Hongzhi Emperor

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"Hongzhi" redirects here. For the founder of Falun Gong, see Li Hongzhi.
Hongzhi Emperor
Emperor of the Ming Empire
Reign 22 September 1487 – 8 June 1505
Predecessor Chenghua Emperor
Successor Zhengde Emperor
Spouse Empress Xiaochengjing
Issue Zhu Houzhao, Zhengde Emperor
Zhu Houwei, Prince Dao of Wei
Zhu Xiurong, Princess Taikang
Full name
Family name: Zhu (朱)
Given name: Youcheng (祐樘)
Era name and dates
Hongzhi (弘治): 14 January 1488 – 23 January 1506
Posthumous name
Emperor Datian Mingdao Chuncheng Zhongzheng Shengwen Shenwu Zhiren Dade Jing
Temple name
Ming Xiaozong
House House of Zhu
Father Chenghua Emperor
Mother Empress Xiaomu
Born (1470-07-30)30 July 1470
Died 8 June 1505(1505-06-08) (aged 34)
Burial Tailing, Ming Dynasty Tombs, Beijing

The Hongzhi Emperor (Chinese: 弘治; pinyin: Hóngzhì) (30 July 1470 – 8 June 1505) was an emperor of the Ming dynasty in China between 1487 and 1505. Born Zhu Youcheng (often mispronounced as "Zhu Youtang" since 樘 has two pronunciations, and according to records[citation needed] it is pronounced as "cheng", meaning "foundation"), he was the 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. He was emperor during the middle years of the Ming dynasty.[1]

Early years[edit]

Zhu Youcheng was born in an era where Lady Wan and her associates were on the lookout to eliminate any child born to the Chenghua Emperor. It was through a stroke of luck that the young Zhu Youcheng was hidden away by the former empress of the Chenghua Emperor that he escaped the fate of death. Zhu Youcheng was only then reunited with his father at the age of 5, in 1475 and was created crown prince. He had been a brilliant child early on and he received the best education offered at that time. He was immersed in Confucian schooling and he excelled in his studies.

Reign as emperor[edit]

A stele with the Hongzhi Emperor's inscription regarding the repair of the Temple of Confucius, Qufu. 1504 (17th year of the Hongzhi era)

After the Hongzhi Emperor ascended the throne in 1487, his administration was modelled after Confucian ideology and he became a hardworking and diligent emperor. He closely supervised all affairs of state, lowered taxes, reduced government spending and made wise decisions when employing ministers to government post. Individuals such as Liu Jian, Xie Qian and Wang Shu worked hand in hand with the Hongzhi Emperor, thus creating a seldom-witnessed atmosphere of cooperation within the government. In addition, the emperor also encouraged his ministers to be up front about all issues, even acknowledging criticisms directed towards the emperor himself. This created a more transparent government and introduced fresh energy into the Ming dynasty. As a result the populace once again prospered under his rule. It was said that individual eunuchs' power was curtailed and palace intrigues, prevalent in previous reigns, was absent during his reign. The Hongzhi Emperor has been compared to the Hongwu Emperor and Yongle Emperor as one of the most brilliant emperors of the Ming dynasty.

In the spring of 1488, the shipwrecked Korean crew of the Jeju-do official Choe Bu (1454–1504) were traveling up the Grand Canal while escorted by the Ming courier service en route back to Korea. Choe observed ferry ships passing by holding officials who were from the Ministries of War, Justice, and Personnel.[2] When he asked what was going on, it was explained to him that the new Hongzhi Emperor was ridding his government of corrupt and incompetent officials, and this was a final gesture of good will by the emperor by providing them with a comfortable passage back home by ship.[2]

Succession crisis[edit]

Unlike almost all of his predecessors who took up many concubines which bore many children to the emperor, the Hongzhi Emperor had only one Empress during his lifetime. Coupled with the fact that Empress Zhang had only 2 sons (one of which died in infancy), the Hongzhi Emperor was left with only one nominee to succeed him. After the emperor died in 1505, he was succeeded by his son, the Zhengde Emperor. Unfortunately, the Zhengde Emperor died childless in 1521 and the throne had to be passed to a cousin from Hubei, effectively ending the Hongzhi Emperor's own line of succession.

Personal information[edit]


Formal Title Maiden Name Born Died Father Mother Issue Notes
Empress Xiaochengjing
Family name: Zhang (張) Xingji, Hebei Province 1541 Zhang Luan
Lady Jin
Zhu Houzhao, Zhengde Emperor
Zhu Houwei, Prince Dao of Wei
Zhu Xiurong, Princess Taikang
Married then-Crown Prince Youcheng as his wife and crown princess in 1487; was created empress when he succeeded to the throne later that year; remains the only empress to an adult emperor who had no concubines in Chinese history


Number Name Formal Title Born Died Spouse Issue Notes
1 Zhu Houzhao
The Zhengde Emperor 26 October 1491 20 April 1521 Lady Xia, Empress Xiao Jing Yi
six concubines
none Created Crown Prince in 1493; succeeded his father at the age of fourteen
2 Zhu Houwei
Prince Dao of Wei
1 January 1495 9 March 1496 none none


Number Title Name Born Died Date Married Spouse Issue Notes
1 Princess Taikang
Family name: Zhu (朱)
Given name: Xiurong (秀榮)
15 February 1497 1 October 1498 none none none



  1. ^ 中国历代悬案疑案奇案 page 176, second story
  2. ^ a b Brook, 50.


Hongzhi Emperor
Born: 30 July 1470 Died: 8 June 1505
Regnal titles
Preceded by
The Chenghua Emperor
Emperor of China
Succeeded by
The Zhengde Emperor