Yixuan, Prince Chun

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Prince Chun of the First Rank
Prince Chun of the First Rank
Tenure 1872–1891
Successor Zaifeng
Born (1840-10-16)16 October 1840
Beijing, China
Died 1 January 1891(1891-01-01) (aged 50)
Beijing, China
Spouse Yehenara Wanzhen
Secondary spouses:
Lady Yanja
Lady Lingiya
Lady Ligiya
Issue Sons:
Third son
Eldest daughter
Second daughter
Third daughter
Full name
Aisin-Gioro Yixuan
Posthumous name
Prince Chunxian of the First Rank
House House of Aisin-Gioro
Father Daoguang Emperor
Mother Imperial Noble Consort Zhuangshun
Chinese 奕譞
Prince Chun
Traditional Chinese 醇親王
Simplified Chinese 醇亲王

Yixuan (16 October 1840 – 1 January 1891), formally known as Prince Chun, was an imperial prince of the Aisin Gioro clan and a statesman of the Manchu-led Qing dynasty in China. He was the father of the Guangxu Emperor (his second son), and the paternal grandfather of Puyi (the Last Emperor) through his fifth son Zaifeng.

Family background[edit]

Yixuan was born in the Aisin Gioro clan as the seventh son of the Daoguang Emperor. His mother was Lady Uya (烏雅氏). Four months after his birth, Lady Uya, a concubine of the Daoguang Emperor who was recently promoted to "Noble Lady Lin" (琳貴人), was further elevated to the status of "Imperial Concubine Lin" (琳嬪), a rare distinction. Lady Uya's rapid rise through the ranks continued, and she was promoted to "Consort Lin" (琳妃) and "Noble Consort Lin" (琳貴妃) in 1842 and 1846 respectively. The Tongzhi Emperor granted her the posthumous title "Imperial Noble Consort Zhuangshun" (莊順皇貴妃), making her second only to the Empress.

During the Xianfeng and Tongzhi emperors' reigns[edit]

In February 1850, after the Daoguang Emperor's death, Yixuan's fourth brother, Yizhu, ascended the throne and became historically known as the Xianfeng Emperor. The Xianfeng Emperor made Yixuan a junwang (second-rank prince) under the title "Prince Chun of the Second Rank" (醇郡王). Yixuan kept a low profile in politics throughout the Xianfeng Emperor's 11-year reign.

In 1860, by the Xianfeng Emperor's decree, Yixuan married Wanzhen of the Yehenara clan, who was a younger sister of Noble Consort Yi, one of the Xianfeng Emperor's consorts. The marriage forged a close bond between Yixuan and Noble Consort Yi. The Xianfeng Emperor died in 1861 and was succeeded by his underage son Zaichun, who became historically known as the Tongzhi Emperor. The Tongzhi Emperor's birth mother, Noble Consort Yi, was honoured as "Empress Dowager Cixi". Before his death, the Xianfeng Emperor had appointed eight regents – led by Duanhua and Sushun – to assist his son in governing the Qing Empire. In November 1861, Yixuan sided with Empress Dowager Cixi and his sixth brother, Yixin (Prince Gong), and launched the Xinyou Coup to seize power from the eight regents. Yixuan personally led imperial forces to arrest Sushun and bring him back to Beijing, where he was executed.

As a consequence of the Xinyou Coup, Yixuan found himself elevated to the highest ranks in the imperial court. In the 14-year reign of the Tongzhi Emperor from 1861–1875, he had a dual career in the military and civil services. In 1872, he was promoted from junwang (second-rank prince) to a qinwang (first-rank prince), hence he became known as "Prince Chun of the First Rank" (醇親王).

During the Guangxu Emperor's reign[edit]

In January 1875, the Tongzhi Emperor died without an heir, so Empress Dowager Cixi chose Yixuan's second son, Zaitian, to be the new emperor. Zaitian was adopted into the Xianfeng Emperor's lineage; this meant that he was nominally no longer Yixuan's son. As the Xianfeng Emperor's "son", Zaitian was installed on the throne and became historically known as the Guangxu Emperor. This choice brought advantages to Cixi: Zaitian was her nephew (Zaitian's mother, Wanzhen, was Cixi's younger sister); Zaitian's father, Yixuan, had been a loyal supporter of Cixi; Zaitian was still young so Cixi could continue ruling as regent. As for Yixuan himself, however, Cixi's choice was a catastrophe for him. When he heard that his son had been chosen to be the new emperor, he reportedly hit himself and wept bitterly before sinking into unconsciousness.

In the last centuries of imperial China, it was very unusual for an emperor's father to be still alive while the emperor was reigning. The only prior example in the Qing dynasty was that of the situation between 1796 and 1799, when the Qianlong Emperor abdicated in favour of his 15th son, the Jiaqing Emperor, and became a taishang huang (retired emperor). Since filial piety is a highly revered value in Chinese culture, it meant that Yixuan, the biological father of the reigning emperor, would be endowed with the highest honours and privileges. However, Yixuan perceived himself to be in an extremely dangerous and uncomfortable position, given the prickly nature of Empress Dowager Cixi and her obsessional paranoia of any potential threat to her status.

The first decision that Yixuan made, after his son became the emperor, was to resign from all his official positions. He tried to keep a low profile but could not avoid being showered with honours and privileges, which he tried to decline as much as possible. Soon after his son became the emperor, Yixuan was awarded the "iron-cap" privilege, which meant that he could pass on his Prince Chun title to his descendants without the title being downgraded one grade per generation.

In 1876, Yixuan wrote a memorial to the Guangxu Emperor, condemning in advance anyone who would propose to grant him a special position in the hierarchy on the grounds that he was the emperor's biological father. Following resignation from his military and civil posts, he was entrusted with the education of the young emperor, to which he consented. In the following years, with the disgrace of his sixth brother Yixin (Prince Gong), Yixuan unwillingly became the second most powerful figure in the imperial court after Empress Dowager Cixi. The empress dowager even ordered all court officials to discuss matters with Yixuan before making decisions.

Empress Dowager Cixi's co-regent, Empress Dowager Ci'an, died suddenly in 1881 and was rumoured to have been poisoned by Cixi. This made Yixuan even more cautious and eager to please Cixi in all possible ways. When the Guangxu Emperor reached adulthood in early 1887 and was ready to take over the reins of power from Empress Dowager Cixi, Yixuan formally requested Cixi to prolong her regency.

In 1885, Empress Dowager Cixi appointed Yixuan as "Controller of the Admiralty", putting him in charge of supervising the building of a new imperial navy. Yixuan was sent on an inspection tour to the naval shipyards on the coast of China. Later, he became involved in the embezzlement of imperial treasury funds, initially allocated to the construction of the navy, but were instead used for the restoration and enlargement of the Summer Palace to replace the Old Summer Palace that was destroyed in 1860.

The Qing imperial navy, deprived of funding, was to suffer a humiliating defeat in the First Sino-Japanese War of 1894–1895. Yixuan's desire to please the empress dowager was so great that he did not even stop work on the Summer Palace to relieve the victims of the floods that hit Beijing; and so the enlargement of the Summer Palace was completed as early as the spring of 1891.

Yixuan died on 1 January 1891, shortly before the enlargement works on the Summer Palace were completed. His fifth son, Zaifeng, inherited his title "Prince Chun of the First Rank". Yixuan was granted a posthumous name xian (賢), so his full posthumous title became "Prince Chunxian of the First Rank" (醇賢親王).


Yixuan's consorts
  • Wanzhen (婉貞; 13 September 1841 – 19 June 1896), Yixuan's primary consort, from the Yehenara clan, Empress Dowager Cixi's younger sister, bore Zaihan, Zaitian, Zaiguang and Yixuan's third son
  • Lady Yanja (顏扎氏), Yixuan's secondary consort, daughter of Laifu (來福), specially chosen from the Imperial Household Department for Yixuan by Empress Dowager Cixi, bore Yixuan's first daughter
  • Lady Lingiya (劉佳氏; 1866 – 1925), Yixuan's secondary consort, daughter of Deqing (德慶), bore Zaifeng, Zaixun, Zaitao and Yixuan's second daughter
  • Lady Ligiya (李佳氏; d. 1928), Yixuan's secondary consort, daughter of Dechun (德純), bore Yixuan's third daughter
  • Zaihan (載瀚; 1 February 1865 – 9 December 1866), Yixuan's first son, born to Wanzhen
  • Zaitian, Yixuan's second son, became the Guangxu Emperor
  • Third son (13 February 1875 – 14 February 1875), unnamed, Yixuan's third son
  • Zaiguang (載洸; 28 November 1880 – 18 May 1884), Yixuan's fourth son
  • Zaifeng, Yixuan's fifth son, inherited the Prince Chun peerage, father of Puyi
  • Zaixun, Yixuan's sixth son, adopted by Yizhi (奕誌) into the Prince Rui peerage, served as a naval officer
  • Zaitao, Yixuan's seventh son, adopted by Yihe (奕詥) into the Prince Zhong peerage, served as a general staff officer
  • First daughter (11 April 1861 – 24 November 1866), name unknown
  • Second daughter, name unknown, died at the age of three
  • Third daughter, name unknown, died at the age of 28


Names and titles[edit]

Prince Chun Tomb[edit]

Tomb of Prince Chun

Yixuan was interred in a tomb of princely status, now popularly known as the "Seventh Prince's Grave" (七王墳), located 35 km/22 miles northwest of Beijing. According to Puyi's autobiography, a ginkgo tree grew on the tomb of Yixuan, and became very tall and imposing. This fact was reported to Empress Dowager Cixi and greatly alarmed her. In the Chinese language, the first character of the word "ginkgo tree" is bai (白), while the first character of the word "emperor" is huang (皇), which combines the character bai with the character wang (王 – meaning "prince", 親王). A ginkgo (白) growing on the tomb of Yixuan (王) was interpreted as a sign that a new emperor (皇) would emerge in the house of Yixuan. This was unacceptable for the very superstitious Cixi, as obsessed as ever with thwarting any challenge to her power, and so she promptly had the tree felled. The tomb of Yixuan was restored by the People's Republic of China after 1949 and is now one of the tourist attractions around Beijing.

The tomb and surrounding area appears in Quentin Tarantino's 2004 film Kill Bill: Volume 2 as the home and training grounds of the legendary Shaolin monk Pai Mei.

Prince Chun Mansion[edit]

A former residence of Yixuan, now known as the Prince Chun Mansion, is located near Shichahai, Beijing.

See also[edit]


  • Veritable records of Emperor Wenzong of Qing (清文宗实录).
  • Veritable records of Emperor Dezong of Qing (清德宗實錄).
  • Royal archives of the Qing dynasty (清宫档案).
  • Qing imperial genealogy (清皇室四谱).
  • Draft history of the Qing dynasty (清史稿).
  • Sterling Seagraves, "Dragon Lady" ISBN 0-679-73369-8.
  • Maria Warner", "The Dragon Empress": Life and Times of Tz'u-Hsi, 1835–1908, Empress of China". ISBN 0-689-70714-2.
  • Daily life in the Forbidden City, Wan Yi, Wang Shuqing, Lu Yanzhen. ISBN 0-670-81164-5.
Yixuan, Prince Chun
Born: 16 October 1840 Died: 1 January 1891
Chinese nobility
New title Prince Chun
Succeeded by