Shunzhi Emperor

The Shunzhi Emperor (Chinese: 順治帝; pinyin: Shùnzhìdì; Manchu: ᡳᠵᡳᠰᡥᡡᠨ ᡩᠠᠰᠠᠨ ijishūn dasan hūwangdi; Mongolian: Eyebeer Zasagch Khaan; 15 March 1638 – 5 February 1661) was the third emperor of the Manchu-led qing dynasty, and the first Qing emperor to rule over China, which he did from 1644 to 1661. "Shunzhi" was the name of his reign period. His personal name was Fulin (of the Aisin Gioro clan) and his temple name (chosen after he died) was Shizu 世祖.

A committee of Manchu princes chose the young Fulin to succeed his father Hong Taiji in September 1643 when he was only five. Two co-regents were also appointed: Nurhaci's fourteenth son Dorgon, and Nurhaci's nephew Jirgalang. From 1643 until Dorgon's death on the last day of 1650, political power lay mostly in the hands of Dorgon. After the young emperor started to rule personally in 1651, he tried, with mixed success, to fight corruption and to reduce the political influence of the Manchu nobility. He died of smallpox, a lethal disease that was endemic in China, but against which the Manchus had no immunity. He was succeeded by his third son Xuanye, who had already survived smallpox, and who subsequently reigned for sixty years as the Kangxi Emperor.

Under the leadership of Dorgon and the Shunzhi Emperor, the qing dynasty conquered most of the territory of the fallen Ming and its last claimants and established the basis of Qing rule over China despite highly unpopular policies like the "haircutting command" of 1645, which forced Qing subjects to shave their forehead and braid their remaining hair into a queue. Because the Shunzhi reign is not well documented, it constitutes a relatively little-known period of Qing history.

Becoming emperor

When Hong Taiji, the second Qing Emperor, died on September 9, 1643 without having named a successor, the fledgling Qing state faced a possibly serious crisis. Several contenders started to vie for the throne. With his uterine brothers Dodo and Ajige, Dorgon controlled the Plain and Bordered White Banners, whereas Hong Taiji's eldest son Hooge had the loyalty of his father's two Yellow Banners.

The decision about who would become the new Qing emperor fell to the Deliberative Council of Princes and Ministers, which was the Manchus' main policymaking body until the emergence of the Grand Council in the 1720s. Many Manchu princes advocated that Dorgon, a proven military leader, should become the new emperor, but Dorgon refused and insisted that one of Hong Taiji's sons should succeed his father. To recognize Dorgon's authority while keeping the throne in Hong Taiji's descent line, the members of the council named Hong Taiji's ninth son Fulin as the new Emperor, but decided that Dorgon and Jirgalang (a nephew of Nurhaci who controlled the Bordered Blue Banner) would act as the five-year-old child's regents.

On October 8, 1643, Fulin was officially crowned Emperor of the qing dynasty; it was decided that he would reign under the era name "Shunzhi."

A quasi emperor

On February 17, 1644, Jirgalang, who was a capable military leader but looked uninterested in managing state affairs, willingly yielded control of all official matters to Dorgon. After an alleged plot by Hooge to undermine the regency was exposed on May 6 of that year, Hooge was stripped of his title of Imperial Prince and his co-conspirators were executed. Dorgon soon replaced Hooge's supporters (mostly from the Yellow Banners) with his own, thus gaining closer control of two more Banners. By early June 1644, he was in firm control of the Qing government and its military.

The fall of the Ming and the Qing takeover

Just as Dorgon and his advisors were pondering how to attack the Ming, peasant rebellions were ravaging northern China and dangerously approaching the Ming capital Beijing . In February 1644, rebel leader Li Zicheng had founded the Shun Dynasty in Xian and proclaimed himself king. In March his armies had captured the important city of Taiyuan in Shanxi . Seeing the progress of the rebels, on April 5 the Ming Chongzhen Emperor requested the urgent help of any military commandant in the Empire. But it was too late: on April 24 Li Zicheng breached the walls of Beijing , and the Emperor hanged himself the next day on a hill behind the Forbidden City. He was the last Ming emperor to reign in Beijing .

Soon after the emperor had called for help, powerful Ming general Wu Sangui had left his stronghold of Ningyuan north of the Great Wall and started marching toward the capital. On April 26, his armies had moved through the fortifications of Shanhai Pass (the eastern end of the Great Wall ) and were marching toward Beijing when he heard that the city had fallen. He returned to Shanhai Pass. Li Zicheng sent two armies to attack the Pass but Wu's battle-hardened troops defeated them easily on May 5 and May 10. Then on May 18, Li Zicheng personally led 60,000 of his troops out of Beijing to attack Wu. At the same time, Wu Sangui wrote to Dorgon to request the Qing's help in ousting the bandits and restoring the ming dynasty.

Meanwhile Wu Sangui's departure from the stronghold of Ningyuan had left all territory outside the Great Wall under Qing control. Dorgon's Chinese advisors, the two most illustrious of which were Hong Chengchou and Fan Wencheng (范文程), urged the Manchu prince to seize the opportunity of the fall of Beijing to claim the Mandate of Heaven for the qing dynasty. When Dorgon received Wu's letter, he was already leading an expedition to attack northern China and therefore had no intention to restore the Ming. When Dorgon asked Wu to work for the Qing instead, Wu had little choice but to accept

After Wu formally surrendered to the Qing in the morning of May 27, his elite troops charged the rebel army repeatedly, but were unable to break the enemy lines. Dorgon waited until both sides were weakened before ordering his cavalry to gallop around Wu's right wing to charge Li's left flank. Li Zicheng's troops were quickly routed and fled back toward Beijing . After their defeat at the Battle of Shanhai Pass, the Shun troops looted Beijing for several days until Li Zicheng left the capital on June 4, one day after he had defiantly proclaimed himself Emperor of the Great Shun.

After six weeks of mistreatment at the hands of rebel troops, the Beijing population sent a party of elders and officials to greet their liberators on June 5. They were startled when, instead of meeting Wu Sangui and the Ming heir apparent, they saw Dorgon, a horseriding Manchu with his shaved forehead, present himself as the Prince Regent. In the midst of this upheaval, Dorgon installed himself in the Wuying Palace (武英殿), "the only reasonably undamaged structure" after Li Zicheng had set fire to the palace complex on June 3.

Just two days after entering the city, Dorgon issued special proclamations to officials around the capital, assuring them that if the local population accepted to shave their forehead and surrender, the officials would be allowed to stay at their post. He had to repeal this command three weeks later after several peasant rebellions erupted around Beijing , threatening Qing control over the capital region

Dorgon greeted the Shunzhi Emperor at the gates of Beijing on October 19, 1644. On October 30 the young emperor performed sacrifices to Heaven and Earth at the Altar of Heaven. A formal ritual of enthronement for Fulin was held on November 8, during which the merits of Dorgon as regent were compared to those of the Duke of Zhou. During the ceremony, Dorgon's official title is raised from "Prince Regent" to "Uncle Prince Regent" (Shufu shezheng wang 叔父攝政王), in which the Manchu term for "Uncle" (ecike) represented a rank higher than that of imperial prince. Three days later Dorgon's co-regent Jirgalang was demoted from "Prince Regent" to "Assistant Uncle Prince Regent" (Fu zheng shuwang 輔政叔王). In June 1645, Dorgon eventually decreed that all official documents should refer to him as "Imperial Uncle Prince Regent" (Huang shufu shezheng wang 皇叔父攝政王).

The conquest of China

Historian Dai Yingcong has called Dorgon "the mastermind of the Qing conquest." Under his reign, the Qing subdued the capital area, received the capitulation of Shandong local elites and officials, and conquered Shanxi and Shaanxi , then turned their eyes to Jiangnan as they were also pursuing the last remnants of regimes established by Li Zicheng (killed in 1645) and Zhang Xianzhong ( Chengdu taken in early 1647). The Qing also eliminated remnants of the loyalist Southern Ming regime in Nanjing (1645), Fuzhou (1646), and Guangzhou (1647), and chased Zhu Youlang, the last monarch of the Southern Ming, into the far southwestern reaches of China.

The haircutting command

One of Dorgon's most controversial decisions was his 1645 imperial edict (the "Queue Order") which forced all Han Chinese men, on pain of death, to adopt the Manchu style of dress, including shaving the front of their heads and combing the remaining hair into a queue. To the Manchus this policy might both be a symbolic act of submission and in practical terms an aid in identification of friend from foe, however for the Han Chinese it went against their traditional Confucian values. Unsurprisingly, it was deeply unpopular and, together with other policies unfavourable towards the Han Chinese, might account for the increasingly steep resistance met by Qing forces after 1645. Hundreds of thousands of people were killed before all of China was brought into compliance.

Transition and personal rule (1651–1661)

After Dorgon's death in 1650 the Emperor stripped both him and Dorgon's brother, Dodo, of their titles and assumed full imperial authority.

During his short reign, the Shunzhi emperor encouraged the Han Chinese to participate in government activities. He was a scholar and employed Han Chinese to teach his children. He was also an open minded emperor and relied on the advice of Johann Adam Schall von Bell 湯若望, a Jesuit from Germany, for guidance ranging from astronomy, technologies, to tips for governing an empire. Shunzhi also elevated Schall to his personal mentor and was given free access to the palace.

The Emperor married his mother's niece, but demoted the Empress several years later.

Because of power issues in the Qing's ancestors' way, Shunzhi ultimately took another step to consolidate the power of the emperor. According to the old way, the 8 Banners were passed with succession much like how Nurhaci decided to give his Yellow Banners to Dorgun, but could potentially be controlled by someone like Huang Taji who switched the Banners. To solve this problem, Shunzi ordered the Upper 3 Banners- Plain Yellow, Striped Yellow, and Plain White to be under the control of the emperor. This would be maintained until Yongzheng and Qianlong's reign when they took the last step and controlled all 8 Banners.

After he assumed personal rule in 1651, the Emperor tried to root out corruption in the realm, but with little success.

Death and succession

In 1661, Shunzhi's favourite concubine Donggo suddenly died as a result of grief over the loss of a child. Overwhelmed with grief himself, Shunzhi contracted smallpox and died shortly thereafter. It was also believed in myth that the young Emperor did not pass away but left the palace to become a monk. Information is not clear, but it is said that Shunzhi later become a monk. Although not officially stated in history, it is said he later died of smallpox.

Before he died, he appointed four regents to govern for his child son, Xuanye - Oboi, Sonin, Suksaha, and Ebilun.

Contrary to Manchu customs at the time, which usually dictated that a deceased person should be cremated, the Shunzhi Emperor was buried. He was interred in what later came to be known as the Eastern Qing Tombs, 125 kilometers/75 miles northeast of Beijing , one of two Qing imperial cemeteries. His tomb was part of the Xiaoling (孝陵) mausoleum complex, known in Manchu as the Hiyoošungga Munggan.

Personal information


Qing emperor Hong Taiji


Empress Dowager Xiaozhuang.

Paternal grandfather

Nurhaci (1559–1626), founder of the qing dynasty.

Paternal grandmother:

Monggo (1573–1603), of the Yehenara clan; posthumously known as Empress Xiaocigao.

Empresses and consorts

Although only nineteen Empresses and Consorts are recorded for Shunzhi in the Aisin Gioro genealogy made by the Imperial Clan Court, burial records show that he had at least thirty-two of them. Eleven bore him children. There were two Empresses in his reign, both relatives of Empress Dowager Xiaozhuang from the Borjigit clan. After the 1644 conquest, Imperial Consorts and Empresses were usually known by their titles and by the name of their patrilineal clan.

First Empress: the Demoted Empress Suoerna, from the Borjigit clan; niece of Empress Dowager Xiaozhuang. She was made Empress in 1651, but the monarch disliked her so much that he had her demoted in 1653.

Second Empress: Empress Xiaohuizhang (d. 1718) from the Borjigit clan. She was named Empress in 1654.

Concubine from the Tunggiya clan (1640–1663). Her family was of Jurchen origin but had lived among Chinese for generations. It had Chinese family name Tong (佟) but switched to the Manchu clan name Tunggiya. She was made Empress Dowager Cihe in 1661 when Kangxi became emperor. She is known posthumously as Empress Xiaokangzhang.

Imperial Noble Consort from the Donggo clan (1639–1660), posthumously raised to Empress Xiao Xian Duan Jing. She had a Han Chinese mother. The Emperor was deeply in love with her and was very grieved when she died soon after their first son (Shunzhi's fourth) had died in infancy. He died of smallpox shortly thereafter.


Eleven of Shunzhi's thirty-two spouses bore him a total of fourteen children, but only four sons (Fuquan, Xuanye, Changning, and Longxi) and one daughter (Princess Gongyi Chang) lived old enough to marry. Unlike later Qing emperors, the names of Shunzhi's sons did not include a generational character.

Niuniu 牛鈕 (December 13, 1651–March 9, 1652). Born to Consort Ba 巴.

Fuquan 福全 (September 8, 1653–January 26, 1706). Born to Consort Ningyi 寧懿 from the Donggo clan. Became Prince Yu (裕親王) in 1667.

Xuanye 玄燁 (Manchu: Hiowan Yei) (May 4, 1654–December 20, 1722), later became the Kangxi Emperor. Born to Empress Xiaokangzhang.

4th son (November 5, 1657–February 25, 1658), who died before he was given a name. Born to Imperial Noble Consort Donggo. Posthumously granted the title of Prince Rong (榮親王).

Changning 常寧 (December 8, 1657–July 20, 1703). Born to Consort Chen 陳. Became Prince Gong (恭親王) in 1671.

Qishou 奇授 (January 3, 1660–unknown date, at the age of seven sui). Born to Consort Tang 唐.

Longxi 隆禧 (May 30, 1660–August 20, 1679). Born to Consort Niu 鈕. Became Prince Chun (純親王) in 1674; posthumouly called Prince Chun Jing (純靖親王). He fathered a son who died heirless.

Yonggan 永幹 (January 23, 1661–unknown date, at the age of eight sui). Born to Consort Muktu 穆克圖.


1st Daughter (1652–1653). Born to Consort Chen 陳.

2nd Daughter (1653–1685): second-rank Princess (M.: hošoi gungju) Gongyi Chang (Ch.: heshuo Gongyi Chang gongzhu 和碩恭懿長公主). Married in 1667. Born to Consort Yang 楊.

3rd Daughter (1653–1658). Born to Consort Ba 巴.

4th Daughter (1654–1661). Born to Consort Usu 烏蘇.

5th Daughter (1654–1660). Born to Consort Wang 王.

6th Daughter (1657–1661). Born to Consort Nala 那拉.

Last update 02-06-2012

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