Chenghua Emperor

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Chenghua Emperor
明宪宗像.jpg
9th Emperor of the Ming dynasty
Reign 28 February 1464 – 9 September 1487
Coronation 28 February 1464
Predecessor Tianshun Emperor
Successor Hongzhi Emperor
Born (1447-12-09)9 December 1447
Died 9 September 1487(1487-09-09) (aged 39)
Burial Ming tombs, Beijing
Full name
Family name: Zhu (朱)
Given name: Jianshen (見深), later Jianru (見濡)[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
繼天凝道誠明仁敬崇文肅武宏德聖孝純皇帝
Temple name
Ming Xianzong
明憲宗
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 the ninth Emperor of the Ming dynasty in China, between 1464 and 1487. His era name "Chenghua" means "accomplished change".

Childhood[edit]

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.

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.

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.

Lady Wan[edit]

The Chenghua Emperor was also under the influence of Lady Wan who was an imperial concubine who was seventeen years older than him. Lady Wan had been a mother figure to the young emperor, rearing and protecting the young prince but after ascending the throne she quickly became the emperor's favourite consort after giving birth to a child in 1466. Although Lady Wan's only son died shortly thereafter, she would come to dominate the Emperor's harem for nearly two decades. Lady Wan would employ eunuchs to oversee the harem and report back to her if any concubines became pregnant. Tactics including the forced abortions and even murders of members of the harem resulting in the Chenghua Emperor lamenting that by the age of thirty one that he still lacked a male heir. It was only then revealed to the Emperor that a male heir, the future Hongzhi Emperor was secretly saved and raised in a secure location outside the palace. After reuniting with the young prince, Zhu Youcheng was created crown prince. Lady Wan died in 1487 and shortly after 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.

Legacy[edit]

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.

Family[edit]

  • Parents:
    • Zhu Qizhen (英宗 朱祁鎮; 1427 – 1464)
    • Lady Zhou (孝肅皇后 周氏; 1430 – 1504)
  • Consorts and Issue:
  1. Lady Wu (皇后 吳氏; d. 1509)
  2. Lady Wang (孝貞純皇后 王氏; d. 1518)
  3. Lady Ji Tangmei (孝穆皇后 紀唐妹; 1451 – 1475)
    1. Zhu Youcheng (孝宗 朱佑樘; 1470 – 1505)
  4. Lady Shao (孝惠皇后 邵氏; d. 1522)
    1. Zhu Youwan (獻皇帝 朱佑杬; 1476 – 1519)
    2. Zhu Youlun (岐惠王 朱佑棆; 1478 – 1501)
    3. Zhu Youyun (雍靖王 朱佑枟; 1481 – 1507)
  5. Lady Wan Zhen'er (恭肅皇貴妃 萬貞兒; 1428 – 1487)
    1. Unnamed son (1466)
  6. Lady Bo (端順賢妃 柏氏; d. 1527)
    1. Zhu Youji (悼恭皇太子 朱佑極; 1469 – 1472)
  7. Lady Wang (莊靖順妃 王氏; 1448 – 1495)
    1. Princess Renhe (仁和公主; c. 1474 – 1544)
  8. Lady Liang (恭惠和妃 梁氏; d. 1533)
  9. Lady Wang (端榮昭妃 王氏)
  10. Lady Guo (靖順惠妃 郭氏; d. 1491)
    1. Princess Yongkang (永康公主; 1478 – 1547)
  11. Lady Zhang (莊懿德妃 張氏; d. 1497)
    1. Zhu Youbin (益端王 朱佑檳; 1479 – 1539)
    2. Zhu Youhui (衡恭王 朱佑楎; 1479 – 1538)
    3. Zhu Youpeng (汝安王 朱佑梈; 1484 – 1541)
  12. Lady Yao (端懿安妃 姚氏; d. 1491)
    1. Zhu Youzhi (壽定王 朱佑榰; 1481 – 1545)
  13. Lady Yang (榮惠恭妃 楊氏)
    1. Zhu Youshun (涇簡王 朱佑橓; 1485 – 1537)
    2. Zhu Youkai (申懿王 朱佑楷; 1487 – 1503)
  14. Lady Pan (康順端妃 潘氏; d. 1538)
    1. Zhu Youshu (榮莊王 朱佑樞; 1486 – 1539)
  15. Lady Wang (恭懿敬妃 王氏; 1465 – 1510)
    1. Unnamed son (1483)
  16. Lady Zhang (昭順麗妃 章氏; d. 1501)
    1. Lady Zhu
  17. Lady Yue (和惠靜妃 岳氏; 1465 – 1534)
    1. Princess Xianyou (仙遊公主; 1487 – 1492)
  18. Lady Tang (靖僖榮妃 唐氏; d. 1524)
  19. Unknown
    1. Princess Deqing (德清公主; c. 1481 – 1548)
    2. Unnamed daughter
    3. Princess Changtai (長泰公主; d. 1487)

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  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
1464–1487
Succeeded by
The Hongzhi Emperor