Zhengtong Emperor

Zhengtong Emperor
Zhengtong Emperor
Emperor of China
Reign 7 February 1435 – 1 September 1449 [1] (&1000000000000001400000014 years, &10000000000000206000000206 days)
Predecessor Xuande Emperor
Successor Jingtai Emperor
Retired Emperor of China
Reign 1 September 1449 – 11 February 1457 (&100000000000000070000007 years, &10000000000000163000000163 days)
Predecessor Emperor Shenzong of Western Xia
Successor Qianlong Emperor
Emperor of China
Reign 11 February 1457 – 23 February 1464 (&100000000000000070000007 years, &1000000000000001200000012 days)
Predecessor Jingtai Emperor
Successor Chenghua Emperor
Spouse Empress Xiao Zhuang Rui
Empress Xiao Su
Princess Chongqing
Zhu Jianshen, Chenghua Emperor
Zhu Jianlin, Prince Zhuang of De
Zhu Jianshi
Zhu Jianchun, Prince Dao of Xu
Zhu Jianshu, Prince Huai of Xiu
Zhu Jianze, Prince Jian of Chong
Zhu Jianjun, Prince Jian of Ji
Zhu Jianzhi, Prince Mu of Xin
Zhu Jianpei, Prince Zhuang of Hui
Princess Jiashan
Princess Chun'an
Princess Chongde
Princess Guangde
Princess Yixing
Princess Longqing
Princess Jiaxiang
two unnamed daughters
Full name
Family name: Zhu (朱)
Given name: Qizhen (祁鎮)
Era dates
Zhengtong (正統): 18 January 1436 – 13 January 1450
Tianshun[2] (天順): 15 February 1457 – 26 January 1465
Posthumous name
Emperor Fatian Lidao Renming Chengjing Zhaowen Xianwu Zhide Guangxiao Rui
Temple name
Ming Yingzong
House House of Zhu
Father Xuande Emperor
Mother Empress Xiao Gong Zhang
Born 29 November 1427(1427-11-29)
Died 23 February 1464(1464-02-23) (aged 36)
Burial Yuling, Ming Dynasty Tombs, Beijing

Zhu Qizhen ( 29 November 1427 – 23 February 1464) was an emperor of the Ming Dynasty. He ruled as the Zhengtong Emperor (正統 IPA: [tʂɤ̂ŋtʰʊ̀ŋ]) from 1435 to 1449, and as the Tianshun Emperor (天順) from 1457 to 1464.[3] His first era name means "Right governance" and the second one means "Obedient to Heaven".


First reign

Zhu Qizhen was the son of the Xuande Emperor Zhu Zhanji and his second wife, Empress Sun. At the beginning of Zhengtong's reign, the Ming Dynasty was prosperous and at the height of its power as a result of Xuande Emperor's able administration. Zhengtong's accession at the age of eight made him the first child emperor of the dynasty hence Zhengtong was easily influenced by others, especially the eunuch Wang Zhen. Zhengtong completely relied on Wang for advice and guidance.

Imprisonment by the Mongols

Stele commemorating rebuilding of the Temple of Yan Hui in Qufu in Year 6 of Zhengtong era (1441 AD)

At the age of 22, in 1449, he was imprisoned by the Mongols when, advised by Wang Zhen, he personally directed and lost the Battle of Tumu Fortress against the Mongols under Esen taishi (d.1455). His capture by the enemy force shook the Ming dynasty to its core and the ensuing crisis almost caused the dynasty to collapse had it not been for the capable governing of a prominent minister named Yu Qian. Although Zhengtong was a prisoner of the Mongols, he became a good friend to both Tayisung Khan Toghtoa Bukha (1416–1453) and his grand preceptor (taishi) Esen. Meanwhile, to calm the crisis at home, his younger brother Zhu Qiyu was installed as the Jingtai Emperor. This reduced Zhengtong's imperial status and he was granted the title of "grand emperor".

House arrest and second reign

The Zhengtong Emperor was released one year later in 1450 but when he returned to China, he was immediately put under house arrest by his brother for almost seven years. He resided in the southern palace of the Forbidden city and all outside contacts were severely curtailed by the Jingtai Emperor. Zhengtong's son (later Chenghua Emperor) was stripped of the title of crown prince and replaced by Jingtai's own son. This act greatly upset and devastated Zhengtong but the heir apparent died shortly thereafter. Overcome with grief, the Jingtai Emperor fell ill and Zhengtong decided to depose Jingtai by a palace coup which eventually reinstalled Zhu Qizhen as emperor, who named his second reign Tianshun ("heavenly obedience") and went on to rule for another seven years.

On 6 August 1461, the Tianshun Emperor issued an edict warning his subjects to be loyal to the throne and not to violate the laws.[4] This was a veiled threat aimed at the general Cao Qin (d. 1461), who had become embroiled in a controversy when he had one of his retainers killed a man whom Ming authorities were attempting to interrogate (to find out about Cao's illegal foreign business transactions).[4] On 7 August 1461, General Cao Qin and his cohorts of Mongol descent attempted a coup against the Tianshun Emperor.[5] However, during the first hours of the morning of 7 August, prominent Ming Mongol generals, Wu Jin and Wu Cong, were alerted of the coup and immediately relayed a warning to the emperor.[6] Although alarmed, the emperor and his court made preparations for a conflict and barred the gates of the palace.[7] During the ensuing onslaught in the capital later that morning, the Minister of Works and the Commander of the Imperial Guard were killed, while the rebels set the gates of the Forbidden City on fire.[5] The eastern and western gates of the imperial city were only saved when pouring rains came and extinguished the fires.[8] The fight lasted for nearly the entire day within the city; during which three of Cao Qin's brothers were killed, and Qin himself received wounds to both arms. With the failure of the coup, in order to escape being executed, Qin fled to his residence and committed suicide by jumping down a well within the walled compound of his home.[9]

The Tianshun Emperor died at the age of 37 in 1464 and was buried in the Yuling (裕陵) tomb of the Ming Dynasty Tombs.

Personal information


  • Empress Xiao Zhuang Rui (孝莊睿皇后), family name Qian (錢) (died 1468), married the Zhengtong Emperor in 1442, lost her position as empress when her husband was stripped of the position of emperor in 1449, reinstated as empress in 1457, created Empress Dowager Ciyi (慈懿皇太后) during the reign of her stepson
  • Empress Xiao Su (孝肅皇后), family name Zhou (周) (died 1504), daughter of Zhou Neng (周能), held the rank of Noble Consort (貴妃), created Empress Dowager Sheng Ci Ren Shou (聖慈仁壽皇太后) in 1487, created Grand Empress Dowager (太皇太后) during the reign of her grandson, never held the title of empress in life but was posthumously honored as an empress, mother of Princess Chongqing and the Chenghua Emperor
  • Consort Jing Zhuang An Mu Chen (靖莊安穆宸妃), family name Wan (萬)
  • Consort Duan Jing An He Hui (端靖安和惠妃), family name Wang (王)
  • Consort Zhuang Jing An Rong Shu (莊靜安榮淑妃), family name Gao (高)
  • Consort Gong Duan Zhuang Hui De (恭端莊惠德妃), family name Wei (韋)
  • Consort Gong He An Jing Shun (恭和安靜順妃), family name Fan (樊) (1414 - 1470), entered the imperial court in 1427, created a concubine of the Zhengtong Emperor in 1457
  • Consort Zhuang Xi Duan Su An (莊僖端肅安妃), family name Yang (楊)
  • Consort Zhao Su Jing Duan Xian (昭肅靖端賢妃), family name Wang (王)
  • Consort Zhen Shun Yi Gong Jing (貞順懿恭敬妃), family name Liu (劉)
  • Consort An He Rong Jing Li (安和榮靖麗妃), family name Liu (劉)
  • Consort Duan Zhuang Zhao (端莊昭妃), family name Wu (武)
  • Consort Gong An He (恭安和妃), family name Gong (宮)
  • Consort Zhao Jing Gong (昭靜恭妃), family name Liu (劉)
  • Consort Zhao Shun Li (昭順麗妃), family name Zhang (張)
  • Consort Zhao Yi Xian (昭懿賢妃), family name Li (李)
  • Consort Gong Jing Zhuang (恭靖莊妃), family name Zhao (趙)
  • Consort Gong Xi Cheng (恭僖成妃), family name Zhang (張)
  • Consort Gong Hui He (恭惠和妃), family name Liang (梁)
  • Consort Xi Ke Chong (僖恪充妃), family name Yu (余)
  • Consort Hui He Li (惠和麗妃), family name Chen (陳)
  • Consort Rong Jing Zhen (榮靖貞妃), family name Wang (王)


Number Name Formal Title Born Died Mother Spouse Issue Notes
1 Zhu Jianshen
The Chenghua Emperor 9 December 1447 9 September 1487 Empress Xiao Su Empress Wu
Empress Xiao Zhen Chun
Empress Xiao Mu
Empress Xiao Hui
14 concubines
unnamed son
Zhu Youji, Crown Prince Daogong
Zhu Youcheng, Hongzhi Emperor
Zhu Youyuan, Prince Xian of Xing
Zhu Youlun, Prince Hui of Qi
Zhu Youbin, Prince Duan of Yi
Zhu Youhui, Prince Gong of Heng
Zhu Youyun, Prince Jing of Yong
Zhu Youqi, Prince Ding of Shou
unnamed son
Zhu Youheng, Prince An of Ru
Zhu Youshun, Prince Jian of Jing
Zhu Youshu, Prince Zhuang of Rong
Zhu Youkai, Prince Yi of Shen
Princess Renhe
Princess Yongkang
Princess Deqing
unnamed daughter
Princess Changtai
Princess Xianyou
2 Zhu Jianlin
Prince Zhuang of De
7 May 1448 7 September 1517 Consort Jing Zhuang An Mu Chen Zhu Yourong, Prince Yi of De Initially created Prince of Rong (榮王) on 21 May 1452;
Title changed to Prince of De (德王) on 30 March 1457
3 Zhu Jianshi
2 August 1449 30 August 1451 Consort Jing Zhuang An Mu Chen none none
4 Zhu Jianchun
Prince Dao of Xu
3 April 1450 3 January 1453 Consort Duan Jing An He Hui none none Created Prince of Xu on 20 May 1452
5 Zhu Jianshu
Prince Huai of Xiu
12 March 1452 13 October 1472 Consort Zhuang Jing An Rong Shu Lady Wang (王氏)
(daughter of Wang Yu (王昱))
none Created Prince of Xiu (秀王) on 30 March 1457
6 Zhu Jianze
Prince Jian of Chong
2 May 1455 27 August 1505 Empress Xiao Su Zhu Youmi, Prince Jing of Chong Created Prince of Chong (崇王) in 1457
7 Zhu Jianjun
Prince Jian of Ji
11 July 1456 16 August 1527 Consort Jing Zhuang An Mu Chen Zhu Youfu, Prince Dao of Ji Created Prince of Ji (吉王) on 30 March 1466
8 Zhu Jianzhi
Prince Mu of Xin
18 March 1458 2 April 1472 Consort Jing Zhuang An Mu Chen none none Created Prince of Xin (忻王) on 21 September 1466
9 Zhu Jianpei
Prince Zhuang of Hui
2 March 1462 13 June 1505 Consort Gong Duan Zhuang Hui De none Zhu Youtai, Prince Jian of Hui Created Prince of Hui (徽王) in 1466


Number Title Born Died Date Married Spouse Issue Mother Notes
1 Princess Chongqing
1446 1499 1461 Zhou Jing
Zhou Xian
Empress Xiao Su
2 Princess Jiashan
1499 1466 Wang Zeng
Consort Duan Jing An He Hui
3 Princess Chun'an
1466 Cai Zhen
Consort Jing Zhuang An Mu Chen
4 Princess Chongde
1489 Yang Wei
Consort Zhuang Xi Duan Su An
5 Princess Guangde
1484 1472 Fan Kai
Consort Jing Zhuang An Mu Chen Personal name Zhu Yanxiang (朱延祥)
6 Princess Yixing
1514 1473 Ma Cheng
Consort Gong Duan Zhuang Hui De
7 Princess Longqing
1455 1479 1473 You Tai
Consort Zhuang Jing An Rong Shu
8 Princess Jiaxiang
1483 1477 Huang Yong
9 unnamed none none none Consort Gong Duan Zhuang Hui De Died young
10 unnamed none none none Consort Gong He An Jing Shun Died young

See also


  1. ^ Captured by the Mongols, he was succeeded by his brother Jingtai who conferred on him the title Taishang Huang (太上皇), a title reserved for the retired emperors and which he held until 1457.
  2. ^ Tianshun (天順) was also the name of a Yuan Dynasty reign.
  3. ^ Leo K. Shin (2006), The Making of the Chinese State: Ethnicity and Expansion on the Ming Borderlands, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 9780521853545, http://books.google.com/?id=DOb-4JU18UAC&pg=RA2-PA159&lpg=RA2-PA159&dq=%22Zhengtong+Emperor%22 
  4. ^ a b Robinson, 97.
  5. ^ a b Robinson, 79.
  6. ^ Robinson, 101–102.
  7. ^ Robinson, 102.
  8. ^ Robinson, 105.
  9. ^ Robinson, 107–108.


  • Robinson, David M. "Politics, Force and Ethnicity in Ming China: Mongols and the Abortive Coup of 1461," Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies (Volume 59: Number 1, June 1999): 79–123.
Zhengtong Emperor
Born: 29 November 1427 Died: 23 February 1464
Regnal titles
Preceded by
The Xuande Emperor
Emperor of China (First Time)
Succeeded by
The Jingtai Emperor
Preceded by
The Jingtai Emperor
Emperor of China (Second Time)
Succeeded by
The Chenghua Emperor

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