Chenghua Emperor

The Chenghua Emperor (December 9, 1447 – September 9, 1487) was Emperor of the ming dynasty in China, between 1464 and 1487. His era name means "Accomplished change".


Childhood

Born Zhu Jianshen, he was the Zhengtong Emperor's son. He was only 2 years old when his father, the Zhengtong emperor, was captured by the Oirat Mongols and held captive in 1449. After that his uncle, the Jingtai Emperor took over whilst his father was put under house arrest for almost 7 years. During this time, Chenghua lived under his uncle's shadow and even had his title of crown prince removed while Jingtai installed his own son as heir. Chenghua was only reinstated as crown prince on the eve of the death of Emperor Jingtai in 1457.


Reign as Emperor

Chenghua ascended the throne at the age of 16. During the early part of his administration, Chenghua carried out new government policies to reduce tax and strengthen the dynasty. However these did not last and by the closing years of his reign, governmental affairs once again fell into the hands of eunuchs, notably Wang Zhi. Peasant uprisings occurred throughout the country; however, they were violently suppressed. Chenghua's reign was also more autocratic than his predecessors' and freedom was sharply curtailed when Chenghua established institutes such as the Xi Chang (to complement the existing Dong Chang), monitoring all civilians' actions and words. This institute, not unlike a spy agency, would administer punishment to those whom they suspected of treason. The Xi Chang would eventually be shut down but it was the start of a dangerous trend and Chenghua's descendants would again revive the Xi Chang during the 16th century.


Chenghua was also under the influence of Lady Wan who was an imperial concubine more than twice his age. Lady Wan had been a mother figure to young Chenghua but after ascending the throne she quickly became Chenghua's favourite consort after giving birth to a child in 1464. The child soon died however Lady Wan held sway over the imperial harem and prevented the young emperor from bearing any offspring. Lady Wan and her eunuchs would either induce abortion to those who were about to bear the emperor's child or administer poison to mother and child if birth had occurred ¹.


It was not until 1475 that Chenghua discovered that he had a son (later Hongzhi Emperor) who survived and was raised in secrecy.


Chenghua died in 1487, after 23 years on the throne. He was buried in Maoling (茂陵)。


Legacy

Emperor Chenghua's reign can be distinguished by his early attempts to reform the government and trying his best to rule the country. His reign also saw a cultural flourishing with famous Ming personnel such as Hu Juren and Chen Baisha dominating the academic scene. However Chenghua's reign was prone to dominating individuals in the government and Chenghua was easily influenced into granting favours based on who he liked rather than their abilities. This led to the degradation of the ruling class and wasteful spending by corrupt individuals which eventually depleted the empire's coffer.


Personal information

Wife

Empress Wu, deposed but outlived him

Empress Wang, later honored Empress Dowager, posthumously honored Empress Xiaozhenchun(孝贞纯皇后) and buried with him


Consorts

Consort Ji, mother of Hongzhi Emperor, posthumously honored Empress Xiaomu(孝穆皇后)

Consort Shao, before her death her paternal grandson became Jiajing Emperor, and she was posthumously honored Empress Xiaohui(孝惠皇后)

Consort Wan Zhen'er

Consort Bai

Consort Zhang (张)

Consort Yao

Consort Wang, styled Consort Jing

Consort Yang

Consort Pan

Consort Wang, styled Consort Shun

Consort Tang

Consort Zhang (章) (note different character than the Consort Zhang above)

Consort Liang

Consort Guo

Consort Yue

Consort Wang, styled Consort Zhao

Lady Han


Sons

Unnamed son, born by Consort Wan Zhen'er, died early

Zhu Youji, born by Consort Bai, died 1472, posthumously honored Crown Prince Daogong

Hongzhi Emperor

Zhu Youyuan, Prince Xian of Xing, born by Consort Shao and fathered Jiajing Emperor, posthumously honored Emperor Xian of Xing and Emperor Ruizong of Ming

Zhu Youlun, Prince Hui of Qi, born by Consort Shao

Zhu Youbin, Prince Duan of Yi, born by Consort Zhang (张)

Zhu Youhui, Prince Gong of Heng, born by Consort Zhang (张)

Zhu Youyun, Prince Jing of Yong, born by Consort Shao

Zhu Youqi, Prince Ding of Shou, born by Consort Yao

Unnamed son, born by Consort Zhang with the style Consort Jing on August 19, 1483 and died October 8 the same year

Zhu Youheng, Prince An of Ru, born by Consort Zhang (张)

Zhu Youshun, Prince Jian of Jing, born by Consort Yang

Zhu Youshu, Prince Zhuang of Rong, born by Consort Pan

Zhu Youkai, Prince Yi of Shen, born by Consort Yang


Daughters

Princess Renhe, married Qi Shimei in 1489 and died 1544

Princess Yongkang, married Cui Yuan

Princess Deqing, married Lin Yue

Princess, died early

Princess Changtai, died 1487

Princess Xianyou, died 1492


Last update 06-06-2012

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