Chronologic Timeline of Ming Emperors 1368 AD - 1644 AD ; Descendancy of the Ming House explained.
Imperial Ming-styled Dragon Logo, symbolising the Emperor, his might, longevity of Reign and prosperity. During the early Ming Dynasty China was the most influential trade nation and most important military power in East and South-East Asia.
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Eldest son of Zhu Qizhen Emperor YingZong. As the heir apparent named Crown Prince when his father became Emperor. When however his father was captured by the Wala Tribe in the Tumubao Incident and was replaced at home by the Daizhong Emperor, the Crown Prince Zhu Jianshen was demoted to the rank of ordinary Prince Yi. After the restoration of the rule of the Yingzhong Emperor in 1457 AD, Zhu Jianshen was restored to the rank of Crown Prince.
In the first lunar month of the year 1464 AD when the Yingzhong Emperor died, Zhu Jianshen ascended to the Throne naming his Reign Period Chenghua.
Achievements: Being the oldest and most priviliged Son of the Yongzheng Emperor, Zhu Jianshen had been named Crown Prince at the young age of six years. Ever since the day of his promotion to Crown prince the young Zhu Jianshen had been cared for by a personal maid of honor, in his case a young Lady named Wan.
When much later, at age 16, the young Emperor ascended to his Throne, he still had a very strong emotional connection to the Lady Wan, who was at that time 35 years old. Thus, Lady Wan was granted the presumptuous title of GuiFei, which translates to something as "most honored and most favorite Concubine", the highest rank achievable for Court Ladies.
At some time later, Lady Wan's life met with a tragedy when her young son, succumbed not long after birth. As a response, Lady Wan then made sure no other Ladies would give birth to a Son for the Emperor. Mis-using her powers at court, and conniving with some of the court Eunuchs, Lady Wan made it clear no one should produce a male heir. Who did get pregnant was either forced to abort the baby (at great risk to their own lives) or was murdered on the orders of Lady Wan and her clique of favorites.
With the Emperor unwitting, his life went on until, reaching middle age, the Emperor grieved at not having a Son to succeed him to the Throne. As it would turn out later however, another "GuiFei", a lady who lived elsewhere in the Inner Court (Nei Ting) of the Forbidden City did give birth to a Son. This boy, who was secretely raised within the Forbidden City under the protection of an opposing group at Court, was later recognized as a biological child of the Xianzong Emperor, and was subsequently made Emperor after the death of Xianzong in 1487 AD.
During the Chenghua reign period of the Xianzong Emperor of the Ming Dynasty the plot and longstanding collaboration of Lady Wan and her Eunuchs corrupted the functioning of the Government and led to a decline of State Authority overall.
It is said that a ballad which was written at that time describes the existing political situation the best:
"The Three Grand Councilors are like paper Puppets, the six Ministers are like clay dolls".
The Three Grand Councilors refers to the Eunuchs Liu Ji, Liu Xu and Wan An, who history has deemed to be "Men of little capability" yet having great talents for subversion, malversion and siccophancy.
Wan An was the nephew of Concubine Lady Wan and functioned as her spy planted within the Cabinet of Councilors keeping an eye on the Eunuchs for the Lady Wan.
The six ministers in turn were judged to be black sheep, people who merely followed and connived with Lady Wan's clique in order to further their own positions and fortunes. Meanwhile, the Xianzong Emperor distracted himself with his (unuasual) obsession for the mystical philosophies of Daoism and continuous womanizing, neglecting his duties as Emperor. There was no oversight to speak of. With the Emperor disinterested in state affairs it was increasingly difficult for the Ministers to meet with the Emperor, thus leaving day to day Governance to the Eunuch Councilors who had no education and little experience beyond corrupting the Court.
It was a disaster. In order to strengthen his rule and quench any emerging opposition, the Emperor turned to the instrument of terror. In this, Xianzong heavily relied on a secret police force, which after receiving (often false) information would mercilessly strike and eliminate the opposition.
Most information came from Secret Police Chief Wang Zhi, yet another spy controlled by the Lady Wan. Every week Wang Zhi would report to the Emperor of whatever gossip and hearsay had been picked up in the streets and markets of the Capital, after which people were selected for retribution and silencing. Soon, a wave of terror swept the Capital and also the quarters within the Palace of the Emperor. Suddenly, just about anyone could become a suspect, and everyone at court feared for their lives and had to be on guard for their safety and reputations.
Apart for being responsible for the creation of a reign of terror within the Empire, the Xianzong Emperor was financially irresponsible. Due to the enormous corruption and further overspending, during the Chengua Reign the state coffers of the Ming Dynasty were entirely depleted, creating further dangers within.
Meanwhile, as usual, while China had come to focus more and more upon itself, with the rich and powerful quarreling over the spoils, the outer regions were the first to fall out of the firm grip previously held by the Empire. In the case of the Ming Dynasty; even though the Mongolians had been expelled from China in the year 1368 AD, allowing the Ming to proclaim their rule under the Heavenly Mandate, they were by no means destroyed. Having retreated to their homelands after their eviction from the Jiayu pass in far western China, over time they slowly reorganized, and in the absence of firm opposition had dared to come closer and closer to the formerly dangerous border with the Chinese Empire. As subsequent Ming Emperors would find out, the Mongolian Tribes would gradually revert back to their nomadic traditions, and as time went by Mongolian Raids into Chinese territory increased.
Death & Succession : For various reasons, the death of the Xianzong Emperor was relief to the Empire and its many land dwelling citizens. Having ruled irresponsably and incompetently, few mourned the demise of this Emperor.
In the spring of the year 1487 AD the Lady Wan, high Imperial Consort died and was laid to rest. As historians recognize it today, the death of his beloved Lady was a great mental blow to the Xianzong Emperor. Soon after her death and burial, the Emperor himself fell ill, dying in August of the year 1487 AD.
Link: Satellite Image with Schematic of the Location and path of the Great Wall of China during the Ming Dynasty. Passes on the Great Wall included.
Whereas under the powerful Yongle Emperor the Ming had still on occasion been an expansive militarist nation, by the time of the Xianzong Emperor, China had been embroiled in internal political intrigue, corruption and strife - allowing the nomadic tribes on the plain their room to gain in military strength. In the last few years of the Xianzong Reign period, in the year 1483 AD, a large group of Mongolian Tribes (among them: Kerait, Jalair, Olkhunut, Khatagin, Besut, Iljigin, Gorlos, Uriankhai, Sartuul, Tanghut, Khotogoid, Khuree, and Tsookhor, as well as several southern tribes) were finally reunited under one rule, taking the name of Khalka's (also:Xanx, or Tumen Mongols). There were originally two major Khalkha groups, of which each ruled by the direct male line descendants of Dayan Khan (Reign: 1479 AD - 1517 AD). ("Dayan", means the "Great Yuan" (大元)) - referring to a Mongol Leader who declared a new Yuan Dynasty after eviction from China in 1368 AD). The Khalka Tribes were in turn ruled under the overall leadership of the Chinggisid Khans.
Although it would be a while before they would form a major
threat, the end of the Xianzong Reign also marks a major political and strategic shift across the northern borders of the Chinese Empire. While the Ming mismanaged their Empire, their old enemies gathered and slowly moved back south towards the border. Soon, they would be lapping up against the Great Wall of China which would increase even further in importance as the Ming had vowed never to see the despised "barbarian" Mongols return.