Born as Zhū Zhòngbā (朱重八 [1328 – 1398]), the individual who would become the Hongwu (洪武) Emperor was subsequently known by many names, including:
- Zhū Xīngzōng (朱興宗);
- Zhū Yuánzhāng (朱元璋);
- Zhū Guóruì (朱國瑞);
- Zhū Tàizǔ (朱太祖); and
- Kāitiān Xíngdào Zhàojì Lìjí Dàshèng Zhìshén Rénwén Yìwǔ Jùndé Chénggōng Gāo Huángdì (開天行道肇紀立極大聖至神仁文義武俊德成功高皇帝).
The latter (開天行道肇紀立極大聖至神仁文義武俊德成功高皇帝) is a posthumous name, and the 23 characters can be read as the following philosophical commentary:
To open and begin what is superlative – the innately opportune and apt – capably perform or “walk” the Dào (the ideal way to live one’s life). To found or to commence an historical account or period establishing, existing and living the highest standards (including deep examination and doing one’s utmost) is great, mature, virtuous (akin to the conduct of a high-ranking Buddhist priest or a Saint), sage-like, propitious, efficacious, favourable and protective. To reach or arrive at a mind that is compassionate, humane, benevolent and kind, repetition, language (whether read, written or spoken), the liberal arts and social and government culture that is gentle, just, moral, charitable is the footstep and footprint. A person of outstanding talent is virtuous, moral, ethical, favourable, benevolent, kind and mindful and trustworthy. To be successful in or complete achievements or that which is meritorious or results in ‘good’ is the maximum (the outer limits of ‘above average’), magnificent, superior, august and divine.
Naturally, other readings are possible, such as those that would translate the following compound terms (rather than those restricted to definitions related to individual characters):
- 大聖 (dàshèng [“great sage,” “mahatma,” “Buddha,” “bodhisattva” or “having special talent”]);
- 俊德 (jùndé [“an individual of outstanding ability,” “virtue” or “noble attribute”]);
- 成功 (chénggōng [“successful,” “complete,” “harvest,” “permit,” “outcomes,” “effects,” “achievements” or “exploits”]); and
- 皇帝 (huángdì [a gender-neutral term used to describe any monarch ruling an Empire]).
Also the founding emperor of the Ming dynasty (1368 to 1644), he was purportedly given the following advice from Zhu Sheng (朱升):
The traditional English translation of that passage is noted below.
… build high walls, stock up rations, and delay claiming kingship …
An alternate reading, however, is possible – and it is one that is consistent with Buddhist and Manicheist philosophies that the Hongwu Emperor would have known from his personal life (which included periods in Buddhist monasteries and associating with the White Lotus Society) – namely:
Those that are noble and elevated beat down hard, ram the Earth and construct walls, and it is common – indeed, universal – tradition to store up and accumulate provisions of food and other resources (including those gained through taxes), but being easy, mitigating, alleviating and recuperating suits, corresponds with and is the state of those who are grand, flourishing and prosperous.
Emperor Hongwu is also associated with 百字讃 (Bǎizìzàn [The Hundred Word Eulogy]) – that is shown below.
Pursuant to the orders of Emperor Hongwu, that passage was displayed in every mosque in his Empire. Subsequently, it was been described as a pro-Islamic work by native Chinese scholars who are following a tradition established three centuries following the reign of Emperor Hongwu. Creative interpretations in English – possibly owing much to the eisegesis of translators – have also been produced that support such claims.
One hundred words, however, can be interpreted in many ways and one such example – treating each of the characters as individual concepts (rather than considering the possibility of “compound terms”) and focusing on exegesis (allowing the meaning of the terms to speak for themselves) – follows.
Ubiquitous Love is Praiseworthy
Creative flow establishes that which is fundamental – it is superior to membership, registers and lists, or notes and commentaries concerning names, reputation or fame.
To assist and to provide guidance is extraordinarily noble. Bestow, confer and honour life, existence, being, living and intelligence … the western paradise of Amitabha Buddha is that territory and domain.
To transmit or accept heaven as the abode of the gods or the blessed departed or Heaven as an impersonal deity (often translated as “God”) is to control, manage or engage in – repeatedly – the utmost bureaucratic division, conferring with honours lustreless and widespread dissolution and death on everything living, growing and yet to come into existence. Contriving omens, signs and portents you model, imitate and learn from innumerable sages for the purpose of ensnaring and thieving.
Cooperation, collaboration and harmony helps and assists – naturally and innately – fate, fortune or luck to grow, maintain, protect, safeguard, cover, shield, shelter and protect countries, nations, states, kingdoms, capitals and people (regardless of their ethnicity or occupation).
Five period of prayer for divine assistance, blessings or protection is secretly, covertly and imperceptibly wishing for the greatest mediocrity, control, censure and conflict (physical and otherwise).
To exist, cherish or harbor a heart, mind, thought, idea or intention that is true, genuine, real and innate concerned with tribal hierarchies, ownership and being lord-and-master is to increase or add to the annals related to impoverished, exhausted, snobbish, frivolous and excessive people (including those of particular ethnic groups or occupations).
To rescue, aid, lift and raise prohibits and forbids being imperilled or troubled by or afflicted with sacrificial rites for getting rid of bogeys or unpleasantness related to putting someone in a difficult position – including enmity and other calamities such as arguing with or scolding others. Comprehending, understanding, discernment and intelligence are deep, peaceful, profound and long-lasting.
To exceed or surpass, select and promote that which is effective, quick and nimble in the mood or lofty spirit of a nation or people – free from affectations – and leave off or avoid legendary beasts such as criminal, vice-ridden and fraudulent business, achievements, study or activity.
Compassion, humaneness, benevolence and kindness repeatedly topples and overturns what occurs naturally – including providence and fate – that is lowly, poor and inferior. The Way – the ideal way to live one’s life – is to be excellent and outstanding (the “best”) and free from affectations in the present.
To bestow, confer, visit or to honour with one’s presence that which is unwholesome, wrong, evil, depraved, vicious, perverse and disastrous reverts to or converges on the same teaching, instruction, guidance or religious doctrine named or reputed to be permissible according to Muslim religious customs and otherwise described as naïve, artless, pure and sincere.
That which is magnificent and beautiful, gentle, mild, calm, harmonious, peaceful, pure, honest profound, lasting and far-reaching is seldom or rarely silent, secretive, covert or imperceptible concerning virtue, morality, ethics, favour, benevolence, kindness and mindfulness. The pinnacle – that which is prized, honourable, noble and dear – is virtuous, sage-like, propitious, effective, favourable and protective reasoning, causation, companionship, maturation, loving kindness and humanity in oneself and others.
Thus rendered, the ‘Eulogy’ sounds less than “pro-Islamic,” but consistent with speaking notes addressing dead or terminally-ill religions and promoting a form of grounded Humanist philosophy.
An analysis of potential compound terms supports the notion that the rhetorical framing reference to be applied is East Asian – that is, Confucian, Taoist and Buddhist – rather than Islamic (although some Christian and Muslim references are apparent).
A second translation – one that considers those compound terms – follows.
Ubiquitous Love is Praiseworthy
The Sun and the Moon are the origin of the weather, climate, days and seasons – this is in accord with nature.
Records are filled with the famous proselytizing and missionary work of Buddha and those with great knowledge and love of humanity that were introduced to the world in the region along the Silk Road west of the Jade Gate.
To give and accept the sky as the abode of the “gods” or the “blessed departed” or the concept of “Heaven as an impersonal deity” as religious dogma across 30 sections of a book is nothing special – it is widespread and both unreliable and cheaply made.
All the non-human animals and countless masses, leaders, armies, teachers, experts, monks, nuns and Taoist priests are extremely or absolutely noble, saintly, sage-like, masterful, respectable, propitious, efficacious, benevolent and protective.
A leader of a country, party or organization helps and assists what is naturally ordained by fate to bless and protect people.
Five periods praying or begging to assist, bless and protect silence and secrecy or clandestine activity, deliver words offered through religious ceremonies that curse that which is peaceful and tranquil through deliberately harbouring malicious intentions against the wise emperor.
To increase will, determination, aspiration and ambition, the poor, destitute and impoverished people – regardless of ethnicity or occupation – are to be saved and rescued. To suffer hardship and adversities is like a cavern penetrating to the Darkness (the “Netherworld,” “Hell” or “Hades”).
Outstanding, remarkable and exceptional thinking, integrity and conscience disaffiliates, disengages, and secedes from sin or sinful acts.
Compassion, that which is humane, benevolence and kindness returning to and covering the world is the Marga (enlightenment leading to nirvana through spiritual stages), the Tao (the ideal way to live one’s life), the Logos or the Word – directing, guiding and conducting excellence and unsurpassed emotional maturity.
In the past and the present (in both ancient and modern times), to honour with one’s presence or bestow and confer that which is wrong, evil, depraved, vicious, disastrous, calamitous and poisonous returned to, sought the patronage of and belonged to the same that is, in an alternate guise, identified with that one Christian name that is halal (permissible according to Islamic religious customs and otherwise described as naïve, pure, artless and sincere) – Muhammed.
That rarity – Revelation – concerns virtue, morality, ethics, benevolence, kindness and mindfulness. The most superior noble is an enlightened individual … a genuine sage, saint or bodhisattva (such as Buddha, Confucius or an Emperor), including those that are deceased.
The compound terms thus considered suggests that communication from Emperor Hongwu was not pro-Islamic. Having said that, it is always possible – even in exercises intended to be exegetical in nature – that a translator’s approach may influence the outcome. Regardless, it is clear that knowledge, perspective and intent make significant contributions to how 100 words are received, remembered and translated.