Ancestral Injunctions of the Ming Dynasty


The first Ming emperor, Hongwu (reigned 1368‒98), promulgated a series of laws and regulations governing the rites and protocols of the court to regulate its relations with royal family members, which formed the main clauses of the publication entitled Zu xun lu (Collected ancestral injunctions), completed in 1373. It was followed by a series of revisions made in 1376, 1381, and in 1395, when the title changed to Huang Ming zu xun, or Huang Ming bao xun (Ancestral injunctions of the Ming dynasty). This edition was printed during the reign of Emperor Wanli (1573‒1620). The original title inscription provides the information that this edition was edited by Lü Tao (1503‒87), whose illustrious titles include Guang lu da fu (Grand Master of Splendid Happiness), Zhu guo shao fu (Pillar of State Junior Mentor), Li bu shang shu (Minister of the Ministry of Rites), and Wuyingdian da xue shi (Grand Academician of the Hall of Military Glory). The other editors were Chen Zhiben, Zhu Jin, and Lü Yinchang, from various ministries. The contents are arranged chronologically, listing the imperial injunctions of ten Ming emperors, beginning with Emperor Hongwu (six juan), followed by Yongle (five juan), Hongxi (two juan), Xuande (five juan), Zhengtong (three juan), Chenghua (three juan), Hongzhi (three juan), Zhengde (two juan), Jiajing (nine juan), and Longqing (two juan). At the beginning of each unit is a preface by the succeeding emperor. Emperor Wanli wrote the last preface in 1577, to the injunctions of a predecessor, Emperor Jiajing. The injunctions and instructions cover a wide range of topics, such as worshipping heaven, diligence in attending to the people’s welfare, respect for Confucianism, and seeking men of virtue. They also define the princes’ privileges and responsibilities, code of conduct, judicial liabilities, and punishments for abuses and transgressions. The injunctions were sometimes distributed and posted in public places. The work is of important historical value for the study of the Ming history, containing the Ming emperors’ detailed injunctions and deeds and also the chronology of important historical events.

Last updated: January 10, 2018