Hongzhi Emperor

The Hongzhi Emperor (弘治) (30 July 1470 – 8 June 1505) was emperor of the ming dynasty in China between 1487 and 1505. Born Zhu Youcheng (often mispronounced as "Zhu Youtang" since 樘 has two pronunciations, and according to records it is pronounced as "cheng", meaning "foundation"), he was the son of the Chenghua Emperor and his reign as emperor of China is called the Hongzhi Silver Age. His era name means "Great government". He was a wise and peace-loving ruler. Hongzhi also had only one empress and no concubines, and holds the distinction of being the sole perpetually-monogamous emperor in Chinese history.

Early years

Hongzhi was born in an era where Lady Wan and her associates were on the lookout to eliminate any child born to the emperor Chenghua. It was through a stroke of luck that young Hongzhi was hidden away by the former empress of Chenghua that Hongzhi escaped the fate of death. Hongzhi was only then reunited with his father at the age of 5, in 1475 and was created crown prince. Hongzhi had been a brilliant child early on and he received the best education offered at that time. Hongzhi was immersed in Confucian schooling and he excelled in his studies.

Reign as emperor

After Hongzhi ascended the throne in 1487, his administration was modelled after Confucian ideology and he became a hardworking and diligent emperor. He closely supervised all affairs of state, lowered taxes, reduced government spending and made wise decisions when employing ministers to government post. Individuals such as Liu Jian, Xie Qian and Wang Shu worked hand in hand with Hongzhi thus creating a seldom-witnessed atmosphere of cooperation within the government. In addition, Emperor Hongzhi also encouraged his ministers to be up front about all issues, even acknowledging criticisms directed towards the Emperor himself. This created a more transparent government and introduced fresh energy into the ming dynasty. As a result the populace once again prospered under his rule. It was said that individual eunuchs' power was curtailed and palace intrigues, prevalent in previous reigns, was absent during his reign. Hongzhi has been compared to his predecessors Emperor Hongwu and Emperor Yongle as one of the most brilliant emperors of the ming dynasty.

In the spring of 1488, the shipwrecked Korean crew of the Jeju-do official Choe Bu (1454–1454) were traveling up the Grand Canal of China while escorted by the Ming courier service en route back to Korea. Choe observed ferry ships passing by holding officials who were from the Ministries of War, Punishment, and Personnel. When he asked what was going on, it was explained to him that the new Emperor Hongzhi was ridding his government of corrupt and incompetent officials, and this was a final gesture of good will by the emperor by providing them with a comfortable passage back home by ship.

Succession crisis

Unlike almost all of his predecessors who took up many concubines which bore many children to the Emperor, Hongzhi had only one Empress during his lifetime. Coupled with the fact that the Empress Zhang had only 2 sons (one of which died in infancy), Hongzhi was left with only one nominee to succeed him. After Emperor Hongzhi died in 1505 he was succeeded by his son, the Zhengde Emperor. Unfortunately, Zhengde died childless in 1521 and the throne had to be passed to a cousin from Hubei , effectively ending Hongzhi's own line of succession.

Personal information


Chenghua Emperor


Empress Xiao Mu (孝穆皇后)


Formal Title

Maiden Name






Empress Xiao Cheng Jing

Zhang (張)

Xingji, Hebei


Zhang Luan

Lady Jin

Zhu Houzhao, Zhengde Emperor

Zhu Houwei, Prince Dao of Wei

Zhu Xiurong, Princess Taikang



Formal Title




Zhu Houzhao

The Zhengde Emperor

26 October 1491

20 April 1521

Lady Xia, Empress Xiao Jing Yi
six concubines

Zhu Houwei

Prince Dao of Wei

1 January 1495

9 March 1496







Princess Taikang

Family name: Zhu (朱)
Given name: Xiurong (秀榮)

15 February 1497

1 October 1498

Last update 05-06-2012

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