Hai Rui was an important Ming Dynasty official and reformer. He is known as a model of the ideal, upstanding, government official.
Hai worked to reform the tax system, reassessing land in order to make the tax burden more equitable, and also worked to eliminate corruption among government officials. This dramatically decreased the wealth of many officials, and earned him many enemies. Often opposing his superiors in the name of promoting good governance, Hai went so far as to memorialize the throne during the reign of the Jiajing Emperor, accusing the emperor of excessive devotion to Taoist rites which led him to neglect the business of government. This earned Hai Rui imprisonment, torture, and a death sentence. The Jiajing Emperor died prior to Hai's execution, however, and so he was not only freed, but returned to official service. His continued efforts to effect fair and proper governance continued to earn him political enemies, and so at one point, after forcing a number of powerful noble families to give up land they had acquired illegally, Hai was forced into retirement, returning to office once more in 1585, at the age of 62, two years prior to his death.
- Conrad Schirokauer, et al, A Brief History of Chinese and Japanese Civilizations, Fourth Edition, Cengage Learning (2012), 249.