, they could also be termed as ‘border general’ as they guard the borders against aggressors.
On a chapter before, I spoke of Consort Taizhen and her brother.
Her brother, Yang Guozhong/Yang Zhao, had a conflict with a Regional Commander (Warlord) An Lushan, who is a Hu. Eventually, he led an uprising against Great Tang, and even though it was quenched eventually, it weakened Great Tang significantly.
These were the policies which allowed for An Lushan’s rise to power.
Also, the name of the prime minister (chancellor) is Li Linfu.
Emperor Taizong refers to Li Shimin, the second emperor of the Great Tang, as well as the one who aided the first emperor, his father, to the throne. (AD598-649)
Qibi Heli was the Khan of the Qibi Tribe. (-AD677)
Ashina Shier was a Turk, son of Chuluo Khan. (AD604-655)
These two were generals in the Emperor Taizong era.
Zhishi Sili was a Turk and Prince Consort of Great Tang. (-AD663)
He was a general in the era of Emperor Zhongzong
Fumeng Lingcha was from the Qiang tribe, an ethnic group. (-AD756)
He was a general in Emperor Xuanzong era (The current era where the book is in).