Contrary to accepted scholarly opinion, Ssu-Ma Kuang was not a leading spokesman for monarchical absolutism during the Sung dynasty. He conceived of “non-action” as a practical technique of government in which the various strata of the administration had their own unique areas of competence. The emperor, in his view, had only limited powers of decision-making. The outline of Ssu-Ma's theory of the proper relationship between bureaucracy and monarchy is that the bureaucracy is the official interpreter of the classical tradition, which was the criterion for the legitimacy of imperial decisions, and that the bureaucracy was to have wide-ranging discretionary power and delegated authority. The emperor was to rule through “non-action” by turning over authority to qualified subordinates.

The text of this article is only available as a PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.