Yongzheng Emperor

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The Yongzheng Emperor (born Yinzhen 胤禛 December 13, 1678 - October 8, 1735) was the fourth emperor of the Manchu Qing Dynasty, and the third Qing emperor to rule over China, from 1722 to 1735.

He was a tough and hard-working ruler bent on effective government at minimum expense. Like his father, the Kangxi Emperor, Yongzheng used military force to preserve the dynasty's position. His reign was despotic, efficient, and vigorous, albeit much shorter than the famous reigns of both his father the Kangxi Emperor and his son the Qianlong Emperor.


The Prince Yong

Yinzhen was the fourth son of Kangxi to survive into adulthood, and the eldest son by Empress Xiaogong (孝恭皇后), a lady of the Wuya (烏雅) clan. He was made a beile (貝勒, "lord") in 1698 and then successively raised to the position of third-class prince in 1689. In 1704, the Yangtze and Yellow Rivers saw an unprecedented rush of flooding. The economy and livelihood of people around these areas were severely harmed. Yonzheng was sent out as a envoy of the Emperor with the 13th Imperial Prince Yinxiang to deal with relief efforts in southern China. These efforts ensured that funds were distributed properly and people would not starve. He was given the peerage title of a first-class Prince, the Prince Yong (雍親王) in 1709.

Disputed Succession to the throne

In 1712 the Kangxi Emperor removed his second son, Yinreng, as successor to the throne and did not designate another one. This led to division in Court, which was split among supporters of Yinzhi, Yinzhen, Yinsi, and Yinti, the 3rd, 4th, 8th and 14th Imperial Princes, respectively. By the time of the old Emperor's death in December 1722, the field of contenders had been reduced down to three Princes after Yinsi pledged his support to Yinti, Yinzhi, Yinti, and Yinzhen.

At the time of the Kangxi Emperor's death, Yinti, as Border Pacification General-in-chief (撫遠大將軍), was away on the warfront in the northwest. The official record states that on December 20th, Kangxi called to his bedside seven of his sons and the General Commandant of the Peking Gendarmerie, Longkedo and declared that Yinzhen should succeed him on the imperial throne. According to folklore, Yinzhen forged his father's will and took power in a coup d'etat at the capital. Whilst this folklore had beeen widely circulated, there was little evidence to support the view. As the first official act as Emperor, Yinzhen released his long-time ally, Yinxiang, from prison. An able military leader, Yinxiang assembled a group of special task Beijing soldiers to seize immediate control of the Forbidden City and surrounding areas. Secondly, Kangxi had noticeably favoured Yinsi and Yinti in administrative affairs.

Reign over China

In December 1722, after succeeding to the throne, Yinzhen took the era name of Yongzheng (雍正), from his peerage title Yong, meaning "harmonious"; and zheng, a term for "just" or "correct". I.e. the era of Harmonious Justice. Immediately after succeeding the throne, in January 1723, Yongzheng chose his new governing council. Yinsi was given the title of Prince Lian, and Yinxiang was given the title of Prince Yi, both holding the highest positions, with Ma Qi, Zhang Tingyu and Longkodo also being major players.

To strengthen his power, within a few years of ascending the throne he had several of his brothers arrested and charged. Yinsi, Yintang, both supporters of Yinti for the throne, languished in prison and died in 1727. Another brother, Yin'e, was expelled from the imperial clan in 1726.

After he became Emperor, Yongzheng censored the record of his accession and also suppressed other writings he deemed inimical to his regime, particuarly those with an anti-Manchu bias. Foremost among these was the case of Zeng Jing, a failed degree candidate heavily influenced by the seventeenth-century scholar L Liuliang. In October 1728, he attempted to incite Yue Zhongqi, Governor-general of Shaanxi-Sichuan, to rebellion. He gave a long list of accusations against Yongzheng, including the murder of the Kangxi Emperor and the killing of his brothers. Highly concerned with the implications of the case, Yongzheng had Zeng Jing brought to Beijing for trial.

He is also known for establishing strict autocratic rule in the time period. He disliked corruption and punished officials severely when they were found guilty of the offence. During his reign, the Manchu Empire became a great power and a peaceful country, and he furthered strengthened the Kangqian Period of Harmony (康乾盛世). He created a sophisticated procedure for selecting successor in response to his father's tragedy.

Yongzheng was known for his trust in Mandarin Chinese officials. Li Wei and Tian Wenjing were both used to govern China's southern areas. Ertai also served Yonhzheng's in governing the southern areas.

He was also known for removing the power of the princes over the other five banners and uniting the eight banners under a central authority - himself, through the "Act of the Union of the Eight Princes" or "八王依正".

Military expansion in the northwest

Like his father, Yongzheng used military force to preserve the dynasty's position in Outer Mongolia, and when Tibet was torn by civil war during 1717-28, he intervened militarily, leaving a Qing resident backed up by a military garrison to pursue the dynasty's interests. It is however important to note that Yongzheng revamped the tax system at the time so as to not favour only the rich and imposed new land taxes on actual land owners. His private life was a sad one. He had nine children but only 3 survived. One of them was Prince Hong Li.

The Yongzheng Emperor ruled the Qing Empire for only thirteen years. He died suddenly at the age of 58 in 1735. Legends hold that he was actually assassinated by Lu Siniang, daughter of L Liuliang whose entire family was believed to have been executed for literacy crimes against the Manchu Regime. More realistically, he might have died due to an overdose of medication he was consuming at the time due to his ardent belief that it would prolong his life. To prevent the succession crises faced by himself thirteen years ago, he ordered that his third son, Hongshi, who had been an ally of Yinsi, to commit suicide. He was succeeded by his son, Hongli, the Prince Bao, who became the fifth emperor of the Qing dynasty under the era name of Qianlong.

He was interred in the Western Qing Tombs (清西陵), 120 kilometers/75 miles southwest of Beijing, in the Tailing (泰陵) mausoleum complex (known in Manchu as the Elhe Munggan).


  • Mother: concubine from the (Manchu) Uya clan (1660-1723), who was made Empress Dowager Renshou (仁壽皇太后) when her son became emperor, and is known posthumously as Empress Xiaogong Ren (Chinese: 孝恭仁皇后; Manchu: Hiyoošungga Gungnecuke Gosin Hūwanghu)
  • Consorts:
  1. Empress Xiaojing Xian (? -1731) (Chinese: 孝敬憲皇后; Manchu: Hiyoošungga Ginggun Temgetulehe Hūwanghu)
  2. Empress Xiaosheng Xian (1692-1777) (Chinese: 孝聖憲皇后; Manchu: Hiyoošungga Enduringge Temgetulehe Hūwanghu)

Preceded by:
Kangxi Emperor
Emperor of China
(Qing Dynasty)
Succeeded by:
Qianlong Emperor

Template:End boxde:Yongzheng fr:Yinzhen nl:Yongzheng ja:雍正帝 zh:雍正帝


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