A Court on Horseback

Michael G. Chang

A Court on Horseback is a scholarly book that examines briefly the 6 southern tours made by Emperor Kang Hsi, and in detail the 6 southern tours made by his grandson Emperor Qianlong.

The author presents fascinating details on the logistics and reasons for the tours.

We read of the emperor’s advisors protesting the tours on the ground they were pure holidays, expensive and unnecessary. Some were demoted as Qianlong did not like what he heard.

The title of this book came from a report to his king by a Korean envoy to Qianlong’s court. The envoy reported back that both emperors are always on the move. It is ” a court on horseback.” [page 74 hardcopy].

The tours were not pure holidays. With each tour, Qianlong held recruitment examinations in Jiangnan, Jingnan and Zhejiang.

For the 6 tours from 1751 to 1784 a total of 85 candidates won first-tier honours. 180 won second-tier honours [page 466].

This is not an easy book to read. Readers interested to know more of the tours by Kang Hsi should read Jonathan D Spence ‘s excellent book, Tsao Yin and the Kang Hsi Emperor which narrates his 6 tours in great detail from pages 124 to 157.

The Kang Hsi Emperor made six famous Southern Tours from 1684 to 1707.

The days spent on each of the 6 tours were 60, 70, 102, 58, 108, and 117 days respectively.

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