Zhu Yousong

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Hongguang Emperor
Emperor of the Southern Ming dynasty
Reign19 June 1644 – 15 June 1645
PredecessorChongzhen Emperor (Ming dynasty)
SuccessorLongwu Emperor
Born5 September 1607
Forbidden City, Beijing, Ming dynasty, China
Died23 May 1646(1646-05-23) (aged 38)
Caishikou Execution Grounds, Beijing, Qing dynasty, China
SpouseEmpress Xiao Zhe Jian
Empress Xiao Yi
Empress Xu
Issuea prematurely died daughter
Full name
Family name: Zhu (朱)
Given name: Yousong (由崧)
Milk name: Fuba (福八)
Era name and dates
Hongguang (弘光): 19 June 1644 – 15 June 1645
Posthumous name
Emperor Chutian Chengdao Chengjing Yingzhe Zuanwen Beiwu Xuanren Duxiao Jian
Temple name
Anzong (安宗)
HouseHouse of Zhu
FatherZhu Changxun
MotherLady Yao

The Hongguang Emperor (Chinese: 弘光; 1607–1646), personal name Zhu Yousong (Chinese: 朱由崧), was the first emperor of the Southern Ming Dynasty. He reigned briefly in Southern China from 1644-1645. His era name, Hongguang, means "Great light".


Zhu Yousong was a member of Ming imperial family. He was eldest son of Zhu Changxun, and a grandson of the Wanli Emperor and Noble Consort Zheng. He followed his father to his fief at Luoyang in 1614 and later granted the title "Commandery Prince of Dechang" (德昌郡王). He was later designated as Hereditary Prince of Fu.

In 1641, Li Zicheng's forces invaded Luoyang, and Zhu managed to escape but his father was killed. He held his father's princely title in two years later. In 1644, he escaped again to Weihui to seek asylum from his distant uncle, Zhu Changfang, Prince of Lu (grandson of Longqing Emperor and nephew of Wanli Emperor). They later escaped to Huai'an together, and were on the same boat with Zhu Gonghao (Prince of Zhou) and Zhu Cilun (Prince of Chong). On 25 April, Chongzhen Emperor committed suicide.

Accession to the throne[edit]

Chongzhen's Death[edit]

The news of the Chongzhen Emperor's suicide was met with consternation when it reached Nanjing in mid May 1644. The highest officials in Nanjing soon met to deliberate about how to face the crisis. Since the fate of the official heir apparent was still unknown at the time, many thought it was too early to proclaim a new emperor, but most agreed that an imperial figure was necessary to rally loyalist support for the Ming in the south.

From the perspective of pedigree, Taichang Emperor had only two sons: Tianqi Emperor and Chongzhen Emperor. Tianqi Emperor was sonless, and the 3 sons of Chongzhen Emperor were missing. The successor can be only choose from uncles of Chongzhen Emperor, which were brothers of Taichang Emperor and other sons of Wanli Emperor. Zhu Changxun (Prince of Fu) was Wanli's 3rd son, Zhu Changhao (Prince of Rui) was 5th son, Zhu Changrun (Prince of Hui) was 6th son and the youngest was Zhu Changying (Prince of Gui, Zhu Youlang's father). Among these imperial uncles, Zhu Changxun was the eldest uncle, and Zhu Yousong was the eldest son of Zhu Changxun. As the imperial sons were missing, Zhu Yousong became the first in line to the succession.

Officials support[edit]

In early June 1644, the court decided that the caretaker government would be centered around Zhu Yousong, Prince of Fu, who was next in line for succession after the dead emperor's sons. When he arrived in the vicinity of Nanjing (he had come from his princedom in Henan), the Prince could count on the military and political support of Ma Shiying (馬士英). Many officers allied with the Donglin Movement preferred Zhu Changfang (朱常淓), Prince of Lu (潞王), to succeed.[1] On June 5 the Prince of Fu entered the city, the next day he accepted the title of "Protector of the State" (監國, sometimes translated as "Regent"), and on June 7 he moved into the imperial palace, where he received the insignia of his new office.

3 choices for throne[edit]


Map of Southern Ming in November 1644 under Zhu Yousong's reign

Prodded by some court officials, the Prince of Fu immediately started to consider becoming Emperor. Fearing confrontation with Ma Shiying and other supporters of the Prince, Shi Kefa convinced reluctant members of the court to accept the enthronement. The Prince of Fu was officially crowned as Emperor on June 19, 1644, under the protection of Ma Shiying, who had arrived in Nanjing two days earlier with a large war fleet. It was decided that the next lunar year would be the first year of the Hongguang (弘光) reign with the capital city of Nanjing. The Hongguang court proclaimed that its goal was "to ally with the Tartars to pacify the bandits" (聯虜平寇), that is, to seek co-operation with Qing military forces in order to annihilate rebel peasant militia led by Li Zicheng and Zhang Xianzhong.

The Hongguang regime had been being plagued by political struggles from the beginning between the party which was formerly pro-Wei Zhongxian, including the influential officer Ma Shiying, and the pro-Donglin Movement party, including General Shi Kefa.[1] Shi Kefa, who was sent to defend the area north of the Yangtze, could not have support from Ma Shiying. Even the generals in the front attacked each other for power and looted the civilians.[1]

In 1645, The Qing army moved rapidly and captured Suzhou,[citation needed]. Subsequently, on 25 April of the same year, Yangzhou also fell to the Qing army. General Shi Kefa, who defended Yangzhou, attempted suicide, survived, and was captured. Prince Dodo of the Qing spared his life and even offered Shi a position. Shi, however, remained loyal to the Ming, so he refused the offer and was executed.

When the news reached Nanjing, Hongguang Emperor, Ma Shiying and a few eunuchs fled in panic to Wuhu city. On May 15, Minister Zhao Long, Wang Feng, Qian Xian surrendered to the Qing. As a result, Nanjing and a few other cities fell .Hongguang was captured on May 28.

Manchu Qing Prince of Yu, Dodo berated and attacked Zhu Yousong] over his battle strategy in 1645, telling him that the Southern Ming would have defeated the Qing if only the southern Ming assaulted the Qing military before they forded the Yellow river was forded instead of tarrying. The Prince of Fu could find no words to respond when he tried to defend himself.[2]


Hongguang was captured and sent to Beijing to face the Qing court. He was then executed in 1646 at Caishikou, which ended his reign as the Southern Ming Emperor. However, resistance continued until 1662, where the last remnants of Ming resistance were finally put down.

Popular culture[edit]

The Peach Blossom Fan (桃花扇), a historical drama completed in 1699 by Kong Shangren, depicted the life under the Hongguang regime. The work has been adapted into various plays, including the televised 16-episode Taiwanese opera "Qinhuai Yanyu (秦淮煙雨)" in 2001.


  1. ^ a b c "明史新編 第十二章 第二節 南明政權的曇花一現" by 楊國楨, 傅衣凌, and 陳支平
  2. ^ Wakeman, Frederic E. (1985). The Great Enterprise: The Manchu Reconstruction of Imperial Order in Seventeenth-century China, Volume 1. University of California Press. p. 581. ISBN 0520048040.
Zhu Yousong
Born: 1607 Died: 1646
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Chongzhen Emperor
(Ming dynasty)
Emperor of the Southern Ming dynasty
1644 – 1645
Succeeded by
Longwu Emperor