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.
- China Report !!
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.
Eldest son of Zhu Zhanji Emperor Xuanzhong. As tthe heir apparent named Crown Prince when his
father became Emperor. Zhu Qizhen succeeded to the Throne upon the death of his father in the year 1435 AD. As the sixth Emperor of the Ming Dynasty he was on the Throne for 22 years, dying at the young age of 38 in the year year 1464 AD.
Achievements: The Yingzong Emperor ascended the Throne at an age of mere 9 years old. However, succesful assistance and diligence of the various court officials assured the Zhengtong Reign of the Ming Dynasty was quite a succesful one.
From the earliest days onward the State knew its stability.
After the Empress-Dowager and several of the elder and higher placed court officials died the favorite teacher of the young Emperor became one Wang Zhen, a by now notorious historic figure, one of the court eunuchs.
In due process Wang Zhen received various promotions soon making him the Head Eunuch in charge of Court Ceremonies, i.e. Minister of Rites, which was a powerful position which Wang Zhen quickly abused. With the old guard gone forever, and the new trustee of the Emperor dismissing the various ways of the old teachers, the stability in the highest realms of decision making was increasingly lost. While Wang Zhen rose to power on the wings of the Emperor, he is said to have carried out a great number of misdeeds. That is, in the brief period of his glory, he is said to have risen through intrigue, his favorite method of haining promotion being the slander of others. In addition, having grown rich in the process of his rise, Wang Zhen is said to have mismanaged funds from the state coffers, the stolen benifits of which he is supposed to have used in the creation of what is today the Zhihua Temple, the oldest Ming Dynasty Era Temple in the old Capital of Beijing. Today, the Zhihua Temple lingers in the eastern section of the old city as a reminder of the corrupt times of the Ming Dynasty (1368 AD - 1644 AD) and one of the few lasting monuments commemorating the brief and unprecdented career of this Ming Era eunuch.
It must be noted that even as early as the third reign of the Ming Dynasty, under the Yongle Emperor, the influence of eunuchs throughout the state apparatus had started to grow substantially. Although the first Ming Emperor had dreaded them, it was mostly the Yongle Emperor who broke with tradition by allowing eunuchs to be educated and overal to take up positions of power and influence instead of being the mere servants, handymen and cleaners of the Palace. Apart from having a now most famous confidant in the Admiral the eunuch Zheng He and various others, it must be noted that it was the powerful court eunuch Ma Yun, who had kept the all important news of the death of the Yongle Emperor in 1424 AD, a secret just long enough for him to be able to make important decisions and strategically move the corpse of the Emperor and his most loyal troops back to the Capital. Having thus consolidated his own position, Ma Yun could then help getting some of his closest associates into positions of power.
In the first month of 1425 AD, not too long after the death of Yongle, his loyal eunuch Zheng He was given the new position of Grand Admiral becoming the Military Commander of the city of Nanjing (Jiangsu Province). A month later another eunuch named Wang An was given the equally unprecedented Title of Grand Defender, in case of the Province of Gansu in the west. In this way, already several years before Zhengtong came to rule, it had become accepted practice to have eunuchs take up the roles of military commanders and interfere directly with the decisions of the normal generals.
By the time the Zhengtong Emperor came the Throne in the year 1435 AD, the multitudes of functions eunuchs performed for the state had only increased. The young Zhengtong Emperor thus fell victim to a situation inherited from his ancestral predecessors. As the book "Eunuchs in the Ming Dynasty" by Shih-shan and Henry Tsai notes however, it was during the early years of the Zhengtong Reign that a further breakthrough for the eunuchs came. In 1439 AD, 4 years after coming to the Throne aged 9, the young Emperor falling under the influence of his eunuch servants made the legal decisions to further flaunt the traditions set by the great Hongwu Emperor (Zhu Yuanzhang), sending out two eunuchs to Sichuan Province to function there under emergency of a Rebellious Uprising as Regional Military leaders. This was really unheard of and further helped solidify a military administrative system known as the eunuch zhenshou system, in which eunuchs could serve in military functions next to normal generals, resulting in a dual command situation in which the euncuhs usually were the more powerful.
As the story is told today, because Wang Zhen so happened to have large holdings in the area, particularly his private property in his hometown of Weizhou near Datong, he spared no effort to see to it that the Emperor mobilize half a million men to send them into battle against the powerful Wala Armies. As one may have expected, the hastily put together offensive became a disaster. Inadequate training and poor command led to the exhaustion and final defeat of the gargantuan Ming Army at the town of Tumubao, which lies some 10 kilometers east of Huailai, the seat of Huailai County in northern Hebei Province.
When Emperor Yingzong found himself surrounded by the Wala Armies and saw his army slowly decimated around him, discord finally broke out in the top ranks. Accusing Wang Zhen, General Fang Zhong is said to have spoken out; "It is you who we have to blame for this. One Emperor besieged and soldiers slaughtered. Today you shall pay with your life". He subsequently struck Wang Zhen dead with his mace.
Having disposed of the hated Wang Zhen, General Fang Zhong led his troops in a large ditch effort at overcoming the enemy and breaking out of the encirclement, however to no avail. Seeing his General killed as, the Yingzong Emperor resigned himself to defeat. He dismounted from his horse and sat on the ground to await death at the hands of the supposedly barbaric Wala.
Instead however, as was a nomadic custom, the Yingzong Emperor was taken alive and transported to the Wala homeland in the North where he was held for a considerable period afterwards while the Wala awaited their opportunity to extort the highest bounty from the bewildered Chinese.
With the Emperor taken hostage in this "Tumubao Incident" (also: Tumu Crisis ; Chinese: 土木之变), the Empire fell into into panic and disorganization, at least for a while. It was a turning point in the previously successful rise of the Ming Dynasty sovereignty over Chinese territories and borderlands and marks the beginning of the decline of the Ming Dynasty. Among things, the decline would go hand in hand with the rising power of the growing number of eunuchs at court.
The vast Chinese Empire could not make do without an Emperor, not even for a day. Thus, the Emperors half-brother, Zhu Qiyu, who had stayed behind to defend the Capital of Beijing took over the powers of the Throne becoming Emperor Daizong.
In 1455 AD however, when the Yingzhong Emperor was finally traded for a huge ransom and released to return to his Throne, half-brother Zhu Qiyu would not relinquish his powers. He preferred to stay on as the Emperor Daizong, instead - in accordance with the crucial tradition of Filial Piety - trying to promote his older brother the Yingzhong Emperor away. Daizong proposed to give Yingzhong the euphemistic title of Overlord, pretending to make him an all powerful father overseeing the actions of the new Emperor, but instead forcing him out of the Forbidden City and forcing him to live outside its purple walls at a location which is today known as the Southern Palace, situated at Duanku along the northern end of Nanchizi Dajie in the south east of the Dongcheng District of Beijing. At the "Southern Palace" the former Emperor Yingzhong was largely held under a form of house arrest.
But a few years later, in 1457 AD, the replacement Daizong Emperor, Zhu Qiyu, fell seriously ill at his Palace, the Forbidden City, in Beijing. During one night not long after the news of the replacement Emperors failing health, General Shi Heng Minister Xu Youzhen and the eunuch Cao Jixiang broke into the "Southern Palace" and freed the "Overlord" Yingzong Emperor. Immediately after his liberation from the "Southern Palace", Zhu Qizhen was taken by carriage (demanded by ritual) to the gates of the Forbidden City and from there onward to the main Throne Hall of Heavenly Worship (Today's Hall of Supreme Harmony) where he was restored to the Throne. With all due pomp, and the submission of all the officials to his authority the restoration was announced and made official within the Empire. Thus started the second Reign Period of Zhu Qizhen, according to tradition giving it the new auspicious name of Tianshun (天順). The Temple name of the Emperor; Yingzong (英宗) remained.
In the aftermath of the restoration, several people were eliminated from their previous position. Mistakenly, the Emperor also believed the accusations made against General Yu Qian, who's orders had been to defend the Capital but who seemed heavily implicated in what amounted to rebellion. Although reportedly innocent of collusion against the Throne, Yu Qian was executed. Subsequently, the Emperor rewarded his loyal followers and promoted Shi Heng and Cao Jixian, making the first "Lord Zhongguo" (Lord of the Middle Kingdom, a high honor) and the latter Master of Court Protocol.
As it would turn out, at a later time, both of these loyal servants would attempt to mount their own court rebellions, which were unsuccessful leading to their deaths and the confiscation of their families property. Members of their families of various generations were executed as well.
Death & Succession : Finally, in April of 1464 AD Zhu Qizhen, the restored Yingzong Emperor fell ill. As their seemed to be little chance of recovery, the Emperor made up the choice of his successor in a written will. According to the previously held traditions, the Crown Prince, the eldest son of Zhu Qizhen was selected for the succession.
As a last and perhaps most significant achievement, the Yingzhong Emperor issued a decree, henceforth banning the ancient tradition of ritual burial of favorite concubines and court officials with the corps of the deceased Emperor. Henceforth, the tradition of human sacrifice to go along with the burial of Emperors and high officials, a practice dating back at least to the Zhou Dynasty Era (1121 BC - 255 BC), was outlawed, never to return as a practice in China.
Thus, in an Imperial Palace where eunuchs were no longer the mere slaves of the master, Wang Zhen started his career.
Wang Zhen was one of a group of young boys from what today is northern Shanxi Province selected for castration for service in the Palace during the Yong Le period. He was given a thorough Confucian training in the Neishudang (the special school set up in 1426 in the Forbidden City for boy eunuchs). He was considered to be of outstanding merit and was appointed to assist the heir-apparent, Zhu Qizhen (Chu Ch'i-chen) i.e. the later Emperor Zhengtong. Given this immense opportunity Wang Zhen seized the chance to ride the wave and he set to work building a close relationship with the little Crown Prince. Wang Zhen spent a lot of time spending with the boy, and pandering to his every whim. It is said that the young crown prince bonded closely with what seemed to him to be a surrogate elder brother and developed a great confidence in Wang’s abilities and views.
When, in 1435, the prince became emperor at the age of 9, naming his reign the Zhengtong, Wang was promoted as one of the three head officials of the directorate of ceremonial, which was the most influential of the eunuch agencies within the walls of the Palace. This agency controlled the entire eunuch staff, the workshops and various chains of revenue. Thus, the head officials of this Ministry of Rites were very powerful.
With his institutional power, eunuch Wang had every opportunity to influence the emperor’s decisions, and soon became extremely rich as a result of imperial favours. The emperor trusted his advice and listened to him in connection with official appointments and other personnel matters, and even on political matters. The trust was so deep that Wang was soon being allowed to intercept imperial communications sent by the senior scholar-officials, and he became so powerful that he began to dominate the scholar officials in the government.
Wang was ambitious and ingenious, and built up a group of senior officials indebted to him for their promotion, such as the Minister for War, the Vice-minister of Works, the Commander and the Vice-commander of the Embroidered-uniform Guard. He was sufficiently bold and powerful to have the big “Iron Tablet” of first Ming emperor, Hong-wu, removed, the one which prohibited eunuchs from participating in politics.
In 1443, with the emperor’s approval, eunuch Wang built a large temple in the Dongcheng District, close to the eastern city wall, for his personal use, the emperor naming the temple and supplying a stone inscription which still can be seen decorating the front gate of the Zhihua Temple today.
Although Wang Zhen died on the battlefield of Tumu in current day Hebei Province, after joining the Emperor in leading an army on fatefully mistaken campaign and was long dead by the time his young Emperor could return to the throne in 1457 AD, apparently his person and influence had not yet been forgotten.
The Zhengtong Emperor never lost his affection for Wang Zhen, and with the help of the eunuch Cao Jixiang, arranged for the creation of a special hall in the Zhihua temple containing an image of Wang Zhen, and memorial inscriptions.
Throughout the next two centuries the hall was maintained by Buddhist monks and incense was burned in honour of Wang Zhen.
It was only in 1742 AD that the Qianlong emperor, on the advice of a scholar-official, Shen Tingfang, ordered the destruction of the ancestral hall and Wang’s image. It was at this time that his name was erased from the three of the turtle stele inscriptions seen in the frontal southern courtyard of the Zhihua Temple. A fourth tablet, dated 1459 of the Tianshun Reign (天順) of the Yingzong Emperor, was dumped into a cesspit, and by a curious quirk of fate, escaped destruction. It was found many years later when the pit was being cleaned. It has a portrait of Wang Zhen carved on it, and it is now on display in the Hall of the Four Heavenly Kings in the temple.
In the year 1449 AD, the ever restive Tribes of Mongolia played up again, and Ye Xian, the Khan of the Mongolian Wala Tribe led his troops southward attacking the border and the defenses of the Great Wall of China. Overwhelming the defenses at