Collected Draft Memorials of Wang Xijue


This collection of memorials written by Wang Xijue (1534‒1610) was printed during the Wanli period (1573‒1620). Wang, posthumously called Wang Wensu, became, in 1562, a successful candidate at the metropolitan civil examination, the second at the palace examination, and assumed high offices. Among them were Grand Academician, Head of Household Administration of the Heir Apparent, and, in 1607, the most prestigious position as Grand Secretary in the Grand Secretariat, an organ superimposed on the six ministries of the government. After his death, a temple was erected in his honor. Wang was also a prolific writer, a bibliophile, and calligrapher. Memorials were personal memoranda presented by officials to the emperor, with proposals for action, and played the most important role in facilitating communication between the emperor and his officials. A number of Wang Xijue’s proposals were accepted by the emperor, most famously the one written in 1593, in which he reported that the reason grain was cheap was entirely due to the scarcity of silver. The government required silver for taxes, but disbursed little silver in its expenditures, which led to the decline in grain prices, lower returns for the peasants, and, as a result, less land was put into cultivation. The memorials in this edition were selected and compiled by his son Wang Heng, a Hanlin Academy member, and edited by his grandson Wang Shimin  (1592‒1680), a famed Chinese landscape artist. The memorials, dated between the 13th and 38th years of the Wanli reign (1585‒1610), deal with a wide range of subjects, some of them also concerning his personal affairs, such as requesting leave and retirement. The two prefaces were written by Shen Shixing (1535‒1614) and Fang Congze (died 1628), both of whom served as grand secretaries. Another preface, dated 1622, was added at the time of printing. It was written by He Qiaoyuan (1558-1632), a scholar of local histories. This work is of high historical value.

Last updated: January 10, 2018