Chongzhen Emperor

Chongzhen Emperor
Chongzhen Emperor
Emperor of the Ming Dynasty
Reign 2 October 1627–25 April 1644
(&1000000000000001600000016 years, &10000000000000206000000206 days)
Predecessor Tianqi Emperor
Successor Hongguang Emperor
Emperor of China
Reign 2 October 1627–25 April 1644
(&1000000000000001600000016 years, &10000000000000206000000206 days)
Predecessor Tianqi Emperor
Successor Shunzhi Emperor
Spouse Empress Zhuang Lie Min
Noble Consort Gong Shu, concubine
Noble Consort Yuan concubine
Consort Shun, concubine
Consort Shen, concubine
Consort Wang, concubine[1]
Consort Wang, concubine[2]
Consort Liu, concubine
Consort Fang, concubine
Zhu Cilang, Crown Prince Xianmin
Zhu Cixuan, Prince Yin of Huai
Zhu Cijiong, Prince Ai of Ding
Zhu Cizhao, Prince Dao of Yong
Zhu Cihuan, Prince Ling of Ding
Zhu Cican, Prince Huai of Dao
Prince Liang of Dao
Princess Kunyi
Zhu Meicuo, Princess Changping
Princess Zhaoren
Full name
Family name: Zhu (朱)
Given name:Youjian (由檢)
Era name and dates
Chongzhen (崇禎): 5 February 1628–25 April 1644
Posthumous name
Emperor Zhuang Lie Min
Temple name
Ming Sizong[3]
House House of Zhu
Father Taichang Emperor
Mother Empress Dowager Xiao Chun
Born 6 January 1611(1611-01-06)
Died 25 April 1644(1644-04-25) (aged 33)
Jingshan Hill, Beijing
Burial Ming Dynasty Tombs, Beijing

The Chongzhen Emperor (simplified Chinese: 崇祯; traditional Chinese: 崇禎; pinyin: Chóngzhēn; Wade-Giles: Ch'ung-chen/old spelling: Ch'ung-cheng) (February 6, 1611 - April 25, 1644) was the 16th and last emperor of the Ming Dynasty 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. His mother Lady Liu was a humble concubine of the Taichang Emperor. 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 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 had to endure. Chongzhen succeeded his brother to the throne at age 17[clarification needed] and immediately eliminated the eunuch Wei Zhongxian 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. 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, who had almost single-handedly maintained the northern frontier against the Manchus, in 1630.

Fall of the Ming Dynasty

The Chongzhen Emperor killing his daughter, before hanging himself. (Drawing by a European artist for Martino Martini's De bello tartarico)

The collapse of the Ming intensified during Chongzhen's reign. Popular uprisings broke out throughout China, including those of Zhang Xianzhong 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. Rather than face capture and probable execution at the hands of the newly-proclaimed Shun Dynasty, 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, whose attempt to resist the sword blow resulted in her left arm being severed by her father.[4] Then, still wearing his imperial attire, Chongzhen fled to Jingshan Hill and committed suicide when he hanged himself from a tree. 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.

Guilty Scholar tree - Replica of the tree Chongzhen hung himself in April 1644

The Shun Dynasty lasted less than a year until Li's defeat at the Battle of Shanhai Pass, with the victorious Manchus establishing the Shunzhi Emperor of the Qing Dynasty as ruler of all China.

After Chongzhen's death, loyalist forces had proclaimed a Southern Ming Dynasty in Nanjing, naming Zhu Yousong, Prince of Fu 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, was finally executed in Burma in 1662 by Qing general Wu Sangui.

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 – 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, in particular, has greatly damaged his contemporary reputation.

Personal information

  • Father
  • Mother
    • Liu Shunu (淑女劉氏) (d. 1615), concubine of the Taichang Emperor, 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)


Formal Title Maiden Name Born Died Father Mother Issue Notes
Empress Xiao Jie
Family name: Zhou (周) Suzhou, Jiangsu Province 18 March 1644 Zhou Kui
- Zhu Cilang, Crown Prince Xianmin
Princess Kunyi
Zhu Cixuan, Prince Yin of Huai
Zhu Cijiong, Prince Ai of Ding
Noble Consort Yuan
Family name: Yuan (袁) - 1644 Yuan You (袁祐) - Princess Zhaoren
Noble Consort Gong Shu
Family name: Tian (田)
Given name: Xiuying (秀英)
Shaanxi Province 1642 Tian Hongyu
- Zhu Cizhao, Prince Dao of Yong
Zhu Cihuan, Prince Ling of Dao
Zhu Cican, Prince Huai of Dao
Prince Liang of Dao
Consort Shun
Family name: Wang (王) - 1629 - - Zhu Meicuo, Princess Pingchang
Consort Shen
Family name: Shen (沈) - - - - -
Consort Wang
Family name: Wang (王) - - - - - Different from the below
Consort Wang
Family name: Wang (王) - - - - - Different from the above
Consort Liu
Family name: Liu (劉) - - - - -
Consort Fang
Family name: Fang (方) - - - - -


Number Name Formal Title Born Died Mother Spouse Issue Notes
1 Zhu Cilang
Crown Prince Xianmin
26 February 1629 1644
Ning Jia Wan, Shaanxi Province
Empress Zhuang Lie Min Lady Ning
(daughter of Ning Hong (寧浤))
none Created Crown Prince in 1630
2 Zhu Cixuan
Prince Yin of Huai
15 January 1630 15 March 1630 Empress Zhuang Lie Min none none Created Prince of Huai
3 Zhu Cijiong
Prince Ai of Ding
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; title of Prince of Ding restored under the Southern Ming Dynasty
4 Zhu Cizhao
Prince Dao of Yong
unknown unknown Consort Gong Shu - - Created Prince of Yong in April 1642; Granted the posthumous name "Dao" (悼) under the Southern Ming Dynasty
5 Zhu Cihuan
Prince Ling of Dao
1633 1708 Consort Gong Shu Lady Hu
Zhu Heshen (朱和兟)[5]
Zhu Heren (朱和壬)
Zhu Hezai (朱和在)
Zhu Hekun (朱和堃)
three daughters
6 Zhu Cican
Prince Huai of Dao
1637 5 May 1639 Consort Gong Shu none none
7 none Prince Liang of Dao
unknown unknown Consort Gong Shu none none Died at the age of three


Number Title Name Born Died Date Married Spouse Issue Mother Notes
1 Princess Kunyi
Family name: Zhu (朱)
(personal name unknown)
1630 unknown none none none Empress Zhuang Lie Min Died young
2 Princess Changping
Family name: Zhu (朱)
Given name: Meicuo (朱媺娖)
1629 26 September 1646 1645 Zhou Xian
- Consort Shun
3 Princess Zhaoren
Family name: Zhu (朱)
(personal name unknown)
1639 1644 none none none Consort Yuan[6] Was killed by her father along with other members of the imperial household when Li Zicheng invaded the Ming capital of Beijing



  •  This article incorporates text from China and the Manchus, by Herbert Allen Giles, a publication from 1912 now in the public domain in the United States.
  1. ^ Different from the below
  2. ^ DIfferent from the above
  3. ^ Temple name given in 1644 by the prince of Fu (福王), the new self-proclaimed emperor of the Southern Ming. This is the temple name most often found in history books, despite the fact that the Southern Ming soon changed the temple name into Yizong (毅宗), and later Weizong (威宗). The new rulers of the Qing Dynasty conferred upon Chongzhen the temple name Huaizong (懷宗), probably in an effort to win over their recently conquered subjects.
  4. ^ Herbert Allen Giles (1912). China and the Manchus. Cambridge: The University press. p. 24. Retrieved 2011-7-06. (Original from the University of Michigan)
  5. ^ Father of Zhu Cengyu (朱曾裕)
  6. ^ Although historical records do not explicitly state that Princess Zhaoren was Consort Yuan's daughter, it is known for certain that Consort Yuan bore one of the Chongzhen Emperor's daughters. As the mothers of Chongzhen's other two daughters are known, we can assume that Consort Yuan's daughter was Princess Zhaoren.


Chongzhen Emperor
Born: 6 February 1611 Died: 25 April 1644
Regnal titles
Preceded by
The Tianqi Emperor
Emperor of the Ming Dynasty
Succeeded by
The Hongguang Emperor
Emperor of China
Succeeded by
The Shunzhi Emperor

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