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Tianqi Emperor

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Tianqi Emperor
Palace portrait on a hanging scroll, kept in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, Taiwan
Emperor of the Ming dynasty
Reign1 October 1620 –
30 September 1627[a]
Enthronement1 October 1620
PredecessorTaichang Emperor
SuccessorChongzhen Emperor
Born(1605-12-23)23 December 1605
Wanli 33, 14th day of the 11th month
Died30 September 1627(1627-09-30) (aged 21)
Tianqi 7, 22nd day (yimao day) of the 8th month
(天啟七年八月二十二日 (乙卯))
Palace of Heavenly Purity, Forbidden City, Shuntian Prefecture, North Zhili, Ming dynasty
Deling Mausoleum, Ming tombs, Beijing
(m. 1621)
  • Zhu Ciran, Crown Prince Huaichong
  • Zhu Ciyu, Crown Prince Daohuai
  • Zhu Cijiong, Crown Prince Xianhuai
  • Princess Yongning
  • Princess Huaining
  • Third daughter
Zhu Youjiao (朱由校)
Era name and dates
Tianqi (天啓): 22 January 1621 – 4 February 1628
Posthumous name
Emperor Datian Chandao Dunxiao Duyou Zhangwen Xiangwu Jingmu Zhuangqin Zhe (達天闡道敦孝篤友章文襄武靖穆莊勤哲皇帝[b])
Emperor Datian Chandao Dunxiao Duyou Zhangwen Xiangwu Jingmu Zhuangqin Zhe (達天闡道敦孝篤友章文襄武靖穆莊勤悊皇帝[c][1])
Temple name
Xizong (熹宗)
FatherTaichang Emperor
MotherEmpress Dowager Xiaohe
Tianqi Emperor
Portrait in the Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indianapolis, Indiana, United States
Traditional Chinese天啓帝
Simplified Chinese天启帝
Tianqi era teacups, Nantoyōsō Collection, Japan

The Tianqi Emperor (Chinese: 天啓帝; pinyin: Tiānqǐ Dì; 23 December 1605 – 30 September 1627), personal name Zhu Youjiao (Chinese: 朱由校; pinyin: Zhū Yóujiào), was the 16th emperor of the Ming dynasty, reigning from 1620 to 1627.[2] 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".[3]



Zhu Youjiao became emperor at the age of 15, following the death of his father, the Taichang Emperor, who ruled less than a month.[3] He did not pay much attention to state affairs, and was accused of failing in his filial duties to his late father by not continuing the latter's wishes. It is possible that Zhu Youjiao suffered from a learning disability or something more. He was illiterate[3] and showed no interest in his studies. However, he was an outstanding carpenter and craftsman, often spending vast amounts of time on woodworking and instructing his servants to sell his creations undercover on the market just to see how much they were worth.

Because the Tianqi Emperor was unable to read court memorials and uninterested in state affairs, the court eunuch Wei Zhongxian[2] and the emperor's wet nurse Madam Ke seized power and controlled the Ming imperial court, with the Tianqi Emperor as merely a puppet ruler.[3] The Tianqi Emperor apparently devoted his time to carpentry.[2] Wei Zhongxian took advantage of the situation and began appointing the people he trusted to important positions in the imperial court. Meanwhile, Madam Ke sought to retain power by removing all other women from the emperor's harem by locking away the emperor's concubines and starving them to death. It is believed that he had two private palaces; one for his female lovers and one for his male lovers.[4][failed verification]

One Confucian moralist group, the Donglin Movement, expressed distress at the conditions of the government.[5] In response, the imperial court, under Wei Zhongxian's control, covertly ordered the execution of a number of officials associated with the Donglin Movement. Living conditions worsened during the Tianqi Emperor's reign. The Ming dynasty also faced several popular uprisings.

Tomb of the Tianqi Emperor

The Tianqi Emperor died heirless on 30 September 1627 due to his only son having died in the Wanggongchang Explosion and was succeeded by his fifth and sole surviving brother, Zhu Youjian, because he had no sons to succeed him. Zhu Youjian was enthroned as the Chongzhen Emperor. As both the Tianqi Emperor's daughters died early too, it seems that there were no natural heirs from the emperor left alive.


Portrait of Xizong, Emperor Zhe in The Palace Museum

Consorts and Issue:

  • Empress Xiao'aizhe, of the Zhang clan (孝哀悊皇后 張氏; 1610–1644), personal name Yan ()
    • Zhu Ciran, Crown Prince Huaichong (懷衝皇太子 朱慈燃; 4 November 1623), first son
  • Consort Hui, of the Fan clan (慧妃 范氏), later Imperial Noble Consort
    • Princess Yongning (永寧公主; 1622–1624), personal name Shu'e (淑娥), first daughter
    • Zhu Ciyu, Crown Prince Daohuai (悼懷皇太子 朱慈焴; 1623–1624), second son
  • Consort Rong, of the Ren clan (容妃 任氏), later Imperial Noble Consort
    • Zhu Cijiong, Crown Prince Xianhuai (獻懷皇太子 朱慈炅; 31 October 1625 – 30 May 1626), third son, died during the Wanggongchang Explosion
  • Consort Gonghuichun, of the Duan clan (恭惠純妃 段氏; 10 May 1607 – 3 July 1629)
  • Consort Cheng, of the Li clan (成妃 李氏; 1605 – 21 December 1637)
    • Princess Huaining (懷寧公主; 1624), personal name Shumo (淑嫫), second daughter
  • Consort Daoshunyu, of the Zhang clan (悼順裕妃 張氏; 22 August 1606 – 16 September 1623)
  • Consort Liang, of the Wang clan (良妃 王氏)
  • Noble Lady, of the Feng clan (貴人 馮氏)
  • Noble Lady, of the Hu clan (貴人 胡氏; d. 1623)


Longqing Emperor (1537–1572)
Wanli Emperor (1563–1620)
Empress Dowager Xiaoding (1545–1614)
Taichang Emperor (1582–1620)
Wang Chaocai
Empress Dowager Xiaojing (1565–1611)
Lady Ge
Tianqi Emperor (1605–1627)
Wang Yue
Empress Dowager Xiaohe (1582–1619)

Portrayals in the media


In August and September 2009, a 42-hour television series dramatising the events during the reign of the Tianqi Emperor was shown on Chinese television – two hours per night for 21 days. It vividly showed how a hereditary monarchy can lead to the rampant abuse of power. The series ended on 17 September, just two weeks before the 60th anniversary (five 12-year cycles) of the establishment of the People's Republic of China.

See also



  1. ^ Dates given here are in the Gregorian calendar.
  2. ^ This posthumous name was initially conferred by the Chongzhen Emperor
  3. ^ This posthumous name was changed by the Chongzhen Emperor


  1. ^ 《崇禎長編》卷二指熹宗最初謚號為達天禪道敦孝篤友章文襄武靖穆莊勤哲皇帝,後由崇禎帝親自改。《說文解字》:「悊,敬也。」《說文解字》:「哲,知也。悊,哲或從心。」
  2. ^ a b c "Tianqi". Encyclopædia Britannica. 2008.
  3. ^ a b c d "Zhu Yujiao – The Tianqi Emperor". Retrieved 2014-03-22.
  4. ^ "History of Homosexuality". china.org.cn. Shanghai Star. Archived from the original on November 19, 2003. Retrieved 26 November 2016.
  5. ^ "Donglin". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 2014-03-22.

Further reading

Tianqi Emperor
Born: 23 December 1605 Died: 30 September 1627
Regnal titles
Preceded by Emperor of the Ming dynasty
Emperor of China

Succeeded by