# 43. The Inscription “Around that time, a scholar from Cloud Deer Academy took over as the Senior Grand Secretary. He didn't have the same thoughts as his predecessors and resolutely devoted himself to Renzong. He also completed Renzong's business despite it being against ritual. Finally, the struggle for national destiny ended. “Due to this incident, Renzong was disgusted with Cloud Deer Academy. He had realized that Cloud Deer Academy wasn't conducive to Imperial Rule. Around this time, Cheng Hui proposed to establish an Imperial Academy for the court to train talents by itself. "Thereafter, The decline of Confucianism began." That was the origin of the dispute between Cloud Deer Academy and Imperial Academy over Confucian Orthodoxy. *The Imperial Academy was a state-run university while Cloud Deer Academy was a private institution. How could a private institution surpass a state-run one...* Xu Qi'an suddenly realized. After Xu Xinnian finished speaking, he suddenly tried to examine, "What do you think, big brother... Well, I mean the matter of fighting over the national destiny, since it's a matter separate from academics." *Do you believe that a commoner like Big brother can't answer the question if it involved academic matters?* Xu Qi'an lampooned, and smilingly said, "On the surface, It looks like a struggle for national destiny, but it's a power struggle." "Scholars who want to display their ambitions must hold great power, and the amount of power in a country is fixed. When you hold more power, someone will lose theirs. The highest state of power is to take the emperor's power and become an uncrowned emperor." Xu Xinnian was originally trying to examine his big brother, but upon hearing his thoughts, his face changed colour drastically. Xu Qi'an squinted at him, "What, did I say something wrong?" *You're right. But you can't just say these kinds of things anywhere...* Xu Xinnian took a deep breath, "Go on." Xu Qi'an nodded, "No matter how powerful Confucianism's Dragon Slaughtering Technique is, It can't compare to the imperial power. *Whether you learn literature, art, or martial, all belongs to the Emperor in the end.* The sentence explains everything. Since ancient times, ministers, whether virtuous or tyrannical, as long as they had power, wouldn't have a good end." The control over the government would only last a while, and eventually all unsettled things will be settled, because a courtier will always be a courtier. In the history of Xu Qi'an's previous life, many people could be titled uncrowned emperors. But whom among them got a good end? Cao Cao was a different matter, the chaos after the collapse of the empire was a different situation altogether. Xu Xinnian asked urgently, "Is there any solution to this eventuality?" The academy wouldn't teach of the matters his elder brother just told him. "There is no solution!" Xu Qi'an shook his head and sighed, “The court is like a battlefield, Party disputes could bring you a little enjoyment now, but will bring the whole family crashing down.” His words were strange, but there seemed to be millennia of literature and history brewing in his eyes. Xu Xinnian was astonished while looking at him. "But your big brother has another idea as well." Xu Qi'an changed the subject. "Please tell me, brother." "Great Scholar Qian's deeds are an example. When you could affect the fortune of a country, You'll change from a scholar attached to the imperial power to a strong person equal to it." Xu Xinnian's eyes lit up. But as soon as a joyful look appeared on his face, Xu Qi'an said with leisure, "Erlang is very intelligent. This child has some potential." "..." Xu Erlang replied, *wasn’t I supposed to be teaching you…* Xu Qi'an didn't continue speaking, thinking of a question in his heart. Although Cloud Deer Academy didn't have much future in officialdom, It was still a holy land that controlled the Confucian System. The only thing that was cut short was its path to officialdom. Although Xu Xinnian didn't say whether the academy's official career or the entirety of Confucianism had weakened, Xu Qi'an felt that it was the latter that had weakened. Because of what Xu Erlang had said in the waterfall, for 300 years, the highest grade achieved by a Confucian has only been the third rank. Was it because Confucianists needed to become officials after the third grade? Or it involved sensitive matters like the luck of Confucianism. "What's this tablet about? Why is it standing there?" He asked. Xu Xinnian stared at the characters in the stele with complicated eyes, and sighed, "It's the follow-up or part of the follow-up of the dispute over Confucian Orthodoxy." "That Lesser Sage Cheng was very talented. After he established the Imperial Academy, he knew that if he wanted to surpass the Cloud Deer Academy, he needed to have his system of education. Otherwise, the students of the Imperial Academy would still be spiritually affiliated to Cloud Deer Academy." "So he devoted his time to studying the Sage's classics and rewrote them incorporating his own beliefs. After 13 years, he finally created an education system where there would be intergenerational progress. "Obey natural principles to destroy Human desires?" Xu Qi'an's heart moved. Xu Erlang nodded, and after the conversation just before, he was willing to explain academic matters to his elder brother. “Lesser Sage Cheng believed that everything in the world follows a certain law. This law could be called "*Li*"[^1]. Li, or reason, is the world's most essential and correct thing. "Myriad Matter relies on reason to flourish. But people will lose their beliefs and reason in the turmoil in the world." "So, it is necessary to preserve Natural Reason and destroy human desires?" Xu Qi'an asked. Preserving Natural Reason and destroying human desires was the outline of the Imperial academy's philosophy. Xu Qi'an was waiting for Xu Xinnian's detailed explanation of it. Xu Xinnian continued, “Lesser Sage Cheng set up a set of rules and regulations. If scholars follow these rules, they will not make mistakes and be close to the laws of heaven and earth. "This set of rules elevates loyalty, filial piety, and moral integrity to the height of heavenly Reason." Xu Xinnian sneered, "If the king wants his minister to die, the minister should die. If the father wants his son to die, the son has to die. Sacrifice one's life for moral integrity. For the sake of ensuring one's morals, one should die." Xu Qi'an listened silently, and suddenly asked, "What do you think, Cijiu? Is this right or wrong?" Xu Xinnian was stunned, He blankly stared at his cousin, and tried to open his mouth, but a mysterious force blocked his throat, making him unable to speak. Xu Qi'an understood. This type of ability was called "Ideological Imprisonment". "Therefore, this tablet was put here?" Xu Qi'an turned his gaze to the inscribed text. "Hm." Xu Erlang nodded. “The dispute between Cloud Deer Academy and the Imperial Academy is an academic and philosophical dispute. But this tablet has remained in Cloud Deer Academy for 200 years and has never fallen. Cloud Deer Academy has no hope of defeating the Imperial Academy until the tablet falls. "The dean stayed in the academy for more than a decade and tried to refute the inscription using his vast experience by creating a mature and correct concept, but he failed in the endeavour." "Because the idea represents truth, It represents correct ideas." Xu Qi'an said. "Yeah." Xu Xinnian sighed, "Not only the dean, all the Great Scholars and teachers of the academy have competed with the inscription. But no one has ever succeeded. How could an ordinary person refute a lesser-sage's thoughts." "That blank tablet over there..." Xu Qi'an had a guess. "The dean placed it here, but he hadn't been able to pen a word there over a decade." Xu Xinnian pointed to the table next to the blank stone tablet and said “Later, Some students and Scholars tried to write words there to compete with Lesser Sage Cheng's inscription, but they were all wiped out the next day. However, the brush and inkstone on the table remained still. Perhaps the dean holds some sliver of expectation in them. “Due to this, whenever the students have a whim or they feel that they have a good idea, They go there to write. It's a pity that the person expected by the dean has never appeared." "I thought that I could do it, and I also inscribed in the stone tablet..." At that point, Xu Xinnian didn't continue, obviously because he didn't want to reveal his frivolous behaviour in his youth to his cousin, to avoid dying socially again. *To uphold justice and be faithful to morality and the monarch until death, to leave a mark for generations to come...* Xu Qi'an faced the inscription, became silent for a while, and said deeply, "Cijiu, Your elder brother wants to know if the monarch is more important or the people are more important." Xu Xinnian didn't hesitate to answer, "Naturally the people." Xu Qi'an asked again, "Then why are you studying?" Xu Xinnian subconsciously said, "To be loyal to the emperor and to serve the country..." He stared blankly after speaking due to shock. Xu Qi'an didn't care at all, and continued, "Is being famous in history a pursuit a scholar should strive towards?" Xu Xinnian didn't answer, and his silence spoke a thousand words. The actions of the two Great Scholars in Cloud Deer Academy for being involved with a poem explained also explained the situation. Xu Qi'an sighed quietly. *If the king wants the minister to die, the minister has to die. Why?* *If a father wants his son to die, the son has to die. Why?* *Can't this shitty society have a little more human rights?* Xu Qi'an smiled and said, "I'm not a scholar, but I also want to write something. Cijiu, grind the inkstone for me." Xu Xinnian frowned. Xu Qi'an said, "Anyway, the brush and ink are placed here. it's surely so that people will write here. If your elder brother writes badly, it will be erased tomorrow." After Xu Xinnian finished listening, he went to grind ink. In a moment, he stood in front of the stele with a pen in his hand and asked, "What do you want to write, brother?" "I want to write it by myself this time." Xu Qi'an grabbed the pen and stared at the blank stone tablet. Suddenly, the face of the stall owner at the breakfast stall in the morning appeared in his mind. He was in so much distress, but he didn't dare to ask for money. He was as pitiful as a stray dog. The issue of subordinate officials in the Great Feng had been a problem for a long time, and the palace was full of beasts who were only loyal to the emperor, but have never lowered their merciful eyes to the common people at the bottom. He thought of Zhou Li's arrogant and domineering posture when he rode his horse in the street. He thought of the records of rampant behaviour in the capital's government office. The existence of extraordinary force served to highlight the shortcomings of a feudal dynasty quite vividly. It also made the common people at the lower strata have no courage to resist tyranny. He had heard of a few grand peasant uprisings in his previous life. But, in this world, peasant uprisings were quickly extinguished without even having a chance to take shape. Xu Qi'an took a deep breath, exhaled heavily, and picked a brush to write: *"To ordain conscience for Heaven and Earth,
To secure life and fortune for the people,
To continue lost teachings for past sages,
To establish peace for all future generations!"* After he finished writing, Xu Qi'an felt refreshed, and breathing out the depressive energy within his chest. Then he threw away his pen and said loudly, "Cijiu, This is what a scholar should do." Boom! Xu Cijiu felt as if a thunderbolt had struck his mind, splitting his spirit filled with primal chaos and releasing the shackles in his soul. He stared blankly at his cousin. As if he was seeing an illusion, Xu Erlang seemed to see the dense purple air above his cousin's head appear and disappear in a flash. *Ka- ka*! The stone tablet on the side suddenly made a cracking sound, and a huge crack appeared from its top to its bottom. The two brothers were taken aback. Before they could react, the entire Sub Sage Temple trembled, the dome rustled and the candlesticks fell over. A puff of fresh qi burst from the Lesser Sage’s sculpture to pierce the white clouds on the mountaintop, its form being able to be seen dozens of li away. Xu Qi'an was stunned, and his expression was extremely ugly, "What's going on? Um... It seems like we're in a lot of trouble." "What trouble, where trouble?" Xu Xinnian became agitated and said loudly, "What does it have to do with us? We've never been to the Lesser Sage Temple." After finishing speaking, he rushed out of the door with his head in his arms and fled the premises. "Scholar, You wait for me." Xu Qi'an ran after him thinking that scholars have strong adaptability in critical moments. --- Author's note: The Neo-Confucianism in the book is an academic school I have made up based on "Cheng-Zhu" Neo-Confucianism. It's quite different than Neo-Confucianism in reality so don't take it seriously. The theory is based on realistic materials and I just added little modifications myself. After all, If I could write about an entire academic school... Well, I'm a lazy person, Why would I write web novels? The reason for the explanation is that "Cheng-Zhu Confucianism" has polarized opinions, which lends itself to arguments. So, I made this statement. [^1]: 理, fundamentally means reason, or principle, or science. An emphasis in Zhu Xi’s Neo-Confucianism.