Chongzhen Emperor

Chongzhen Emperor

Discussion
Ask a question about 'Chongzhen Emperor'
Start a new discussion about 'Chongzhen Emperor'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Encyclopedia
The Chongzhen Emperor (February 6, 1611 - April 25, 1644) was the 16th and last emperor
Emperor of China
The Emperor of China refers to any sovereign of Imperial China reigning between the founding of Qin Dynasty of China, united by the King of Qin in 221 BCE, and the fall of Yuan Shikai's Empire of China in 1916. When referred to as the Son of Heaven , a title that predates the Qin unification, the...

 of the Ming Dynasty
Ming Dynasty
The Ming Dynasty, also Empire of the Great Ming, was the ruling dynasty of China from 1368 to 1644, following the collapse of the Mongol-led Yuan Dynasty. The Ming, "one of the greatest eras of orderly government and social stability in human history", was the last dynasty in China ruled by ethnic...

 in China. He reigned from 1627 to 1644, under an era name that means "honorable and auspicious".

Early years


Born Zhu Youjian (朱由檢), Chongzhen was the fifth son of Zhu Changluo, the Taichang Emperor
Taichang Emperor
The Taichang Emperor was the fourteenth Emperor of the Ming Dynasty. He was born Zhu Changluo , the eldest son of the Wanli Emperor and succeeded his father as emperor in 1620. However his reign came to an abrupt end less than one month after his coronation when he was found dead one morning in...

. His mother Lady Liu was a humble concubine of the Taichang Emperor
Taichang Emperor
The Taichang Emperor was the fourteenth Emperor of the Ming Dynasty. He was born Zhu Changluo , the eldest son of the Wanli Emperor and succeeded his father as emperor in 1620. However his reign came to an abrupt end less than one month after his coronation when he was found dead one morning in...

. When he was four years old, she was killed by Zhu Changluo in his anger and anxiety, reason kept unknown. She was buried secretly, and Zhu Youjian was adopted by Consort Kang, some years later transferred to Consort Zhuang, as Consort Kang gave birth to another princess and adopted Zhu Youxiao
Tianqi Emperor
The Tianqi Emperor was the 15th emperor of the Ming dynasty from 1620 to 1627. Born Zhu Youxiao, he was the Taichang Emperor's eldest son. His era name means "Heavenly opening".-Biography:...

 as well.

As such, he grew up in a relatively lonely but quiet environment, since most of the younger sons were left out of the power struggle that their elder brother the Tianqi Emperor
Tianqi Emperor
The Tianqi Emperor was the 15th emperor of the Ming dynasty from 1620 to 1627. Born Zhu Youxiao, he was the Taichang Emperor's eldest son. His era name means "Heavenly opening".-Biography:...

 had to endure. Chongzhen succeeded his brother to the throne at age 17 and immediately eliminated the eunuch Wei Zhongxian
Wei Zhongxian
Wei Zhongxian is considered by most historians as the most powerful and notorious eunuch in Chinese history. Originally a hoodlum and gambler, his initial name was Wei Si . He took the step of becoming a eunuch and entering palace service to escape from his creditors, taking the name Li Jinzhong...

 and Madame Ke, who had become de facto rulers of the empire.

Chongzhen tried to rule by himself and did his best to salvage the dynasty
Ming Dynasty
The Ming Dynasty, also Empire of the Great Ming, was the ruling dynasty of China from 1368 to 1644, following the collapse of the Mongol-led Yuan Dynasty. The Ming, "one of the greatest eras of orderly government and social stability in human history", was the last dynasty in China ruled by ethnic...

. However, years of internal corruption and an empty treasury made it almost impossible to find capable ministers to fill important government posts. Chongzhen also tended to be suspicious of the few skilled subordinates he did have, executing the famous general Yuan Chonghuan
Yuan Chonghuan
Yuan Chonghuan was a famed patriot and military commander of the Ming Dynasty who battled the Manchus in Liaoning. A commander of Cantonese origin, Yuan Chonghuan was known to have excelled in artillery warfare and successfully incorporated Western tactics with those of the East...

, who had almost single-handedly maintained the northern frontier against the Manchu
Manchu
The Manchu people or Man are an ethnic minority of China who originated in Manchuria . During their rise in the 17th century, with the help of the Ming dynasty rebels , they came to power in China and founded the Qing Dynasty, which ruled China until the Xinhai Revolution of 1911, which...

s, in 1630.

Fall of the Ming Dynasty



The collapse of the Ming
Fall of the Ming Dynasty
The collapse of the Ming Dynasty was a protracted affair, its roots beginning as early as 1600 with the emergence of the Manchu under Nurhaci. Originally a vassal of the Ming emperors, Nurhaci in 1582 embarked on an inter-tribal feud that escalated into a campaign to unify the Jianzhou Jurchen tribes...

 intensified during Chongzhen's reign. Popular uprisings broke out throughout China, including those of Zhang Xianzhong
Zhang Xianzhong
Zhang Xianzhong or Chang Hsien-chung , nicknamed Yellow Tiger, was a Chinese rebel leader who conquered Sichuan Province in the middle of the 17th century. Upon capturing it, he declared himself emperor of the Daxi Dynasty .According to Chinese chronicles, many scholars rejected that claim, so he...

 and the more important Li Zicheng. These could not be put down by the already hard-pressed Ming armies, who had to contend with the Manchu threat to the north.

In April 1644, Li prepared to take the Ming capital of Beijing
Beijing
Beijing , also known as Peking , is the capital of the People's Republic of China and one of the most populous cities in the world, with a population of 19,612,368 as of 2010. The city is the country's political, cultural, and educational center, and home to the headquarters for most of China's...

. Rather than face capture and probable execution at the hands of the newly-proclaimed Shun Dynasty
Shun Dynasty
The Shun Dynasty was an imperial dynasty created in the brief lapse from Ming to Qing rule in China. The dynasty was founded in Xi'an on 8 February 1644, the first day of the lunar year, by Li Zicheng, the leader of a large peasant rebellion. Li, however, only went by the title of King, not Emperor...

, Chongzhen arranged a feast and gathered all members of the imperial household aside from his sons. Using his sword, he killed all of them there. All died except his second daughter, Princess Chang Ping
Princess Changping
Princess Changping , birth name Zhu Meicuo , was a princess of the Chinese Ming Dynasty.-Biography:Changping was born to the Chongzhen Emperor and Consort Wang Shun. As Consort Wang died from illness not long after Changping's birth, the princess was raised by Empress Zhou...

, whose attempt to resist the sword blow resulted in her left arm being severed by her father. Then, still wearing his imperial attire, Chongzhen fled to Jingshan Hill
Jingshan Park
Jingshan is an artificial hill in Beijing, China. Covering an area of more than 230,000 m², Jingshan is immediately north of the Forbidden City on the central axis of Beijing. As a result, it is administratively part of both the Xicheng District and the Dongcheng District...

 and committed suicide
Suicide
Suicide is the act of intentionally causing one's own death. Suicide is often committed out of despair or attributed to some underlying mental disorder, such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, alcoholism, or drug abuse...

 when he hanged himself from a tree
Guilty Chinese Scholartree
The Guilty Chinese Scholartree , a specimen of Pagoda Tree located in Beijing's Jingshan park, is a famous tree and national landmark on which the last Ming Chongzhen Emperor hanged himself after a group of peasants successfully stormed the Forbidden City in 1644.The tree was uprooted during the...

. Li Zicheng ordered to bury him and his wife together into his concubine Consort Tian's tomb, which later was called Siling of the Ming Dynasty Tombs
Ming Dynasty Tombs
The Ming Dynasty Tombs are located some 51.35 kilometers due north of central Beijing, within the suburban Changping District of Beijing municipality...

.
The Shun Dynasty lasted less than a year until Li's defeat at the Battle of Shanhai Pass
Battle of Shanhai Pass
The Battle of Shanhai Pass, fought on 27 May 1644 at Shanhaiguan at the eastern end of the Great Wall of China, was a decisive battle leading to the formation of the Qing dynasty in China...

, with the victorious Manchus establishing the Shunzhi Emperor
Shunzhi Emperor
The Shunzhi Emperor 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...

 of the Qing Dynasty
Qing Dynasty
The Qing Dynasty was the last dynasty of China, ruling from 1644 to 1912 with a brief, abortive restoration in 1917. It was preceded by the Ming Dynasty and followed by the Republic of China....

 as ruler of all China.

After Chongzhen's death, loyalist forces had proclaimed a Southern Ming Dynasty
Southern Ming Dynasty
The Southern Ming Dynasty was the Ming loyalist regime that continued in Southern China from 1644 to 1662 following the capture of Beijing by rebel armies and the death of the last Ming emperor in 1644....

 in Nanjing
Nanjing
' is the capital of Jiangsu province in China and has a prominent place in Chinese history and culture, having been the capital of China on several occasions...

, naming Zhu Yousong, Prince of Fu
Zhu Yousong, Prince of Fu
The Hongguang Emperor , was the first emperor of the Southern Ming Dynasty. He reigned briefly in Southern China from 1644-1645. His era name, Hongguang, means "Great light".-Biography:...

 as the Hongguang Emperor. However, in 1645 Qing armies started to move against the remnants of the Ming, and Nanjing surrendered on June 8, 1645. Zhu was captured on June 15 and brought to Beijing, where he died the following year. The dwindling Ming were continually pushed farther south, and the last Emperor of the Southern Ming, Zhu Youlang, Prince of Gui
Zhu Youlang, Prince of Gui
Zhu Youlang, Prince of Gui, the Yongli Emperor was the fourth and last emperor of the Southern Ming Dynasty of China. His era name means "Perpetual calendar"....

, was finally executed in Burma in 1662 by Qing general Wu Sangui
Wu Sangui
Wu Sangui was a Ming Chinese general who was instrumental in the succession of rule to the Qing Dynasty in 1644...

.

Legacy and personality


While Chongzhen was not especially incompetent by the standards of the later Ming – most direct blame for the dynasty's fall being laid at the feet of the Wanli Emperor
Wanli Emperor
The Wanli Emperor was emperor of China between 1572 and 1620. His era name means "Ten thousand calendars". Born Zhu Yijun, he was the Longqing Emperor's third son...

 – and was generally credited as hard working, he has been criticized for his paranoia and inflexibility. Chongzhen's attempts at reform did not take into account the considerable decline of Ming power, which was already far advanced at the time of his accession. His betrayal of Yuan Chonghuan
Yuan Chonghuan
Yuan Chonghuan was a famed patriot and military commander of the Ming Dynasty who battled the Manchus in Liaoning. A commander of Cantonese origin, Yuan Chonghuan was known to have excelled in artillery warfare and successfully incorporated Western tactics with those of the East...

, in particular, has greatly damaged his contemporary reputation.

Personal information

  • Father
    • Taichang Emperor
      Taichang Emperor
      The Taichang Emperor was the fourteenth Emperor of the Ming Dynasty. He was born Zhu Changluo , the eldest son of the Wanli Emperor and succeeded his father as emperor in 1620. However his reign came to an abrupt end less than one month after his coronation when he was found dead one morning in...

  • Mother
    • Liu Shunu (淑女劉氏) (d. 1615), concubine of the Taichang Emperor
      Taichang Emperor
      The Taichang Emperor was the fourteenth Emperor of the Ming Dynasty. He was born Zhu Changluo , the eldest son of the Wanli Emperor and succeeded his father as emperor in 1620. However his reign came to an abrupt end less than one month after his coronation when he was found dead one morning in...

      , daughter of Liu Yingyuan, Duke of Ying (瀛國公劉應元) and Lady Xu (徐媪), posthumously honored as Empress Dowager Xiao Chun (孝純太后)

Consorts

Formal Title Maiden Name Born Died Father Mother Issue Notes
Empress Xiao Jie
Empress Zhuang Lie Min
Empress Zhuang Lie Min , posthumously named Empress Xiao Jie, was a Chinese Empress consort of the Ming Dynasty, married to Chongzhen Emperor.-Biography:...


孝节皇后
Family name
Chinese surname
Chinese family names have been historically used by Han Chinese and Sinicized Chinese ethnic groups in mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and among overseas Chinese communities. In ancient times two types of surnames, family names and clan names , existed.The colloquial expressions laobaixing...

: Zhou (周)
Zhou (surname)
Zhōu is the Hanyu Pinyin transliteration of the Chinese family name 周, which now ranks as the 10th most common surname in Mainland China. It has been one of the ten most common surnames in China since the Yuan Dynasty....

 
Suzhou
Suzhou
Suzhou , previously transliterated as Su-chou, Suchow, and Soochow, is a major city located in the southeast of Jiangsu Province in Eastern China, located adjacent to Shanghai Municipality. The city is situated on the lower reaches of the Yangtze River and on the shores of Taihu Lake and is a part...

, Jiangsu Province
Jiangsu
' is a province of the People's Republic of China, located along the east coast of the country. The name comes from jiang, short for the city of Jiangning , and su, for the city of Suzhou. The abbreviation for this province is "苏" , the second character of its name...

 
18 March 1644 Zhou Kui
嘉定侯周奎
- Zhu Cilang, Crown Prince Xianmin
Princess Kunyi
Zhu Cixuan, Prince Yin of Huai
Zhu Cijiong, Prince Ai of Ding
Noble Consort Yuan
袁貴妃
Family name
Chinese surname
Chinese family names have been historically used by Han Chinese and Sinicized Chinese ethnic groups in mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and among overseas Chinese communities. In ancient times two types of surnames, family names and clan names , existed.The colloquial expressions laobaixing...

: Yuan (袁)
- 1644 Yuan You (袁祐) - Princess Zhaoren
Noble Consort Gong Shu
恭淑貴妃
Family name
Chinese surname
Chinese family names have been historically used by Han Chinese and Sinicized Chinese ethnic groups in mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and among overseas Chinese communities. In ancient times two types of surnames, family names and clan names , existed.The colloquial expressions laobaixing...

: Tian (田)
Given name
Chinese given name
Chinese given names are generally made up of one or two characters, and are written after the family name, therefore "John-Paul Smith" as a Chinese name would be read "Smith John-Paul". Chinese names can consist of any character and contain almost any meaning...

: Xiuying (秀英)
Shaanxi Province
Shaanxi
' is a province in the central part of Mainland China, and it includes portions of the Loess Plateau on the middle reaches of the Yellow River in addition to the Qinling Mountains across the southern part of this province...

 
1642 Tian Hongyu
田弘遇
- Zhu Cizhao, Prince Dao of Yong
Zhu Cihuan, Prince Ling of Dao
Zhu Cican, Prince Huai of Dao
Prince Liang of Dao
Consort Shun
順妃
Family name
Chinese surname
Chinese family names have been historically used by Han Chinese and Sinicized Chinese ethnic groups in mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and among overseas Chinese communities. In ancient times two types of surnames, family names and clan names , existed.The colloquial expressions laobaixing...

: Wang (王)
- 1629 - - Zhu Meicuo, Princess Pingchang
Princess Changping
Princess Changping , birth name Zhu Meicuo , was a princess of the Chinese Ming Dynasty.-Biography:Changping was born to the Chongzhen Emperor and Consort Wang Shun. As Consort Wang died from illness not long after Changping's birth, the princess was raised by Empress Zhou...

 
Consort Shen
沈妃
Family name
Chinese surname
Chinese family names have been historically used by Han Chinese and Sinicized Chinese ethnic groups in mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and among overseas Chinese communities. In ancient times two types of surnames, family names and clan names , existed.The colloquial expressions laobaixing...

: Shen (沈)
- - - - -
Consort Wang
王妃
Family name
Chinese surname
Chinese family names have been historically used by Han Chinese and Sinicized Chinese ethnic groups in mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and among overseas Chinese communities. In ancient times two types of surnames, family names and clan names , existed.The colloquial expressions laobaixing...

: Wang (王)
- - - - - Different from the below
Consort Wang
王妃
Family name
Chinese surname
Chinese family names have been historically used by Han Chinese and Sinicized Chinese ethnic groups in mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and among overseas Chinese communities. In ancient times two types of surnames, family names and clan names , existed.The colloquial expressions laobaixing...

: Wang (王)
- - - - - Different from the above
Consort Liu
劉妃
Family name
Chinese surname
Chinese family names have been historically used by Han Chinese and Sinicized Chinese ethnic groups in mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and among overseas Chinese communities. In ancient times two types of surnames, family names and clan names , existed.The colloquial expressions laobaixing...

: Liu (劉)
- - - - -
Consort Fang
方妃
Family name
Chinese surname
Chinese family names have been historically used by Han Chinese and Sinicized Chinese ethnic groups in mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and among overseas Chinese communities. In ancient times two types of surnames, family names and clan names , existed.The colloquial expressions laobaixing...

: Fang (方)
- - - - -

Sons

Number Name Formal Title Born Died Mother Spouse Issue Notes
1 Zhu Cilang
朱慈烺
Crown Prince Xianmin
獻愍太子
26 February 1629 1644
Ning Jia Wan, Shaanxi Province
Shaanxi
' is a province in the central part of Mainland China, and it includes portions of the Loess Plateau on the middle reaches of the Yellow River in addition to the Qinling Mountains across the southern part of this province...

 
Empress Zhuang Lie Min Lady Ning
(daughter of Ning Hong (寧浤))
none Created Crown Prince in 1630
2 Zhu Cixuan
朱慈烜
Prince Yin of Huai
懷隱王
15 January 1630 15 March 1630 Empress Zhuang Lie Min none none Created Prince of Huai
3 Zhu Cijiong
朱慈炯
Prince Ai of Ding
定哀王
1631 unknown Empress Zhuang Lie Min - - Created Prince Ding in 1643; posthumously demoted to Duke An of Ding (定安公) under the Shun Dynasty
Shun Dynasty
The Shun Dynasty was an imperial dynasty created in the brief lapse from Ming to Qing rule in China. The dynasty was founded in Xi'an on 8 February 1644, the first day of the lunar year, by Li Zicheng, the leader of a large peasant rebellion. Li, however, only went by the title of King, not Emperor...

; title of Prince of Ding restored under the Southern Ming Dynasty
Southern Ming Dynasty
The Southern Ming Dynasty was the Ming loyalist regime that continued in Southern China from 1644 to 1662 following the capture of Beijing by rebel armies and the death of the last Ming emperor in 1644....

4 Zhu Cizhao
朱慈炤
Prince Dao of Yong
永悼王
unknown unknown Consort Gong Shu - - Created Prince of Yong in April 1642; Granted the posthumous name "Dao" (悼) under the Southern Ming Dynasty
Southern Ming Dynasty
The Southern Ming Dynasty was the Ming loyalist regime that continued in Southern China from 1644 to 1662 following the capture of Beijing by rebel armies and the death of the last Ming emperor in 1644....

5 Zhu Cihuan
朱慈煥
Prince Ling of Dao
悼靈王
1633 1708 Consort Gong Shu Lady Hu
胡氏
Zhu Heshen (朱和兟)
son
Zhu Heren (朱和壬)
Zhu Hezai (朱和在)
Zhu Hekun (朱和堃)
three daughters
6 Zhu Cican
朱慈燦
Prince Huai of Dao
悼懷王
1637 5 May 1639 Consort Gong Shu none none
7 none Prince Liang of Dao
悼良王
unknown unknown Consort Gong Shu none none Died at the age of three

Daughters

Number Title Name Born Died Date Married Spouse Issue Mother Notes
1 Princess Kunyi
坤儀公主
Family name
Chinese surname
Chinese family names have been historically used by Han Chinese and Sinicized Chinese ethnic groups in mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and among overseas Chinese communities. In ancient times two types of surnames, family names and clan names , existed.The colloquial expressions laobaixing...

: Zhu (朱)
(personal name unknown)
1630 unknown none none none Empress Zhuang Lie Min Died young
2 Princess Changping
Princess Changping
Princess Changping , birth name Zhu Meicuo , was a princess of the Chinese Ming Dynasty.-Biography:Changping was born to the Chongzhen Emperor and Consort Wang Shun. As Consort Wang died from illness not long after Changping's birth, the princess was raised by Empress Zhou...


長平公主
Family name
Chinese surname
Chinese family names have been historically used by Han Chinese and Sinicized Chinese ethnic groups in mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and among overseas Chinese communities. In ancient times two types of surnames, family names and clan names , existed.The colloquial expressions laobaixing...

: Zhu (朱)
Given name
Chinese given name
Chinese given names are generally made up of one or two characters, and are written after the family name, therefore "John-Paul Smith" as a Chinese name would be read "Smith John-Paul". Chinese names can consist of any character and contain almost any meaning...

: Meicuo (朱媺娖)
1629 26 September 1646 1645 Zhou Xian
周顯
- Consort Shun
3 Princess Zhaoren
昭仁公主
Family name
Chinese surname
Chinese family names have been historically used by Han Chinese and Sinicized Chinese ethnic groups in mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and among overseas Chinese communities. In ancient times two types of surnames, family names and clan names , existed.The colloquial expressions laobaixing...

: Zhu (朱)
(personal name unknown)
1639 1644 none none none Consort Yuan Was killed by her father along with other members of the imperial household when Li Zicheng invaded the Ming capital of Beijing
Beijing
Beijing , also known as Peking , is the capital of the People's Republic of China and one of the most populous cities in the world, with a population of 19,612,368 as of 2010. The city is the country's political, cultural, and educational center, and home to the headquarters for most of China's...


Ancestry