26th July 1741, Beihai Retreat. Afternoon
How time flies when you're not having fun. The back pain is now excruciating. Qianlong cancelled the events of the day and decides to return to his bed at the Forbidden Palace. It's a short walk really but he decided to take the sedan chair. A deeply tanned Han chinese was called over to walk beside the sedan bearers.
"Captain I understand it was your ships that circumnavigated our Terra Astralis Incognito. And yet you have nothing to show for it?"
It was not a question but a simple statement of fact. The twenty odd ships commissioned by the Emperor did manage to establish the existance of a Southern Continent. But they found no kingdoms to pay tribute. In fact they hardly saw any foreign people at all. Not even barbarians, only some simple tribesmen with nothing to trade.
"Your Majesty we brought word of your greatness to all the people we encountered. We didn't spend as much time on land as we hoped. But the Imperial cartographer we were assigned overruled our deep reconaissance. I believe if we were allowed greater lattitude we would certainly find undiscovered kingdoms further inland."
"Captain I don't think you realize what your detractors have been claiming. They're saying this was a waste of time and resources. They're saying you've discovered a poor country with few people, who showed no possession of gold or silver. They're saying we should convert your floatillia to transport grain from north to south China and vice versa."
"If I may be bold Your Majesty, my detractors are only unhappy to see a Han Chinese being given such responsibility from the emperor. My cartographer even tried to. . ."
Qianlong interrupted "Are you complaining after all the opportunities I've given you?"
"I wouldn't dare Your Majesty. I can never repay the generousity and protection you have provide me. I would however suggest that my ships can provide a greater service to the national grain situation than my short-sighted detractors can understand."
"Interesting. Continue." The Emperor is genuinely amused.
The Han sea captain clears his throat dramatically, as if he has been preparing this presentation for sometime.
"Your Majesty is entirely correct that we may not find the kind of treasure the Spanish found in the Americas. But surely you have read my report of the strange phenomenon concerning the climate of the Southern Continent - that the seasons are reversed from all the known world."
"As a matter of fact, I recall your report said the northern half of the continent had two seasons, wet and dry like the tropics of Annam and Siam. The southern half you said had four seasons and was temperate like north China. The Jesuits tell me the south coast you charted is on the same latitude as Beijing."
"Your Majesty's memory is perfection itself. Annam and Siam are rich rice producing countries, and north China grows millet, sorghum, wheat, and soybeans like no other part of the world. I believe these crops can be grown and harvested on the Southern Continent. Most importantly, due to the opposite seasons we could grow summer crops in the winter and winter crops in the summer, thus assuring a year round supply of harvests."
Despite the pain the Emperor sat up in his sedan chair.
"What you're proposing would require immense investment in ship-building. And where would I find farmers to do this work?"
"Your Majesty, I am a simple fisherman driven to the sea because my grandfather had no land to bequeath his children. The population is booming under your benevolent rule. Grant the people land and extend your protection to across the seas and we shall have no trouble finding farmers. The increased harvest tax and reduced cost of famine relief can pay for our investment in ships. Besides the arable land of the Southern Continent is all close to the coasts. We cannot hope for more ideal conditions. I'm willing to go back and bring a few hundred farmers to conduct an experimental farm. That at least should be a small investment."
Qianlong was quiet for a long pregnant moment. Could this be the way to finally solve the periodic drought and flood disasters no ruler had solved since Da Yu? It sounds so preposterous, so contrary to his understanding of agriculture. Just imagine it, the oft drought hit Gansu and Zhili provinces could have backup crops every year. This promised to be nothing less than transformational. A simple experiment deserves to be tried.
"Captain, you prove surprisingly useful. You will have your chance."
1. Establish agricultural colonies in Australia to ease famine, especially in Gansu, Zhili (Hebei) provinces. Provide a means to employ the surplus population and build a sizable sea going fleet.
Edited by Grigori, 26 July 2005 - 04:57 AM.