(Minghui.org) How royal princes in the Qing Dynasty were to be educated was established during the era of Emperor Kangxi (1654 -1722). The princes started their formal schooling at age six. They had to get up at 5 a.m. every day for their studies and wouldn’t finish until 6 or 7 in the evening. They only had one day off—New Year’s Day—and two half days off before that. That was the schedule all year round, rain or shine, summer and winter.

The location where they were to study was called Wuyizhai (“Place of No-Leisure” or “House of Toil”) located in Changchun Garden. The name of the place was an indication of how serious and strict the Emperor was about the princes’ education.

In addition to having high expectations for the royal children, Emperor Kangxi also set a good example himself. He said in Tingxun Geyan (Guidelines for Families), “Building character comes from conscientious effort in the daily routine. Even in the heat of summer, I do not need to use a fan or remove my hat, because I have not indulged myself in my daily life.”

Daily Schedule in the “Place of No-Leisure”

Emperor Kangxi was very strict when it came to the education of princes. He often checked their homework and tested their martial arts skills. Historical records show the following entries for the Wuyizhai studio on June 10, 1687:

Yin Shi (3-5 a.m.) Self-study in the studio, preparation for teachers' arrival.

Mao Shi (5-7 a.m.) Teachers checked the princes’ homework and asked them to recite texts. When no mistakes were made, they moved on to teach new texts and assign new homework, which would be checked the next day. Their Manchu instructor was Dahata and their Chinese instructor was Tang Bin.

Chen Shi (7-9 a.m.) Emperor Kangxi came to inspect their studies after an early morning meeting with courtiers. He mainly checked to see if the princes could recite the classic pieces they had learned.

Si Shi (9-11 a.m.) It was very hot in the summer during this time, but the princes were not allowed to use a fan, and they had to sit up straight. They practiced calligraphy, writing each character 100 times.

Wu Shi (11 a.m.-1 p.m.) Lunchtime, followed by self-study – practicing calligraphy.

Wei Shi (1-3 p.m.) The princes went out to the courtyard for physical training. The activities included archery, wrestling, and martial arts.

Shen Shi (3-5 p.m.) Emperor Kangxi came again. He picked up texts randomly and asked the princes to recite and explain the meaning. He checked each prince in turn.

You Shi (5-7 p.m.) The princes practiced archery in the courtyard. The emperor asked each of them to shoot; their scores varied. The emperor also asked their trainers to shoot. In the end, the emperor shot a number of arrows himself, and each one hit the target.

The princes were then dismissed after a typical day of learning.

61 Years of Diligent Administration

Kangxi, who ruled for 61 years in the Qing Dynasty, was the longest-reigning emperor in recorded Chinese history. By expanding the frontier as well as ushering in widespread benefits and prosperity, he was hailed as an “emperor who only appears once in a thousand years.”

Starting with Kangxi, Qing Dynasty emperors held an early morning meeting with court officials every day, except for rare circumstances. Even in the 18th year of Kangxi’s reign, when a severe earthquake occurred in Beijing, Kangxi still held his morning meeting as usual.

The morning meeting originally started at 6:00 a.m. in spring and summer and at 7:00 a.m. in autumn and winter. Many elderly courtiers had to get up in the middle of the night to be on time for the audience. Over time, they found it more and more difficult, so they repeatedly appealed to the emperor for a more flexible schedule for the morning audience.

Emperor Kangxi listened and made changes accordingly. Whenever the capital city sustained heavy rains, there was a snowstorm, or it was unusually hot or extremely cold, the morning audience might be canceled if there were no urgent issues. In addition, seniors over age 60 could attend the meeting once every two or three days instead of every day. However, Emperor Kangxi made sure that he was present every single day. “I have done this for over 30 years and it has become a routine,” he explained. “I would feel uneasy if I missed a meeting. Plus, if we met just once every three or four days, I might slack off in time.” Therefore, he still held the meeting every day.

If something was urgent, Kangxi would work on it all night long, writing comments on the memoranda without delay. He was opposed to the view that “the emperor only needs to attend to the most important matters and can leave the trivial things to others.” He explained that, if the emperor is careless even for a moment, it might cause trouble for the whole nation and cause disasters for later generations. In other words, slacking off over trivial matters now might lead to major issues later.

In the 15th summer of the Kangxi era (1676), the Yellow River flooded frequently because its banks were in disrepair. To understand the situation firsthand, Kangxi visited the region several times to inspect and investigate, seeking a solution. He traveled by boat to Mengjin, Xuzhou, Suqian, Pizhou, Taoyuan, and Qingkou in the lower reaches of the river and went to Shanxi, Shaanxi, Inner Mongolia, Ningxia, and other places in the middle section. He also sailed from Hengchengbao (south of Yinchuan) along the middle reaches of the Yellow River. His inspection tour lasted 22 days and covered thousands of miles. The emperor made thorough inspections wherever he went.

Many emperors in Chinese history were concerned about conserving water, but very few went to the extent that Kangxi did. He not only went to the frontlines personally, but he also proposed sound solutions for difficult issues.

Learning and Improving Every Day

Emperor Kangxi repeatedly warned later generations to work and study diligently and not to slack off even a bit. He said, “It is said in the I Ching (Book of Changes) that it’s a great virtue to make new progress every day. One must take a step forward each day so as not to waste precious time.”

In Guidelines for Families, he wrote, “People all enjoy leisure and dislike hard work. But my heart tells me that one only knows what ease is by working hard. If one only indulges oneself in leisure, he or she will not understand what leisure means and will be unable to bear any hardship. Therefore, the Book of Changes says ‘Heaven is sound and healthy, and a gentleman always strives for self-improvement.’ Therefore, people with virtue regard hard work as a blessing and ease as a misfortune.”

Emperor Kangxi conducted himself based on such principles throughout his life. From the time he assumed the throne until his death, he attended the morning meetings almost every day, except for rare occasions, such as when he was ill, during the three major festivals, or when there were unforeseen significant incidents. When he looked back on his 61-year reign, he said he “worked diligently and cautiously, and never slacked off from his duties even at night time. For decades, I’ve done the best I could every day with no exception.”

True to his words and deeds, Emperor Kangxi set a fine example for later generations in terms of cultivating virtue, and the precious spiritual wealth he left behind is one of the treasures of traditional Chinese culture.

Chinese version available

Category: Traditional Culture