National Palace Museum
Flash Animation
中文 English 日本語
  :::
I.
Introduction
II.
Imperial Mandates: Proclamations of the Emperor
III.
Memorials, Their Copies, and Archives
IV.
Official Documents and Historiographical Compilations
V.
Archival and Illustrated Materials on Taiwan Aborigines
Back
Imperial Mandates: Proclamations of the Emperor

The documents in this section can be anything from imperial decrees to honors bestowed on officials and individuals, edicts issued to other states, or dealings with major military or state affairs. These were popularly known as "sacred edicts" but also had many official names, depending on their function or agency of issue, such as imperial mandates, decrees, imperial orders, imperial edicts, lists of successful candidates, volumes, documents, tallies, and summons. The edicts and decrees chosen for this part of the exhibit are all important proclamations of the emperor.

Imperial Mandates

Every major event or ceremony that took place within the realm of the Ch'ing empire required an imperial decree to inform officials and the general public alike. Such events included ascension to the throne, an important imperial marriage, appointment of imperial regent, death in the imperial family, political reform, amendment to the law, or major disaster. All of these had to be "proclaimed to all under the Heavens".

Decrees were written in a certain way and followed a set format. The text would start with the phrase, "The Emperor, who governs with the Mandate of Heaven, declares that..." and would end with one meaning, "Proclaimed to all under the Heavens, let it be known" or "Proclaimed to all the states, let it be known" (depending on the intended audience). The actual content of the decree would come in between these opening and closing phrases (figs. 1, 2, 3).

Imperial Decree Proclaiming the Removal of Prince Regent Dorgon and his Mother from the Imperial Shrine Enlargement  Figure 1
Imperial Decree Proclaiming the Removal of Prince Regent Dorgon and his Mother from the Imperial Shrine
22nd day of the 2nd month of the 8th year of the Shun-chih reign (1651), Ch'ing Dynasty
78.2 x 185 cm (H x W)
Imperial Mandate of the Hsien-feng Emperor Enlargement  Figure 2
Imperial Mandate of the Hsien-feng Emperor
17th day of the 7th month of the 11th year of the Hsien-feng reign (1861), Ch'ing Dynasty
85.5 x 278 cm (H x W)
Edict Bearing the "Yü-shang" and "T'ung-tao T'ang" Imperial Seals Enlargement  Figure 3
Edict Bearing the "Yü-shang" and "T'ung-tao T'ang" Imperial Seals
13th day of the 11th month of the 11th year of the Hsien-feng reign (1861), Ch'ing Dynasty
22.3 x 20 cm (H x W)

Imperial Patents of Nobility

A "patent" was a means of making something known in writing. During the Ch'ing dynasty, "imperial patents of nobility" were issued by the emperor to all officials above the fifth rank as well as those in the family line who could inherit title. The patent would describe the recipients' achievements, the reason they were being given the title, and also the what the title entails. During the Ch'ing, these patents would be written on silk of either three or five colors, with text in both Manchurian and Chinese written variously with black, vermilion, or green ink, depending on the color of the background. The patents would often be in the handscroll format using beautifully paired writing, the beginning of which would state, "The Emperor, who rules with the Mandate of Heaven, proclaims that..." .

During the Ch'ing dynasty, the most common type of patent was for recipients of inheritable titles. These patents tended to be especially long in order to leave room for the names of heirs to the title to be added later (figs. 4)

Imperial Patent Bestowing Posthumous Title on Shen To Enlargement  Figure 4
Imperial Patent Bestowing Posthumous Title on Shen To
Dated from the 19th year of the Ch'ien-lung reign to the 14th year of the Kuang-hsü reign (1754-1888), Ch'ing Dynasty
39.8 x 568 cm (H x W)

Edicts, "Piao", "Chien", and Credentials

Throughout their rule, the Ch'ing emperors believed theirs was a "heavenly dynasty in a superior country", which is why in the early Ch'ing one finds no Chinese diplomatic documents with wording to suggest that other states were considered as equal to China. Some documents are "ch'ih-yü" edicts speaking in a condescending manner, while others are "piao" (figs. 5 and 6) and "chien" (fig. 7) that speak from a lower status. "Piao" and "chien" originally were documents for officials to convey birthday wishes and congratulatory remarks to the emperor and empress. "Piao" were offered to the emperor and his mother, the empress dowager, while "chien" were offered to the empress. The contents often dealt with congratulatory text extolling the merits and virtues of the recipient. "Piao" and "chien" were also presented to the Ch'ing emperor by neighboring or vassal states. After the joint attack by Anglo-French forces in the 19th century, the Ch'ing court was forced to establish offices for foreign affairs, from which time credentials treating other nations as equals gradually appeared (figs. 8 and 9).

Gold Foil "Piao" from the Kingdom of Siam EnlargementFigure 5
Gold Foil "Piao" from the Kingdom of Siam
Ch'ien-lung reign (1736-1795), Ch'ing Dynasty
Dragon-decorated seal and pouch woven in gold silk thread
Piao: 16.3 x 28.5 cm (H x W)
Tribute List from Taksin the Great of the Kingdom of Siam Enlargement Figure 6
Tribute List from Taksin the Great of the Kingdom of Siam
26th day of the 5th month of the 46th year of the Ch'ien-lung reign (1781), Ch'ing Dynasty
24.5  x 100cm (H x W, ten bundles)
Gold "Chien" from the Kingdom of Annam Mourning the Death of the Ch'ien-lung Emperor EnlargementFigure 7
Gold "Chien" from the Kingdom of Annam Mourning the Death of the Ch'ien-lung Emperor
10th day of the 5th day of the 4th year of the Chia-ch'ing reign (1799), Ch'ing Dynasty
Book: 25 x 14.5 cm (H x W, 9 pages)
Cover: 27.5 x 16.5 cm (H x W)
Diplomatic Credentials from the Ch'ing Court to Great Britain EnlargementFigure 8
Diplomatic Credentials from the Ch'ing Court to Great Britain
31st year of the Kuang-hsü reign (1905), Ch'ing Dynasty
Credentials: 34.3 x 269.5 cm (H x W)
Cover: 23 x 2.5 x34.5x 2.5 cm (H x W x D)
Credentials from Korea to the Ch'ing Court 放大圖Figure 9
Credentials from Korea to the Ch'ing Court
8th year of the Gwangmu reign (30th year of the Kuang-hsü in China, 1904, Ch'ing Dynasty)
Credentials: 41.4 x 53.3 cm (H x W)
Pouch: 22 x 16 cm (H x W)
國立故宮博物院著作權所有
Copyright © National Palace Museum. All Rights Reserved.