Prince Gong (Qing dynasty)

Yixin (Manchu: Isin; 11 January 1833 - 29 May 1898), better known as Prince Gong (or Prince Kung in Wades-Giles) or formally Prince Gong of the First Rank (恭親王), was a prince and statesman of the qing dynasty. He was the sixth son of the Daoguang Emperor and a half brother of Daoguang's successor, the Xianfeng Emperor. He served as regent during the reign of Xianfeng's son and successor, the Tongzhi Emperor. Having established the Zongli Yamen (a government body in charge of foreign affairs) in 1861, Yixin is best remembered as a proponent of maintenance of friendly relations between the Qing government and the foreign powers, as well as for his attempts to modernise China in the late 19th century. Commonly referred to as the "Sixth Prince" (六王爺) in his time, Yixin was nicknamed "Devil Number Six" (鬼子六) by conservatives in the Qing imperial court, in reference to his frequent contacts with westerners (gweilo; literally "foreign devils", a colloquialism for westerners).

Early life

Yixin was born of the Manchu Aisin Gioro clan, the imperial clan of the qing dynasty, as the sixth son of the Daoguang Emperor. His mother was Consort Jing (posthumously known as Empress Xiaojingcheng) of the Mongol Borjigit clan.

Yixin was mentored by Zhuo Bingtian (卓秉恬) and Jia Zhen (賈楨), and was known to be a bright and diligent student. When the Daoguang Emperor was selecting an heir from among his sons, he was unable to decide between Yixin and his fourth son Yining (the future Xianfeng Emperor), but eventually wrote a secret edict in 1846 announcing that he had designated the latter as his successor. Three years later the Daoguang Emperor had a tomb built in the consorts' cemetery for Yixin's mother, Noble Consort Jing, and ordered that she must be buried there after death. Daoguang's action hinted that he would never appoint Yixin as his successor (If Yixin did become emperor later, his mother would be posthumously honoured as an empress. Empresses of the qing dynasty who died before their emperors were buried together with their husbands, while those who died after their husbands had individual tombs for themselves. Since Daoguang already had a tomb built for Yixin's mother before she died and ordered that she be buried there after death, this meant that he only regarded her as a secondary spouse, so her son would never become emperor).

In February 1850, before his death, the Daoguang Emperor revealed the secret edict he wrote in 1846, which decreed that Yining would be instated as Crown Prince (皇太子), while Yixin would become a Prince of the First Rank (親王). Yixin married the daughter of Guiliang (桂良), an important court official of the Manchu Guwalgiya clan. The marriage is often seen as a sign that the Daoguang Emperor favoured Yixin, but in fact the marriage was arranged after Daoguang had appointed Yining as his heir, so this marriage may only be viewed as an act of "compensation" for Yixin. Besides, Yixin's wife was not a favourite daughter of Guiliang, and was born to Guiliang's secondary spouse.

During the Xianfeng Emperor's reign

During the reign of the Xianfeng Emperor, Yixin and his mother (who held the title of Dowager Consort) falsified an imperial edict in Xianfeng's name that granted Yixin's mother the title of Empress Dowager. Xianfeng was greatly displeased, but did not rescind the edict so as to save himself from public embarrassment. Yixin's mother died after being Empress Dowager for eight days, and was posthumously known as Empress Xiaojingcheng. Yixin did not play an important roles in politics, and only served as a military minister from 1853 to 1855.

In 1860 during the Second Opium War, Yixin was appointed as an Imperial Envoy with Full Authority (全權欽差大臣) and ordered to remain in the capital Beijing to negotiate with the British, French and Russians on behalf of the Qing government. The Xianfeng Emperor himself fled from Beijing and moved his imperial court to the Chengde Summer Palace in Hebei . Yixin was successful in the negotiations and concluded the Convention of Beijing with the western powers.

The Xianfeng Emperor died in the summer of 1861 in the Chengde Summer Palace and was succeeded by the young Tongzhi Emperor. Before his death, Xianfeng appointed Zaiyuan, Duanhua, Sushun and five other senior court officials to serve as regents for the Tongzhi Emperor.

As Prince-Regent

In November 1861, Yixin plotted with the empress dowagers Cixi and Ci'an to launch the Xinyou Coup (辛酉政變) to seize power from the eight regents. The regents were escorting the Xianfeng Emperor's coffin back to the Forbidden City when they were intercepted upon arrival and placed under arrest. Zaiyuan and Duanhua were forced to commit suicide, Sushun was executed, and the five other regents were stripped off power.

After the Xinyou Coup, the empress dowagers Cixi and Ci'an became co-regents of the Qing government while Yixin was appointed as Prince-Regent (議政王) and placed in charge of important state affairs, including control over the Grand Council. Yixin remained in power as regent from 1861 to 1884 throughout the reigns of the Tongzhi and Guangxu emperors. In 1861 Yixin established the Zongli Yamen, which functioned as the Qing government's de facto ministry of foreign affairs. As the longstanding leader of the organisation, Yixin was responsible for spearheading various reforms during the early part of the Self-Strengthening Movement, a series of measures taken by the Qing government to modernise China. He also founded the Tongwen Guan in 1862 for Chinese scholars to read foreign languages and study technology.

Fall from grace

In 1865 Yixin was accused by Cai Shouqi (蔡壽祺) for "monopolising state power, accepting bribes, practising favouritism, behaving arrogantly, and showing disrespect towards the emperor." Empress Dowager Cixi became suspicious of Yixin and stripped him off his position of Prince-Regent. Despite so, Yixin continued to remain as a central figure of power in the Qing imperial court. In 1869, An Dehai (安德海), a eunuch and close aide of Empress Dowager Cixi, was executed by Ding Baozhen for travelling to Shandong , because eunuchs were forbidden to travel out of the Forbidden Palace without permission. Ding Baozhen was believed to have been instigated by Yixin, and Cixi was very unhappy with Yixin. In 1873 Yixin strongly opposed the construction of the Old Summer Palace and further incurred the anger of Cixi.

In 1884 the Sino–French War broke out and Yixin was in charge of directing the military department (軍機處), which was disorganised and indecisive on whether to fight or make peace. This resulted in a Chinese defeat in the war and Yixin lost considerable prestige. Later that year, Empress Dowager Cixi dismissed Yixin from office and ordered him to remain at home to "recuperate from illness". Yixin was replaced by his younger half brother Yixuan. Some officials such as Baoyun (寶鋆), Li Hongzao (李鴻藻), Jinglian (景廉) and Weng Tonghe, who previously served under Yixin's administration were removed from office. This incident was known as the "Cabinet Change of Jiashen" (甲申易樞) or "Political Change of Jiashen" (甲申朝局之變) because it took place in the Jiashen Year according to the Chinese sexagenary cycle.

After his dismissal, Yixin remained in Jietai Temple in western Beijing most of the time. In 1894 on the outbreak of the First Sino-Japanese War, Yixin, who was already in his old age, was recalled back to the imperial court to deal with the situation. Yixin served in the military department and Zongli Yamen until he became critically ill in 1898 and eventually died in that year.

Personal information


Daoguang Emperor


Empress Xiaojingcheng


Lady Guwalgiya (瓜爾佳氏)


Kurun Princess Rongshou (榮壽固倫公主), Yixin's eldest daughter.

Zaicheng (載澂; 1858–1885), Yixin's eldest son, granted the title of beile.

Zaiying (載瀅; 1861–1909), Yixin's second son, granted the title of a beile. He was adopted by Yihe (奕詥), Prince Zhong of the Second Rank.

Zaijun (載濬), Yixin's third son, granted the title of Duke Who Assists the Nation (輔國公), died early.

Zaihuang (載潢), Yixin's fourth son, died early.


Zaiying's children:

Puwei (溥偉; 1880–1936), Prince Gongxian of the First Rank.


Puyou (溥佑), born after Yixin's death, adopted by a descendant of Abatai. He returned to the Aisin-Gioro clan in 1937.

Puhui (溥僡; 1906–1963)


Yuzhan, Puwei's son.

Puru's children:

Taohua (韜華)

Yuli (毓岦)

Yucen (毓岑)

Yuqi (毓岐)

Last update 02-06-2012

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