Emperor of China

Emperor of China (Chinese: 皇帝; realized as Huángdì in Standard Chinese) is the title given the monarch of China during the imperial period of Chinese history. In traditional Chinese political theory, the Emperor was considered the Son of Heaven and the autocrat of All under Heaven. Under the Han dynasty, Confucianism replaced Legalism as the official political theory and succession theoretically followed agnatic primogeniture. The Chinese emperors who shared the same family were classified into historical periods known as dynasties. The absolute authority of the emperor was notionally bound with various duties and obligations; failure to uphold these was thought to remove the dynasty's Mandate of Heaven and to justify its replacement. In practice, emperors and heirs sometimes avoided the strict rules of succession and dynasties' ostensible "failures" were detailed in official histories written by their successful replacements. The power of the emperor was also often limited by the imperial bureaucracy staffed by scholar-officials and eunuchs and by filial obligations to surviving parents and to dynastic traditions, such as those detailed in the Ming dynasty's Ancestral Instructions.

Emperor of China
A painting of Qin Shi Huangdi, who was the first Emperor of China and introduced the title huangdi for emperorship [1]
StyleHis Majesty (陛下)
First monarchQin Shi Huang
Last monarchDe jure: Xuantong Emperor (reigned from 2 December 1908 to 12 February 1912, his abdication forced by Xinhai Revolution)
Dispute: Hongxian Emperor (monarchy attempt, internationally unrecognized. Reign ended due to popular unrest)
FormationQin's wars of unification
ResidenceVaries according to dynasties, from 1420 to 1912 in the Forbidden City in Beijing
Pretender(s)Jin Yuzhang (Qing dynasty)

Origin and history

The Emperor Taizong of Tang in a regal garb of the Tang dynasty

During the Zhou dynasty, Chinese feudal rulers with power over their particular fiefdoms were called gong () but, as the power of the Shang and Zhou kings (, OC:*ɢʷaŋ,[2] mod.wang) waned, the dukes began to usurp that title for themselves. In 221 BCE, after the then-king of Qin completed the conquest of the various kingdoms of the Warring States period, he adopted a new title to reflect his prestige as a ruler greater than the rulers before him. He called himself Shi Huangdi, the First Emperor. Before this, Huang () and Di () were the nominal "titles" of eight rulers of Chinese mythology or prehistory: The three Huang (, OC:*ɢʷˤaŋ, "august, sovereign") were godly rulers credited with feats like ordering the sky and forming the first humans out of clay; the five Di (, OC:*tˤeks, also often translated "emperor" but also meaning "the God of Heaven"[note 1]) were cultural heroes credited with the invention of agriculture, clothing, astrology, music, etc. In the 3rd century BCE, the two titles had not previously been used together. Because of the god-like powers of the Huang, the folk worship of the Di, and the latter's use in the name of the God of Heaven Shangdi, however, the First Emperor's title would have been understood as implying "The Holy" or "Divine Emperor". On that account, some modern scholars translate the title as "thearch".[3]

On occasion, the father of the ascended emperor was still alive. Such an emperor was titled the Taishang Huang (太上皇), the "Grand Imperial Sire". The practice was initiated by the First Emperor, who gave the title as a posthumous name to his own father. Liu Bang, who established the Han dynasty, was the first to become emperor while his father yet lived. It was said he granted the title during his father's life because he would not be bowed to by his own father, a commoner.

Owing to political fragmentation, over the centuries, it has not been uncommon to have numerous claimants to the title of "Emperor of All China". The Chinese political concept of the Mandate of Heaven essentially legitimized those claimants who emerged victorious. The proper list was considered those made by the official dynastic histories; the compilation of a history of the preceding dynasty was considered one of the hallmarks of legitimacy, along with symbols such as the Nine Ding or the Heirloom Seal of the Realm. As with the First Emperor, it was very common also to retroactively grant posthumous titles to the ancestors of the victors; even in Chinese historiography, however, such grants were not considered to elevate emperors prior to the successful declaration of a new dynasty.

The Yuan and Qing dynasties were founded by successful invaders; as part of their rule over China, however, they also went through the rituals of formally declaring a new dynasty and taking on the Chinese title of Huangdi, in addition to the titles of their respective people. Thus, Kublai Khan was simultaneously Khagan of the Mongols and Emperor of China.

Imperial standard of the Qing Emperor
Imperial standard of the Qing Emperor

In 1911, the title of Prime Minister of the Imperial Cabinet was created to rule alongside the Emperor, as part of an attempt to turn China into a constitutional monarchy.

Puyi as the Kangde Emperor of Manchukuo

The Xuantong Emperor (Puyi) of the Qing dynasty, the de jure last Emperor of China, abdicated on 12 February, 1912. He was briefly restored for almost two weeks during a coup in 1917 but was overthrown again shortly after. He later became the emperor of Manchukuo, a Japanese puppet state, and was captured by the Red Army as a prisoner of war after World War II and held in Chita, Soviet Union. He would be returned to China and rehabilitated in Fushun War Criminals Management Centre, and after he was released lived until 1967.

Yuan Shikai as the Hongxian Emperor of China

Yuan Shikai, former President of the Republic of China, attempted to restore a monarchy with himself as the Hongxian Emperor, however his reign as Emperor ended on 22 March, 1916.

Number of Emperors

Qubilai Setsen Khaan
Portrait of young Kublai Khan by Anige, a Nepali artist in Kublai's court

On one count, from the Qin dynasty to the Qing dynasty, there were 557 emperors including the rulers of minor states.[4] Some, such as Li Zicheng, Huang Chao, and Yuan Shu, declared themselves the Emperors, Son of Heaven and founded their own empires as a rival government to challenge the legitimacy of and overthrow the existing Emperor. Among the most famous emperors were Qin Shi Huang of the Qin dynasty, the Emperors Gaozu and Wu of the Han dynasty, Emperor Taizong of the Tang dynasty, Kublai Khan of the Yuan dynasty, the Hongwu Emperor of the Ming dynasty, and the Kangxi Emperor of the Qing dynasty.[5]

The Emperor's words were considered sacred edicts (t 聖旨/s 圣旨) and his written proclamations "directives from above" (上諭/上谕). In theory, the Emperor's orders were to be obeyed immediately. He was elevated above all commoners, nobility and members of the Imperial family. Addresses to the Emperor were always to be formal and self-deprecatory, even by the closest of family members.

In practice, however, the power of the emperor varied between different emperors and different dynasties. Generally, in the Chinese dynastic cycle, emperors founding a dynasty usually consolidated the empire through absolute rule: examples include Qin Shi Huang of the Qin, Emperor Taizong of the Tang, Kublai Khan of the Yuan, and the Kangxi Emperor of the Qing. These emperors ruled as absolute monarchs throughout their reign, maintaining a centralized grip on the country. During the Song dynasty, the emperor's power was significantly overshadowed by the power of the chancellor.

The emperor's position, unless deposed in a rebellion, was always hereditary, usually by agnatic primogeniture. As a result, many emperors ascended the throne while still children. During these minorities, the Empress Dowager (i.e., the emperor's mother) would possess significant power. In fact, the vast majority of female rulers throughout Chinese Imperial history came to power by ruling as regents on behalf of their sons; prominent examples include the Empress Lü of the Han dynasty, as well as Empress Dowager Cixi and Empress Dowager Ci'an of the Qing dynasty, who for a time ruled jointly as co-regents. Where Empresses Dowager were too weak to assume power, court officials often seized control. Court eunuchs had a significant role in the power structure, as emperors often relied on a few of them as confidants, which gave them access to many court documents. In a few places, eunuchs wielded vast power; one of the most powerful eunuchs in Chinese history was Wei Zhongxian during the Ming dynasty. Occasionally, other nobles seized power as regents. The actual area ruled by the Emperor of China varied from dynasty to dynasty. In some cases, such as during the Southern Song dynasty, political power in East Asia was effectively split among several governments; nonetheless, the political fiction that there was but one ruler was maintained.

Heredity and succession

A Tang Dynasty Empress Wu Zetian
An 18th century depiction of Wu Zetian, the only empress of China

The title of emperor was hereditary, traditionally passed on from father to son in each dynasty. There are also instances where the throne is assumed by a younger brother, should the deceased Emperor have no male offspring. By convention in most dynasties, the eldest son born to the Empress (嫡長子/嫡长子) succeeded to the throne. In some cases when the empress did not bear any children, the emperor would have a child with another of his many wives (all children of the emperor were said also to be the children of the empress, regardless of birth mother). In some dynasties the succession of the empress' eldest son was disputed, and because many emperors had large numbers of progeny, there were wars of succession between rival sons. In an attempt to resolve after-death disputes, the emperor, while still living, often designated a Crown Prince (太子). Even such a clear designation, however, was often thwarted by jealousy and distrust, whether it was the crown prince plotting against the emperor, or brothers plotting against each other. Some emperors, like the Yongzheng Emperor, after abolishing the position of Crown Prince, placed the succession papers in a sealed box, only to be opened and announced after his death.

Unlike, for example, the Japanese monarchy, Chinese political theory allowed for a change in the ruling house. This was based on the concept of the "Mandate of Heaven". The theory behind this was that the Chinese emperor acted as the "Son of Heaven" and held a mandate to rule over everyone else in the world; but only as long as he served the people well. If the quality of rule became questionable because of repeated natural disasters such as flood or famine, or for other reasons, then rebellion was justified. This important concept legitimized the dynastic cycle or the change of dynasties.

This principle made it possible even for peasants to found new dynasties, as happened with the Han and Ming dynasties, and for the establishment of conquest dynasties such as the Mongol-led Yuan dynasty and Manchu-led Qing dynasty. It was moral integrity and benevolent leadership that determined the holder of the "Mandate of Heaven".

There has been only one lawful female reigning Emperor in China, Empress Zetian, who briefly replaced the Tang dynasty with her own Zhou dynasty. Many women, however, did become de facto leaders, usually as Empress Dowager. Prominent examples include Empress Dowager Lü of the Han dynasty and Empress Liu (Zhenzong) of the Sung dynasty Empress Dowager Cixi of the Qing dynasty.

Styles, names and forms of address

To see naming conventions in detail, please refer to Chinese sovereign
Portrait of the Kangxi Emperor in Court Dress
The Kangxi Emperor, in the garb of the Qing dynasty

As the emperor had, by law, an absolute position not to be challenged by anyone else, his or her subjects were to show the utmost respect in his or her presence, whether in direct conversation or otherwise. When approaching the Imperial throne, one was expected to kowtow before the Emperor. In a conversation with the emperor, it was considered a crime to compare oneself to the emperor in any way. It was taboo to refer to the emperor by his or her given name, even for the emperor's own mother, who instead was to use Huángdì (皇帝), or simply Ér (兒/儿, "son", for male emperor). The emperor was never to be addressed as "you". Anyone who spoke to the emperor was to address him or her as Bìxià (陛下, lit. the "Bottom of the Steps"), corresponding to "Your Imperial Majesty"; Huáng Shàng (皇上, lit. Radiant Highness); Shèng Shàng (聖上/圣上, lit. Holy Highness); or Tiānzǐ (天子, lit. "Son of Heaven"). The emperor could also be alluded to indirectly through reference to the imperial dragon symbology. Servants often addressed the emperor as Wàn Suì Yé (萬歲爺/万岁爷, lit. Lord of Ten Thousand Years). The emperor referred to himself or herself as Zhèn (朕), the original Chinese first-person singular arrogated by the First Emperor, functioning as an equivalent to the "Royal We", or Guǎrén (寡人, the "Morally-Deficient One") in front of his or her subjects.

In contrast to the Western convention of referring to a sovereign using a regnal name (e.g. George V) or by a personal name (e.g. Queen Victoria), a governing emperor was to be referred to simply as Huángdì Bìxià (皇帝陛下, Majesty|His/Her Majesty the Emperor) or Dāngjīn Huángshàng (當今皇上/当今皇上, The Present Emperor Above) when spoken about in the third person. Under the Qing, the emperor was usually styled His Imperial Majesty the Emperor of the Great Qing Dynasty, Son of Heaven, Lord of Ten Thousand Years although this varied considerably.

Generally, emperors also ruled with an era name (年號/年号). Since the adoption of era name by Emperor Wu of Han and up until the Ming dynasty, the sovereign conventionally changed the era name semi-regularly during his or her reign. During the Ming and Qing Dynasties, emperors simply chose one era name for their entire reign, and people often referred to past emperors with that title. In earlier dynasties, the emperors were known with a temple name (廟號/庙号) given after their death. Most emperors were also given a posthumous name (謚號/谥号, Shìhào), which was sometimes combined with the temple name (e.g. Emperor Shèngzǔrén 聖祖仁皇帝/圣祖仁皇帝 for the Kangxi Emperor). The passing of an emperor was referred to as Jiàbēng (駕崩/驾崩, lit. "collapse of the [imperial] chariot") and an emperor that had just died was referred to as Dàxíng Huángdì (大行皇帝), literally "the Emperor of the Great Journey."


The Imperial family was made up of the Emperor and the Empress (皇后) as the primary consort and Mother of the Nation (國母/国母). In addition, the Emperor would typically have several other consorts and concubines (嬪妃/嫔妃), ranked by importance into a harem, in which the Empress was supreme. Every dynasty had its set of rules regarding the numerical composition of the harem. During the Qing dynasty (1644–1911), for example, imperial convention dictated that at any given time there should be one Empress, one Huang Guifei, two Guifei, four fei and six pin, plus an unlimited number of other consorts and concubines. Although the Emperor had the highest status by law, by tradition and precedent the mother of the Emperor, i.e., the Empress Dowager (皇太后), usually received the greatest respect in the palace and was the decision maker in most family affairs. At times, especially when a young emperor was on the throne, she was the de facto ruler. The Emperor's children, the princes (皇子) and princesses (公主), were often referred to by their order of birth, e.g., Eldest Prince, Third Princess, etc. The princes were often given titles of peerage once they reached adulthood. The Emperor's brothers and uncles served in court by law, and held equal status with other court officials (子). The Emperor was always elevated above all others despite any chronological or generational superiority.


Most Chinese emperors are considered to have been members of the Han ethnicity, although recent scholarship is wary of applying present-day ethnic categories to historical situations. Nomads from the Eurasian steppe repeatedly conquered northern China and claimed the title of emperor. The most successful of these were the Xiongnu, Xianbei, Khitans (Liao dynasty), Jurchens (Jin dynasty), Mongols (Yuan dynasty), and Manchus (Qing dynasty). The orthodox historical view sees these as non-native dynasties that became sinicized, with the foreigners adopting Chinese culture, claiming the Mandate of Heaven, and performing the traditional imperial obligations such as annual sacrifices to Heaven (as Tian or Shangdi) for rain and prosperity. Some recent scholarship (such as that done by the New Qing History school) argue that the interaction between politics and ethnicity was far more complex and that elements of these dynasties differed from and even altered native Chinese traditions concerning imperial rule.[6]

See also


  1. ^ The name in fact originally referred to the deïfied ancestors of the Shang kings. Its application to the chief god of Heaven arose from their claim to be the "Son of Heaven".[3]


  1. ^ Dillon, Michael, ed. (2017). Encyclopedia of Chinese History. Routledge. p. 182. ISBN 978-0-415-42699-2.
  2. ^ Baxter, William & al. Baxter–Sagart Old Chinese Reconstruction Archived September 27, 2013, at the Wayback Machine. 2011. Accessed 22 Dec 2013.
  3. ^ a b Nadeau, Randall L. The Wiley-Blackwell Companion to Chinese Religions, pp. 54 ff. John Wiley & Sons (Chichester), 2012. Accessed 22 December 2013.
  4. ^ Barmé, Geremie (2008). The Forbidden City. Harvard University Press. p. 594. ISBN 978-0-674-02779-4.
  5. ^ "看版圖學中國歷史", p.5, Publisher: Chung Hwa Book Company, Year: 2006, Author: 陸運高, ISBN 962-8885-12-X.
  6. ^ Sinicization vs. Manchuness: The Success of Manchu Rule

Further reading

  • Paludan, Ann (1998). Chronicle of the Chinese Emperors: The Reign-by-Reign Record of the Rulers of Imperial China. New York: Thames and Hudson. ISBN 0-500-05090-2.

External links

Chenghua Emperor

The Chenghua Emperor (Chinese: 成化; pinyin: Chénghuà; 9 December 1447 – 9 September 1487), born Zhu Jianshen, was the ninth Emperor of the Ming dynasty, reigned from 1464 to 1487. His era name "Chenghua" means "accomplished change".

Chongzhen Emperor

The Chongzhen Emperor (Chinese: 崇禎; pinyin: Chóngzhēn; 6 February 1611 – 25 April 1644), personal name Zhu Youjian (Chinese: 朱由檢; pinyin: Zhū Yóujiǎn), was the 17th and last Emperor of the Ming dynasty as well as the last Han Chinese to reign as Emperor of China, reigned from 1627 to 1644. "Chongzhen," the era name of his reign, means "honorable and auspicious".

Zhu Youjian was son of the Taichang Emperor and younger brother of the Tianqi Emperor, whom he succeeded to the throne in 1627. He battled peasant rebellions and was not able to defend the northern frontier against the Manchu. When rebels reached the capital Beijing in 1644, he committed suicide, ending the Ming dynasty. The Manchu formed the succeeding Qing dynasty.

Convention of Peking

The Convention or First Convention of Peking, sometimes now known as the Convention of Beijing, is an agreement comprising three distinct treaties concluded between the Qing dynasty of China and the United Kingdom, French Empire, and Russian Empire in 1860. In China, they are regarded as among the unequal treaties. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of China keeps the original copy of the Convention in the National Palace Museum in Taiwan.

Daoguang Emperor

The Daoguang Emperor (16 September 1782 – 26 February 1850, Chinese:道光) was the eighth Emperor of the Qing dynasty, and the sixth Qing emperor to rule over China proper, reigned from 1820 to 1850. His reign was marked by "external disaster and internal rebellion," that is, by the First Opium War, and the beginning of the Taiping Rebellion which nearly brought down the dynasty. The historian Jonathan Spence characterizes the Daoguang Emperor as a "well meaning but ineffective man" who promoted officials who "presented a purist view even if they had nothing to say about the domestic and foreign problems surrounding the dynasty."

Emperor Yingzong of Ming

Zhu Qizhen (Chinese: 朱祁鎮; 29 November 1427 – 23 February 1464) was the sixth and eighth Emperor of the Ming dynasty. He ascended the throne as the Zhengtong Emperor (Chinese: 正統; pinyin: Zhèngtǒng; literally: 'right governance') in 1435, but was forced to abdicate in 1449, in favour of his younger brother the Jingtai Emperor, after being captured by the Mongols during the Tumu Crisis. In 1457, he deposed Jingtai and ruled again as the Tianshun Emperor (Chinese: 天順; pinyin: Tiānshùn; literally: 'obedience to Heaven') until his death in 1464. His temple name is Yingzong (英宗).

Guangxu Emperor

The Guangxu Emperor (14 August 1871 – 14 November 1908), personal name Zaitian, was the 11th Emperor of the Qing dynasty, and the ninth Qing emperor to rule over China proper. His reign lasted from 1875 to 1908, but in practice he ruled, without Empress Dowager Cixi's influence, only from 1889 to 1898. He initiated the Hundred Days' Reform, but was abruptly stopped when the empress dowager launched a coup in 1898, after which he was put under house arrest until his death. His regnal name, "Guangxu", means "glorious succession".

Hongzhi Emperor

The Hongzhi Emperor (Chinese: 弘治; pinyin: Hóngzhì) (30 July 1470 – 9 June 1505) was the 10th Emperor of the Ming dynasty, reigned from 1487 to 1505. Born Zhu Youcheng, he was the eldest surviving son of the Chenghua Emperor and his reign as emperor of China is called the "Hongzhi Silver Age". His era name, "Hongzhi", means "great government." A peace-loving emperor, the Hongzhi Emperor also had only one empress and no concubines, granting him the distinction of being the sole perpetually monogamous emperor in Chinese history, besides Emperor Fei. He was emperor during the middle years of the Ming dynasty.

Jiajing Emperor

The Jiajing Emperor (Chinese: 嘉靖; pinyin: Jiājìng; Wade–Giles: Chia-ching; 16 September 1507 – 23 January 1567) was the 12th Emperor of the Ming dynasty, reigned from 1521 to 1567. Born Zhu Houcong, he was the former Zhengde Emperor's cousin. His father, Zhu Youyuan (1476–1519), the Prince of Xing, was the fourth son of the Chenghua Emperor (reigned from 1464 to 1487) and the eldest son of three sons born to the emperor's concubine, Lady Shao. The Jiajing Emperor's regnal name, "Jiajing", means "admirable tranquility".

Jiaqing Emperor

The Jiaqing Emperor (13 November 1760 – 2 September 1820), personal name Yongyan, was the seventh emperor of the Manchu-led Qing dynasty, and the fifth Qing emperor to rule over China proper, from 1796 to 1820. He was the 15th son of the Qianlong Emperor. During his reign, he prosecuted Heshen, the corrupt favorite of his father, and attempted to restore order within the Qing Empire while curbing the smuggling of opium into China.

Kangxi Emperor

The Kangxi Emperor (5 May 1654 – 20 December 1722), personal name Xuanye, was the fourth Emperor of the Qing dynasty, and the second Qing emperor to rule over China proper, reigned from 1661 to 1722.

The Kangxi Emperor's reign of 61 years makes him the longest-reigning emperor in Chinese history (although his grandson, the Qianlong Emperor, had the longest period of de facto power) and one of the longest-reigning rulers in the world. However, since he ascended the throne at the age of seven, actual power was held for six years by four regents and his grandmother, the Grand Empress Dowager Xiaozhuang.

The Kangxi Emperor is considered one of China's greatest emperors. He suppressed the Revolt of the Three Feudatories, forced the Kingdom of Tungning in Taiwan and assorted Mongol rebels in the North and Northwest to submit to Qing rule, and blocked Tsarist Russia on the Amur River, retaining Outer Manchuria and Outer Northwest China.

The Kangxi Emperor's reign brought about long-term stability and relative wealth after years of war and chaos. He initiated the period known as the "Prosperous Era of Kangxi and Qianlong" or "High Qing", which lasted for several generations after his death. His court also accomplished such literary feats as the compilation of the Kangxi Dictionary.

Qin Shi Huang

Qin Shi Huang (Chinese: 秦始皇; literally: 'First Emperor of Qin', pronunciation ; 18 February 259 BC – 10 September 210 BC) was the founder of the Qin dynasty and was the first emperor of a unified China. He was born Ying Zheng (嬴政) or Zhao Zheng (趙政), a prince of the state of Qin. He became Zheng, the King of Qin (秦王政) when he was thirteen, then China's first emperor when he was 38 after the Qin had conquered all of the other Warring States and unified all of China in 221 BC. Rather than maintain the title of "king" (王 wáng) borne by the previous Shang and Zhou rulers, he ruled as the First Emperor (始皇帝) of the Qin dynasty from 221 BC to 210 BC. His self-invented title "emperor" (皇帝 huángdì), as indicated by his use of the word "First", would continue to be borne by Chinese rulers for the next two millennia.

During his reign, his generals greatly expanded the size of the Chinese state: campaigns south of Chu permanently added the Yue lands of Hunan and Guangdong to the Chinese cultural orbit; campaigns in Central Asia conquered the Ordos Loop from the nomad Xiongnu, although eventually it would also lead to their confederation under Modu Chanyu.

Qin Shi Huang also worked with his minister Li Si to enact major economic and political reforms aimed at the standardization of the diverse practices of the earlier Chinese states. He is traditionally said to have banned and burned many books and executed scholars, though a closer examination renders the account doubtful. His public works projects included the unification of diverse state walls into a single Great Wall of China and a massive new national road system, as well as the city-sized mausoleum guarded by the life-sized Terracotta Army. He ruled until his death in 210 BC during his fourth tour of Eastern China.

Shunzhi Emperor

The Shunzhi Emperor (15 March 1638 – 5 February 1661) was the third Emperor of the Qing dynasty, and the first Qing emperor to rule over China proper, reigned from 1644 to 1661. A committee of Manchu princes chose him to succeed his father, Hong Taiji (1592–1643), in September 1643, when he was five years old. The princes also appointed two co-regents: Dorgon (1612–1650), the 14th son of the Qing dynasty's founder Nurhaci (1559–1626), and Jirgalang (1599–1655), one of Nurhaci's nephews, both of whom were members of the Qing imperial clan.

From 1643 to 1650, political power lay mostly in the hands of Dorgon. Under his leadership, the Qing Empire conquered most of the territory of the fallen Ming dynasty (1368–1644), chased Ming loyalist regimes deep into the southwestern provinces, and established the basis of Qing rule over China despite highly unpopular policies such as the "hair cutting command" of 1645, which forced Qing subjects to shave their forehead and braid their remaining hair into a queue resembling that of the Manchus. After Dorgon's death on the last day of 1650, the young Shunzhi Emperor started to rule personally. He tried, with mixed success, to fight corruption and to reduce the political influence of the Manchu nobility. In the 1650s, he faced a resurgence of Ming loyalist resistance, but by 1661 his armies had defeated the Qing Empire's last enemies, seafarer Koxinga (1624–1662) and the Prince of Gui (1623–1662) of the Southern Ming dynasty, both of whom would succumb the following year. The Shunzhi Emperor died at the age of 22 of smallpox, a highly contagious disease that was endemic in China, but against which the Manchus had no immunity. He was succeeded by his third son Xuanye, who had already survived smallpox, and who reigned for sixty years under the era name "Kangxi" (hence he was known as the Kangxi Emperor). Because fewer documents have survived from the Shunzhi era than from later eras of the Qing dynasty, the Shunzhi era is a relatively little-known period of Qing history.

"Shunzhi" was the name of this ruler's reign period in Chinese. This title had equivalents in Manchu and Mongolian because the Qing imperial family was Manchu and ruled over many Mongol tribes that helped the Qing to conquer China. The emperor's personal name was Fulin, and the posthumous name by which he was worshipped at the Imperial Ancestral Temple was Shizu (Wade–Giles: Shih-tsu; Chinese: 世祖).

Tianqi Emperor

The Tianqi Emperor (23 December 1605 – 30 September 1627), personal name Zhu Youjiao, was the 16th Emperor of the Ming dynasty, reigned from 1620 to 1627. He was the eldest son of the Taichang Emperor and a elder brother of the Chongzhen Emperor, who succeeded him. "Tianqi", the era name of his reign, means "heavenly opening".

Tongzhi Emperor

The Tongzhi Emperor (27 April 1856 – 12 January 1875), born Zaichun of the Aisin Gioro clan, was the 10th Emperor of the Qing dynasty, and the eighth Qing emperor to rule over China proper. His reign, from 1861 to 1875, which effectively lasted through his adolescence, was largely overshadowed by the rule of his mother, Empress Dowager Cixi. Although he had little influence over state affairs, the events of his reign gave rise to what historians call the "Tongzhi Restoration", an unsuccessful attempt to stabilise and modernise China.

Treaty of Nanking

The Treaty of Nanking (Nanjing) was a peace treaty which ended the First Opium War (1839–1842) between the United Kingdom and the Qing dynasty of China on 29 August 1842. It was the first of what the Chinese later called the unequal treaties.In the wake of China's military defeat, with British warships poised to attack Nanking, British and Chinese officials negotiated on board HMS Cornwallis anchored at the city. On 29 August, British representative Sir Henry Pottinger and Qing representatives Qiying, Yilibu, and Niu Jian signed the treaty, which consisted of thirteen articles. The treaty was ratified by the Daoguang Emperor on 27 October and Queen Victoria on 28 December. Ratification was exchanged in Hong Kong on 26 June 1843. A copy of the treaty is kept by the British government while another copy is kept by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Republic of China at the National Palace Museum in Taipei.

Wanli Emperor

The Wanli Emperor (Chinese: 萬曆帝; pinyin: Wànlì Dì; 4 September 1563 – 18 August 1620), personal name Zhu Yijun (Chinese: 朱翊鈞; pinyin: Zhū Yìjūn), was the 14th Emperor of the Ming dynasty, reigned from 1572 to 1620. "Wanli", the era name of his reign, literally means "ten thousand calendars". He was the third son of the Longqing Emperor. His reign of 48 years (1572–1620) was the longest among all the Ming dynasty emperors and it witnessed several successes in his early and middle reign, followed by the decline of the dynasty as the Emperor withdrew from his active role in government around 1600.

Xianfeng Emperor

The Xianfeng Emperor (17 July 1831 – 22 August 1861), personal name Yizhu, was the ninth Emperor of the Qing dynasty, and the seventh Qing emperor to rule over China proper, reigned from 1850 to 1861. During his reign the Qing dynasty experienced several wars and rebellions including the Taiping Rebellion, Nian Rebellion, and Second Opium War (Arrow War).

Xuande Emperor

The Xuande Emperor (Chinese: 宣德帝; pinyin: Xuāndédì; 16 March 1399 – 31 January 1435), personal name Zhu Zhanji (朱瞻基), was the fifth Emperor of the Ming dynasty, reigned from 1425 to 1435. His era name "Xuande" means "Proclamation of Virtue".

Yongle Emperor

The Yongle Emperor (pronounced [jʊ̀ŋ.lɤ̂], yong-luh; 2 May 1360 – 12 August 1424) — personal name Zhu Di (WG: Chu Ti) — was the third Emperor of the Ming dynasty, reigned from 1402 to 1424.

Zhu Di was the fourth son of the Hongwu Emperor, the founder of the Ming dynasty. He was originally enfeoffed as the Prince of Yan (燕王) in May 1370, with the capital of his princedom at Beiping (modern Beijing). Amid the continuing struggle against the Mongols of the Northern Yuan dynasty, Zhu Di consolidated his own power and eliminated rivals such as the general Lan Yu. He initially accepted his father's appointment of his eldest brother Zhu Biao and then his nephew Zhu Yunwen as crown prince, but when Zhu Yunwen ascended the throne as the Jianwen Emperor and began executing and demoting his powerful uncles, Zhu Di found pretext for rising in rebellion against his nephew. Assisted in large part by eunuchs mistreated by the Hongwu and Jianwen Emperors, who both favored the Confucian scholar-bureaucrats, Zhu Di survived the initial attacks on his princedom and drove south to launch the Jingnan Campaign against the Jianwen Emperor in Nanjing. In 1402, he successfully overthrew his nephew and occupied the imperial capital, Nanjing, after which he was proclaimed Emperor and adopted the era name Yongle, which means "perpetual happiness".

Eager to establish his own legitimacy, Zhu Di voided the Jianwen Emperor's reign and established a wide-ranging effort to destroy or falsify records concerning his childhood and rebellion. This included a massive purge of the Confucian scholars in Nanjing and grants of extraordinary extralegal authority to the eunuch secret police. One favorite was Zheng He, who employed his authority to launch major voyages of exploration into the South Pacific and Indian Oceans. The difficulties in Nanjing also led the Yongle Emperor to re-establish Beiping (present-day Beijing) as the new imperial capital. He repaired and reopened the Grand Canal and, between 1406 and 1420, directed the construction of the Forbidden City. He was also responsible for the Porcelain Tower of Nanjing, considered one of the wonders of the world before its destruction by the Taiping rebels in 1856. As part of his continuing attempt to control the Confucian scholar-bureaucrats, the Yongle Emperor also greatly expanded the imperial examination system in place of his father's use of personal recommendation and appointment. These scholars completed the monumental Yongle Encyclopedia during his reign.

The Yongle Emperor died while personally leading a military campaign against the Mongols. He was buried in the Changling Tomb, the central and largest mausoleum of the Ming tombs located north of Beijing.


This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.