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The Importance of the Maintenance of the Eight Banner System: A General Discussion of the Way Yung-cheng Emperor Rectifies the Banner Affairs
The rulers of the Ch’ing Dynasty regard “Eight Banner System as the foundation of the country.” Since they built the regime in China, the bannermen have gradually abandoned their traditions of the Manchu language and the skills of equitation and archery, and deviated form their thrifty and furgal behavior, due to the frequent contact with the Han people. In addition, the benevolent governance during the K’ang-his period has made the degraded bannermen even worse. In the reign of Yung-cheng, the Emperor pays much attention to the banner affairs, especially the proposals of the improvement of the predicaments and degrading phenomena of the bannermen, for the purpose to maintain their “foundation.” From the aspect of rectification, to enhance the training of Manchu language and the skills of equitation and archery is the necessary means to keep their traditions and skills, and also, a crucial point to identify the bannermen from the Han people. The improvement of the poor life of the bannermen is at least a way to maintain their dignity, through it may not guarantee a better economic life. Furthermore, to put an end of their extravagant conduct is important to reverse the corruption of the society as well as to urge the bannermen to behave themselves. As for the methods of rectification, the officials can choose to establish systems to make them long-lasting or try to set up norms to make the bannermen know how to follow the rules, and further exhortations and investigations to make the bannermen vigilant. As for the effect, however, the officials seldom seriously implement the policies while the bannermen do not actually follow the rules. Thus, the bannermen cannot benefit from the policies while the officials are weighed down with work. Sometimes, Yung-chen Emperor himself even have to instruct the officials, and sometimes the policies simply become temporary measures. These conditions more or less reflect the passive and negative side of the rectification.
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