Kate (kate_nepveu) wrote,
Kate
kate_nepveu

Bureaucracy Rampant

I share this quote from Ivan Morris' The World of the Shining Prince for two reasons: first, I thought it was funny, and second, it irresistibly brought to mind Konzen in Saiyuki Gaiden.

The procedure for issuing Imperial Decrees provides an example of Heian bureaucracy rampant. When the Great Council of State have decided on a proposal, they submit it to the emperor, whose secretaries rewrite it as a State dcoument, drafted of course in Chinese. After the emperor has read it, he automatically approves and signifies this by writing the day of the month in his own hand (the year and the month having already been filled in by the secretaries). The draft is then sent to the Ministry of Central Affairs. The minister makes a Report of Acknowledgement to the emperor. He then examines the document and (approval again being automatic) inscribes the Chinese character for "Proclaim" under his official title. The next stop is the office of the Senior Assistant Minister, who, after the usual delays, writes the character for "Received." The same procedure is followed by the Junior Assistant Minister, except that he writes the character "Perform." Now the draft goes to the Scribes' Office, where it is copied. The document is then sent back to the Great Council of State, where the Major Counsellor makes a Report of Acknowledgement. Next the emperor sees the document; this time he writes the character "Approved" and returns it to the Great Council. Here the document is thoroughly scrutinized and, if no stylistic mistakes are found, it is sent back to the Scribes' Office for multi-copying. Each copy is signed jointly by the Prime Minister and all other officials who are concerned with the matter in hand, and then sent to the palace for the ceremony of affixing the Great Imperial Seal (Seiin no Gi). Now finally the decree can be promulgated. Since, as often as not, it is concerned with some such question as the type of head-dress that an official of the Third Rank may wear at court, we can judge the prodigious waste of time and effort involved in government procedure.

(The forms of bureaucracy were imported from China, but China, being somewhat larger, had more to occupy its bureaucrats.)

Cross-posted to reading_genji.

Tags: books, saiyuki, tale of genji
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