Liu Jian (1433-1526) was a well-known official in the Ming dynasty. He had originally studiedCheng and Zhu′s Neo-Confucianism, and became an adherent of XueXuan afterwards. He valued Neo-Confucian rationalism most, and governed the state accordingly, with the Confucian ideals of self-cultivating and state-ruling. Liu Jian accomplished considerable achievements during his official career. He was the grand secretary under EmperorHongzhiwhen the climate of politics was morally upright, attributing to the officials of integrity in position as well as themonarch and the ministers of one mind. Liu Jian was one of the representative sage grand secretaries at the time, and was given credit for assisting Hongzhiin restoring the political situation. When Emperor Zhengde took over the power, Liu Jian, as the grand secretary and the assistant minister appointed by Hongzhi on the monarch’s deathbed, constrained the eunuchs’ force and contained Zhengde’s unscrupulousness, with the support from the other ministers. He had a significant influence over the stabilization of the political situation at the early stage when Zhengde came into power. Liu Jian had been in the cabinet for 20 years and served as the grand secretary for 9 years, who truly played an important role in the governments of the midMing dynasty.
This research is divided into three proportions to develop the analysis of Liu Jian. Firstly, it looks into Liu Jian’s extraction background and the course of his official career. It also elaborates hisrationalistic conception to explore his aspiration about inner sageliness and outer kingliness. Secondly, it analyzes the way Liu Jian served the monarchsthrough his interactions with Hongzhi and Zhengde, to inquire into the political role he played as the head of the cabinet and the shift of power balance within the palace.Thirdly, in order to probe into Liu Jian’s objectives of governing the state and carrying out his ideals, and to interpret his influence on the political situation in the mid Ming dynasty, this research further discusses the way hegot along with the other ministers and how he set policies for the state, andit also specifies the administrative obstacles he encountered.
Most of the Chinese historians speak highly of Liu Jian’s moral conduct and his achievements. He reached the highest rank of officials, had great capability ofpolicy-making, and never hesitated to take up tasks. He assisted the monarchs with the path of duty, treatedthe ministers righteously, and therefore was a successful role model evaluated with the traditional Confucian standards. However, Liu Jian overemphasized practical knowledge, and consequently depreciated poems and verses, edged out Buddhism and Taoism, disliked scholars, and ignored social intercourses. As a result, he was open to some objection. In addition, owing to Liu Jian’s conservativeness, the defects of the cabinet system, the indecisiveness of himself and Hongzhi, and the unscrupulousness of Zhengde, his political conduct wasrather confined.