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Zhengde Emperor

 

Zhengde Emperor

Zhengde Emperor
Emperor of the Ming Empire
Reign 19 June 1505 – 20 April 1521
Predecessor Hongzhi Emperor
Successor Jiajing Emperor
Born (1491-10-26)26 October 1491
Died 20 April 1521(1521-04-20) (aged 29)
Burial Kangling, Ming Dynasty Tombs, Beijing
Spouse Empress Xiaojingyi
Full name
Family name: Zhu (朱)
Given name: Houzhao (厚照)
Era name and dates
Zhengde (正德): 24 January 1506 – 27 January 1522
Posthumous name
Emperor Chengtian Dadao Yingsu Ruizhe Zhaode Xiangong Hongwen Sixiao Yi
承天達道英肅睿哲昭德顯功弘文思孝毅皇帝
Temple name
Ming Wuzong
明武宗
House House of Zhu
Father Hongzhi Emperor
Mother Empress Xiaochengjing

The Zhengde Emperor (Chinese: 正德; pinyin: Zhèngdé) (26 October 1491 – 20 April 1521) was the Ming dynasty Emperor of China between 1505–1521. Born Zhu Houzhao, he was the Hongzhi Emperor's eldest son. His era name means "Right virtue" or "Rectification of virtue".

Contents

  • Early years 1
  • Reign as emperor 2
    • Relations with Muslims 2.1
    • Dark Affliction 2.2
    • Contact with Europe 2.3
      • Sino-Malay alliance against Portugal 2.3.1
  • Death 3
  • Legacy 4
  • Cultural reference 5
  • Ancestry 6
  • References 7

Early years

Zhu Houzhao was created crown prince at a very early age and because his father did not take up any other concubines, Zhu did not have to contend with other princes for the throne. (His younger brother died in infancy.) The prince was thoroughly educated in Confucian literature and he excelled in his studies. Many of the Hongzhi Emperor's ministers expected that Zhu Houzhao would become a benevolent and brilliant emperor like his father, but this was not to be.

Reign as emperor

Zhu Houzhao ascended the throne as the Zhengde Emperor and was married to his Empress at the age of 14.[1] Unlike his father, the Zhengde Emperor was not interested in ruling or his Empress and disregarded most state affairs. His actions have been considered reckless, foolish or pointless.[2] There are many instances where he showed a lack of responsibility.

The Zhengde Emperor took up a luxurious and prodigal lifestyle and indulged himself in women. It was said that he liked to frequent brothels and even created palaces called "Bao Fang" (豹房; literally "The Leopards' Chamber") outside the Forbidden City in Beijing initially to house exotic animals such as tigers and leopards for his amusement and then later used to house beautiful women for his personal enjoyment.[3] On one occasion he was badly mauled while hunting tigers, and could not appear in court audiences for a month.[2] On another occasion he burned down his palace by storing gunpowder in the courtyards during the lantern festival.[2] His harem was so overfilled that many of its women starved to death due to lack of supplies.[4]

Zhu Houzhao was noted by many sources as fairly efficient administrator, although indulging in an luxurious life style and refusing to attend most meetings, he showed himself to be competent in his decisions and governance. Under his rule, the economy continued to grow, and the people were generally prosperous.

Stele in memory of the renovation of the Temple of Yan in Qufu, 1509 (4th year of the Zhengde era)

For months at a time he would live outside the Forbidden City or travel around the country with heavy expenditures being paid from the Ming government's coffers. While being urged to return to the palace and attend to governmental matters, the Zhengde Emperor would refuse to receive all his ministers and ignored all their petitions. He also sanctioned the rise of eunuchs around him. One particular Liu Jin, leader of the Eight Tigers, was notorious for taking advantage of the young emperor and squandered immense amount of silver and valuables. The diverted funds were about 36 million pounds of gold and silver.[5] There was even rumor of a plot that Liu Jin had intended to murder the emperor and place his own grandnephew on the throne. Liu Jin's plot was ultimately discovered, and he was executed in 1510 however the rise of corrupt enunchs continued throughout the Zhengde Emperor's reign. There was also an uprising led by the Prince of Anhua and another uprising led by the Prince of Ning. The Prince of Anhua was the Zhengde Emperor's great-granduncle, while the Prince of Ning was his granduncle.[6]

In time, the Zhengde Emperor became notorious for his childish behaviour as well as abusing his power as emperor. For instance, he set up a staged commercial district inside his palace and ordered all his ministers, eunuchs, soldiers and servants of the palace to dress up and act as merchants or street vendors while he walked through the scene pretending to be a commoner. Any unwilling participants, especially the ministers (who viewed it as degrading and an insult), would be punished or removed from their post.

Then in 1518, the Zhengde Emperor gave himself an alter ego named Zhu Shou (朱壽) so he could relinquish his imperial duties and send himself off on an expedition to the north to repel raiding expeditions several tens of thousands strong led by Dayan Khan.[7] He met the enemy outside the city of Yingzhou and defeated them in a major battle by surrounding them. For a long period of time after this battle, the Mongols did not launch a raiding expedition into Ming territory. Then again in 1519, the Zhengde Emperor led another expedition to Jiangxi province to the south to quell the Prince of Ning rebellion by a powerful prince known as Zhu Chenhao who had bribed many people in the emperor's cabinet. He arrived only to discover that the revolt had already been put down by Wang Shouren, a local administrative officer. Frustrated at not being able to lead his troops to victory, the Zhengde Emperor's advisor suggested they release the prince in order to capture him again. In January 1521, the Zhengde Emperor had the rebel Prince of Ning executed in Tongzhou,[8] an event that was recorded even by the Portuguese embassy to China.

Relations with Muslims

The Zhengde Emperor was fascinated by foreigners and invited many Muslims to serve as advisors, eunuchs, and envoys at his court.[9] Works of art such as porcelain from his court contained Islamic inscriptions in Arabic or Persian.[10][11][12][13]

According to Bret Hinsch in the book Passions of the cut sleeve: the male homosexual tradition in China, the Zhengde Emperor had an alleged homosexual relationship with a Muslim leader from Hami, named Sayyid Husain, who served as the overseer in Hami during the Ming-Turpan border wars, although no evidence supporting this claim exists in Chinese sources.[14][15]

The Zhengde Emperor also had many relationships with foreign Muslim women. He sought the daughters of many of his officials. The other Muslim in his court, a Central Asian called Yu Yung, sent Central Asian Uighur female dancers to the emperor's quarters for sexual purposes.[16][17] The emperor liked foreign women such as Mongols and Uighur.[18]

The Zhengde Emperor was noted for having a Uighur woman as one of his favorite concubines.[19] Her last name was Ma, and she was reportedly trained in military and musical arts, in archery, horse riding, and singing music from Turkestan, as well as being able to speak in several languages.[20]

Dark Affliction

Prior to the death of the Zhengde Emperor in early 1521, rumours about a mysterious group of creatures collectively called Dark Afflictions (Chinese: 黑眚; pinyin: Hēi Shěng) circulated the capital. Their attacks caused much unrest, because they randomly attacked people at night, causing wounds with their claws. The Minister for War asked the emperor to write an imperial edict proclaiming local security troops would arrest all those who frightened other people. The threat brought a sudden end to the spread of the stories.[21]

Contact with Europe

Afonso de Albuquerque, who commissioned the first direct European maritime ventures to China from Portuguese Malacca.

The first direct European contacts with China occurred during the reign of the Zhengde Emperor. In several initial missions commissioned by Rafael Perestrello landed in southern China and traded with the Chinese merchants of Tuen Mun and Guangzhou. In 1513 their king, Manuel I of Portugal sent Fernão Pires de Andrade and Tomé Pires to formally open relations between the main court at Beijing and Lisbon, capital of Portugal. Although the Zhengde Emperor gave the Portuguese embassy his blessing while touring Nanjing in May 1520, he died soon after and the Portuguese (who were rumored to be troublemakers in Canton and even cannibals of kidnapped Chinese children), were ejected by Chinese authorities under the new Grand Secretary Yang Tinghe. Although illegal trade continued thereafter, official relations between the Portuguese and the Ming court would not improve until the 1540s, culminating in the Ming court's consent in 1557 which allowed Portugal to establish Macau as their trading base in China.

Sino-Malay alliance against Portugal

The Malay Malacca Sultanate was a tributary state and ally to Ming China. When Portugal conquered Malacca in 1511 and committed atrocities against the Malay Sultanate, the Chinese responded with violent force against Portugal.

The Ming government imprisoned and executed multiple Portuguese envoys after torturing them in Guangzhou. The Malaccans had informed the Chinese of the Portuguese seizure of Malacca, to which the Chinese responded with hostility toward the Portuguese. The Malaccans told the Chinese of the deception the Portuguese used, disguising plans for conquering territory as mere trading activities, and told of all the atrocities committed by the Portuguese.[22]

Due to the Malaccan Sultan lodging a complaint against the Portuguese invasion to the Zhengde Emperor, the Portuguese were greeted with hostility from the Chinese when they arrived in China.[23][24][25][26][27] The Malaccan Sultan, based in Bintan after fleeing Malacca, sent a message to the Chinese, which combined with Portuguese banditry and violent activity in China, led the Chinese authorities to execute 23 Portuguese and torture the rest of them in jails. After the Portuguese set up posts for trading in China and committed piratical activities and raids in China, the Chinese responded with the complete extermination of the Portuguese in Ningbo and Quanzhou[28] Pires, a Portuguese trade envoy, was among those who died in the Chinese dungeons.[29][30][31]

The Chinese defeated a Portuguese fleet in 1521 at the First Battle of Tamao (1521), killing and capturing so many Portuguese that the Portuguese had to abandon their junks and retreat with only three ships, only escaping back to Malacca because a wind scattered the Chinese ships as the Chinese launched a final attack.[32]

The Chinese effectively held the Portuguese embassy hostage, using them as a bargaining chip in demanding that the Portuguese restore the deposed Malaccan Sultan (King) to his throne.[33]

The Chinese proceeded to executed several Portuguese by beating and strangling them, and torturing the rest. The other Portuguese prisoners were put into iron chains and kept in prison.[34] The Chinese confisticated all of the Portuguese property and goods in the Pires embassy's possession.[35]

In 1522 Martim Afonso de Merlo Coutinho was appointed commander of another Portuguese fleet sent to establish diplomatic relations.[36] The Chinese defeated the Portuguese ships led by Coutinho at the Second Battle of Tamao (1522). A large amount of Portuguese were captured and ships destroyed during the battle. The Portuguese were forced to retreat to Malacca.[37][38]

The Chinese forced Pires to write letters for them, demanding that the Portuguese restore the deposed Malaccan Sultahn (King) back onto his throne. The Malay ambassador to China was to deliver the letter.[39]

The Chinese had sent a message to the deposed Sultan (King) of Malacca concerning the fate of the Portuguese embassy, which the Chinese held prisoner. When they received his reply, the Chinese officials then proceeded to executed the Portuguese embassy, slicing their bodies into multiple pieces. Their genitalia were inserted into the oral cavity. The Portuguese were executed in public in multiple areas in Guangzhou, deliberately by the Chinese in order to show that the Portuguese were insignificant in the eyes of the Chinese.[40] When more Portuguese ships landed and were seized by the Chinese, the Chinese then executed them as well, cutting off the genitalia and beheading the bodies and forcing their fellow Portuguese to wear the body parts, while the Chinese celebrated with music. The genitalia and heads were displayed strung up for display in public, after which they were discarded.[41]

Death

The Zhengde Emperor died in 1521 at the age of 29. It was said that he was drunk while boating on a lake one day in the fall of 1520. He fell off his boat and almost drowned.[42] He died after contracting illnesses from the Grand Canal waters.[5] Since none of his several children had survived childhood, he was succeeded by his cousin Zhu Houcong, who became known as the Jiajing Emperor. His tomb is located at Kangling of the Ming Dynasty Tombs.

Legacy

Zhengde Emperor calligraphy plaque "Wonder of the World" on Pagoda of Fogong Temple

Though bred to be a successful ruler, the Zhengde Emperor thoroughly neglected his duties, beginning a dangerous trend that would plague future Ming emperors. The abandonment of official duties to pursue personal gratification would slowly lead to the rise of powerful eunuchs that would dominate and eventually ruin the Ming dynasty.

However, more modern historians have come to view his reign in a new light and debate that his actions along with that of his successors such as the Wanli Emperor were a direct reaction to the bureaucratic gridlock that affected the Ming dynasty in its later half. The emperors were very limited in their policy decision and could not really implement any sort of lasting effective reforms despite the obvious need, while they were faced with constant pressure and were expected to be responsible for all the troubles the dynasty faced. As a result, the ministers became increasingly frustrated and disillusioned about their posts, and protested in different forms of what was essentially an imperial strike. Thus emperors such as the Zhengde Emperor sneaked out of the palace while emperors such as the Jiajing and Wanli emperors simply did not show up in the imperial court.

Cultural reference

  • In the 1959 film Kingdom and the Beauty (江山美人), the Zhengde Emperor disguises himself as a regular commoner among the people.[43][44]
  • The film Chinese Odyssey 2002 was loosely based on a story of one of the Zhengde Emperor's tours in Zhejiang province.
  • In the 2005 television show Zhengde Commentary (正德演義), the Zhengde Emperor was portrayed by television variety show host He Jiong.

Ancestry

References

  1. ^
  2. ^ a b c Chase, Kenneth Warren. [2003] (2003). Firearms: A Global History to 1700. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-82274-2. p 159.
  3. ^ 毛奇齡. 明武宗外紀
  4. ^
  5. ^ a b Wintle, Justin. Guides, Rough. [2002] (2002). China. ISBN 1-85828-764-2. p 244-245.
  6. ^ 謝蕡. 後鑒錄
  7. ^ 自封官职的明武宗(1) 历史密码Ⅱ金瓶梅是形象的历史 潘金莲原型是明宫女
  8. ^ 刑部問寧王案
  9. ^
  10. ^ http://news.cang.com/infos/201007/109498.html
  11. ^ http://www.shangci.net/jiaoyi/30488434.html
  12. ^ http://taoci.chnart.com/index.php?m=content&c=index&a=show&catid=64&id=2246
  13. ^ http://www.shijieshoucangwang.com/service_curio.php?id=1549
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  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^ B. J. ter Haar. Translated by Zakeri, Mohsen. [2005] (2005). Telling Stories: Witchcraft And Scapegoating in Chinese History. ISBN 90-04-13160-4.
  22. ^
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  29. ^ (the University of Michigan)
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  41. ^
  42. ^ Imperial China – 900–1800, F.W. Mote, Pages 658, First Harvard University Press, 2003.
  43. ^ NYtimes. "NYtimes." The Kingdom and the Beauty (1959). Retrieved on 2008-04-30.
  44. ^ Datamovie.xunlei. "Datamovie.xunlei." Kingdom and Beauty. Retrieved on 2008-04-30.
Zhengde Emperor
Born: 26 October 1491 Died: 20 April 1521
Regnal titles
Preceded by
The Hongzhi Emperor
Emperor of China
1505–1521
Succeeded by
The Jiajing Emperor
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