The Info List - Li Shanchang

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LI SHANCHANG (Chinese : 李善長; pinyin : Lǐ Shàncháng; Wade–Giles : Li Shan-ch'ang; 1314-1390) was the founding chancellor of the Ming dynasty
Ming dynasty
. Deemed the recognized leader of the West Huai (Huaixi) faction, and given first rank among the six dukes in 1370, it is said that Li was the Emperor Hongwu 's closest comrade during the war (against the Yuan dynasty
Yuan dynasty
), and greatest contributor to his ultimate victory and thus establishment of the Ming Dynasty. Deeply trusted by the Emperor, Hongwu consulted Li on institutional matters, but became "bored with Li's arrogance" in old age.

Li "planned the organization of the six ministries, shared in the drafting of a new law code, and supervised the compilations of the History of Yuan , the Ancestral Instructions and the Ritual Compendium of the Ming Dynasty." He established salt and tea monopolies based on Yuan institutions, eliminated corruption, restored minted currency, opened iron foundries, and instituted fish taxes. It is said that revenues were sufficient, yet the people were not oppressed.

A doubtful classicist at best, and yet a skillful draftsman of legal documents, mandates, and military communications, the History of Ming biography states that his studies included Chinese Legalist writings, a statement made of no other individual among more than three hundred others. Most of his activities seem to have supported Hongwu Emperor 's firm control of his regime. Mainly responsible for ferreting out disloyalty and factionalism among military officers, he used a reward and punishment system reminiscent of the Han Feizi
Han Feizi
, and may have had a kind of secret police in his service. At times he had charge of all civil and military officials in Nanjing.


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Early figures

* Guan Zhong * Zichan
* Deng Xi * Li Kui * Wu Qi

Founding figures

* Shen Buhai
Shen Buhai
* Duke Xiao of Qin * Shang Yang
Shang Yang
* Shen Dao
Shen Dao
* Zhang Yi * Xun Kuang
Xun Kuang
* Han Fei * Li Si * Qin Shi Huang
Qin Shi Huang

Han figures

* Jia Yi * Liu An * Emperor Wen of Han
Emperor Wen of Han
* Emperor Wu of Han
Emperor Wu of Han
* Chao Cuo
Chao Cuo
* Gongsun Hong * Zhang Tang * Huan Tan * Wang Fu * Zhuge Liang
Zhuge Liang

Later figures

* Emperor Wen of Sui
Emperor Wen of Sui
* Du You * Wang Anshi
Wang Anshi
* Li Shanchang * Zhang Juzheng
Zhang Juzheng
* Xu Guangqi
Xu Guangqi

* v * t * e

Li's import into Legalist statecraft and prognostication theories originally left him an educated, yet marginal figure in Dingyuan County until his recruitmen by the Emperor Hongwu, who was passing through the area with his army. Li discussed history with him, namely, the qualities of the founding Han Emperor Gaozu of Han
Emperor Gaozu of Han
, and the emperor invited Li to take over the secretarial and managerial duties of his field command. He proved able and energetic, often staying behind to transfer army provisions. He was given first rank among officers with the titles of Grand Councilor of the Left and "Dynastic Duke of Han". Comparisons between the Emperor Hongwu and Gaozu became a theme of the Ming Court and it's historians.

One history holds that, after the navy in Chaohu
surrendered to the emperor, Li urged ferrying the soldiers to capture the southern area of the Yangtze
River . Then Li gave an advance notice to prevent the army from violating the military discipline. The duplicates of his notice were plastered everywhere in the occupied city, Taiping . Consequently, the troops garrisoned there in an orderly fashion.

The emperor asked Li to assume responsibility for administrative affairs in 1353, granting him overall institutional authority long before codification work started. Li's petitioning Emperor Hongwu to eliminate collective prosecution reportedly initiated the drafting. Hongwu ordered Li and others to create the basic law code in 1367, appointing him Left Councilor and chief legislator in a commission of 30 ministers. Hongwu emphasized the importance of simplicity and clarity, and noted that the Tang dynasty
Tang dynasty
and Song dynasty
Song dynasty
had fully developed criminal statutes, ignored by the Yuan dynasty
Yuan dynasty
. Li memorialized that all previous codes were based on the Han code, synthesized under the Tang, and based their institutions on the Tang Code .

Following the drafting of the code, Li personally oversaw any new stipulations, including a system of fixed statutes made to combat corruption. He joined with Hu Weiyong against Yang Xian , another chancellor. Their efforts contributed to Yang's death, making Li the most powerful figure next to the emperor at the court in 1370. He quarreled with the great classical scholar Liu Bowen
Liu Bowen
, causing the latter to resign from public office.

In old age and extremely rich, he retired as the emperor's distaste grew for his arrogance, but would still be called upon to deliberate military and dynastic affairs. Other councilors fared worse; Guangyang, remembered his carefulness, generosity, honesty, uprightness and seriousness, was demoted several times. A lack of division of powers between the Emperor and his councilors apparently resulted in conflicts, and the grand councilors (four total) gave up on state affairs, following prevailing affairs or doing nothing. Appointed to right councilor, Li gave himself over to drinking. He was ultimately implicated in 1390 in a decade-long conspiracy and purged along with his extended family and thirty thousand others. The accusations against him would be memorialized as absurd fabrications, recognized as such by the Emperor Hongwu. He was executed largely on the basis of his supposed awareness and non-reporting of treason. The post of councilor (or prime minister) was abolished following their execution.


* ^ Taylor, R. (1963) p.53p-54. SOCIAL ORIGINS OF THE MING DYNASTY 1351-1360. Monumenta Serica, 22(1), 1-78. Retrieved from https://www.jstor.org/stable/40726467 * ^ C. Simon Fan 2016. p.94. Culture, Institution, and Development in China. https://books.google.com/books?id=cwq4CwAAQBAJ&pg=PA94 * ^ Anita M. Andrew, John A. Rapp 2000. p.161. Autocracy and China's Rebel Founding Emperors. https://books.google.com/books?id=YQOhVb5Fbt4C&pg=PA161 * ^ Jiang Yo