The Qianlong Emperor, born Hongli Chinese: 弘曆(Manchu language: ᡥᡠᠩ ᠯᡳ ;Möllendorff transliteration: hung li), 25 September 1711 – 7 February 1799) was the sixth emperor of the Manchu-led Qing Dynasty, and the fourth Qing emperor to rule over China proper. The fourth son of the Yongzheng EmperorSony VPCEH3T9E battery, he reigned officially from 11 October 1735 to 8 February 1796.1 On 8 February, he abdicated in favor of his son, the Jiaqing Emperor – a filial act in order not to reign longer than his grandfather, the illustrious Kangxi Emperor. Despite his retirement, however, he retained ultimate power until his death in 1799. Although his early years saw the continuation of an era of prosperity in China, his final years saw troubles at home and abroad converge on the Qing EmpireSony VPCEH3N6E battery.
Hongli was adored both by his grandfather, the Kangxi Emperor and his father, the Yongzheng Emperor. Some historians argue that the main reason why Kangxi Emperor appointed Yongzheng as his successor was because Qianlong was his favourite grandson. He felt that Hongli's mannerisms were very close to his own. As a teenager he was very capable in martial arts, and possessed a high literary abilitySony VPCEH3N1E battery.
After his father's succession in 1722, Hongli became the Prince Bao (宝亲王/寶親王). Like many of his uncles, Hongli entered into a battle of succession with his older half-brother Hongshi, who had the support of a large faction of court officials, as well as Yinsi, Prince Lian. For many years the Yongzheng Emperor did not appoint anyone to the position of Crown PrinceSony VPCEH3D0E battery, but many in court speculated his favoring of Hongli. Hongli went on inspection trips to the south, and was known to be an able negotiator and enforcer. He was also chosen as chief regent on occasions, when his father was away from the capital.
Ascension to the throne
Even before Hongli's succession was read out to the assembled court, it was widely known who the new emperor would be. The young Hongli had been a favorite of his grandfather, Kangxi, and his father alikeSony VPCEH3B1E battery; Yongzheng had entrusted a number of important ritual tasks to him while Hongli was still a prince, and included him in important court discussions of military strategy. Hoping to avoid repetition of the succession crisis that had tainted his own accession to the throne, he had the name of his successor placed in a sealed box secured behind the tablet over the throne in the Palace of Heavenly Purity (Qianqing Gong 乾清宫) Sony VPCEH2Z1E battery. The name in the box was to be revealed to other members of the imperial family in the presence of all senior ministers only upon the death of the Emperor. Yongzheng died suddenly in 1735, the will was taken out and read out before the entire Qing Court, and Hongli became the 6th Manchu Emperor of China. He took the era name of Qianlong (乾隆), 乾 means heaven, 隆 means eminence, which means "Lasting Eminence"Sony VPCEH2S9E battery.
Further information: Ten Great Campaigns
Military costume of Emperor Qianlong. Musée de l'Armée, Paris.
Chinese soldier of Emperor Qianlong, by William Alexander, 1793.
The Qianlong Emperor Viewing Paintings
Qianlong Emperor watching a wrestling match.
The emperor in old age
The Qianlong Emperor in Armor on Horseback, by Italian Jesuit Giuseppe Castiglione(Long shining)(1688–1766 AD).
Consorts of Emperor Qianlong
Consorts and children of Emperor Qianlong
Emperor Qianlong in his study, painting by Giuseppe Castiglione, 18th centurySony VPCEH2Q1E battery
The Qianlong Emperor was a successful military leader. Immediately after ascending the throne, he sent armies to suppress the Miao rebellion. His later campaigns greatly expanded the territory controlled by the Qing dynasty. This was made possible not only by Qing strength, but also by the disunity and declining strength of the Inner Asian peoplesSony VPCEH2P0E battery. Under Qianlong, Dzungar Khanate was incorporated into the Qing dynasty's rule and renamed Xinjiang, while to the West, Ili was conquered and garrisoned. The incorporation of Xinjiang into the Qing empire resulted from the final defeat and destruction of the Dzungars (or Zunghars), a coalition of Western Mongol tribes. According to Qing scholar Wei YuanSony VPCEH2N1E battery, 40% of the 600,000 Zunghar people were killed by smallpox, 20% fled to Russia or Kazakh tribes, and 30% were killed by the army, in what Clarke described as "the complete destruction of not only the Zunghar state but of the Zunghars as a people." Historian Peter Perdue has argued that the decimation of the Dzungars was the result of an explicit policy of massacre launched by the Qianlong emperor (See Zunghar Khanate#Fall) Sony VPCEH2M9E battery.
Throughout this period there were continued Mongol interventions in Tibet and a reciprocal spread of Tibetan Buddhism in Mongolia. After the Lhasa riot of 1750 he sent armies into Tibet and firmly established the Dalai Lama as ruler, with a Qing resident and garrison to preserve Chinese sovereignty. Further afield, military campaigns against Nepalese, and Gurkhas forced these peoples to submit and send tributeSony VPCEH2M1E battery.
The Qianlong Emperor sought to conquer Burma to the south, but the Sino–Burmese War ended in complete failure. He initially believed that it would be an easy victory against a barbarian tribe, and sent only the Green Standard Army based in Yunnan, which borders Burma. The Qing invasion came as the majority of Burmese forces were deployed in their latest invasion of SiamSony VPCEH2L9E battery. Nonetheless, battle-hardened Burmese troops defeated the first two invasions of 1765–1766 and 1766–1767 at the border. The regional conflict now escalated to a major war that involved military maneuvers nationwide in both countries. The third invasion (1767–1768) led by the elite Manchu Bannermen nearly succeeded, penetrating deep into central Burma within a few days' march from the capital, AvaSony VPCEH2J1E battery. But the Bannermen of northern China could not cope with unfamiliar tropical terrains and lethal endemic diseases, and were driven back with heavy losses. After the close-call, King Hsinbyushin redeployed his armies from Siam to the Chinese front. The fourth and largest invasion got bogged down at the frontier. With the Qing forces completely encircled, a truce was reached between the field commanders of the two sides in December 1769Sony VPCEH2H1E battery. The Qing kept a heavy military lineup in the border areas of Yunnan for about one decade in an attempt to wage another war while imposing a ban on inter-border trade for two decades. When Burma and China resumed a diplomatic relationship in 1790, the Qing unilaterally viewed the act as Burmese submission, and claimed victorySony VPCEH2F1E battery.
The circumstances in Vietnam were not successful either. In 1787 the last Le king Le Chieu Thong fled Vietnam and formally requested that he be restored to his throne in Thanglong (Hanoi today). The Qianlong Emperor agreed and sent a large army into Vietnam to remove the Tay Son (peasant rebels who had captured all of Vietnam). The capitalSony VPCEH2E0E battery, Thanglong, was conquered in 1788 but a few months later, the Chinese army was defeated and the invasion turned into a debacle due to the surprise attack during Tết by Nguyen Hue, the second and most capable of the three Tay Son brothers. The Chinese[who?] gave formal protection to the Le emperor and his family, and would not intervene in Vietnam for another 90 yearsSony VPCEH2D0E battery.
Despite setbacks in the south, overall the Qianlong Emperor's military expansion nearly doubled the area of the already vast empire, and brought into the fold many non-Han-Chinese peoples—such as Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Kyrgyzs, Evenks and Mongols—who were potentially hostile. It was also a very expensive enterprise; the funds in the Imperial Treasury were almost all put into military expeditionsSony VPCEH2C0E battery. Though the wars were successful, they were not overwhelmingly so. The army declined noticeably and had a difficult time facing some enemies: the Jin Chuan area took 2–3 years to conquer—at first the Qing army were mauled, though Yue Zhongqi later took control of the situation. The battle with the Dzungars was closely fought, and caused heavy losses on both sidesSony VPCEH29FJ/W battery.
At the end of the frontier wars, the army had started to weaken significantly. In addition to a more lenient military system, warlords became satisfied with their lifestyles. Since most of the warring had taken place, warlords no longer saw any reason to train their armies, resulting in a rapid military decline by the end of Qianlong's reign. This is the main reason for the military's failure against the White Lotus Sect, at the very end of Qianlong's yearsSony VPCEH29FJ/P battery.
The Qianlong Emperor was a major patron of the arts, seeing himself as an important "preserver and restorer" of Chinese culture. He had an insatiable appetite for collecting, and acquired much of China's "great private collections" by any means necessary, and "reintegrated their treasures into the imperial collection." Qianlong, more than any other Manchu emperor, lavished the imperial collection with his attention and effortSony VPCEH29FJ/B battery:
The imperial collection had its origins in the first century B.C., and had gone through many vicissitudes of fire, civil wars and foreign invasions in the centuries that followed. But it was Qianlong who lavished the greatest attention on it, certainly of any of the Manchu rulers.... One of the many roles played by Qianlong, with his customary diligenceSony VPCEH28FN/L battery, was that of the emperor as collector and curator. ...how carefully Qianlong followed the art market in rare paintings and antiquities, using a team of cultural advisers, from elderly Chinese literati to newly fledged Manchu connoisseurs. These men would help the emperor spot which great private collections might be coming up for saleSony VPCEH28FJ/W battery, either because the fortunes of some previously rich merchant family were unraveling or because the precious objects acquired by Manchu or Chinese grandees during the chaos of the conquest period were no longer valued by those families’ surviving heirs. Sometimes, too, Qianlong would pressure or even force wealthy courtiers into yielding up choice art objects: he did this by pointing out failings in their work, which might be excused if they made a certain “gift,” orSony VPCEH28FJ/P battery, in a couple of celebrated cases, by persuading the current owners that only the secure walls of the forbidden City and its guardians could save some precious painting from theft or from fire.
His massive art collection became an intimate part of his life; he took landscape paintings with him on his travels in order to compare them with the actual landscapes, or to hang them in special rooms in palaces where he lodged, to inscribe them on every visit there. Sony VPCEH28FJ/B battery "He also regularly added poetic inscriptions to the paintings of the imperial collection, following the example of the emperors of the Song dynasty and the literati painters of the Ming. They were a mark of distinction for the work, and a visible sign of his rightful role as Emperor. Most particular to the Qianlong Emperor is another type of inscription, revealing a unique practice of dealing with works of art that he seems to have developed for himselfSony VPCEH28FH/B battery. On certain fixed occasions over a long period he contemplated a number of paintings or works of calligraphy which possessed special meaning for him, inscribing each regularly with mostly private notes on the circumstances of enjoying them, using them almost as a diary."
"Most of the several thousand jade items in the imperial collection date from his reign. The Emperor was also particularly interested in collecting ancient bronzes, bronze mirrors and seals," Sony VPCEH28FG/P battery in addition to pottery, ceramics and applied arts such as enameling, metal work and lacquer work, which flourished during his reign; a substantial part of his collection is in the Percival David Foundation in London. The Victoria and Albert Museum and The British Museum also have good collections of Qianlong period ArtSony VPCEH28FG/B battery.
"The Qianlong Emperor was a passionate poet and essayist. In his collected writings, which were published in a tenfold series between 1749 and 1800, over 40,000 poems and 1,300 prose texts are listed, making him one of the most prolific writers of all time. There is a long tradition of poems of this sort in praise of particular objects ('yongwu shi), and the Qianlong Emperor used it in order to link his name both physically and intellectually with ancient artistic tradition." Sony VPCEH28FF/B battery
One of Qianlong’s grandest projects was to "assemble a team of China’s finest scholars for the purpose of assembling, editing, and printing the largest collection ever made of Chinese philosophy, history, and literature." Known as The Four Treasuries project, or Siku Quanshu (四庫全書) it was published in 36,000 volumes, containing about 3450 complete works and employing as many as 15,000 copyistsSony VPCEH28FA/B battery. It preserved numerous books, but was also intended as a way to ferret out and suppress political opponents, requiring the "careful examination of private libraries to assemble a list of around eleven thousand works from the past, of which about a third were chosen for publication. The works not included were either summarized or—in a good many cases—scheduled for destruction." Sony VPCEH27FG/W battery
Burning of books and modification of texts
Main article: literary inquisition#Qing
Some 2,300 works were listed for total suppression and another 350 for partial suppression. The aim was to destroy the writings that were anti-Qing or rebellious, that insulted previous "barbarian" dynasties, or that dealt with frontier or defense problems.
The full editing of Siku Quanshu was completed in about ten years; during these ten years, 3100 titles (or works), about 150,000 copies of books were either burnt or bannedSony VPCEH26FJ/W battery. Of those volumes that had been categorized into Siku Quanshu, many were subjected to deletion and modification. Books published during the Ming dynasty suffered the greatest damage.
The authority would judge any single character or any single sentence's neutrality; if the authority had decided these words, or sentence were derogatory or cynical towards the rulers, then persecution would begin. In Qianlong's timeSony VPCEH26EN/B battery, there were 53 cases of literary inquisition, resulting in the victims being beheaded, or corpses being mutilated, or victims being slowly sliced into pieces until death (Lingchi).
Architecturally, Qianlong took personal interest in the expansion of the Old Summer Palace and commissioned the Italian Jesuit Giuseppe Castiglione for the construction of the Xiyanglou (西洋楼), or the Western-style mansion, to satisfy his taste for exotic buildings and objectsSony VPCEH26EH/P battery. He also commissioned the French Jesuit Michel Benoist, to design a series of timed waterworks and fountains complete with underground machinery and pipes, for the amusement of the Imperial family. The French Jesuit Jean Denis Attiret also became "Painter to the Emperor" Qianlong.
During his reign the Emin Minaret was built in Turpan to commemorate his father.
In his later years, Qianlong was spoiled with power and glory, becoming disillusioned and complacent in his reign, placing his trust in corrupt officials like Yu Minzhong (于敏中), and later Heshen (和珅) Sony VPCEH26EG/P battery.
As Heshen was the highest ranked minister and most favoured by Qianlong at the time, the day-to-day governance of the country was left in his hands, while Qianlong himself indulged in the arts, luxuries and literature. When Heshen was executed it was found that his personal fortune exceeded that of the country's depleted treasury, amount to 900,000,000 taels of silver, the total of 12 years of Treasury surplus of Manchu Qing court. Sony VPCEH26EF/B battery
Qianlong began his reign with about 33,950,000 taels of silver in Treasury surplus. At the peak of Qianlong's reign, around 1775, even with further tax cuts, the treasury surplus still reached 73,900,000 taels, a record unmatched by his predecessors, Kangxi or Yongzheng both of whom had implemented remarkable tax cut policies. Sony VPCEH26EA/W battery
However, due to numerous factors such as long term embezzlement and corruption by officials, frequent expeditions South, huge palace constructions, many war and rebellion campaigns as well as his own extravagant lifestyle, all of these cost the treasury a total of 150,200,000 silver taels. This, coupled with his senior age and the lack of political reformsSony VPCEH25EN/W battery, ushered the beginning of the gradual decline and eventual demise of the Qing dynasty and empire, casting a shadow over his glorious and brilliant political life.
Main article: Macartney Embassy
All under heaven, Hua-Yi distinction, and Kowtow
Lord Macartney's embassy, 1793.
The French Jesuit Joseph-Marie Amiot (1718–1793) was the official translator of Western languages for Emperor Qianlong.
Illustration depicting the last European delegation to be received at the Qianlong Court in 1795 – Isaac Titsingh (seated European with hat, far left) and A.E. van Braam Houckgeest (seated European without hat) Sony VPCEH25EG/B battery.
During the mid-eighteenth century, Qianlong began to face pressures from the West to increase foreign trade. The proposed cultural exchange between the British Empire at the time and the Qing Empire collapsed due to many factors. Firstly, there was a lack of any precedent interaction with overseas foreign kingdoms apart from neighbouring tributory states to guide Qianlong towards a more informed responseSony VPCEH24FX/W battery. Furthermore, competing worldviews that were incompatible between China and Britain, the former holding entrenched beliefs that China was the "central kingdom", and the latter's push for rapid liberalization of trade relations, worsened ties.
George Macartney, was sent by King George III as ambassador extraordinary to seek a range of trade concessions. He was granted an audience with the Qianlong Emperor, and attended the Emperor's 80th birthdaySony VPCEH24FX/P battery. There is continued discussion about the nature of the audience, and what level of ceremonials were performed. Demands from the Qing Court that the British Trade ambassadors kneel and perform the kowtow were strongly resisted by Macartney, and debate continues as to what exactly occurred, differing opinions recorded by Qing courtiers and British delegates. Sony VPCEH24FX/L battery
A description of the Emperor is provided in the account of one of the visiting Englishmen, Aeneas Anderson:
The Emperor is about five feet ten inches in height, and of a slender but elegant form; his complexion is comparatively fair, though his eyes are dark; his nose is rather aquiline, and the whole of his countenance presents a perfect regularity of feature, which, by no meansSony VPCEH24FX/B battery, announce the great age he is said to have attained; his person is attracting, and his deportment accompanies by an affability, which, without lessening the dignity of the prince, evinces the amiable character of the man. His dress consisted of a loose robe of yellow silk, a cap of black velvet with a red ball on the top, and adorned with a peacock's feather, which is the peculiar distinction of mandarins of the first classSony VPCEH1Z1E battery. He wore silk boots embroidered with gold, and a sash of blue girded his waist.
It is uncertain whether Anderson actually saw the Emperor, or repeated another's sighting, as he was not involved in the ceremonies.
George Macartney's Manchu Qing observations
In George Macartney's memoirs, there were many passages describing what was, in his opinion, an overall poor quality of life for the Chinese under Qing rule. Macartney expressed opinions which were widely disseminatedSony VPCEH1S9E battery:
The Empire of China is an old, crazy, first-rate Man of War, which a fortunate succession of and vigilant officers have contrived to keep afloat for these hundred and fifty years past, and to overawe their neighbours merely by her bulk and appearance. But whenever an insufficient man happens to have the command on deck, adieu to the discipline and safety of the shipSony VPCEH1S8E battery. She may, perhaps, not sink outright; she may drift some time as a wreck, and will then be dashed to pieces on the shore; but she can never be rebuilt on the old bottom.
A Dutch embassy arrived to the Qianlong court in 1795, and would turn out to be the last occasion in which any European appeared before the Chinese Court within the context of traditional Chinese imperial foreign relations. Sony VPCEH1S1E battery
Representing Dutch and Dutch East India Company interests, Isaac Titsingh traveled to Pekin in 1794–95 for celebrations of the sixtieth anniversary of the Qianlong Emperor's reign. The Titsingh delegation also included the Dutch-American Andreas Everardus van Braam Houckgeest, whose detailed description of this embassy to the Chinese court was soon after published in the U.S. and EuropeSony VPCEH1S0E battery. Titsingh's French translator, Chrétien-Louis-Joseph de Guignes published his own account of the Titsingh mission in 1808. Voyage a Pékin, Manille et l'Ile de France provided an alternate perspective and a useful counterpoint to other reports which were then circulating. Titsingh himself died before he could publish his version of eventsSony VPCEH1M9E battery.
In contrast to Macartney, Isaac Titsingh, the Dutch and VOC emissary in 1795 did not refuse to kowtow. In the year following Mccartney's rebuff, Titsingh and his colleagues were much feted by the Chinese because of what was construed as seemly compliance with conventional court etiquette. Sony VPCEH1M1E battery
In October 1795, Qianlong officially announced that in the spring of the following year he would voluntarily abdicate his throne and pass the crown to his son. It was said that Qianlong had made a promise during the year of his ascension not to rule longer than his grandfather, the Kangxi Emperor, who had reigned for 61 yearsSony VPCEH1L9E battery.
Qianlong anticipated moving out of the Hall of Mental Cultivation in the Forbidden City. The Hall had been conventionally dedicated for the exclusive use of the reigning sovereign, and in 1771 the emperor ordered the beginning of construction on what was ostensibly intended as his retirement residence in another part of the Forbidden City: a lavishSony VPCEH1L8E battery, two-acre walled retreat called the Ningshou gong, or "Palace of Tranquil Longevity", today more commonly known as the Qianlong Garden. The complex, completed in 1776, is currently undergoing a ten-year restoration led by the Palace Museum in Beijing and the World Monuments Fund (WMF). The first of the restored apartments, Qianlong's JuanqinzhaiSony VPCEH1L0E battery, or "Studio of Exhaustion From Diligent Service," began an exhibition tour of the United States in 2010.
Qianlong resigned the throne at the age of 85, in the 60th year of his reign, to his son, the Jiaqing emperor in 1795. For the next four years, he held the title "Retired Emperor (太上皇)," though he continued to hold on to power and the Jiaqing Emperor ruled only in name. He never moved into his retirement suites in the Qianlong Garden. He died in 1799. Sony VPCEH1J8E battery
There is a legend, popularized in fiction, that Qianlong was the son of Chen Yuanlong of Haining. Emperor Kangxi chose the heir to his throne based not just on his son's capability to govern the Empire, but also whether his grandson was of no lesser calibre, to ensure the Manchus' everlasting reign over the country. Yongzheng's own son was a weakling and he surreptitiously arranged for his daughter to be swapped for Chen Yuanlong's sonSony VPCEH1J1E battery, who became the apple of Kangxi's eye. Thus, Yongzheng got to succeed the throne, and his "son", Hongli, subsequently became Emperor Qianlong. Later, Qianlong went to the southern part of the country four times, he stayed in Chen's house in Haining, leaving behind his calligraphy and also frequently issued imperial decrees making and maintaining Haining as a tax-free stateSony VPCEH1E1E battery.
However there are major problems with this story being: 1) His eldest surviving son Hongshi was only 7 when Hongli was born far too early to make the drastic choice of replacing a child of royal birth with an outsider (and risking disgrace if not death) 2) Yongzheng had three other princes that survived to adulthood who had the potential of ascending the throneSony VPCEH1AJ battery. Indeed given the fact that Hongshi was forced to commit suicide, the story would have been far more logical if he was the adopted child of Yongzheng.
Stories about Qianlong's 6 visits to the Jiangnan area disguised as a commoner have been a popular topic for many generations. In total, he has visited Jiang Nan eight times, as opposed to the Kangxi emperor's 6 inspectionsSony VPCEH19FJ/W battery.
The Kangxi Emperor (Chinese: 康熙帝; pinyin: Kāngxīdì; Wade–Giles: K'ang-hsi-ti; temple name: Qīng Shèngzǔ (清聖祖); Manchu: ᡝᠯᡥᡝ ᡨᠠᡳᡶᡳᠨ elhe taifin hūwangdi; Mongolian: Enkh Amgalan Khaan; 4 May 1654 –20 December 1722) was the fourth emperor of the Qing Dynasty, the first to be born on Chinese soil south of the Pass (Beijing) and the second Qing emperor to rule over China proper, from 1661 to 1722Sony VPCEH19FJ/P battery.
Kangxi's reign of 61 years makes him the longest-reigning Chinese emperor in history (although his grandson, the Qianlong Emperor, had the longest period of de facto power) and one of the longest-reigning rulers in the world. However, having ascended the throne at the age of seven, he was not the effective ruler until later, with that role temporarily fulfilled for six years by four regents and his grandmother, the Grand Empress Dowager XiaozhuangSony VPCEH19FJ/B battery.
Kangxi is considered one of China's greatest emperors. He suppressed the Revolt of the Three Feudatories, forced the Kingdom of Tungning in Taiwan to submit to Qing rule, blocked Tzarist Russia on the Amur River and expanded the empire in the northwest. He also accomplished such literary feats as the compilation of the Kangxi DictionarySony VPCEH18FJ/W battery.
Kangxi's reign brought about long-term stability and relative wealth after years of war and chaos. He initiated the period known as the "Prosperous Era of Kangxi and Qianlong", which lasted for generations after his own lifetime. By the end of his reign, the Qing Empire controlled all of China proper, Taiwan, Manchuria, part of the Russian Far East (Outer Manchuria), both Inner and Outer Mongolia, Tibet proper, and Joseon Korea as a protectorateSony VPCEH18FJ/P battery.
Portrait of Young Kangxi Emperor in Court Dress
Born on 4 May 1654 to the Shunzhi Emperor and Empress Xiaokangzhang, Kangxi was originally given the personal name Xuanye (Chinese: 玄燁 ; Manchu language: ᡥᡳᠣᠸᠠᠨ ᠶᡝᡳ ; Möllendorff transliteration: hiowan yei). He was enthroned at the age of seven (or eight by East Asian age reckoning), on 7 February 1661, 12 days after his father's death, although his reign formally began on 18 February 1662, the first day of the following lunar yearSony VPCEH18FJ/B battery.
According to some accounts, Shunzhi gave up the throne to Kangxi and became a monk. Several alternative explanations are given for this: one is that it was due to the death of his favorite concubine; another is that he was under the influence of a Buddhist monk. The story goes that Shunzhi did indeed became a monkSony VPCEH18FH/P battery, but the empress dowager ordered the deletion of the incident from official history records, and replacement with the claim that he died from smallpox.
Before Kangxi came to the throne, Grand Empress Dowager Xiaozhuang (in the name of Shunzhi Emperor) had appointed the powerful men Sonin, Suksaha, Ebilun, and Oboi as regents. Sonin died after his granddaughter became Empress Xiaochengren, leaving Suksaha at odds with Oboi in politics. In a fierce power struggle, Oboi had Suksaha put to death and seized absolute power as sole regentSony VPCEH18FG/L battery. Kangxi and the rest of the imperial court acquiesced in this arrangement.
In 1669, Kangxi had Oboi arrested with the help of Grand Dowager Empress Xiaozhuang, who had raised him and began taking personal control of the empire. He listed three issues of concern: flood control of the Yellow River; repair of the Grand Canal; the Revolt of the Three Feudatories in south China. The Grand Empress Dowager influenced him greatly and he took care of her himself in the months leading up to her death in 1688. Sony VPCEH18FF/B battery
The Emperor mounted on his horse and guarded by his bodyguards.
The main army of the Qing Empire, the Eight Banners Army, was in decline under Kangxi. It was smaller than it had been at its peak under Hong Taiji and in the early reign of the Shunzhi Emperor; however, it was larger than in the Yongzheng and Qianlong emperors' reigns. In addition, the Green Standard Army was still powerful with generals such as Tuhai, Fei Yanggu, Zhang Yong, Zhou Peigong, Shi Lang, Mu Zhan, Shun Shike and Wang JingbaoSony VPCEH18FA/B battery.
The Kangxi Emperor in ceremonial armor, armed with bow and arrows, and surrounded by bodyguards
The main reason for this decline was a change in system between Kangxi and Qianlong's reigns. Kangxi continued using the traditional military system implemented by his predecessors, which was more efficient and stricter. According to the system, a commander who returned from a battle alone (with all his men dead) would be put to deathSony VPCEH17FJ/W battery, and likewise for a foot soldier. This was meant to motivate both commanders and soldiers alike to fight valiantly in war because there was no benefit for the sole survivor in a battle.
By Qianlong's reign, military commanders had become lax and the training of the army was deemed less important as compared to during the previous emperors' reigns. This was because commanders' statuses had become hereditary; a general gained his position based on the contributions of his forefathersSony VPCEH17FG/W battery.
Revolt of the Three Feudatories
Further information: Revolt of the Three Feudatories
In the spring of 1662, the regents ordered a Great Clearance in southern China to counter a resistance movement started by Ming loyalists under the leadership of Koxinga. This involved the forced migration of entire populations in the coastal regions of inland southern China.
In 1673, the Revolt of the Three Feudatories broke out. Wu Sangui's forces overran most of southwest China and he tried to ally himself with local generals such as Wang FuchenSony VPCEH17FG/P battery. Kangxi employed generals such as Zhou Peigong and Tuhai to suppress the rebellion, and also granted clemency to the common people who were caught up in the war. He intended to personally lead the armies to crush the rebels but his subjects advised him against it. The revolt ended with victory for Qing forces in 1681Sony VPCEH17FG/L battery.
Kingdom of Tungning
In 1683, the Kingdom of Tungning was defeated by Qing naval forces under the command of admiral Shi Lang at the Battle of Penghu. Zheng Keshuang, ruler of Tungning, surrendered a few days later, and Taiwan was annexed by the Qing Empire. Soon afterwards, the coastal regions of southern China were ordered to be repopulated. In addition, to encourage settlers, the Qing government granted financial incentives to families that settled thereSony VPCEH17FG/B battery.
In 1673, Kangxi's government helped to mediate a truce in the Trịnh–Nguyễn War in Vietnam, which had been ongoing for 45 years since 1627. The peace treaty that was signed between the conflicting parties lasted for 101 years until 1774.
Main article: Russian–Manchu border conflicts
European couple, Kangxi period
In the 1650s, the Qing Empire engaged the Russian Empire in a series of border conflicts along the Amur River region, which concluded with victory for the Qing side. After the Siege of Albazin, he gained control of the areaSony VPCEH16EN/B battery.
The Russians invaded the northern frontier again in the 1680s. After a series of battles and negotiations, both sides signed the Treaty of Nerchinsk in 1689, in which a border was fixed, and the Amur River valley given to the Qing Empire.
In 1675, Burni of the Chahar Mongols started a rebellion against the Qing Empire. The revolt was crushed within two months and the Chahars were incorporated in the Manchu Eight BannersSony VPCEH16EH/W battery.
The Khalkha Mongols had preserved their independence, and only paid tribute to the Qing Empire. However, a conflict between the houses of Tümen Jasagtu Khan and Tösheetü Khan led to a dispute between the Khalkha and the Dzungars over the influence of Tibetan Buddhism. In 1688, as the Khalkhas were fighting wars with Russian Cossacks in the north of their territorySony VPCEH16EG/W battery, the Dzungar chief, Galdan Boshugtu Khan, attacked the Khalkha from the west and invaded their territory. The Khalkha royal families and the first Jebtsundamba Khutuktu crossed the Gobi Desert and sought help from the Qing Empire in return for submission to Qing authority. In 1690, the Dzungars and Qing forces clashed at the Battle of Ulaan Butun in Inner Mongolia, in which the Qing eventually emerged as the victorSony VPCEH16EF/B battery.
The Kangxi Emperor at the age of 45, painted in 1699
In 1696, Kangxi personally led three armies, totaling 80,000 in strength, in a campaign against the Dzungars. The western section of the Qing army defeated Galdan's forces at the Battle of Jao Modo and Galdan died in the following year.
The Dzungars continued to threaten the Qing Empire and invaded Tibet in 1717. In response to the deposition of the Dalai Lama and his replacement with Lha-bzang Khan in 1706Sony VPCEH16EA/P battery, they took control of Lhasa with a 6,000 strong army and removed Lha-bzang from power. They held on to the city for two years and defeated a Qing army sent to the region in 1718. The Qing did not take control of Lhasa until 1720, when Kangxi sent a larger force there to defeat the Dzungars.
The contents of the national treasury during Kangxi's reign were:
1668 (7th year of Kangxi): 14,930,000 taels
1692: 27,385,631 taels
1702-1709: approximately 50,000,000 taels with little variation during this period
1710: 45,880,000 taels
1718: 44,319,033 taels
1720: 39,317,103 taelsSony VPCEH15EN/W battery
1721 (60th year of Kangxi, second last of his reign): 32,622,421 taels
The reasons for the declining trend in the later years of Kangxi's reign were a huge expenditure on military campaigns and an increase in corruption. To fix the problem, Kangxi gave Prince Yong (the future Yongzheng Emperor) advice on how to make the economy more efficient. Sony VPCEH15EG/B battery
A vase from the early Kangxi period (Musée Guimet)
During his reign, Kangxi ordered the compilation of a dictionary of Chinese characters, which became known as the Kangxi Dictionary. This was seen as an attempt by Kangxi to gain support from the Han Chinese scholar-bureaucrats, as many of them initially refused to serve him and remained loyal to the Ming DynastySony VPCEH13FX/W battery. However, by persuading the scholars to work on the dictionary without asking them to formally serve the Qing imperial court, Kangxi led them to gradually taking on greater responsibilities until they were assuming the duties of state officials.
In 1705, on Kangxi's order, a compilation of Tang poetry, the Quantangshi, was produced.
Kangxi also was interested in Western technology and wanted to import them to China. This was done through Jesuit missionaries, such as Ferdinand Verbiest, whom Kangxi frequently summoned for meetings, or Karel Slavíček, who made the first precise map of Beijing on Kangxi's orderSony VPCEH13FX/P battery.
From 1711 to 1723, Matteo Ripa, an Italian priest sent to China by the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, worked as a painter and copper-engraver at the Qing court. In 1723, he returned to Naples from China with four young Chinese Christians, in order to groom them to become priests and send them back to China as missionariesSony VPCEH13FX/L battery. This marked the beginning of the Collegio dei Cinesi, sanctioned by Pope Clement XII to help the propagation of Christianity in China. This Chinese Institute was the first school of Sinology in Europe, which would later develop to become the Instituto Orientale and the present day Naples Eastern UniversitySony VPCEH13FX/B battery.
Kangxi was also the first Chinese emperor to play a western musical instrument. He employed Karel Slavíček as court musician. Slavíček was playing Spinet; later Kangxi would play on it himself. He also invented a Chinese calendar.
Main article: Chinese Rites controversy
Jesuit astronomers of the Jesuit China missions, with the Kangxi Emperor (Beauvais, 1690-1705)
In the early decades of Kangxi's reign, Jesuits played a large role in the imperial courtSony VPCCA3SFX/R battery. With their knowledge of astronomy, they ran the imperial observatory. Jean-François Gerbillon and Thomas Pereira served as translators for the negotiations of the Treaty of Nerchinsk. Kangxi was grateful to the Jesuits for their contributions, the many languages they could interpret, and the innovations they offered his military in gun manufacturing and artillery, the latter of which enabled the Qing Empire to conquer the Kingdom of Tungning. Sony VPCCA3S1E battery
Kangxi was also fond of the Jesuits' respectful and unobtrusive manner; they spoke the Chinese language well, and wore the silk robes of the elite. In 1692, when Fr. Thomas Pereira requested tolerance for Christianity, Kangxi was willing to oblige, and issued the Edict of Toleration, which recognized Catholicism, barred attacks on their churches, and legalized their missions and the practice of Christianity by the Chinese people. Sony VPCCA3E1E battery
However, controversy arose over whether Chinese Christians could still take part in traditional Confucian ceremonies and ancestor worship, with the Jesuits arguing for tolerance and the Dominicans taking a hard-line against foreign "idolatry". The Dominican position won the support of Pope Clement XI, who in 1705 sent Charles-Thomas Maillard De Tournon as his representative to Kangxi, to communicate the ban on Chinese rites. Sony VPCCA38EC/R battery On 19 March 1715, Pope Clement XI issued the papal bull Ex illa die, which officially condemned Chinese rites.
In response, Kangxi officially forbade Christian missions in China, as they were "causing trouble".
The Kangxi Emperor on a tour, seated prominently on the deck of a junk
The matter of Kangxi's will is one of the "Four Greatest Mysteries of the Qing Dynasty". To this day, whom Kangxi chose as his successor is still a topic of debate amongst historians: on the face of things, he chose Yinzhen, the fourth princeSony VPCCA38EC battery, who later became the Yongzheng Emperor, and indeed there is strong evidence that this is correct. However many have claimed that Yinzhen forged the will, and that in reality the 14th prince Yinti, had been chosen as the successor.
Kangxi's first spouse, Empress Xiaochengren, gave birth to his second surviving son Yinreng, who at the age of two was named crown prince, a Han Chinese custom, to ensure stability during a time of chaos in the south. Although Kangxi left the education of several of his sons to othersSony VPCCA37EC/B battery, he personally oversaw the upbringing of Yinreng, intending to groom him into a perfect heir. Yinreng was tutored by the mandarin Wang Shan, who remained devoted to him, and spent the later years of his life trying to persuade Kangxi to restore Yinreng as the crown prince.
Yinreng did not prove himself to be worthy of the succession despite his father showing favoritism towards him. He was said to have beaten and killed his subordinates, and was alleged to have had sexual relations with one of his father's concubinesSony VPCCA37EC battery, which was deemed as incest and a capital offence. Yinreng also purchased young children from Jiangsu to satisfy his pedophiliac pleasure. In addition, Yinreng's supporters, led by Songgotu, gradually formed a "Crown Prince Party" (太子黨), that aimed to help Yinreng get the throne as soon as possible, even if it meant using unlawful methodsSony VPCCA36FW/W battery.
The seated Kangxi Emperor
Over the years, Kangxi kept constant watch over Yinreng and became aware of his son's many flaws, while their relationship gradually deteriorated. In 1707, Kangxi decided that he could no longer tolerate Yinreng's behavior, which he partially mentioned in the imperial edict as "too embarrassing to be spoken of", and decided to strip Yinreng off his position as crown princeSony VPCCA36FW/B battery. Kangxi placed his oldest surviving son, Yinzhi, in charge of overseeing Yinreng's house arrest. However, Yinzhi attempted to sabotage Yinreng numerous times and requested for his father to order Yinreng's execution. Kangxi was enraged and stripped Yinzhi of his titles. Kangxi advised his subjects to stop debating about the succession issue, and despite attempts to reduce rumours and speculation as to who the new crown prince might be, the imperial court's daily activities were disruptedSony VPCCA36FH/W battery. Apart from that, Yinzhi's actions also caused Kangxi to suspect that Yinreng might have been framed, hence Kangxi restored Yinreng as crown prince in 1709, with the support of the 4th and 13th princes, and on the excuse that Yinreng had previously acted under the influence of mental illness.
A turtle-based stele with the Kangxi Emperor's inscription, erected in 1699 at the Nanjing mausoleum of the Hongwu Emperor, honouring the founder of the preceding Ming Dynasty as surpassing the founders of the Tang and Song dynasties. Sony VPCCA36FG/B battery
In 1712, during Kangxi's last inspection tour to the south, Yinreng, who was put in charge of state affairs during his father's absence, tried to vie for power again with his supporters. He allowed an attempt at forcing Kangxi to abdicate when his father returned to Beijing. However, Kangxi received news of the planned coup d'etat, and was so angry that he deposed Yinreng and placed him under house arrest againSony VPCCA36FA/B battery. After the incident, Kangxi announced that he would not appoint any of his sons as crown prince for the remainder of his reign. He stated that he would place his Imperial Valedictory Will inside a box in the Palace of Heavenly Purity, which will only be opened after his death.
Death and succession
Following the deposition of the crown prince, Kangxi implemented groundbreaking changes in the political landscapeSony VPCCA36EC/W battery. The 13th prince, Yinxiang, was placed under house arrest as well for cooperating with Yinreng. The eighth prince Yinsi was stripped off all his titles and only had them restored years later. The 14th prince Yinti, whom many considered to be the most likely candidate to succeed Kangxi, was sent on a military campaign during the political conflict. Yinsi, along with the ninth and tenth princes, Yintang and Yin'e, pledged their support to YintiSony VPCCA36EC battery.
In the evening of 20 December 1722 before his death, Kangxi called seven of his sons to assemble at his bedside. They were the third, fourth, eight, ninth, tenth, 16th and 17th princes. After Kangxi died, Longkodo announced that Kangxi had selected the fourth prince, Yinzhen, as the new emperor. Yinzhen ascended to the throne and became known as the Yongzheng Emperor. Kangxi was entombed at the Eastern Tombs in Zunhua, HebeiSony VPCCA35FW/W battery.
Personality and achievements
Kangxi was the great consolidator of the Qing Dynasty. The transition from the Ming Dynasty to the Qing was a cataclysm whose central event was the fall of the capital Beijing to the invading Manchus in 1644, and the installation of the five-year-old Shunzhi Emperor on their throne. By 1661, when Shunzhi died and was succeeded by KangxiSony VPCCA35FW/B battery, the Qing conquest was almost complete and the leading Manchus were already adopting Chinese ways including Confucian ideology. Kangxi completed the conquest, suppressed all significant military threats and revived the ancient central government system with important modifications.
Kangxi was an inveterate workaholic, rising early and retiring late, reading and responding to numerous memorials every daySony VPCCA35FN/R battery, conferring with his councillors and giving audiences – and this was in normal times; in wartime, he might be reading memorials from the warfront until after midnight or even, as with the Dzungar conflict, away on campaign in person.
Kangxi devised a system of communication that circumvented the scholar-bureaucrats, who had a tendency to usurp the power of the emperor. This Palace Memorial System involved the transfer of secret messages between him and trusted officials in the provincesSony VPCCA35FH/D battery, where the messages were contained in locked boxes that only he and the official had access to. This started as a system for receiving uncensored extreme-weather reports, which the emperor regarded as divine comments on his rule. However, it soon evolved into a general-purpose secret "news channel". Out of this emerged a Grand Council, which dealt with extraordinary, especially military, eventsSony VPCCA35FG/PI battery. The council was chaired by the emperor and manned by his more elevated Han Chinese household staff. From this council, the mandarin civil servants were excluded – they were left only with routine administration.
Kangxi managed to seduce the Confucian intelligentsia into co-operating with the Qing government, despite their deep reservations about Manchu rule, by encouraging them to sit the traditional civil service examinationsSony VPCCA35FF/P battery, become mandarins and subsequently to compose lavishly conceived works of literature such the History of Ming, the Kangxi Dictionary, a phrase-dictionary, a vast encyclopedia and an even vaster compilation of Chinese literature. On a personal level, Kangxi was a cultivated man, steeped in Confucian learning. Sony VPCCA35FA/PI battery
In the one military campaign in which he actively participated, against the Dzungar Mongols, Kangxi showed himself an effective military commander. According to Finer, Kangxi's own written reflections allow one to experience "how intimate and caring was his communion with the rank-and-file, how discriminating and yet masterful his relationship with his generals"Sony VPCCA2Z0E battery.
As a result of the scaling down of hostilities as peace returned to China after the Manchu conquest, and also as a result of the ensuing rapid increase of population, land cultivation and therefore tax revenues based on agriculture, Kangxi was able first to make tax remissions, then in 1712 to freeze the land tax and corvée altogether, without embarrassing the state treasury. Sony VPCCA2SFX/R battery
Father: Shunzhi Emperor
Mother: Empress Xiaokangzhang (1640–1663). Her family was of Jurchen origin but had lived among the Chinese for generations. It had a Chinese family name, Tong (佟), but converted to the Manchu clan name Tongiya later. She was instated as the Empress Dowager Cihe (慈和皇太后) in 1661 when Kangxi became emperor. She is known posthumously as Empress Xiaokangzhang (Chinese: 孝康章皇后; Manchu: Hiyoošungga Nesuken Eldembuhe Hūwanghu) Sony VPCCA2S1E battery.
The total number is approximately 64.
Empress Xiaochengren (died 1674) from the Heseri clan – married in 1665.
Empress Xiaozhaoren (Manchu: Hiyoošungga Genggiyen Gosin Hūwanghu) from the Niohuru clan.
Empress Xiaoyiren (Manchu: Hiyoošungga Fujurangga Gosin Hūwanghu) from the Tunggiya clan.
Empress Xiaogongren (Manchu: Hiyoošungga Gungnecuke Gosin Hūwanghu) from the Wuya clan.
Imperial Noble Consort Que Hui (1668–1743) from the Tunggiya clan, Empress Xiaoyiren's younger sisterSony VPCCA2S0E battery.
Imperial Noble Consort Dun Yi (1683–1768) from the Guwalgiya clan
Honored Imperial Noble Consort Jing Min (died 1699) from the Jan
Noble Consort Wen Xi (died 1695) from the Niuhuru clan, Empress Xiaozhaoren's younger sister.
Consort Shun Yi Mi (1668–1744) from the Wang clan was Han Chinese from origin.
Consort Chun Yu Qin (died 1754) from the Han Chinese Chen clan.
Consort Rong (died 1727) from the Magiya clanSony VPCCA2AJ battery.
Consort Yi (died 1733) from the Gobulo clan.
Consort Hui (died 1732) from the Nala clan.
Consort Liang (died 1711) from the Wei clan.
Consort Cheng (died 1740) from the Daigiya clan.
Consort Xuan (died 1736) from the Mongol Borjigit clan.
Consort Ding (1661–1757) from the Wanliuha clan.
Consort Ping (died 1696) from the Heseri clan, Empress Xiaochengren's younger sister.
Consort Hui (died 1670) from the Borjigit clan.
Popular cultureSony VPCCA1S3C/CN1 battery
Kangxi Dadi (康熙大帝; literally: The Great Kangxi Emperor): a historical fiction novel by Er Yuehe, featuring a romanticized version of Kangxi's biography
The Deer and the Cauldron (鹿鼎記): a wuxia novel by Louis Cha. In the story, by coincidence, Kangxi and the protagonist, Wei Xiaobao, become close friends since childhood. Wei helps the emperor consolidate power and strengthen his rule over the empire, playing an important role in affecting how the historical events during Kangxi's reign unfoldSony VPCCA1S2C/CN1 battery.
Qijian Xia Tianshan (七劍下天山; literally: Seven Swords Descend from Mount Heaven): a wuxia novel by Liang Yusheng. In the story, Kangxi discovers that his father, the Shunzhi Emperor, has become a monk in a monastery on Mount Wutai. He orders a close aide to kill his father in order to consolidate power, and attempts to erase evidence of the murder laterSony VPCCA1S1E/W battery.
Film and television
Kangxi Dynasty (康熙王朝): a 2001 television series adaption of the above mentioned novel by Er Yuehe. Chen Daoming starred as Kangxi.
Secret History of Kangxi (康熙秘史): fourth installment in a series of four television dramas about the early history of the Qing Dynasty. Xia Yu starred as Kangxi.
Kangxi Weifu Sifang Ji (康熙微服私訪記; literally: Kangxi's Inspection Tours in Civilian Attire): a long-running television drama about Kangxi's inspection tours. During some of his tours, Kangxi dressed like an ordinary civilian to conceal his identity so that he can blend in with the commoners and understand their daily lives better. Zhang Guoli starred as KangxiSony VPCCA1S1E/P battery.
The Life and Times of a Sentinel (紫禁驚雷): TVB series about Kangxi's brother's attempt to overthrow him.
Palace (宫): a 2011 television drama set during Kangxi's rule. A girl from the 21st century accidentally travels through time and ends up in the 1700s, in the Forbidden City, shortly before Kangxi strips the crown prince Yinreng of his position.
Scarlet Heart (步步惊心): another 2011 television drama set during Kangxi's rule. A girl from the 21st century accidentally travels through time and ends up in the 1700s, in the Forbidden City, way before Kangxi strips the crown prince Yinreng of his positionSony VPCCA1S1E battery.