‘Treason by the Book’ Book Review
The book gives a story that in 1728 a stranger handed a letter to a governor named Yue. The letter advised him to lead a rebellion against the Manchu leadership of China. Pretending to agree with the initiators, Yue learns of the details of the plot. He immediately informs Emperor Yongzheng who in turn orders for the capture of ringleaders. This is done with ease because of the information that the governor had already given him. The captives are forced to recant and confess their actions. During all the incidents the public confusion and outrage spared to dangerous levels. The emperor then drew an enormous wealth of documented evidence. He presented to the public over a hundred and fifty secret letters and documents between the Emperor and his agents. The letters are still stored in Chinese museum archives.
‘Treason by the Book’ is a book that traces intricate and surprising consequences of the disclosure of a message received by Emperor Yongzheng of China in 1728. The message was from a distant subordinate who denounced his regime. The book is an examination of Chinese culture, a chronicle of historical events and an explanation of the political system. Jonathan Spence recounts relentless investigation of the emperor and how he apprehended dissidents who impugned his imperial system of leadership. The book gives a surprising recount of the emperor’s next move after receiving the message of the coup. He did not take drastic personal steps but decided to ply it simple by beginning an intensive written conversation with the head of the dissidents. The leader of the dissidents was a man named Zeng Jing.
The emperor was able to convince Jing who ultimately wrote an elaborate confession that he had grievously wronged the emperor. The emperor did not take drastic actions but pardoned Zing for his crimes. Despite this, he ordered that the chain of letters between them, including the original treasonous letter to be published. They were published and distributed throughout China. His intention was to give a civics lesson to his subjects about any treason case. The author draws his message from all the documents that survived from the Yongzheng era. He is telling the reader about the emperor’s story in an anchored close reading of primary sources. He accompanied his story by a sustained meditation power of the written word.
He portrays that word power can be used to attack, persuade and call for dialogue between two warring camps. Spence says that Emperor Yongzheng’s experiment in the publication of the subsequent letters 300 years ago seemed enlightened and commendable. He is wonderful accomplished writer and with the China tale, he developed intriguing characters for his many readers to think over. The story is a creative and chilling revolt of Jonathan’s fascination.
The story is an un-worldly dream of a better world. It attaches facts of bureaucratic power by taking the reader through the mind of an Emperor. It also touches on the mercy and how the emperor used his mercy. The emphasis is on the surprising recount of the emperor’s next move after receiving the message of the coup. He looks at steps and sacrifices taken by the emperor before he started an intensive written conversation with the head of the dissidents.
Spence, Jonathan. D. Treason by the Book. University of Michigan Viking Publishers, 2001.
 Spence Jonathan. Treason by the Book (University of Michigan: Viking, 2001) 57.
 Spence Jonathan. Treason by the Book (University of Michigan: Viking, 2001) 104.
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