At court, the new emperor's ability to respond was hamstrung by his father's insistence on ruling from retirement until his death in 1799 and by the continued influence of Heshen, the former emperor's corrupt favorite.
Here, Wang shows how Jiaqing used the external crises of the rebellion to resolve an intemal crisis: his struggles to remove Heshen and his clique from power at court.
(28) Setting the tone, Emperor Qianlong changed the name of Wu Tianban ("Heaven's-half Wu) to Wu Bansheng [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] ("Half-a-life" Wu), indicating that this rebel had no connection with Heaven and indeed was not long for this world.29 Upon Wu's capture in late 1795, Governor-general Fu'kangan described him as "crafty by nature, having incited the masses and perpetrated wrongs." (30) The Grand Council similarly observed that Wu Tianban had "incited and enticed the Miao, led the masses to burn and rob...and everywhere assisted evil and perpetrated wickedness." (31) In similar form, Grand Councilor Heshen wrote that the "exceedingly evil, unreasonable, unlawful, and rebellious Miao" Shi Sanbao "was the first to lead the masses in the uprising on the pretext of madness.
(36) Heshen repeated this rhetoric, concluding with the final bureaucratic verdict that the Miao kings, like Wu Sangui, had performed "the most grievous crimes to the vilest degree" (zui da eji [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]).
(44) Wu Tianban and Shi Sanbao were sent on to the capital, but on Heshen's recommendation the crimes of the culprits were announced to the people of west Hunan in order to "realize the laws of the nation and quicken their hearts" (yi zhang guo xian, er kuai ren xin [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]).
In the case examined here, the tone was set and structured by the Qianlong emperor, as well as perpetuated by the Grand Council and favored ministers such as Heshen and Fukang'an.
Grand Councilor Heshen [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (1750-99) noted that Wu Sangui had "the most grievous crimes to the vilest degree." "How then could [Shi and others] have said that Wu Tianban was Wu Sangui transmigrated and titled him Wu King?!" See QQMQDS, vol.
He learned the Emperor's first minister, Heshen
, who was also his lover and his son-in-law, was the only person Qian Long trusted, and Heshen
acted as gatekeeper to the Emperor (Peyrefitte, 1992/1989, p.163).
As a young man Qianlong had fallen passionately in love with his father's concubine, Machia, and in his sixties the passion was transferred to a male lover, Heshen
, Machia's supposed reincarnation.