Friday, September 5, 2008

Zhu Yousong, Prince of Fu

Zhu Yousong, Prince of Fu, was the first pretender to the throne after the fall of the Ming Dynasty.

Zhu Yujian, Prince of Tang

''This article is based on a translation from the Chinese Wikipedia.''

The Prince of Tang reigned as the Longwu emperor of the Southern Ming dynasty from 1646-1646. His personal name was Zhu Yujian . He was a descendant of the first emperor . Before ascending to the throne he followed his father as the Prince of Tang, their fief being situated in Nanyang prefecture, in Henan province. In 1636 he was stripped of his title by the Chongzhen Emperor and put under house arrest in Fengyang. His former title was transferred to his younger brother Zhu Yumo . In 1641 the latter committed suicide when Li Zicheng invaded Nanyang. After the death of the Chongzhen Emperor 1644, his successor on the Ming throne, the released the Prince of Tang from his arrest.

When forces captured Nanjing in June 1645 he fled to Hangzhou. In August of the same year at the behest of several high officials he ascended to the Ming throne in Fuzhou, taking the Longwu . After a promising start, Fujian's geographical position on the margin of the empire, cut off the heartland through several mountain ranges, as well as his lack of effective troops and the failure on part of the officialdom to find a united stance doomed the Longwu government. When Qing forces invaded Fujian in the late summer of 1646, Zheng Zhilong, the emperors strongest ally, surrendered while his son Zheng Chenggong retreated to sea.

The Prince of Tang, left with a dwindling court. On October 6, 1646, he was captured and immediately executed.

Against the Ming policy of keeping imperial princes out of politics, the Prince of Tang early on showed interest in the government of the empire and strove for a larger role of the princes in it. While this brought him under house arrest during the reign of the Chongzhen Emperor, it also made him probably the most skilled and best suited emperor of the Southern Ming dynasty.

Contrary to Chinese custom, the Prince of Tang steadfastly declined to take any concubines. He is also said to have had a very close relationship with his wife.

Prince of Tang (Shaowu)

''This article is based on a translation from the Chinese Wikipedia.''

The Prince of Tang reigned as the Shaowu Emperor of the Southern Ming dynasty from 1646-1647. His personal name was Zhu Yuyuè . He was a descendant of the first emperor . Before ascending to the throne he followed his father as the Prince of Tang and elder brother, the future Longwu Emperor, their fief being situated in Nanyang prefecture, in Henan province. In 1646 he succeeded the title of Prince of Tang after the accession of the Longwu Emperor.

When forces captured Fuzhou in 1646 and killed the Longwu Emperor, he fled to Guangzhou. In December of the same year at the behest of several high officials he ascended to the throne in Guangzhou, taking the Shaowu , just a few days before the Prince of Gui became the Yongli Emperor. Both regimes claimed to be the legitimate successor of the Ming Dynasty, and war broke out shortly afterwards. Initially, forces of the Shaowu regime enjoyed victory over the Yongli forces. This ultimately led to the over confidence of the Shaowu Emperor. Corruption and lack of defence doomed the government. Just 40 days after the establishment of the Shaowu regime, Qing forces successfully invaded Guangzhou. The Shaowu Emperor was captured in January 1647 and immediately committed suicide.

The remains of the Shaowu Emperor and his officials are buried in Yuexiu Park, Guangzhou.

Zhu Youlang, Prince of Gui

The Prince of Gui or the Yongli Emperor, was an emperor of the Southern Ming Dynasty in China. He was the last surviving Southern emperor who lived long enough to see the collapse of the last vestiges of the Ming dynasty in mainland China. Born Zhu Youlang sometime in 1623, to Zhu Changying , the seventh son of the Wanli emperor. The Yongli emperor, who is commonly known as The Prince of Gui, actually inherited this title from his brother.

At the age of 21 on 18 November 1646, the young Prince ascended the throne and assumed the reign name of Yongli. He initially established himself in Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong, but as the Ming troops were unable fend off the stronger Qing troops who were continuously sending reinforcements south towards Guangzhou, the Yongli emperor had no choice but to flee in 1650 from Guangzhou towards Nanning in order to save his life. However, as Wu Sangui's troops exerted a further pressure against his at that time current location, the Prince of Gui eventually retreated to Kunming in Yunnan in 1659 and into Burma in 1661, where he was granted refuge by the Burmese King and lived at Sagaing.

The Burmese king, however, was feeling frightened that he would lose his own kingdom as well if he continued to offer the Prince of Gui further protection. Having no choice, the King let in Wu Sangui's troops and let them arrest the Prince of Gui. In the process, most of his concubines and eunuchs, along with his small army, were either killed while defending him or ran away. The Prince of Gui was finally strangled to death by Wu Sangui in April 1662. It is said that he scorned Wu Sangui in his last moments, stating that he betrayed his people and country. He prompted Wu to kill him faster by stating that he is disgusted to see a "Traitor's face." Wu Sangui was embarrassed and enraged and thus executed him personally with his bow string.

Li Zicheng

Li Zicheng , born Lĭ Hóngjī , was one of the major figures in the rebellion that brought down the . He proclaimed himself Chuǎng Wáng , or "The Roaming King".


Born in Mizhi District , Yan'an Subprefecture , Li grew up as a shepherd. Li started to learn horseriding and archery at age 20, and also worked in a wine shop and under an ironworker as an apprentice.

According to folklore, in 1630 he was put on public display in an iron collar and shackles for his failure to repay loans to an usurious magistrate, . Ai struck a guard who offered shade and water to Li, whence a group of peasants tore apart Li's shackles, spirited him to a nearby hill, and proclaimed him their leader. Despite having only wooden sticks, Li and his band ambushed police sent against them and obtained their first real weapons. A terrible famine had beset Shaanxi in this time, and in three years, Li gathered more than 20,000 soldiers. The rebels then attacked and killed leading officials in places in Henan, Shanxi, and Shaanxi.

In April 1644, Li's rebels sacked the Ming capital of Beijing, and the committed suicide. He proclaimed himself as the Emperor of Shun Dynasty , that made people called him ''Shunwang'' . After his army was defeated on May 27, 1644 by the Manchus and Wu Sangui , Li Zicheng fled Beijing towards his power base in Shaanxi; after a number of defeats, he ultimately died either by committing suicide off of a Lotus tree or was killed by pro- militia during his escape at the age of 40. Some folk tales hold that Li didn't die upon defeat, but instead became a monk.

Li Zicheng historiography

Although the conquest of China was made possible by the Ming Dynasty being weakened by the Li Zicheng rebellion, ironically, official historiography during the Qing Dynasty regarded Li as an illegitimate usurper and bandit. This view sought to discourage and demonize notions of rebellion against the Qing government; the imperial government propagated the view that the Qing Dynasty put an end to the illegitimate rule of Li and restored honor to the empire, thus receiving the Mandate of Heaven to rule China. In 20th century Maoist China, the anti- and radical inclinations of the Communist Party of China viewed Li Zicheng favorably, portraying him as an early revolutionary against feudalism. To this end, the government of the People's Republic of China honored Li with a large monument in Beijing.

Zhengtong Emperor

Zhu Qizhen was an of the Ming Dynasty. He ruled as the Zhengtong Emperor from 1435 to 1449, and as the Tianshun Emperor from 1457 to 1464.

First Reign

Zhu Qizhen was the son of the Xuande Emperor Zhu Zhanji and his Empress Sun. At the beginning of Zhengtong's reign, the Ming dynasty was prosperous and at the height of its power as a result of Xuande Emperor's able administration. Zhengtong's accession at the age of eight makes him the first child emperor of the dynasty hence Zhengtong was easily influenced by others, namely his eunuch Wang Zhen. Zhengtong thoroughly relied on Zhen for advice and guidance.

Imprisonment by the Mongols

At the age of 22, in 1449, he was imprisoned by the Mongols when, advised by Wang Zhen, he personally directed and lost the against the Mongols under . His capture by the enemy force shook the Ming dynasty to its core and the ensuing crisis almost caused the dynasty to collapse were it not for the capable governing of a prominent minister named Yu Qian. Although Zhengtong was a prisoner of the Mongols, he became a good friend to the . Meanwhile, to calm the crisis at home, his brother Zhu Qiyu was installed as the Jingtai Emperor. This reduced Zhengtong's imperial status and he was granted the title of "grand emperor".

House arrest and second reign

The Zhengtong Emperor was released one year later in 1450 but when he returned to China, he was immediately put under house arrest by his brother for almost seven years. He resided in the southern palace of the Forbidden city and all outside contacts were severely curtailed by the Jingtai Emperor. Zhengtong's son was stripped of the title of crown prince and replaced by Jingtai's own son. This act greatly upset and devastated Zhengtong but the heir apparent died shortly thereafter. Overcome with grief, the Jingtai Emperor fell ill and Zhengtong decided to depose Jingtai by a palace coup which eventually reinstalled Zhu Qizhen as emperor, who renamed his second reign Tianshun and went on to rule for another seven years.

On August 6, 1461, the Tianshun Emperor issued an edict warning his subjects to be loyal to the throne and not to violate the laws. This was a veiled threat aimed at the general , who had become embroiled in a controversy when he had one of his retainers kill a man whom Ming authorities were attempting to interrogate . However, during the first hours of the morning of August 7, prominent Ming Mongol generals, Wu Jin and Wu Cong, were alerted of the coup and immediately relayed a warning to the emperor. Although alarmed, the emperor and his court made preparations for a conflict and barred the gates of the palace. During the ensuing onslaught in the capital later that morning, the Minister of Works and the Commander of the Imperial Guard were killed, while the rebels set the gates of the Forbidden City on fire. The fight lasted for nearly the entire day within the city; during which three of Cao Qin's brothers were killed, and Qin himself received wounds to both arms. With the failure of the coup, in order to escape being executed, Qin fled to his residence and committed suicide by jumping down a well within the walled compound of his home.

The Tianshun Emperor died at the age of 37 in 1464 and was buried in the Yuling tomb of the Ming Dynasty Tombs.


''Tianshun was also the name of a Yuan Dynasty reign.''

Chongzhen Emperor

The Chongzhen Emperor was the 16th and last of the Ming dynasty in China between 1627 and 1644. Born Zhu Youjian, he was emperor 's son.

Early reign

Chongzhen grew up in a relatively quiet environment because as the younger son of the Taichang emperor, he was not a part of the power struggle his elder brother Tianqi had endured. He succeeded his brother to the throne at the age of 17 and eliminated the eunuch Wei Zhongxian and Madam Ke. Unlike his brother Tianqi, Chongzhen tried to rule by himself and did his best to salvage the dynasty. However, years of internal corruption and an empty treasury made it almost impossible to appoint capable ministers to fill important government posts. And when he did have able ministers, Chongzhen tended to be suspicious of them and imposed harsh penalties if he suspected them of disloyalty. In 1630, merely three years after pledging his full support, Chongzhen even executed Yuan Chonghuan, a capable marshal who had been very successful at keeping the Manchus in the northeastern frontier at bay. This injustice caused a public uproar and created an atmosphere of distrust and fear of reprisal amongst his ministers. It also sealed the fate of the Ming dynasty, as there were no other capable generals to fend off the Manchus.

Fall of the Ming Dynasty

In the 1630s and '40s the Ming dynasty was fading quickly. Constant popular uprisings broke out throughout the country. Intensified attacks from the Manchus further aggravated the situation. In April 1644, the popular army led by rebel Li Zicheng finally broke through the Ming defenses and occupied Beijing. Meanwhile, General Wu Sangui threw open the gates of the Shanhai Pass and invited the Manchus into China. Chongzhen gathered the entire imperial household and ordered them to commit suicide rather than surrender. Hopeless and fearful for their lives, many did as they were told, including the Empress, who hanged herself. One of his daughters, , refused to commit suicide. In a fit of rage, Chongzhen had her left arm severed. Chongzhen, still wearing his imperial attire, fled to the nearby Jingshan Park with eunuch Wang Cheng'en . Distraught by the countless officials who had since abandoned him, Chongzhen lamented, "I should not be the emperor of a subjugated nation, but you, my subjects, must be resigned to such a fate. I have never mistreated any of the officials in my service; yet on this day, why does nary a single one remain by my side?" He then hanged himself, with the help of Wang Cheng'en, on the Guilty Chinese Scholartree, putting an end to the Ming dynasty.

Legacy and personality

Chongzhen's tenure as emperor effectively ended the Ming dynasty. Although his intention to revive the failing dynasty was genuine, his means to achieve them proved disastrous. He has been blamed for being narrow-minded, quick to judgement, and prone to suspicion and paranoia. Though the Ming dynasty had been in decline for many decades prior to his reign, Chongzhen would expect quick results. If they were not to his satisfaction, he would quickly administer punitive actions. This resulted in the expulsion of the remaining handful of capable and loyal Ming ministers which ultimately hastened the downfall of the Ming dynasty.