Friday, September 5, 2008

Xuande Emperor

The Xuande Emperor was emperor of China between 1425–1435.


Born Zhu Zhanji, he was emperor 's son. Xuande was also fond of poetry and literature. Emperor Xuande decided to keep Beijing as the capital. His uncle Zhu Gaoxu had been a favorite of Yongle for his military successes; but he disobeyed imperial instructions and in 1417 had been exiled to the small fief of Loan in Shandong. When Zhu Gaoxu revolted, the new emperor Xuande took 20,000 soldiers and attacked him at Loan. Zhu Gaoxu surrendered soon afterward. Zhu Gaoxu was reduced to a commoner and died from torture. Six hundred rebelling officials were executed, and 2200 were banished. The Emperor did not wish to execute his uncle at the start, but later events angered the Emperor so much, that Zhu Gaoxu was executed through fire torture, and all Zhu Gaoxu's sons were executed as well. It is very likely that Zhu Gaoxu's arrogance, which is well detailed in many historic texts, offended the Emperor. A theory states that when the Emperor went to visit his uncle, Zhu Gaoxu intentionally tripped the Emperor.

Emperor Xuande wanted to withdraw his troops from Annam, but some of his advisors disagreed. After Chinese garrisons suffered heavy casualties, the Emperor sent Liu Sheng with an army; but they were badly defeated by the Annamese, losing 70,000 men in 1427. The Chinese forces withdrew, and Xuande eventually recognized the independence of Annam. In the north Xuande was inspecting the border with 3,000 cavalry in 1428 and was able to punish a raid by Uriyangkhad Mongols. The Chinese let Arughtai's Eastern Mongols battle with Toghon's Oirat tribes of the west. Beijing received horses annually from Arughtai; but he was defeated by the Oirats in 1431 and was killed in 1434 when Toghon took over eastern Mongolia. The Ming court then maintained friendly relations with the Oirats. China's diplomatic relations with Japan improved in 1432. Relations with Korea were good except they resented having to send virgins occasionally to the Ming court's harem. Xuande allowed Zheng He to make one more voyage; but such maritime expeditions by eunuch captains ended in 1434.

A privy council of eunuchs strengthened centralized power by controlling the secret police, and their influence would continue to grow. In 1428 the notorious censor Liu Guan was sentenced to penal servitude and replaced by the incorruptible Gu Zuo , who dismissed 43 members of the Beijing and Nanjing censorates for incompetence. Some censors were demoted, imprisoned, and banished, but none were executed. Replacements were put on probation as the censorate investigated the entire Ming administration including the military. The same year the Emperor reformed the rules governing military conscription and the treatment of deserters. Yet the hereditary military continued to be inefficient with poor morale. Huge inequalities in tax burdens had caused most in some areas to leave their farms in the past forty years. In 1430 Emperor Xuande ordered tax reductions on all imperial lands and sent out "touring pacifiers" to coordinate provincial administration, exercising . They attempted to eliminate the irregularities and the corruption of the revenue collectors. Xuande often ordered retrials that allowed thousands of innocent people to be released. Xuande died of illness after ruling ten years.

The Xuande Emperor ruled over a remarkably peaceful time with no significant external or internal problems. Later historians have considered his reign to be the Ming dynasty's golden age.

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