Memorial or Statement to Present One’s View to the Emperor
This genre of writing was used by officials to report important matters or present personal views to the emperor. Zou (奏) here means “a reminder to the throne,” i.e., a statement of an administrative matter plus a clear-cut view on how to handle it. Qi (启) here means “a candid view on state business.” The former should be prudent, insightful and plain in style, whereas the latter, functioning as both a memorial and a petition, should be brief and unassuming in style. Liu Xie (465?-520) of the Southern Dynasties observed that this kind of writing was prepared for making an oral presentation to the emperor. It reported an urgent situation, exposed wrongdoers, expressed one’s views on governance issues, and proposed ways to handle them. Therefore, unlike a memorial of gratitude or petition, a memorial to present one’s view to the emperor should be objective, discreet and succinct, and unaffected by one’s own mood. This observation still holds true for writing official communications today.
Zou or memorial to the emperor should be objective, candid and truthful. Its primary purpose is to fully clarify and analyze an issue. One who writes a memorial to the emperor should do so with firm resolve to reach a worthy goal. He should be highly knowledgeable so that he can explore an issue thoroughly, draw on past experience to solve the problem at hand, and identify key factors in addressing a multitude of issues. These are the basic elements that are important for writing a good memorial. (Liu Xie: The Literary Mind and the Carving of Dragons)
The use of qi or memorial to present one’s views has remained quite common since the Jin Dynasty. As far as the articulation of views and the discussion of state affairs are concerned, such memorials are a sub-type of general memorials (zou) submitted to the emperor. Such memorials may also be submitted to decline a title of nobility or express gratitude for an honor conferred by the emperor. In this sense, they are a sub-type of general memorials (biao) submitted to the emperor. In writing a memorial to present a candid view, one should be careful about wording and comply with laws and regulations. The memorial should be short in sense groups, highlight key facts and arguments and be persuasive in style. It should be eloquent but not flamboyant. These are the basic rules for writing a good memorial to present one’s views. (Liu Xie: The Literary Mind and the Carving of Dragons)