It is “out there,” in at least two senses of the phrase. It pops up in reading and speech occasionally; it is also “out there” in the sense that it is just beyond our everyday mix of speech acts, as an aging kind of Oxford philosopher might call them. Sure, if you have mastered your SAT vocabulary work you might well be able to define it. Can you use it, though? I think not, and that is far from being a criticism (don’t be touchy about this, please). The problem with remonstrance is that it means a great many things, and all require a deep understanding of context—more so than the vast majority of terms “out there.”
And that’s just English. How is the word used in French, German, Italian, and Spanish? How, indeed, is it used in Russian, Polish, Arabic, or Farsi? And how, to get to the point of this series of posts, is it used in Chinese, Japanese, and Korean? How, indeed?
Culture has a great deal to do with the way we view the word. In English, we tend to look at it along the lines of “admonition” or “reproof.” In East Asia, “remonstrance” has a distinctly hierarchical component. That is where we will begin, but before we are done with this series of posts (it could go on for years), we will have a full, rich, sense of what the concept means in speech, literature, and—this is the whole point of these posts—managing our lives.
|[c] Harmony RF|
Let me explain. I have been studying the concept of remonstrance for thirty years—ever since I first learned the word and thought I knew “what it meant.” I relied on context. If I recall, it was used in a sentence not unlike “…and then Père Lapin (Daddy Rabbit) remonstrated with the bunnies, urging them to apply themselves to their studies.” Or something like that. I was sure that it was a synonym for “exhort.” Positive.
But then, by chance (I was a college student reading French children’s books on the sly—more on that at another time), I came across the term in a completely different context. A Chinese minister of government—we might have said “courtier” if we were still speaking of France—remonstrated with tenacity over the conduct of the ruler. Here is the precise quotation as I read it in Achilles Fang’s translation of The Comprehensive Mirror for Aid in Government (資治通鑑). I was in college, and my fledgling Chinese was not up to recognizing words such as 諫 (remonstrance) yet. 見 (to see) was about the best I could manage then (this is just a little nod to those who struggle with the language; it is difficult for all of us).
The emperor did not respond, but rose and went inside. Pi followed and tugged on his robes; the emperor shook free and did not return. After a long interlude he reemerged, saying, “Zuozhi, how earnestly you struggled!” Pi responded, “If now you move them, you will lose the people’s good will. You also do not have the means to feed them. Therefore I dared not but contend vigorously.” The emperor thereupon moved half the planned number. 
These posts are meant to consider the term in its full, florid contexts—in Europe, the Americas, Africa, and Asia. The emphasis will be a little more on Asia, to be sure, since I have spent a great deal of my time reading and studying its traditions (if we really can say “it” for Asia). We are going to think about just what this word means, and how it is used.
It is the key to managing oneself, one’s family…and all under heaven (天下).
 Achilles Fang, The Chronicle of the Three Kingdoms V. 1 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1952), 13.
Fang, Achilles. The Chronicle of the Three Kingdoms (2 vols). Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1965.