Hai Rui (Hai Jui; 23 January 1514 – 13 November 1587) was a Chinese
official of the Ming Dynasty. In China he is remembered as a model of
honesty and integrity in office. A play based on his career, Hai Rui
Dismissed from Office, gained political significance in the 1960s
during the Cultural Revolution.
4 External links
Statue of Hai Rui
Hai Rui, was born in Qiongshan,
Hainan on January 23, 1513. His father
died when he was three, and he was raised by his mother. His
great-great-grandfather was a native of
Guangzhou named Hai Da-er
(海答兒, Haidar, an Arabic name), and his mother was also from a
Muslim (Hui) family that originated from the Indian subcontinent.
Hai Rui himself however was noted primarily as a
never discussed Islam in his Confucian works.
Hai took the official examinations but was unsuccessful, and his
official career only began in 1553, when he was 39, with a humble
position as clerk of education in Fujian. He gained a reputation for
his uncompromising adherence to upright morality, scrupulous honesty,
poverty, and fairness. This won him widespread popular support but
made him many enemies in the bureaucracy. Nevertheless, he was called
to the capital Beijing and promoted to the junior position of
secretary of ministry of Revenue. In 1565, he submitted a memorial
strongly criticizing the
Jiajing Emperor for the neglect of his duties
and bringing disaster to the country, for which he was sentenced to
death in 1566. He was released after the Emperor died in early
Hai Rui was reappointed under the
Longqing Emperor but soon forced to
resign in 1570 after complaints were made over his overzealous
handling of land-tenure issues. He then spent 15 years in retirement
Hainan before being finally brought back to the Empire's "auxiliary
capital" of Nanjing, in 1585, to serve under the Wanli Emperor. Hai
Rui was promoted to censor-in-chief of
Nanjing in 1586, but died in
office a year later.
Tomb of Hai Rui
Hai Rui memorial in Haikou
In 1959, writer and scholar Wu Han became interested in the life of
Hai Rui, and wrote several articles on his life and his fearless
criticism of the emperor. He then wrote a play for
Peking Opera titled
Hai Rui Dismissed from Office", which he revised several times before
the final version of 1961. Wu's play was interpreted by the Gang of
Yao Wenyuan as an allegorical work, in which the honest
Hai Rui representing the disgraced communist marshal
Peng Dehuai, who was purged by Mao after criticizing the Great Leap
Forward. According to Yao, the corrupt emperor in Wu's play
represented Mao Zedong. The November 10, 1965, an article in a
prominent Shanghai newspaper, "A Criticism of the Historical Drama
Hai Rui Dismissed From Office'"
(评新编历史剧《海瑞罢官》), written by Yao, began a
propaganda campaign that eventually led to the Cultural Revolution.
During the Cultural Revolution, the tomb of
Hai Rui was destroyed, Hai
Rui's body dug up and incinerated by Red Guards (the tomb has since
been rebuilt). Yao's campaign led to the persecution and death of
Wu Han, as well as others involved in related works, such as Zhou
Xinfang for his opera
Hai Rui Submits His Memorial (海瑞上疏).
Haikou, the largest city on Hai Rui's home island of Hainan,
celebrates Hai Rui's deeds. A memorial has been constructed and his
tomb is open for worship.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Hai Rui.
^ a b c d e Goodrich, L. Carrington, and Chaoying Fang, eds. (1976).
Dictionary of Ming Biography, 1368–1644, Volume 1. Columbia
University Press. pp. 474–479.
ISBN 978-0231038331. CS1 maint: Uses editors parameter
^ by Jonathan Unger, ed. (1997). Using the Past to Serve the Present:
Historiography and Politics in Contemporary China. M.E. Sharpe.
p. 99. ASIN B00FAWPDUU.
^ Tan Ta Sen (2009). Cheng Ho and Islam in Southeast Asia. Institute
of Southeast Asian Studies. p. 114.
^ Frederick W. Mote (2003). Imperial China 900–1800. Harvard
University Press. ISBN 978-0674012127.
^ Roderick MacFarquhar, The Red Terror: Mao's Last Revolution
(Cambridge: Harvard University, 2006) p. 120.
^ Rudolf G. Wagner (1997). by Jonathan Unger, ed. Using the Past to
Serve the Present: Historiography and Politics in Contemporary China.
M.E. Sharpe. pp. 46–102. ASIN B00FAWPDUU.
A Preliminary Study of Hai Rui: His Biography in the Ming-Shih
Coordinates of tomb linking to maps: 20°00′31″N
110°17′32″E / 20.008528°N 110.292097°E / 20.008528;
ISNI: 0000 0001 2210 5821