Daoguang Emperor

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Daoguang Emperor
Doro Eldengge Han
Төр Гэрэлт Хаан
清 佚名 《清宣宗道光皇帝朝服像》.jpg
8th Qing Emperor of China
Reign 3 October 1820 – 25 February 1850
Predecessor Jiaqing Emperor
Successor Xianfeng Emperor
Born (1782-09-16)16 September 1782
Forbidden City, Beijing
Died 25 February 1850(1850-02-25) (aged 67)
Old Summer Palace, Beijing
Burial Western Qing Tombs
Spouse Empress Xiaomucheng
Empress Xiaoshencheng
Empress Xiaoquancheng
Empress Xiaojingcheng
Issue Yiwei, Prince Yin
Princess Duanmin
Princess Duanshun
Princess Shou'an
Yikang, Prince Shun
Princess Shouzang
Yichi, Prince Hui
Princess Shouyen
Yizhu, Xianfeng Emperor
Yicong, Prince Tun
Yixin, Prince Gong
Yixuan, Prince Chun
Princess Shouxi
Princess Shouzhuang
Yihe, Prince Zhong
Yihui, Prince Fu
Full name
Chinese: Aixin-Jueluo Mianning 愛新覺羅綿寧, later Minning
Manchu: Aisin-Gioro hala i Min-Ning
Posthumous name
Emperor Xiàotiān Fúyùn Lìzhōng Tǐzhèng Zhìwén Shèngwǔ Zhìyǒng Réncí Jiǎnqín Xiàomǐn Kuāndìng Chéng
Temple name
Qing Xuānzōng
House Aisin Gioro
Father Jiaqing Emperor
Mother Empress Xiaoshurui
Portrait of the Daoguang Emperor sitting in the garden
The Daoguang Emperor is presented with prisoners of the campaign to pacify rebels in Xinjiang at the Meridian Gate in 1828
The Daoguang Emperor with his empress, imperial consorts and children in a palace courtyard
The Daoguang Emperor with his children
The Daoguang Emperor inspecting his guards at the Meridian Gate

The Daoguang Emperor (Chinese: 道光; pinyin: Dàoguāng Dì; Wade–Giles: Tao4-kuang1 Ti4; Manchu: ᡩᠣᡵᠣ ᡝᠯᡩᡝᠩᡤᡝ, Doro Eldengge Hūwangdi; ᠲᠥᠷᠥ ᠭᠡᠷᠡᠯᠲᠦ, Төр Гэрэлт Хаан; 16 September 1782 – 25 February 1850) was the eighth emperor of the Manchu-led Qing dynasty and the sixth Qing emperor to rule over China, 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." [1]

Early years[edit]

The Daoguang Emperor was born in the Forbidden City, Beijing, and was given the name Mianning (绵宁; 綿寧; Miánníng; Mien-ning). It was later changed to Minning (旻宁; 旻寧; Mǐnníng; Min-ning; Manchu: ᠮᡳᠨ ᠨᡳᠩ Min-ning) when he became emperor: The first character of his private name was changed from Mian to Min to avoid the relatively common character Mian. This novelty was introduced by his grandfather, the Qianlong Emperor, who thought it inappropriate to use a common character in the emperor's private name due to the longstanding practice of naming taboo.

Mianning was the second son of Yongyan, the 15th son of the Qianlong Emperor. Even though he was Yongyan's second son, he was first in line to succeed his father according to the dishu system because his mother, Lady Hitara, was Yongyan's primary spouse whereas his elder brother was born to Yongyan's concubine. In 1796, Yongyan was enthroned as the Jiaqing Emperor, after which he made Lady Hitara his empress consort.

Mianning was favoured by his grandfather, the Qianlong Emperor. He frequently accompanied his grandfather on hunting trips. On one such trip, at the age of nine, Mianning successfully hunted a deer, which greatly amused the Qianlong Emperor. In 1813, while he was still a prince, Mianning also played a vital role in repelling and killing White Lotus invaders who stormed the Forbidden City. This action earned him important merit in securing his claim to the throne later on.


Khoja rebellion in Xinjiang[edit]

In September 1820, at the age of 38, Mianning inherited the throne after the Jiaqing Emperor died suddenly of unknown causes. He became the first Qing emperor who was the eldest legitimate son of his father. Now known as the Daoguang Emperor, he inherited a declining empire with Westerners encroaching upon the borders of China. The Daoguang Emperor had been ruling for six years when the exiled heir to the Khojas, Jahangir Khoja, attacked Xinjiang from Kokand. By the end of 1826, the former Qing cities of Kashgar, Yarkand, Khotan, and Yangihissar had all fallen to the rebels.[2][3] After a friend betrayed him in March 1827, Khoja was sent to Beijing in an iron litter and subsequently executed,[4] while the Qing Empire regained control of their lost territory.

First Opium War[edit]

Main article: First Opium War

During the Daoguang Emperor's reign, China experienced major problems with opium, which was imported into China by British merchants. Opium had started to trickle into China during the reign of the Yongzheng Emperor, but was limited to approximately 200 chests annually. By the time of the Qianlong era, this amount had increased to 1,000 chests, 4,000 chests by the Jiaqing era and more than 30,000 chests during the Daoguang era.

The Daoguang Emperor issued many imperial edicts banning opium in the 1820s and 1830s, which were carried out by Lin Zexu, whom he appointed as an Imperial Commissioner. Lin Zexu's efforts to halt the spread of opium in China led directly to the First Opium War. With the development of the First Opium War, Lin Zexu was made a scapegoat and the Daoguang Emperor removed Lin's authority and banished him to Yili. Meanwhile, in the Himalayas, the Sikh Empire attempted an occupation of Tibet but was defeated in the Sino-Sikh war (1841–1842). On the coasts, technologically and militarily inferior to the European powers, the Qing Empire lost the war and ceded Hong Kong to the British in the Treaty of Nanjing in August 1842.


In 1811, a clause sentencing Europeans to death for spreading Catholicism had been added to the statute called "Prohibitions Concerning Sorcerers and Sorceresses" (禁止師巫邪術) in the Great Qing Code.[5] Protestants hoped that the Qing government would discriminate between Protestantism and Catholicism, since the law mentioned the latter by name, but after Protestant missionaries gave Christian books to Chinese in 1835 and 1836, the Daoguang Emperor demanded to know who were the "traitorous natives" in Guangzhou who had supplied them with books.[6][page needed]

Nobility titles[edit]

The Daoguang Emperor granted the title of "Wujing Boshi" (五經博士; Wǔjīng Bóshì) to the descendants of Ran Qiu.[7]

Death and legacy[edit]

The Daoguang Emperor died on 25 February 1850 at the Old Summer Palace, 8 km/5 miles northwest of Beijing. He was succeeded by his eldest surviving son, Yizhu, who was later enthroned as the Xianfeng Emperor. The Daoguang Emperor failed to understand the intention or determination of the Europeans, or the basic economics of a war on drugs. Although the Europeans were outnumbered and thousands of miles away from logistical support in their native countries, they could bring far superior firepower to bear at any point of contact along the Chinese coast. The Qing government was highly dependent on the continued flow of taxes from southern China via the Grand Canal, which the British expeditionary force easily cut off at Zhenjiang. The Daoguang Emperor ultimately had a poor understanding of the British and the industrial revolution that Britain and Western Europe had undergone, preferring to turn a blind eye to the rest of the world. It was said that the emperor did not even know where Britain was located in the world. His 30-year reign introduced the initial onslaught by Western imperialism and foreign invasions that would plague China, in one form or another, for the next one hundred years.

The Daoguang Emperor was interred in the Muling (慕陵; literally "Tomb of Longing" or "Tomb of Admiration") mausoleum, which is part of the Western Qing Tombs, 120 kilometers/75 miles southwest of Beijing.

On a side note, the Daoguang Emperor was the last Qing emperor to be able to choose an heir among his sons since his successors either had only one surviving son or had no offspring.



  • Empress Xiaomucheng (d. 1808) of the Niohuru clan.
  • Empress Xiaoshencheng (d. 1833) of the Tunggiya clan.
  • Empress Xiaoquancheng (1808–1840) of the Niohuru clan.
  • Empress Xiaojingcheng (1812–1855) of the Borjigit clan.
  • Imperial Noble Consort Zhuangshun (d. 1867) of the Uya clan. She was the biological mother of Yixuan.
  • Noble Consort Tong (彤貴妃) (d. 1877) of the Sumuru clan
  • Noble Consort Jia (佳貴妃) (d. 1890) of the Gogiya clan
  • Noble Consort Cheng (成貴妃) (d. 1888) of the Niohuru clan
  • Consort He (d. 1836) of the Nara clan
  • Consort Xiang (d. 1861) of the Niohuru clan
  • Consort Chang (常妃) (d. 1860) of the Heseri clan. She died during the destruction of the Old Summer Palace in 1860.
  • Imperial Concubine Zhen (珍嬪) of the Heseri clan. She was not interred in the Muling mausoleum for imperial concubines.
  • Imperial Concubine Tian (恬嬪) (d. 1845) of the Fuca clan
  • Imperial Concubine Yu (豫嬪) (1816–1898) of the Shanggiya clan
  • Imperial Concubine Shun (順嬪) (d. 1868) of the Shiqi clan
  • Imperial Concubine Heng (恆嬪) (d. 1876) of the Càigiya clan
  • Worthy Lady Ping (平貴人) (d. 1823) née Zhao
  • Worthy Lady Ting (定貴人) (d. 1842) née Sun
  • Worthy Lady Li (李貴人) (d. 1872)
  • Worthy Lady Na (那貴人) (d. 1865)

[8][better source needed]



  1. First son: Yiwei (奕緯) (16 May 1808 – 23 May 1831), son of Consort He of the Nara clan
  2. Second son: Yikang (奕綱) (22 November 1826 – 5 March 1827), son of Empress Xiaojingcheng
  3. Third son: Yichi (奕繼) (2 December 1829 – 22 January 1830), son of Empress Xiaojingcheng
  4. Fourth son: Yizhu (1831–1861), the Xianfeng Emperor, son of Empress Xiaoquancheng
  5. Fifth son: Yicong (23 July 1831 – 18 February 1889), Prince Dun, son of Consort Xiang
  6. Sixth son: Yixin (11 January 1833 – 29 May 1898), Prince Gong, son of Empress Xiaojingcheng
  7. Seventh son: Yixuan (16 October 1840 – 1 January 1891), Prince Chun, father of the Guangxu Emperor and paternal grandfather of Puyi
  8. Eight son: Yihe (奕詥) (21 February 1844 – 17 December 1868), son of Imperial Noble Consort Zhuangshun
  9. Ninth son: Yihui (奕譓) (1845–1877), son of Imperial Noble Consort Zhuangshun


  1. First daughter: Gulun Princess Duanmin (端憫固倫公主) (1813–1819), daughter of Empress Xiaoshencheng
  2. Second daughter: Name unknown (d. 1825), daughter of Consort Xiang
  3. Third daughter: Gulun Princess Duanshun (端順固倫公主) (1825–1835), daughter of Empress Xiaoquancheng
  4. Fourth daughter: Gulun Princess Shou'an (壽安固倫公主) (1826–1860), daughter of Empress Xiaoquancheng
  5. Fifth daughter: Heshuo Princess Shouzang (壽臧和碩公主) (1829–1856), daughter of Consort Xiang
  6. Sixth daughter: Gulun Princess Shou'en (壽恩固倫公主) (1830–1859), daughter of Empress Xiaojingcheng
  7. Seventh daughter: Name unknown (1840–1844), daughter of Noble Consort Tong
  8. Eight daughter: Heshuo Princess Shouxi (壽禧和碩公主) (1841–1866), daughter of Noble Consort Tong
  9. Ninth daughter: Gulun Princess Shouzhuang (壽莊固倫公主) (1842–1884), daughter of Imperial Noble Consort Zhuangshun
  10. Tenth daughter: Name unknown (1844–1845), daughter of Noble Consort Tong


  1. ^ Spence 1990, p. 149, 166.
  2. ^ Millward 1998, p. 34.
  3. ^ "Zhuozhou Celebrity — Lu Kun (涿州名人-卢坤)". Xinhua. 15 Jun 2012. Retrieved February 21, 2014.  (Chinese)
  4. ^ Rahul 2000, p. 98.
  5. ^ Maclay 1861, p. 336–337.
  6. ^ Maclay 1861.
  7. ^ Qin ding da Qing hui dian (Jiaqing chao)0. 1818. p. 1084. 
  8. ^ Draft history of the Qing dynasty. 《清史稿》卷二百十四.列傳一.后妃傳.
  • Spence, Jonathan D. (1990). The Search for Modern China. Norton. ISBN 9780393307801. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Jane Kate Leonard. Controlling from Afar: The Daoguang Emperor's Management of the Grand Canal Crisis, 1824-1826. Michigan Monographs in Chinese Studies. Ann Arbor: Center for Chinese Studies, University of Michigan, 1996. ISBN 0892641142. Shows the Daoguang Emperor in a competent and effective mode when dealing with a crisis early in his reign.
  • Pierre-Etienne Will, "Views of the Realm in Crisis: Testimonies on Imperial Audiences in the Nineteenth Century." Late Imperial China 29, no. 1S (2008): 125-59. JSTOR Link. Uses transcripts of imperial audiences to present Daoguang as more a victim of circumstances than the bumbling administrator in many accounts.
  • Karl Gutzlaff, Life of Taou-Kwang, Late Emperor of China. London, Smith, Elder & Co. 1852. . The only biography of the Daoguang Emperor; written by a missionary and contemporary.
  • Evelyn S. Rawski, The Last Emperors: A Social History of Qing Imperial Institutions (Berkeley: University of Californian Press, 2001) ISBN 0-520-22837-5.
  • Daily life in the Forbidden City, Wan Yi, Wang Shuqing, Lu Yanzhen. ISBN 0-670-81164-5.
  • 《清史稿》 (Qingshi Kao) Draft history of the Qing dynasty.


Daoguang Emperor
Born: 16 September 1782 Died: 25 February 1850
Regnal titles
Preceded by
The Jiaqing Emperor
Emperor of China
Succeeded by
The Xianfeng Emperor