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Palace Memorials and Grand Council Archives of Dynasty collected by the National Palace Museum


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National Palace Museum


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In the early Ch'ing dynasty (1644-1911), drafting and submitting documents to the court followed the system that was used in the Ming dynasty (1368-1644). Public matters were dealt with in subject memorials, and private business in confidential memorials. Starting from the middle of the reign of K'ang-hsi (r. 1662-1722) however, the memorial system was revamped, marking the beginning of the new Ch'ing system. Now both public and private memorials were dealt with confidentially. Military and civil officials memorialized on local matters, the effectiveness of government, and public sentiment, which was all to be reported to the emperor truthfully and on an individual basis. If the contents were of an urgent governmental nature, the memorial could be sent by express courier. All other memorials, even those from high officials, could only be sent by regular government transportation to the capital, where they were received by the memorial inspector at the palace gate. Memorials did not go through ordinary bureaucratic channels, but straight to the emperor, making them confidential and efficient. After the emperor personally wrote notes or comments, the memorial was returned directly to the writer. Then the memorial with imperial comments was returned to the court, where it was stored, hence the name "palace memorials."

In the Yung-cheng period (1723-1735), The Grand Council of State was created. For the sake of easier retrieval, all the imperial comments were transcribed, compiled in Archives and stored in the Grand Council. The palace memorials in the Museum collection that predate the Yung-cheng period total more than 158,000. They include documents from the reigns of the early Ching emperors and are written in both Manchu and Chinese. The Grand Council Archives at the National Palace Museum consist of records and monthly memorial packets totalling more than 190,000. These documents are a precious source of first-hand information for the study of Ch'ing history and politics.

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