Chenghua Emperor

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Chenghua Emperor
Emperor of the Ming Empire
Reign 28 February 1464 – 9 September 1487
Predecessor Tianshun Emperor
Successor Hongzhi Emperor
Born (1447-12-09)9 December 1447
Died 9 September 1487(1487-09-09) (aged 39)
Burial Ming Dynasty Tombs, Beijing
Spouse Empress Wu
Empress Wang
Issue Zhu Youtang, Hongzhi Emperor
Full name
Family name: Zhu (朱)
Given name: Jianjun (見濬), later Jianshen (見深)[1]
Era name and dates
Chénghuà (成化): 27 January 1465 – 13 February 1488
Posthumous name
Emperor Jitian Ningdao Chengming Renjing Chongwen Suwu Hongde Shengxiao Chun
Temple name
Ming Xianzong
House Ming dynasty
House House
Father Zhengtong Emperor
Mother Empress Xiaosu

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


Zhu Jianshen was a son of the Zhengtong Emperor. He was only two years old when his father was captured by the Oirat Mongols and held captive in 1449. After that his uncle, the Jingtai Emperor, took over whilst his father was put under house arrest for almost seven years. During this time, Zhu Jianshen lived under his uncle's shadow and even had his title of crown prince removed while the Jingtai Emperor installed his own son as heir. Zhu Jianshen was only reinstated as crown prince on the eve of the death of the Jingtai Emperor in 1457.

Reign as Emperor[edit]

The Chenghua Emperor ascended the throne at the age of 16. During the early part of his administration, he carried out new government policies to reduce tax and strengthen the Ming dynasty. However these did not last and by the closing years of his reign, governmental affairs once again fell into the hands of eunuchs, notably Wang Zhi. Peasant uprisings occurred throughout the country; however, they were violently suppressed. The Chenghua Emperor's reign was also more autocratic than his predecessors' and freedom was sharply curtailed when the emperor established institutes such as the Western Depot (to complement the existing Eastern Depot), monitoring all civilians' actions and words. This institute, not unlike a spy agency, would administer punishment to those whom they suspected of treason. The Western Depot would eventually be shut down but it was the start of a dangerous trend and the Chenghua Emperor's descendants would again revive the Western Depot during the 16th century.

A Song dynasty (960–1279) painting of a mother hen and chicks, with a written eulogy at the top inscribed by the Chenghua Emperor describing his fondness for this work.

The Chenghua Emperor was also under the influence of Lady Wan who was an imperial concubine more than twice his age. Lady Wan had been a mother figure to the young emperor but after ascending the throne she quickly became the emperor's favourite consort after giving birth to a child in 1464. The child soon died however Lady Wan held sway over the imperial harem and prevented the young emperor from bearing any offspring. Lady Wan and her eunuchs would either induce abortion to those who were about to bear the emperor's child or administer poison to mother and child if birth had occurred ¹.

It was not until 1475 that the Chenghua Emperor discovered that he had a son (later the Hongzhi Emperor) who survived and was raised in secrecy.

The Chenghua Emperor died in 1487, after 23 years on the throne. He was buried in the Maoling (茂陵) mausoleum of the Ming Dynasty Tombs.

Personal information[edit]


  • Empress Wu, deposed but outlived him
  • Empress Wang, later honored Empress Dowager, posthumously honored Empress Xiaozhenchun (孝贞纯皇后) and buried with him


  • Consort Ji, mother of Hongzhi Emperor, posthumously honored Empress Xiaomu (孝穆皇后)
  • Consort Shao, before her death her grandson became Jiajing Emperor, and she was posthumously honored Empress Xiaohui (孝惠皇后) (had said "paternal grandson", which makes no sense)
  • Consort Wan Zhen'er
  • Consort Bai
  • Consort Zhang (张)
  • Consort Yao
  • Consort Wang, styled Consort Jing
  • Consort Yang
  • Consort Pan
  • Consort Wang, styled Consort Shun
  • Consort Tang
  • Consort Zhang (章) (note different character than the Consort Zhang above)
  • Consort Liang
  • Consort Guo
  • Consort Yue
  • Consort Wang, styled Consort Zhao
  • Lady Han


  • Unnamed son, born by Consort Wan Zhen'er, died early
  • Zhu Youji, born by Consort Bai, died 1472, posthumously honored Crown Prince Daogong
  • Hongzhi Emperor
  • Zhu Youyuan, Prince Xian of Xing, born by Consort Shao and fathered the Jiajing Emperor, posthumously honored Emperor Xian of Xing and Emperor Ruizong of Ming
  • Zhu Youlun, Prince Hui of Qi, born by Consort Shao
  • Zhu Youbin, Prince Duan of Yi, born by Consort Zhang (张)
  • Zhu Youhui, Prince Gong of Heng, born by Consort Zhang (张)
  • Zhu Youyun, Prince Jing of Yong, born by Consort Shao
  • Zhu Youqi, Prince Ding of Shou, born by Consort Yao
  • Unnamed son, born by Consort Zhang with the style Consort Jing on 19 August 1483 and died 8 October the same year
  • Zhu Youheng, Prince An of Ru, born by Consort Zhang (张)
  • Zhu Youshun, Prince Jian of Jing, born by Consort Yang
  • Zhu Youshu, Prince Zhuang of Rong, born by Consort Pan
  • Zhu Youkai, Prince Yi of Shen, born by Consort Yang


  • Princess Renhe, married Qi Shimei in 1489 and died 1544
  • Princess Yongkang, married Cui Yuan
  • Princess Deqing, married Lin Yue
  • Princess, died early
  • Princess Changtai, died 1487
  • Princess Xianyou, died 1492


This painting, by an imperial court painter in 1485, depicts the Chenghua Emperor enjoying the festivities with families in the Forbidden City during the Lantern Festival. It includes acrobatic performances, operas, magic shows and setting off firecrackers.

The Chenghua Emperor's reign can be distinguished by his early attempts to reform the government and trying his best to rule the country. His reign also saw a cultural flourishing with famous persons such as Hu Juren and Chen Baisha dominating the academic scene. However, the Chenghua Emperor's reign was prone to dominating individuals in the government and the emperor was easily influenced into granting favours based on who he liked rather than their abilities. This led to the degradation of the ruling class and wasteful spending by corrupt individuals which eventually depleted the Ming government's coffers.


  1. ^ His original given name Jianjun was changed into Jianshen in 1457 when his father was restored on the throne as the Tianshun Emperor.


¹ Imperial China – 900–1800, F.W. Mote, Page 630, First Harvard University Press, 2003.

Chenghua Emperor
Born: December 9 1447 Died: September 9 1487
Regnal titles
Preceded by
The Tianshun Emperor
Emperor of China
Succeeded by
The Hongzhi Emperor