Xianfeng Emperor

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Xianfeng Emperor
《咸丰皇帝朝服像》.jpg
9th Emperor of the Qing Dynasty
Reign 9 March 1850 – 22 August 1861
Coronation 9 March 1850
Predecessor Daoguang Emperor
Successor Tongzhi Emperor
Born (1831-07-17)17 July 1831
Old Summer Palace, Beijing
Died 22 August 1861(1861-08-22) (aged 30)
Chengde Mountain Resort, Chengde
Burial Eastern Qing Tombs, Zunhua
Spouse Empress Xiaodexian
Empress Xiaozhenxian
Empress Xiaoqinxian
Issue Gulun Princess Rongshou (Adoptive)
Gulun Princess Rong'an
Zaichun, Tongzhi Emperor
one other unnamed son
Zaitian, Guangxu Emperor (Adoptive)
Full name
Chinese: Aixin-Jueluo Yizhu(愛新覺羅奕詝)
Manchu: Aisin-Gioro I-ju
Mongolian: Tugeemel Elbegt Khaan
Posthumous name
Emperor Xiétiān Yìyùn Zhízhōng Chuímó Màodé Zhènwǔ Shèngxiào Yuāngōng Duānrén Kuānmǐn Zhuāngjiǎn Xiǎn
協天翊運執中垂謨懋德振武聖孝淵恭端仁寬敏莊儉顯皇帝
Temple name
Qing Wenzong
清文宗
House Aisin Gioro
Father Daoguang Emperor
Mother Empress Xiaoquancheng

The Xianfeng Emperor (simplified Chinese: 咸丰帝; traditional Chinese: 咸豐帝; pinyin: Xiánfēng Dì; Wade–Giles: Hsien-feng Ti; 17 July 1831 – 22 August 1861), personal name I-ju (or Yizhu), was the ninth Emperor of the Manchu-led Qing dynasty, and the seventh Qing emperor to rule over China, from 1850 to 1861.

Family and early life[edit]

Yizhu was born in 1831 at the Old Summer Palace, eight kilometres northwest of Beijing. He was from the Manchu Aisin Gioro clan, and was the fourth son of the Daoguang Emperor. His mother was the Noble Consort Quan, of the Manchu Niohuru clan, who was made Empress in 1834, and is known posthumously as Empress Xiaoquancheng. Yizhu was reputed to have an ability in literature and administration which surpassed most of his brothers, which impressed his father, who therefore decided to make him his successor.

Early reign[edit]

Yizhu succeeded the throne in 1850, at age 19, and was a relatively young emperor. He inherited a dynasty that faced not only internal but also foreign challenges. Yizhu's reign title, Xianfeng, which means "Universal Prosperity", did not reflect the situation. In 1850, the first of a series of popular rebellions began that would nearly destroy the Qing dynasty. The Taiping Rebellion began in December 1850, when Hong Xiuquan, a Hakka leader of a syncretic Christian sect, defeated local forces sent to disperse his followers. Hong then proclaimed the establishment of the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom and the rebellion spread to several provinces with amazing speed. The following year, the Nian Rebellion started in North China. Unlike the Christian-influenced Taiping rebels, the Nian movement lacked a clear political program, but they became a serious threat to the Qing capital, Beijing, with the mobility of their cavalry-based armies. The Qing imperial forces suffered repeated defeats at the hands of both rebel movements.

Rebellions and wars[edit]

In 1853, the Taiping rebels captured Nanjing and for a while it seemed that Beijing would fall next; but the Taiping northern expedition was defeated and the situation stabilized. The Xianfeng Emperor dispatched several prominent mandarins, such as Zeng Guofan and the Mongol general Sengge Rinchen, to crush the rebellions, but they only obtained limited success. The biggest revolt of the Miao people against Chinese rule in history started in 1854, and ravaged the region until finally put down in 1873. In 1856, an attempt to regain Nanjing was defeated and the Panthay Rebellion broke out in Yunnan.

Portrait of the Xianfeng Emperor in his gardens

Meanwhile, an initially minor incident on the coasts triggered the Second Opium War. Anglo-French forces, after inciting a few battles (not all victories for them) on the coast near Tianjin, attempted "negotiation" with the Qing government. The Xianfeng Emperor, under the influence of his Noble Consort Yi (later Empress Dowager Cixi), believed in Chinese superiority and would not agree to any colonial demands. He delegated Prince Gong for several negotiations but relations broke down completely when a British diplomat, Sir Harry Parkes, was arrested during negotiations on 18 September.

The Anglo-French invasion clashed with Sengge Rinchen's Mongol cavalry on 18 September near Zhangjiawan before proceeding toward the outskirts of Beijing for a decisive battle in Tongzhou District, Beijing. On 21 September, at the Battle of Eight-Mile Bridge, Sengge Rinchen's 10,000 troops, including his elite Mongol cavalry, were completely annihilated after several doomed frontal charges against the concentrated firepower of the Anglo-French forces, which entered Beijing on 6 October.

On 18 October 1860, the British and French forces went on to loot and burn the Old Summer Palace and Summer Palace. Upon learning about this news, the Xianfeng Emperor's health quickly deteriorated.

During the Xianfeng Emperor's reign, China lost part of Manchuria to the Russian Empire. In 1858, according to the Treaty of Aigun, the territory between Stanovoy Mountains and Amur River was ceded to Russia, and in 1860, according to the Treaty of Beijing, the same thing happened also to the area east of Ussuri River. After that treaty, the Russians founded the city of Vladivostok in the area they had annexed.

While negotiations with the European powers were being held, the Xianfeng Emperor and his imperial entourage fled to Jehol province in the name of conducting the annual imperial hunting expedition. As his health worsened, the emperor's ability to govern also deteriorated, and competing ideologies in court led to the formation of two distinct factions — one led by the senior official Sushun and the princes Zaiyuan and Duanhua, and the other led by Noble Consort Yi, who was supported by the general Ronglu and the Bannermen of the Yehenara clan.

Death[edit]

The Xianfeng Emperor died on 22 August 1861, from a short life of overindulgence, at the Chengde Mountain Resort, 230 kilometres northeast of Beijing. His successor was his surviving six-year-old son, Zaichun. A day before his death, the Xianfeng Emperor had summoned Sushun and his supporters to his bedside and gave them an imperial edict that dictated the power structure during his son's minority. The edict appointed eight men – Zaiyuan, Duanhua, Jingshou, Sushun, Muyin, Kuangyuan, Du Han and Jiao Youying – as an eight-member regency council to aid Zaichun, who was later enthroned as the Tongzhi Emperor. By tradition, after the death of an emperor, the emperor's body was to be accompanied to the capital by the regents. Noble Consort Yi and Empress Consort Zhen, who were now known as Empress Dowagers Cixi and Ci'an travelled ahead to Beijing and planned a coup with Prince Gong that ousted the eight regents. Empress Dowager Cixi then effectively ruled China over the subsequent 47 years as a regent.

The Xianfeng Emperor was interred in the Eastern Qing Tombs, 125 kilometres/75 miles east of Beijing, in the Dingling (定陵; "Tomb of Quietude") mausoleum complex.

Legacy[edit]

The Xianfeng Emperor's reign saw the continued decline of the Qing dynasty. Rebellions in the country, which began the first year of his reign, would not be quelled until well into the reign of the Tongzhi Emperor and resulted in millions of deaths. The Xianfeng Emperor also had to deal with the British and French and their ever-growing appetite to expand trade further into China. The Xianfeng Emperor, like his father, the Daoguang Emperor, understood very little about Europeans and their mindset. He viewed non-Chinese as inferior and regarded the Europeans' repeated requests for the establishment of diplomatic relations as an offence. When the Europeans introduced the long-held concept of an exchanged consular relationship, the Xianfeng Emperor quickly rebuffed the idea. At the time of his death, he had not met with any foreign dignitary.

Despite his tumultuous decade of reign, the Xianfeng Emperor was commonly seen as the last Qing emperor to have held paramount authority, ruling in his own right. His son and subsequent successors' rule were overseen by regents, a trend witnessed until the fall of the Qing dynasty.

Yanbozhishuang Hall, where the Xianfeng Emperor died on 22 August 1861

Family[edit]

The Xianfeng Emperor had a large sexual appetite. He was a lover of opera and alcohol, and often became violent with his servants. He was known to smoke opium.[1]

Spouses[edit]

Title / Posthumous title Name Born Died Father Notes
Empress Xiaodexian
孝德顯皇后
Lady Sakda
薩克達氏
1831 1850 Futai (富泰) of the Sakda clan Married Yizhu in 1847 and became his primary consort;
Died before Yizhu became Emperor;
Posthumously honoured as an Empress
Empress Xiaozhenxian
孝貞顯皇后
Lady Niohuru
鈕祜祿氏
12 August 1837 8 April 1881 Muyang'a (穆楊阿) of the Niohuru clan Became Imperial Concubine Zhen (貞嬪) in 1852;
Promoted to Noble Consort Zhen (貞貴妃) one month later and instated as Empress five months after that;
Honoured as "Mother Empress, Empress Dowager" (母后皇太后) in 1861 by the Tongzhi Emperor;
Better known as Empress Dowager Ci'an (慈安太后)
Empress Xiaoqinxian
孝欽顯皇后
Lady Yehenara
葉赫那拉氏
29 November 1835 15 November 1908 Huizheng (惠徵; 1805–1853) of the Yehenara clan Became Noble Lady Lan (蘭貴人) in 1852;
Promoted to Imperial Concubine Yi (懿嬪) in 1854;
Promoted to Consort Yi (懿妃) in 1856;
Promoted to Noble Consort Yi (懿貴妃) in 1857;
Honoured as "Holy Mother, Empress Dowager" (聖母皇太后) in 1861 by her son, the Tongzhi Emperor;
Better known as Empress Dowager Cixi (慈禧太后)
Imperial Noble Consort Zhuangjing
莊靜皇貴妃
Lady Tatara
他他拉氏
1837 1890 Qinghai (慶海) of the Tatara clan Became Noble Lady Li (麗貴人) in 1852;
Promoted to Imperial Concubine Li (麗嬪) in 1854;
Promoted to Consort Li (麗妃) in 1855;
Promoted to Dowager Imperial Noble Consort Li (皇考麗皇貴妃) in 1861 by the Tongzhi Emperor;
Honoured as Dowager Imperial Noble Consort Li (皇考麗皇貴太妃) by the Guangxu Emperor
Imperial Noble Consort Duanke
端恪皇貴妃
Lady Tunggiya
佟佳氏
1844 1910 Yuxiang (裕祥) of the Tunggiya clan Became Imperial Concubine Qi (祺嬪) in 1858;
Promoted to Dowager Consort Qi (皇考祺妃) in 1861 by the Tongzhi Emperor;
Promoted to Dowager Noble Consort Qi (皇考祺貴妃) in 1874 by the Guangxu Emperor;
Promoted to Grand Dowager Imperial Noble Consort Qi (皇祖祺皇貴太妃) by the Xuantong Emperor
Noble Consort Wen
玟貴妃
Lady Xugiya
徐佳氏
1835 1890 Chengyi (誠意) of the Xugiya clan Became a changzai in 1853;
Promoted to Noble Lady Wen (玫貴人) later;
Demoted to changzai in 1855;
Demoted to Female Attendant later but restored as a changzai eight days later;
Promoted to Noble Lady again later;
Promoted to Imperial Concubine Wen (玫嬪) in 1858;
Promoted to Dowager Consort Wen (皇考玫妃) in 1861 by the Tongzhi Emperor;
Promoted to Dowager Noble Consort Wen (皇考玫貴妃) in 1874 by the Guangxu Emperor
Noble Consort Wan
婉貴妃
Lady Suochuoluo
索綽絡氏
unknown 1894 Kuizhao (奎照; d. 1843) of the Suochuoluo clan Became Changzai Wan (婉常在) in 1852;
Promoted to Noble Lady Wan (婉貴人) later;
Promoted to Imperial Concubine Wan (婉嬪) in 1855;
Promoted to Dowager Consort Wan (皇考婉妃) in 1861 by the Tongzhi Emperor;
Promoted to Dowager Noble Consort Wan (皇考婉貴妃) in 1874 by the Guangxu Emperor
Consort Lu
璷妃
Lady Yehenara
葉赫那拉氏
1841 1895 Quanwen (全文) of the Yehenara clan Started out as a palace maid;
Promoted to Noble Lady Lu (璷貴人) in 1855;
Promoted to Dowager Imperial Concubine Lu (皇考璷嬪) in 1861 by the Tongzhi Emperor;
Promoted to Dowager Consort Lu (皇考璷妃) in 1874 by the Guangxu Emperor
Consort Xi
禧妃
Lady Chahala
察哈喇氏
unknown 1877 Changshun (常順) of the Chahala clan Started out as a palace maid;
Promoted to Noble Lady Xi (禧貴人) in 1859;
Promoted to Dowager Imperial Concubine Xi (皇考禧嬪) in 1861 by the Tongzhi Emperor;
Promoted to Dowager Consort Xi (皇考禧妃) in 1874 by the Guangxu Emperor
Consort Ji
吉妃
Lady Wang
王氏
1846 1905 Wang Qingyuan (王清遠) Started out as a palace maid;
Promoted to Noble Lady Ji (吉貴人) in 1858;
Promoted to Dowager Imperial Concubine Xi (皇考吉嬪) in 1861 by the Tongzhi Emperor;
Promoted to Dowager Consort Xi (皇考吉妃) in 1874 by the Guangxu Emperor
Consort Qing
慶妃
Lady Zhang
張氏
1840 1885 unknown Started out as a palace maid;
Promoted to Noble Lady Ji (慶貴人) in 1859;
Promoted to Dowager Imperial Concubine Xi (皇考慶嬪) in 1861 by the Tongzhi Emperor;
Promoted to Dowager Consort Xi (皇考慶妃) in 1874 by the Guangxu Emperor
Imperial Concubine Yun
雲嬪
Lady Wugiya
武佳氏
unknown 1853 unknown Started out as a concubine of Yizhu;
Became Noble Lady Yun (雲貴人) in 1852;
Promoted to Imperial Concubine Yun in 1853
Imperial Concubine Rong
容嬪
Lady Irgen-Gioro
伊爾根覺羅氏
unknown unknown unknown Became Changzai Rong (容常在) in 1853;
Promoted to Noble Lady Rong (容貴人) later;
Promoted to Dowager Imperial Concubine Rong (皇考容嬪) in 1861 by the Tongzhi Emperor
Imperial Concubine Shu
璹嬪
Lady Yehenara
葉赫那拉氏
unknown unknown unknown Started out as Noble Lady Shu (璹貴人);
Promoted to Dowager Imperial Concubine Shu (皇考璹嬪) in 1861 by the Tongzhi Emperor
Imperial Concubine Yu
玉嬪
Lady Yehenara
葉赫那拉氏
unknown 5 January 1863 Guixiang (桂祥) of the Yehenara clan Became Noble Lady Yu (玉貴人) in 1853;
Promoted to Dowager Imperial Concubine Yu (皇考玉嬪) in 1861 by the Tongzhi Emperor
Changzai Ping
玶常在

伊爾根覺羅氏
unknown 1856 unknown Became Imperial Concubine Ying (英嬪) in 1852;
Demoted to Noble Lady Yi (伊貴人) in 1853;
Demoted to Changzai Yi (伊常在) in 1855 and later to Daying Yi (伊答應);
Restored as Changzai Ping (玶常在) in 1856
Changzai Chun
瑃常在
unknown unknown unknown unknown Started out as Noble Lady Chun (春貴人);
Demoted to Changzai Ming (明常在) in 1853;
Demoted to Daying Ming (明答應) in 1855;
Restored as Changzai Chun (瑃常在) in 1856
Changzai Xin
鑫常在
unknown unknown unknown unknown

[2]

Children[edit]

Sons
# Title / Posthumous title Name Born Died Mother Notes
1 Tongzhi Emperor
同治帝
Zaichun
載淳
27 April 1856 12 January 1875 Empress Xiaoqinxian Enthroned on 11 November 1861
2 Prince Min of the Second Rank
憫郡王
unnamed 1858 1858 Noble Consort Wen Died in infancy;
Posthumously honoured as "Prince Min of the Second Rank"
Daughter
Title / Posthumous title Born Died Mother Spouse Notes
Gulun Princess Rong'an
榮安固倫公主
7 May 1855 28 February 1875 Imperial Noble Consort Zhuangjing Fuzhen (d. 1909) of the Gūwalgiya clan, married in 1873
Adopted children
Title / Posthumous title Name Born Died Father Notes
Guangxu Emperor
光緒帝
Zaitian
載湉
14 August 1871 14 November 1908 Yixuan, the Xianfeng Emperor's seventh brother Born after the Xianfeng Emperor died, but was symbolically adopted as the Xianfeng Emperor's son in early 1875 to succeed the Tongzhi Emperor;
Enthroned on 25 February 1875
Gulun Princess Rongshou
榮壽固倫公主
unknown 28 February 1854 1924 Yixin, the Xianfeng Emperor's sixth brother Symbolically adopted as the Xianfeng Emperor's daughter in the early 1860s;
Raised by Empress Dowager Cixi

Ancestry[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ 连载:正说清朝十二帝 SINA Archived June 3, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  2. ^ Draft history of the Qing dynasty. 《清史稿》卷二百十四.列傳一.后妃傳.

Sources and literature[edit]

  • Daily Life in the Forbidden City, Wan Yi, Wang Shuqing, Lu Yanzhen ISBN 0-670-81164-5".
  • Qing dynasty Wenzong’s veritable records (清文宗实录).
  • Royal archives of the Qing dynasty (清宫档案).
  • Qing imperial genealogy(清皇室四谱).
  • webpagina: http://www.royalark.net/China/manchu14.htm,[permanent dead link] gaat over de stamboom van de Aisin Gioro stam.
  • Draft history of the Qing dynasty. 《清史稿》卷二百十四.列傳一.后妃傳.

Books about Empress Dowager Cixi:

Xianfeng Emperor
Born: 17 July 1831 Died: 22 August 1861
Regnal titles
Preceded by
The Daoguang Emperor
Emperor of China
1850–1861
Succeeded by
The Tongzhi Emperor