Chinese Political Culture in Translation

Here we are posting texts on political theory and practice that are not usually covered in anthologies. The policy essay is the first example of such a text. If you have suggestions or would like to contribute your own translation, get in touch with us at bijiproject [at] gmail [dot] com

1) Policy Question and Essay (1235)

In policy essays examination candidates were required to respond to a long list of questions. The Southern Song government never promulgated a list of sources on which policy questions were to be based. Policy questions drew from the classics, the dynastic histories, contemporary official documents, the philosophers, the collected writings of major Tang and Song intellectuals, and unidentified sources of opinion.

Essay questions may be subdivided into two main kinds, those on the classics and the histories (jingshi 經史) and those on contemporary affairs (shiwu 時 務). Unlike topics for the essays on the meaning of the classics and expositions, policy questions of the former kind juxtaposed passages from one or several sources and asked students to explain obscure and contradictory statements. Questions on governmental affairs also listed different approaches and invited candidates to evaluate their pros and cons. Such exercises in argumentation tested the prospective officials’ ability to formulate and defend plans in policy debates. The policy essay translated below is Wang Mai’s response to a policy question from a special examination for entry into the Imperial Academies held in 1235.


Response to a Policy Question from a Special Examination for Entry into the Imperial Academies held in 1235


Wang Mai

Original text has been collated against 全宋文

Original text has been collated against Quan Songwen



問:楮幣至是術窮矣,其將何以救之歟?非楮之不便民用也,其法貴少而今多焉故也。 物視輕重為相權,使黃金滿天下多於土,而楮之難得甚於金,則金土易價矣。然則,天下非物之貴也。楮之多也,國之貧也。
Concerning paper currency, all solutions seem to have been tried now. How can it be rescued? The reason for the troubles is not that the use of currency inconveniences people. The reason derives from the fact that it should in principle be used in small quantities, while the current amount in circulation is large. The relative value of goods depends on their availability. If gold would be available everywhere, if it would be more plentiful than soil, and if the bark used to manufacture paper currency would be more difficult to get than gold, then the value of gold and soil relative to each other would be the opposite of what it is now. So, the issue is not that goods are expensive now in the empire, the problem is that there is too much currency and that the state is poor.
Those who are concerned with society say that they will reflect deeply on the poverty of the state and tackle the problem at its source. However, this is not what they have been doing. The unceasing discussions of higher and lower-level officials have all been focused on the policy to raise the value of paper money. How cheap!
夫國貧則取諸民,民竭無可取,則惟痛自節耳。今議者乃猥謂內有某事某事例當舉,外有某事某事勢當備。 加費且不贍,而節何從施,若是則束手坐待顛沛乎?
Now, when the state is poor, it takes from the people. When the people’s resources are exhausted, the only thing left to do for the government is to economize drastically. Some participants in the debate now argue superficially that since internally there is this and that problem, we need to uphold the statutes, and that we have to strengthen our position because of this and that external problem. They add fees, but it does not suffice, and they do not know how to cut expenditure. Then, helplessly, they sit and wait for disaster to strike!
《王制》言國無三年蓄者,謂非其國。孟子謂三征盡用,則父子離。 無三年蓄者,所餘少也;三征盡用者,無復餘也。今國家罄一歲所入,曾不支旬月,而又曰不輟造十數萬楮幣,乃僅得濟,是不止無餘矣,其可為岌岌寒心,蓋又甚於《王制》、孟子所云矣。
“The Regulations of the King” says, “If the state has no reserves for three years, this is turning one’s back on the state.” The original text says nine years instead of three. Liji, “Wang zhi,” in Shisan jing (Shanghai: Shangwu yinshuguan, 1914), 44. Mencius says, “If all three taxes are levied in full, families (fathers and sons) will be separated.” Cf. Legge, The Chinese Classics, vol. 2, 491. At present, the yearly income of the state does not cover the expenses of a full month. Yet, the government keeps printing more than one hundred thousand strings’ worth of paper money. This way, it can barely make ends meet. This is not just a case of having no reserves! The danger and desolation that this situation has brought about is much graver than what was described in “The Regulations of the King” and Mencius.
而捂紳先生方且雍雍然峨峨然交誦致知格物之微言,深贊佳兵闥土之偉畫壹。此愚心所竊怪而絕不喻者也。 仲尼言焉政在兵食信,至不得已而去,則兵與食猶在所舍,而用顧不可節乎?
However, the scholar-officials are chanting the subtle words from The Great Learning about “extending knowledge” and “investigating things” haughtily and in harmony, and they speak very highly of the great plans to recover the land. This, my mind cannot grasp. Confucius said that government depended on the military, food, and trust. He argued that, of these three things, food and the military could be left out if need be. Why then can’t we cut our expenses?
紹興、隆興同世未知用楮也,其時國計初不見匱缺,民生亦無所苦。自楮幣行於今未七十年,而調度狼狽,禁令頻數,遂至此極。且今天下非小於紹興、隆之天下也。 賦取則固倍之矣,而若是焉者,獨可不討求其故哉!
During the Shaoxing (1131-1162) and Longxing (1163-1164) periods, society did not yet know how to make use of paper money. At the time, there was no deficit in the state budget and there was no hardship among the people. It has been less than seventy years since paper money began to circulate, but, because tax levies have been so extortionate, several prohibitions have already been issued. Now things have come to this extreme. Even though the empire is the same size as during the Shaoxing and Longxing periods, tax levies are double the amount levied then. Under these conditions, how can we afford not to delve into the causes for this!
按支費必有目,其創而增於前,孰最重?蠹壞必有源,其積而至於今,孰最深?廣廢因何論而興,積壞至何事而見? 今修復用何策是,欲撙約自何道始?子大夫負經濟之學有聞矣,幸悉心科別其條,會而析諸理以對,覬於世有補焉。其勿習為書生迂談,而使區區者慨然重歎也。
Expenses have to be itemized. Among the expenses that have increased in comparison with the past, which are the most substantial? Exploitation and corruption have their causes. What kinds of malpractice have become most ingrained nowadays? What theories have given rise to extravagant waste? Which affairs have brought to light widespread malpractice? What policies can be used to remedy the current situation? If we want to economize now, how should we start? It is well-known, gentlemen, that you shoulder the study of statecraft. I hope that, in your answer, you will do your best to discuss the different points raised and to analyze them in depth. Make sure that your answer will be of benefit to your society. Do not engage in the non-sensical talk of bookish scholars that makes me sigh and grieve.



愚不佞,束髮讀書,有志斯世。嘉定對策,空臆盡言,先皇不棄狂愚,賜以科第。試吏中都,適忤榷貴,廢放久之。 有憂治世危明主之言,而無路以自達;有上不負天子下不負所學之志,而無位以自行者也。詎謂冰山一傾,復見天曰,猥承明詔,待同玉堂之廬。
I, not gifted with a glib tongue, have been studying since I bound my hair, and have ambitions for this world. In my policy essay from 1217, I set out fully my rash thoughts. The former emperor did not reject me because of my foolishness, but passed me. I was given an assignment in the capital that exceeded the rank of my titular office. I came into conflict with the powerful and was sent off for a long time. I was ready to discuss my concerns about the current government and my worries about the emperor, but there was no channel for me to express my thoughts. I was resolved not to turn my back on the emperor and not to forget what I had learned, but I was not in a position to act. Unexpectedly, the situation turned around. I received an imperial order to sit for an examination at the Hanlin Academy.
妄意執事大人枚舉當世之務,俾之科別其條,罄盡底蘊,而明問所及,止於楮幣一事。豈以當今大務,顧無切此者歟? 抑以公卿大夫集議於廷,互有同異,而必欲折衷於一得之愚也哉?愚不斂,敢不以所聞對?
In my reckless opinion, the honorable official has set out important contemporary issues with the hope that we discuss them separately and get at the bottom of the issues. However, the question does not go beyond the single issue of paper currency. How could it be that there are no matters more crucial than this one among the big issues of our time! Or, is the reason for this that there are differences of opinion among the high officials who have gathered at court in a debate on this issue and you would like to find a well-nigh impossible compromise solution that takes care of all the problems at once? I feel free to respond on the basis of something other than what I have heard.
蓋聞有富國之形,有壽國之脈。形者何?消息盈虛之係於國計者是也。脈者何?理亂安危之關於國體者是也。 謀國而曰理財,理財而必濟之以楮,此後世權宜之策,而志士仁人於權宜之中,又不得不深為根本慮也。
I have learned that a rich state has a distinct shape and that an enduring state has a pulse. What is the shape? It is defined by the increases and decreases in the state budget. What is the pulse? It indicates the health of the body of the state. When we talk about state planning, we think about managing wealth. When we talk about managing wealth, we have to deal with paper currency. This represents the expedient policy making of later generations. However, scholars with a purpose and benevolent men have to give careful consideration to the fundamentals amidst expedient policy making.
財在天地間即有此數,費用必有目,而其費有重而有輕;蠹財必有源,而其蠹有深而有淺。費輕而蠹淺者,有司會計之所及,費重而蠹深者有司稽察之所不行。 合計所及者其常也,稽察所不行者其變也。常者可以消息盈虛言,變則關於理亂安危之大者矣。
Wealth exists in our universe. There are several expenses, thus, there must be an itemized list. We also have to distinguish between major and minor expenses. The illegal appropriation of wealth must have an origin. We also have to distinguish between the serious misappropriation of wealth and the lesser variants. If the expenses are small and the misappropriations insignificant, the government’s accounting will add up; if the expenses are large and the misappropriations serious, the check-up of the officials will run into problems. That the accounting adds up is the normal situation. If the check-up does not work out, we are faced with an irregular situation. We can discuss the normal situation in terms of increase and decrease; irregular conditions concern the major issue of order and disorder.
執事憫今曰楮幣之窮,謂既無《王制》三年之蓄,且又甚於孟子所謂三者並用之征,以至咨嗟欺息而言之。 其於國計本末源流之所在,得於端居深念間也熟矣。且《王制》論三十年之通制國用,非成周盛時乎?孟子論布粟力役三征之目,非戰國末造乎? 古者不汲汲於生財而國以裕,後世舉三征而並用之而國以貧,是必有故也。國猶人之一身也,傷生之事不一,而好色者其傷多;耗財之事不一,而好兵者其耗大。 兵也者,其戕民之斤斧而毒國之烏堇也。故成周盛時,隸於司徒者聚,征於司馬者寡,兵未嘗多籍也;伐荊以魯,追貊以韓,兵未嘗遠調也;定徐方則遄歸,征太原則遽止,兵未嘗窮黷也。 嘗以地理考之,中國之地最狹,吳越楚蜀皆蠻也,秦為戎而淮南為舒也,河北真定中山之境屬於鮮虞肥鼓之國,揚拒泉皋陸渾伊雒之戎薄於洛陽。 王城之區於斯時也,不廣地,不加兵,君有餘財而民無橫征,民有餘力而兵無重困。 上制用量入以為出。下供役先公而後私,是以耕必有食,食必有蓄。 至一年三年之積,至於三十年之久,八政修而食貨足,九府立而泉布通,天不能炎,地不能匱者,蓋愛惜民命,禁戢兵端,所以培植其基本者厚也。 戰國則不然,為君闢土曰戰必克,毅人盈野,狡焉而爭。孟子目之以民賊,律之以上刑者,紛紛也。三征之說用其二,則民有殍,用其三則父子離。 時君非不知此,而苦於兵戈之相尋,則亦忍於賦斂無藝。梁惠王以土地而糜爛百姓,則雎移河內,何救於饑色餓莩之民? 齊宣王求快其朝秦、楚之欲,不計其有後炎,則雖欲制民之產,何補於仰事俯育之計?故疆七百里之失,不足惜也,而薄稅斂, 勸耕耨,則不可少緩其事;有司三十三人之斃,不足憤也,而府庫充於上,老弱病於下,則不得不焉之寒心。故自其喜功利者觀之,軻之言若甚悶悶,而按脈視證、藥時君之膏肓者,雖倉、扁不能易也。
The official in charge of the examination was upset about the scarcity of paper money today. He observed that there are no reserves for three years as in “The Regulations of the King,” and that the situation is worse than the scenario, described in Mencius, in which three kinds of taxes are levied at the same time. He was moved to sighs and lamentations in his report. It is clear that he obtained his understanding of the history of the state budget in concentrated and deep reflection. However, in its discussion of the general regulations for state expenses in a period of thirty years, isn’t “The Regulations of the King” talking about the golden age of the Western Zhou? In his discussion of the three levies of cotton, millet and labor, isn’t Mencius talking about extreme conditions during the period of the Warring States? In Antiquity, people were not anxious to produce wealth, the state was affluent. Later on, three types of taxes were levied at the same time; yet, the state was poor. There must be reasons for this. A state is like a person’s body; there are various things that damage the body. Being lascivious is especially damaging. There are various things that drain the treasury, but militarist policies are especially wasteful. Waging war is like an axe that could cause harm to a person and poisonous weeds that could ruin a state. [An explanation comparing the differing conditions during the Western Zhou and the Warring States periods follows.] Therefore, even though 700 li of territory were lost, the levy on taxes and encouragement of production cannot wait. Even if there are 33 official casualties, it is not a thing to be angry about. However, if the granaries of the government are rich, but at the same time the old and weak are suffering, then it will definitely be something to be gravely disappointed about. So, from the perspective of those who are fond of utilitarian policies, Mencius’ words may seem very uninspired. However, those taking the pulse, diagnosing the symptoms, and attempting to remedy the serious condition of their rulers, even the likes of the famous doctors of Antiquity, Duke Cang and Bian Que, have been unable to change things.
執事謂今罄一歲入,僅足以支旬月,且曰不輟造十數萬楮。亦嘗考論其故乎?夫楮幣之創,倣於成都之錢引。 方承平時,錢引止於一百五十萬緡,為數蓋甚寡也。嘗觀西事之興,泛印之敷,視承平已二十倍。其後屯戍未休,饋食不繼,復增至六千餘萬緡。 大觀末愈出愈多,一楮僅百金直,則兵端興而用度廣,用度廣而楮幣輕,理勢之所必至也。
The official in charge of the examination wrote that, currently, our annual income is insufficient for one full month’s expenses and that, in spite of this, we keep printing more than one hundred thousand strings’ worth of paper money. In the past I have also looked into the reasons for this. The manufacture of paper money began with the bills of exchange in Chengdu. During the peace, the bills did not amount to more than 150,000 strings. That was a very small amount. After the troubles on the western borders started, bills were printed in large amounts. Their value was already twenty times as much as during the peace. Afterwards, military exercises were held without stop and provisions were always short. The amount in circulation increased to more than 60,000,000 strings. At the end of the Daguan (1107-1110) reign, more and more money was printed. One bill was only worth one hundred gold coins. So, the use of paper money expanded as a result of our military problems. The decreasing value of paper money was an inevitable consequence of its wider use.
The beginning of Gaozong’s reign, after the move to the south, was chaotic. Zhang Cheng (?-1143) proposed to establish a service for paper bills in the provisional capital, but his proposal did not take effect. In the middle period of Gaozong’s reign, it was circulated and again taken out of circulation. Towards the end of his reign, a bureau charged with the printing of bills was established for the first time. Why did Gaozong attach such great importance to the printing of paper money?
逮我孝宗之隆興,而復行楮幣於天下;行之未幾,乃用陳良佑之請,出內帑之藏以收回其數; 收之未幾,又以曾懷之說復從而出之,然其為數二千萬而止耳。孝宗又胡為而靳於楮之出也?
By the Longxing (1163-1164) period, the first reign period of Emperor Xiaozong, paper bills were once more circulating throughout the empire. Shortly afterwards, a proposal by Chen Liangyou was adopted to the effect that money from the imperial treasury was used to retrieve paper bills. Not long after the order to retrieve the bills, Zeng Huai’s (1100-1172) arguments were heard and bills were put out once more. The amount was, however, limited to 200,000 strings. Why was Xiaozong so economical in the circulation of paper money?
沿流至於今曰,數曰以夥,用曰以輕,變之欲其通而行者愈滯,令之欲其信而聽者終疑。 於是物價翔騰,閭閭憔悴,膏液枯涸,稀貸無從,而農病矣。關禁苛急,取息無贏,大邑通都,白晝閉肆,而商病矣。四方游士充賦上京,思得白鏹,如拾至寶,士病於道途矣。 百工技巧,轉移執事,困於賤直,莫贍其生,工病於庸役矣。舉天下四民俱受病。 向也設楮以便民,今反以病民;向也倚楮以佐國,今反以蠹國;向也榷出於上,今反受制於下;向也以實權虛,今恃虛併失其實。 謀國者亦知楮之所以大壞極弊之由乎?方開禧之開邊以誤國也,增造之敷至於一億四千萬,比之前時凡數倍矣。紹定之養姦以耗國,增而至於二億九千萬,方之開禧抑又倍焉。
Coming down to the present, the amounts are increasing every day, but the value is decreasing correspondingly. Measures intended to promote its circulation have the opposite effect. Orders intended to inspire confidence, end up raising suspicion. Consequently, prices are soaring, families are hit, finances are drained and loans are difficult to obtain. Thus farmers will be suffering. If the rates of custom duties are high, shops in large cities will have to close even during daytime, thus merchants will be suffering. If the wandering scholars all flock to the capital to seek profit as if it is what they cherish most, then scholars on their journeys will be suffering. If craftspeople have to move elsewhere to work or be frustrated by low salaries, they will be suffering at work. If the rates of custom duties are high, stores in large cities will have to close even during daytime, thus merchants will be suffering... Farmers, merchants, scholars and craftspeople all over the empire are suffering the damaging effects. Paper money was designed to convenience the people; now, it is causing them distress. Paper money was relied upon to support the state; now, it is leading to its decline. Authority was exercised by those on top; now, it is controlled below. Because real authority has been emptied out, we are now relying on a void and have lost real authority. Those who make plans for the state know the reasons for the fall of paper currency. The incursion into enemy territory during the Kaixi (1205-1207) reign was high treason. The amount printed in addition reached 140,000,000 strings. This was several times the amount before. More bills were issued during the Shaoding (1228-1233) reign when we depleted state resources by providing support to traitors. The amount then reached 290,000,000. This was double the amount of the Kaixi reign!
謀臣議士,不就其費重而蠹深者治之,今曰更一令,明曰易一法,正使孔、桑復出,績用茫然。 何者?不揣其本而齊其末也。且古今天下之財,蠹耗於兵,不獨今曰焉然,其所由來尚矣。請以漢、唐明之。
Officials who are concerned with the matter and scholars who discuss it have not dealt with the problems of high expenditure and far-reaching corruption. They change one order today, and modify another law tomorrow. It is just as if the Han officials Kong Jin and Sang Hongyang (152 BC-80BC) Kong and Sang were famous for their interest in managing wealth and promoting active government intervention in the economy. have reappeared on the scene. How come that the effects of their efforts are so elusive? It is because they do not go back to the root of the problems, but only regulate the side-effects. Throughout history, the wealth of the empire has been squandered on the military; this is not only the case today. The origins go far back. I would like to clarify this by using the example of the Han and Tang Dynasties...
漢初以家人子起田中為兵,猶不失寓兵於農之舊;街士材官之更戍,往來道問,衣裝自給,猶未取費於縣官。 其後財匱於兵,武帝實始之。胡越勁騎屯於諸宮列殿,謂之八校,京師自是有養兵之漸。荊、楚勇士習射於酒泉、張掖,謂之五校,邊郡自是有養兵之所。 自其興為邑之師,窘於賚送也,則入錢補官有令矣。自其發巴蜀之卒,以通西南夷也,則算商車有額矣。自其取河南之地以至朔方郡也,則武功之置爵有差矣。 自封狼、居胥賞賜亡度,於是有五銖之鑄。自渾邪來降,供億不貲,於是有白金之造,鹿皮之幣與告緡而藍行,鹽鐵之官與平準而並置。 厥後揚雄議捐府庫之財以填廬山之壑,忍百萬之師以摧饑虎之喙者,蓋三十年從事干戈,故雖承貫朽粟腐之餘,山林亦不足以供野燒也。 唐初府兵番上入衛,衣糧自備,而官未有費也。至玄宗變為彍騎,而長從宿衛官始資給之,而費昉於此矣。初,諸道出兵給於度支,費猶未廣也;至德宗優恤士卒,一夫出戍,盡廩其家,費於是乎廣矣。 自安史變起,無以給士,而始度僧尼。自雨京未平,民物彫耗,而始籍富商右族。 自吐蕃內迫,淮甸分屯,而始行率戶之斂。自大盜翠起,財用益殫,而始行定稅之令。 自朱滔、王武俊合從以叛,用度不給,而借商之禁嚴矣。自吳元濟、王承宗連衡拒命,軍費一竭,而鹽鐵之數增矣。 南北置供軍之院,餽餉不繼,而挾銅有議矣。禁卒有脫巾之變,彷徨無策,而相臣餐錢亦減矣。盟之榷既繁,而商人以絹代鹽,疋加百斤,以備將士之衣。 酒之利既涸,而淮南、河北變為榷麯,以贍軍卒之食。元和中李吉甫造為國計簿,以三分勞筋苦骨之人,養七分坐待衣食之輩。 蓋三百年間恃兵立國,故空國之力以奉之,已張之弓不可得而弛也。我國家得天下以仁,取民以羲,固國以保障而不倚辦於繭絲,藏富於田野而不求贏於府庫,任人不以聚斂之吏,任法不以深刻之文。 獨有養兵之費,自初立國,謂為百年之利,而不計其後之窮,蓋雖聖哲不能保其往也。我高宗之定鼎商邱也,未嘗不懷感於艅艎之舟,而動心於姑蔑之旗也。 披荊以立府寺,綿蕞以起朝儀,姑含垢忍恥以俟天之定也。愛南北之生靈,養一隅之事力,某曰簡劉光世軍,某曰汰張俊軍。 諸將之濫上戰功者精覈之,曰吾為財力耗竭慮也;諸軍之合亂三衙節制者釐正之,曰吾為軍政復舊設也。至於一曰語大臣曰:「漢文不言兵而天下富庶。若邊事稍息,則國用自饒。」 高宗之謹兵惜費如此,宜乎重於造楮,而且欲官中常有百萬緡留之以為秤提之本也。及孝宗之嗣大寶也,又未嘗不念橋山弓劍之藏,而悵長安室宅之遠也。 市駿骨以來人才,揖怒蛙以厲士氣,亦惟斂威韜銳,以需機會之至也。 神運規恢之謨,心念國體之重,勞軍則曰毋淫役以病民,毋誅求以剝下也;誓師則曰軍屯有暴露之嘆,人民有轉輸之苦也。 蹲甲之射,士精其能;超距之技,人百其勇。一成將帥,則條畫兵政者十一士;一核冗濫,則繳還告身者二萬千百六餘。 至輔臣奏對,以府庫所藏甚富,江上之積亦多,上諭以毫鬟不敢妄用,所以緩急有備。 孝宗之謹兵惜費如此,宜乎靳於出楮,因而餉臣之有請,且遲回謹重於二十萬楮之予也。自權姦柄國,前韓後史,垂四十年,氛祲蔽曰。 韓開兵釁,實生厲階,凶于而家,自詒伊慼,不必深論。前日之相,舞小數以弄大權,專欲以犯眾怒,莫大於天而不之畏也,莫尊於君而不之畏也。 不畏士夫之議論,不畏小民之怨詈,而其心之所深畏者,外寇之陸梁、悍卒之偃蹇耳。 狼子野心,姦計叵測,蜂屯蟻聚,扶攜來蹄,待以赤心,撫以恩信,輦安邊之財以給之,惟恐不贍,航東南之粟以餉之,惟恐失期。 甚者高爵峻秩,寵華其身,金珠玉帛,悅媚其妻。棄如泥沙,不甚愛惜。聞其帖然恭順,則喜見顏色;或拒之而不吾與,則恐恐然食不下嚥也。 故當金人垂亡之時,竟為苟且偷安之歲月。江淮巨鎮,委之肺腑之親;襄漢上流,畀之膏粱之子。殿巖重寄,庸夫尸之;總餉要權,濁吏領之。 紀律不設,疲弱不除,主帥挾威,公肆掊克,悉力市寵,與賄生死。朝廷竭天下之財力以養兵,祗為主帥刻剝之資,權門厚積之助,至於今曰,則軍民俱貧,公私交困,黽勉支撐而不可得也。
[A discussion of the impact of military expenses on the budget during the Han and Tang Dynasties follows. The author contrasts the burden imposed on the people by the Han and Tang governments to the Song founders’ commitment to benevolent government. He illustrates in great detail the efforts of the first two Southern Song emperors, Gaozong and Xiaozong, to cut back on military expenses. He then attributes the current problems to the aggressive and wasteful government of Han Tuozhou (1152-1207) and Shi Miyuan (1164-1233), the two most powerful officials in the forty years preceding the time of writing.] (During the campaign to regain the north under Shi Miyuan) the empire’s resources were exhausted to provide for the army. It was only used to feed the exploitation of the common soldiers by the generals and to supply the amassed wealth of powerful families. By now, the soldiers and the common people are both driven to poverty, the public and the private sector are equally in difficulty. There has been no concentrated effort to provide support for them.
忽今日之數,較之嘉定己卯間,增至二十八萬八千有奇。是歲中之費,兵居其六五。誠如是,則兵之可恃以為用者當何如? 而今之兵則惰矣。在內郡者末作技藝安坐而食,官府利其私役,而被堅孰銳之事不閑也。在外郡者多方運販,為商無征,主帥利其回易,而投石超距之勇不勵也。 今之兵則驕矣。淮右之兵入弭閩寇,淹留歲月,僅奏膚公,已如驕兒悍婦之不可制,所至屯駐,人甚苦之。向使各州簡閱之皆精,何至借遠兵以為重? 廣中之兵頻年出戍,枕戈原野,諭賞稍薄,懷怨望心,跋扈飛揚,近事可慮。向使主帥制馭之有素,何至召釁而生姦?而最不可者,喜功生事之人,朗遠拓地之圖未已也。 言其銳於進取,輕而寡謀,取鍪弧以先登,馳的虛以深入,謂中原即日可定,謂浯石即日可鐫,露布星馳,凱歌曰至,笑儒生為不武,輕周行為無人。 朝廷方偉其功,於是酬以厚賞,捐巨貲、出告命以優犒之,為費不知其幾百萬也。所得之地,非人不守,所守之人,非粟不飽。 嚷野彌望,無糧可因,如得石田,將安所用?朝廷不忍棄其功,於是又不計糗糧以餉給之,率費百楮而致一石,為費又不知其幾千萬也。 夫何能發而不能收,能取而不能守?窮師逐遠,不備不虞,突如其來,望風先遁,甲鋌鍪鎧之精堅,弧弓鏃矢之犀利,輜重貯儲之浩穰,凡數千年之所蓄積,一舉而擲之,為費又不知其幾萬萬也。 尋聞之朝,乃諱其實,失萬言千,失千言百。方幸而勝,則其身受不貲之賞;不幸而敗,則朝廷為之任方來之憂。勝而苦功以邀其上,則予之以數千萬固不敢靳;敗而告急以赴愬其上,則予之以數千萬亦不敢愛。 為國者亦何便於此哉?論至於此,則執事所謂支費增於前者孰最重,愚則曰兵之費為重。 蠹弊積於今日者孰最深,愚則曰兵之蠹最深。廣費興於開禧之初,積壞見於寶紹之後,
The total value of the paper money in circulation nowadays has, in comparison to 1219, increased to approximately 2,880,000,000 strings. Military expenses take up 50 to 60% of the total annual expenditure. Given that this is truly so, the army should be reliable and effective. However, the army is lax... The army is out of control... In their reports to the court, they (the military leaders sent to reclaim the north) distort the facts. Only one tenth of the real losses are reported. When they are fortunate enough to gain a victory, they receive enormous rewards. When they have the bad luck to lose a battle, the court bears the responsibility for the disastrous aftermath in their place. When they win, they exaggerate their achievements to take credit for the victory. Their superiors award them large amounts of money; they absolutely don’t dare to make cuts. When they are losing, they ask for emergency aid so that they can go to the court to report. Their superiors then give them large sums of money; they still don’t dare to economize. What is the benefit of this to those who are concerned with state affairs! The examiner asked, “Among the expenses that have increased in comparison with the past, which are the most substantial?” According to my argument, my answer to this question is that military expenses are the most substantial. To the question, “What kinds of malpractice have become most ingrained nowadays,” I respond, “The corruption in the army is the most serious.” Wasteful expenditure started at the beginning of the Kaixi reign. Its accumulated effects became evident after the Baoqing (1225-1227) and Shaoding reigns.
是將無一策以救之欺?曰:欲重楮自節費始,欲節費自省兵始。軍實核而不濫,邊釁窒而不開,謹之重之,皆以高、孝兩朝為法,此救楮幣之第一義也。 議者類曰:「金人將亡,版圖當復,天與機會,其可不乘此獨何時而諱兵乎?」愚曰不然。 昔劉、石倡亂,晉人未始置中原於度外,而諸國亦不敢以中原為己有。 迨夫虎狼併吞,兵戈雲擾,民心思舊,日遠而亡,而江東名義始失據矣。始也,三輔遺民以見晉官軍為喜,其後全燕父老反以復見太原王為幸。 始也,冉閔臨江願以中原歸晉為請,其後魏人尋釁,反以河南是我地為辭。今曰事體適與此類。 我雖指三京為吾之故疆,彼乃指之以為亡金之故巢,如之何而以為版固可復,機會可乘也? 況夫進取之兵與保守不同,兵之多寡,費之繁簡,亦隨以異。用兵於進取,則十倍之力始可制其一;用兵於保守,則一倍之力亦可敵其十。 愚之所慮者,邊臣以退守之兵為進取之翠,逞於一快,以至再誤耳。誠能戒諭邊臣,謹守吾圉,不可以前日一衄為恥,而必有願一灑之心;不可以勝負為兵家之常,而當念社稷關係之重。 收斂經略河洛之規模,就為葺理荊襄淮蜀之家計,念念持重而不輕發,事事靠實而不虛張。老弱者汰之以壯其威,虛冗者核之以養其力,稍俟威力之充裕,旋為恢拓之遠圖。 此區區之愚,蓋以輕舉妄動之費為可惜,而未嘗以兵為諱也。因兵費之一事,以次及於浮費之可省,愚又不能已於言焉。 蓋築臺九層,非一朝之役也;障流大川,非一簣之功也。今曰而言省費,固非一節目一絛例而止也。後宮居處,不施丹雘之華,秀邸賜第,姑仍相府之舊,此高、孝二朝盛德事也。 今修內有司,日興土木之工;內藏宣索,多溢常比之數。閹童持片紙,名曰內批;帑吏按憑由,名曰應奉。 宰臣無所施其均節,版曹無所致其勾稽。仙經藏室,金璧交輝,何異乎國計已窮而造金真玉仙之觀?榮邸輪奐,擬費鉅萬,何異乎軍興多事而營禁中百尺之樓? 其他嬪御之橫恩,緇黃之厚施,予以馭幸,此為何名?繼自今能如祖宗時,節浮費自宮掖始,奉宸出寶玩之珠,親王減月給之俸,以佐國用,以濟時艱。 至尊以身率先之,掖庭戚畹儀刑之,宰輔公卿百執事胥然胥效之。必如文宗御三浣之衣以令臣下,明德衣疏粗之袍以倡六宮,令尹子文毀其家以紓國之難,大歷朝臣以職田三分之一供軍饟之需。 斷自朝廷,立為定式,月計撙節幾何而著之籍,明置收楮一庫於外廷,以入所省之數。 內而百官,各宜體國,減俸有差,別為籍以稽之,以入於主帑之司。 每季計其所入之楮,分而兩之,一以留官,一以鑿毀。至於外之為郡守、為監司,曰添給、曰將迎、曰特送者, 一切省罷。俸及百千者裁其十之四,大吏之有例冊者首去之,以率其屬。 小吏正俸之不滿百十者免減之,以養其廉。況在權臣當國時,政以賄成,官以賂得。 陸贄所謂幣帛不已必至金璧,杜牧所謂折券交貸由卿市公者,更化以來無焉,則為州郡監司者自能舉所積之緡,以收其楮之溢。 每季必計官吏之減俸若干,省罷諸色浮費自能收楮者若干,各上之計臺,計臺上之朝廷,朝廷專置一局,會計其數,以此定殿最,以此行賞罰,則令如流水,財若邱山,楮之貴當如黃金矣。
Isn’t there a policy to remedy this? In my view, if we want to raise the value of paper money, we have to begin by cutting expenses. If we want to economize, we have to begin by shrinking the army. The military has to be substantial but not excessive. Border incidents have to be stopped. In being frugal and keeping the value of paper currency high, we have to take the reigns of Gaozong and Xiaozong as our example. This is the foundation to restore the value of paper currency. [To clarify his basic argument, the author rebuts demands that the northern territories be recovered because the Jin Dynasty is on the verge of collapse. He argues that the government cannot afford a military campaign up north at this point, but needs to replenish its financial resources and strengthen the military before it can make long-term plans for the reclamation of the northern territories. He further suggests concrete ways to cut government spending. He advocates the cancellation of building and engineering projects and the rationalization of the bureaucracy through personnel and salary cuts. In order to retrieve excess bills, he proposes that all savings be recorded in registers, and that the central and local government deposit corresponding amounts of paper money in treasuries established for this purpose.]
竊固廷臣有請,欲行括田於諸州,榷鹽於閩郡,令之未出,巷議籍籍,設果行之,其擾可知。頃嘉泰間以一換二之法行,天下議其不信,科數抑配之禁密,天下苦其不仁。 假秤提之名,開告訐之路,天下憤其不義。方是時也,括田、榷鹽二議可行,則當時之宰掾刻薄者行之矣。今薄海內外顒顒然有蘇枯醒暍之望,尚未有以慰滿之也。 當清明之朝,正宜力行好事,奈何取前曰之所不屑行者行之,以重失人心乎!
I have heard that some court officials have asked that a land survey be held in all prefectures (to recollect paper money based on the amount of land owned by each household) and that a salt monopoly be established in the prefectures of Fujian Route. According to this proposal, a land-survey should be held and each household should return a certain amount of paper money based on the amount of land they owned. This amounted to the imposition of an extra tax. Before any orders had been issued, there was already a lot of confusion about this in the streets. If these measures were to be implemented, one can imagine the disturbance that will ensue. During the Jiatai (1201-1204) period when an order was issued that all old bills be exchanged for new bills on a ratio of two to one, the government was criticized for its untrustworthiness. Due to the strictness used in the collection of extra tax quotas, the empire suffered from the inhumanity of these policies. By giving a false meaning to “chengti”“to measure and to lift”, i.e., to adjust the relative value of currencies. While this term formerly referred to the adjustment of the value of the different currencies, monetary policies advanced during the Southern Song aimed to raise the value of paper money by imposing hidden taxes., they gave others reasons to denounce them. The empire was angered by the government’s dishonesty. If holding a land survey and establishing a salt monopoly were practical proposals, cruel ministers and officials at that time would have implemented them. Now within the realm there is a growing hope of revival, however it is yet to be fulfilled. Good policies should be implemented under this well-governed reign, not policies that were despised even by previous rulers and would lead to everyone’s disappointment.
使括田而果行也,有產存而業去,有產重而租輕,豪右之族正於隱瞞,中等之戶例受抑配。 或數人而共為一戶,若盡科之,則貧者立見流離。或一家而析為數小戶,若不科之,則富者得以苟免,貧富既有不均之患,詞訟必無可已之時。 此括田之必失人心也。
If the land survey were indeed implemented, the propertied who can survive now would lose their occupation; while the rich would pay very little tax. Powerful local clans would conceal the truth, while the middle-class households would bear the brunt of the new levies. If larger households were formed by combining a couple of people, the poor would be driven to vagrancy when they have to pay the taxes in full. If several small households were derived from one larger family, the rich would find ways to evade taxation when the smaller households will not be charged. Because of the problem of the inequality between the rich and the poor, litigation won’t stop. This is why a land survey will cause disaffection among the people.
使榷鹽而果行也,汀、邵之民不耕者眾。斥鹵之息,所藉為生,往歲官吏征利太急,與之立敵,旋即不靖。 一二年來弛其禁,賣刀買犢,舊觀未還,此端一開,怨讟四啓,虐焰復煽,誰能撲之?
If a salt monopoly were indeed set up—those among the inhabitants of Dingzhou and Shaozhou who do not cultivate land are numerous. They rely on the profits of the salty soil to make a living. In past years, government officials and clerks have been competing with them too fiercely. The government and the population stood divided as enemies and order could not be easily reestablished. In the last year or so, the prohibition has been loosened, but calm has not been restored yet. If this wound were opened again, resentment will burst out all over. If the flames of cruelty were fanned again, who will be able to fight them?
矧今王人啣命而出,民未諭指,已生憂疑,國計雖貧,亦豈計此與民爭利,如作俑何?此榷鹽之必失人心也。無已,則有一焉。 元載當國,四方以賂求官,而朝廷為污濁之朝廷;李逢吉用事,八關十六子交通財賄,而天下為藏利之天下。 有為臺諫都司而公受苞苴,有為雄藩大縝而明肆席捲,有為制閫總餉而擁貲自肥。 自更化以來,或貶竄他邦,或鐫削爵秩,或得祠已罷,或尚逭簡書,而亦有淪沒不存者。昔權勢盛行,氣焰薰炙,今囊珠窖玉,富可埒國,其人雖得罪於清議,其家初無損於毫毛。 當此國貧民困之極,縱未可遽行乾、淳估籍之典,獨不可略倣國初取財藩鎮之術而行之乎?國初諸節度所蓄甚富,太祖慮其多財而為變也,一夕脫略邊幅於樽俎之間,厥明可得各家十萬緡之獻。 先儒稱之,以為得英雄御人之術。今天下數十大家以富強號於其鄉者,夫人能言之,莫若出數千萬之楮,配於數十家,以易其銅鏹銀帛。 彼其所積非取之國,即取之民,國今貧矣,民今困矣,使出所積,誰敢不從?此而不行,乃欲以苛斂橫征施之編戶,是所謂溺一人之祝而不惜億兆人之詛,念一家之怨而不思一路之向隅,其可乎? 只恐怙帝鄉之休庇,恃戚里之夤緣,牽制依違,動有掣肘。此在朝廷執法之臣,當力言之,廟堂當力主之。其始姑以魏絳請輸積聚之美意風勘之,俟其不從,則繩以法。 至於曩者權門廝役嬖妾之家,金帛山積,有擁二三千萬貲者,何憚而不籍之官?臺臣嘗言權貴之奪民田,有至數千萬畝或綿亙數百里者,何疑而不沒之官? 比之唐人籍至胡椒鐘乳者,其法豈不為恕?此又因廷臣括田、榷鹽之論而發也。若夫慢令之姦吏,不可以不懲;偽造之姦民,不可以不戢;流行之地,不可以不廣。 此皆榷楮之節目所當加之意者。去歲二稅之輸,計用全楮,暴官汙吏巧於沮格,夏租已償,始布其令於通衢,秋苗未輸,又展其限於嗣歲。 朝廷受虧豁之實,編戶有拜賜之名,贏美之利必有所歸,貪者利歸於己,懦者利蹄於胥,欺國罔民,莫此為甚。今莫若明敕州縣,凡有此類指揮,故作隱匿,計民越拆,責罰必行,此懲奸吏之說也。 去歲取還舊楮,所入反多於所出,繼頒新楮,偽者與真而攙行。昔楮局黠吏能為之,今大室或傚尤矣;昔都郡姦徒能為之,今遐氓亦抵禁矣。 昔取紙於蜀,獨可辨認,今新局造楮,真贗莫辨矣。一有敗露,納賄求免,不曰字畫之不盡摹,則曰貫〈糹索〉之不盡類,法當重戮,僅從末減。 似此姑息,何以戢姦?今莫若舉行典憲,示之象魏,犯者必誅,告者必賞。此戢姦民之說也。廣東諸郡商賈貿易,多有用楮,官民出入,乃不流通。 廣之科斂,最為民害,納丁贖罪,率索見緡,仕於其邦,去天既遠,瘠民肥己,滿載而歸。今莫若行下三十八州,民間一色輸納,並用中半,丁錢科罰之頰,得純用楮,庶幾流行一廣,厥直自增。 此廣行用之說也。
[Instead of the proposals he just criticized, the author outlines four alternative measures. First, wealthy households should be forced by law to exchange their copper and silver for paper money. Their landed property should be registered accurately. Second, corrupt officials and clerks who profiteer from overcharging the people should be punished. Third, counterfeiters should be rounded up and executed. Fourth, the use of paper money should be expanded. In Guangdong, for instance, where people had become used to settle their commercial transactions with paper money, the government should allow them to pay certain taxes in paper money.]
凡此者上不至於損國體,不下至於咈人情,亦略足以效一得之愚矣。抑執事發策,無取於開邊拓地之言,忠於謀國,誰曰不然,而致知格物正心誠意之言,乃以迂目之,此又愚之所未諭也。 人主一心,萬理之會、萬化之原所從出也。文帝、太宗惟不能制一忍心也,是以尺布有謠,而終累仁孝之德;推刃喋血,而竟貽閨門之慙。 明皇、晉惠惟不能降一慾心也,是以《霓裳》一曲旋啓漁陽之變,「夕陽」一語竟招劉、石之來。作於其心,害於其事,前代覆轍何可勝數? 其在今曰,事有關於綱常之大、風教之本者,見遠識微之士昔嘗苦口而今不言,前嘗攖鱗而後輒止,豈以君德已修、君心已格,而無所用其規切乎? 愚謂心之神明最不可欺,一念少邪,眾慝交入。殫民力於宮室,此心之侈實為之;戕民命於戰爭,此心之忿實為之。 善乎李沆之論曰:「人主皆知四方艱難,不然,血氯方剛,不留意於聲色犬馬,則土木甲兵祠禱之事作。」此蓋切於人主之身,而為格心之正論也。 《大學》一書生財之道以財發身之仁,以義為利之義,必懇懇言之,曾謂正心誠意之無與於財乎?
All these suggestions imply no harm to the state and will not arouse the animosity of the people. The combination of these measures should do to realize the seemingly impossible project to solve the problems at once. However, even though I fully support the position taken by the examiner that we should not adopt a policy of border warfare but plan loyally for the state; I do not understand why he finds the teaching of “the extension of knowledge, the investigation of things, the rectification of the mind and making thoughts sincere” irrelevant. In the mind of the ruler all principles converge, all transformations spring forth from it. [The author cites examples illustrating the impact of the emperor’s moral condition on the course of history, such as emperors Xuanzong of the Tang (685-762; r. 712-756) and Huidi of the Jin (259-307; r. 290-306).] I believe that the spiritual power of the mind cannot be deceived. As soon as one thought slightly deviates, a host of perverse thoughts get mixed in. Exhausting the people’s energy on palace compounds, this is in fact caused by the mind’s conceit. Robbing people of their lives by sending them to war, this is in fact caused by hatred in the mind. Li Hang (947-1004) put it very well! He said, “The people’s sovereign should be aware of the hardships all over the empire. Otherwise, when his vital energy stiffens, he will either fix his attention on music, women, dogs and horses, or become absorbed in construction projects, war, and sacrifices.” This truth explained the importance of the emperor’s conduct, and brought about the rectification of the emperor’s mind. The Great Learning speaks very sincerely about the creation of wealth, explaining how wealth can be used to express one’s humanity and how rightness can be relied upon to gain righteous profits. How can one say that “rectifying the mind and making the will sincere” has no bearing on wealth!
今天下之所尊敬者,以為從事於正心誠意之學,亦既擢用略盡矣,愚猶有隱憂焉。 君子之類易服,小人之心難知,姬公治周,效以期年,孔子變魯,期以期月。 今陽剛煥采,陰氣銷鑠,近二期矣,朝綱雖振而有弛之漸,公道雖開而有窒之萌。執政大臣雖至公無我,而委曲調護於事之所難行,宛轉推輓於己之所私薦。 島臺騎省雖直言無忌,而言不見聽,非惟不能決去,甚至顧惜退縮。朝陽不見其再鳴,故廟堂舉措豈不大異於前? 而此際蹉跌,則入於彼,不可以不畏也。 臺諫風采豈不遠過於昔,而丈夫所為,要不止此,不可以自滿也。閩、蜀二老同時入覲,文、富並拜,公論望之,而今則未盡然也。 荊襄二帥被劾不行,臺省並奏,善類期之,而今則寂乎無聞也。於是往來君子小人之間,如楊畏輩得以相與竊議。曰儒術行則天下富,今術行矣,而市井蕭條,氣象荒落,富之效何在? 有德進則朝廷尊,今德進矣,而外敵鴟張,叛卒蜂起,尊之勢何如?蓋君子之類雖進,而其道未行,小人之跡雖屏,而其心難使之屈服也。
[The author welcomes the very recent recognition of “the teaching of the rectification of the mind” at court. He notes, however, that recent incidents provide evidence that the commitment of high officials and censors to this teaching and the promotion of its advocates remains shaky.] So, those, resembling Yang WeiA Northern Song official who became famous for shifting his allegiance back and forth between members of Wang Anshi’s reformation party and the opposing Yuanyou faction., who are going back and forth between the position of the morally superior and that of the morally inferior, take this (the impatience with advocates of moral reinvigoration who have been put in charge but have not yet been able to bring about major changes) as an opportunity to gossip among themselves. They say, “After the adoption of Confucian learning, the empire should become affluent. Their learning has now been adopted, but the markets offer a desolate scene and the ambiance is gone. Where can we see affluence? When virtuous people are promoted, the court should gain respect. Virtuous people have now been promoted, but our foreign enemies are acting up and rebellious folk are rising. Where are the signs of respect?” Even though men of superior moral character have been promoted, their way has not yet been put in practice. Even though the morally inferior have been stopped, it remains difficult to have them reform their minds.
昔者呂公著薦二范為諫官,章子厚面奏,以執政舉人為臺諫非祖宗法,是小人而能為君子之言,今安知無為訾者乎? 司為光改雇役而復差役,蔡京為尹,極意奉行,能令公喜,是小人而能迎君子之意,今安知無若人乎?范純仁以國用不足,又欲復青苗法,是君子而未免效小人之尤,今其事駸駸見矣。 譬之弈棋,局面雖改,而其間二一著數,未免猶似前日。此小人所以不為心服,而君子亦不能以自恕也。
In the past, Lü Gongzhu (1018-1089) recommended Fan Zhongyan (989-1052) and Fan Chunren (1027-1101) for positions in the Censorate. Zhang Zihou (1035-1105)i.e. Zhang Dun presented a memorial arguing that nominating high court officials to the Censorate was not in accordance with the principles of the founding fathers of our dynasty. This shows that a morally inferior man can speak the words of a morally superior. How can we assume that there aren’t any who are backbiting now? Sima Guang (1019-1086) canceled Wang Anshi’s (1021-1086) policy of hiring clerks and reinstituted the system of commissioning subordinate personnel. Under Cai Jing’s (1047-1126) administration, this system was fully implemented and Sima Guang would have been pleased by it. This shows that a morally inferior official may welcome the ideas of a morally superior man. How can we tell that there aren’t any people like this now? Fan Chunren wanted to restore Wang Anshi’s Green Sprouts ProgramUnder this program the government used its granaries and treasuries to make low-interest spring loans of seed grain and food to farmers, repayable in the fall., because of the state’s insufficient income. This shows that a politician of high moral stature will not fail to adopt the strengths of a morally inferior one. Such things now manifest themselves in rapid succession. We could compare it to a chess game. Even though the situation has changed, some tricks inevitably stay the same as before. This is why the morally inferior cannot be made to change their minds and why the morally superior cannot be too lenient with themselves.
愚願大臣以主張公道為心,臺諫以維持正論為責,羣工百執事以憂勤清忠為念, 同舟而期於共濟,推車而主於必行,使朝廷有九鼎之重,國勢有泰山之安。 此蓋天下所望,而為君子之宗主者也。不然,國有大事,君子或不勝其任,而長國家、務財用,小人得以乘間而售其說。 此其為患,豈特國用不足一事而已哉!《詩》曰:「心之憂矣,不皇暇寐。」愚不勝倦倦。
I wish that the high officials resolve to speak up for fairness, that the censors will take up their responsibility to protect the truth, that the people of all other occupations apply themselves with care and loyalty. We are in the same boat and should plan to make it together; We are pushing the same cart, and should focus on making it roll. This way we can make sure that our dynasty will be respected just like the nine cauldronsThis is the symbol of legitimate rulership. and that our state will be at peace like Mount TaiThis is the symbol of stability.. This is the hope of the whole realm and the main focus of morally responsible people. Otherwise, when a disaster strikes, the morally responsible may be unable to fulfill their duty. And when those presiding over state affairs are preoccupied with financial gain, morally inferior people may take the opportunity to sell their views. This shows that the budget deficit is definitely not the only matter to worry about! The Book of Songs has it, “My heart is troubled. I don’t have the leisure to lie down and rest.”Cf. Legge, The Chinese Classics, vol. 4, 338. I cannot overcome my anxiety.

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