Chenghua Emperor

The Chenghua Emperor (Chinese: 成化帝; pinyin: Chénghuà Dì; 9 December 1447 – 9 September 1487), personal name Zhu Jianshen, was the ninth Emperor of the Ming dynasty, who reigned from 1464 to 1487. His era name "Chenghua" means "accomplished change".

Chenghua Emperor
Portrait assis de l'empereur Ming Xianzong.jpg
Palace portrait on a hanging scroll, kept in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, Taiwan
9th Emperor of the Ming dynasty
Reign28 February 1464 – 9 September 1487
Enthronement28 February 1464
PredecessorEmperor Yingzong
(Tianshun Emperor, Restoration)
SuccessorHongzhi Emperor
Crown Prince of the Ming dynasty
First tenure1449–1452
PredecessorCrown Prince Zhu Qizhen
SuccessorZhu Jianji, Crown Prince Huaixian
Second tenure1457–1464
PredecessorZhu Jianji, Crown Prince Huaixian
SuccessorZhu Youji, Crown Prince Daogong
Prince of Yi (沂王)
BornZhu Jianru
9 December 1447
Zhengtong 12, 2nd day of the 11th month
Died9 September 1487(1487-09-09) (aged 39)
Chenghua 23, 22nd day of the 8th month
Maoling Mausoleum, Ming tombs, Beijing
(m. 1464; dep. 1464)
(m. 1464⁠–⁠1487)
Empress Xiaomu
(m. 1466; died 1475)
Empress Xiaohui
(before 1487)
  • First son
  • Zhu Youji, Crown Prince Daogong
  • Hongzhi Emperor
  • Zhu Youyuan, Prince 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 Youzhi, Prince Ding of Shou
  • Tenth son
  • Zhu Youpeng, Prince An of Ru
  • Zhu Youshu, Prince Zhuang of Rong
  • Zhu Youkai, Prince Yi of Shen
  • Princess Renhe
  • Princess Yongkang
  • Princess Deqing
  • Fourth daughter
  • Princess Changtai
  • Princess Xianyou
Zhu Jianshen[1]
Era name and dates
Chénghuà (成化): 27 January 1465 – 13 January 1488
Posthumous name
Emperor Jitian Ningdao Chengming Renjing Chongwen Suwu Hongde Shengxiao Chun
Temple name
Xianzong (憲宗)
HouseHouse of Zhu
DynastyMing dynasty
FatherEmperor Yingzong
MotherEmpress Xiaosu


Zhu Jianshen was a son of the Zhengtong Emperor (also known as the Tianshun Emperor). He was only two years old when his father was captured by the Oirat Mongols and held captive in 1449. After that, his uncle, the Jingtai Emperor, took over the throne whilst his father was released from Oirats and returned to Beijing in 1450 and was put under house arrest for almost seven years. During this time, Zhu Jianshen lived under his uncle's shadow and even had his title of crown prince removed while the Jingtai Emperor installed his own son as heir. Zhu Jianshen was only reinstated as crown prince on the eve of the death of the Jingtai Emperor in 1457.

A Song dynasty (960–1279) painting of a mother hen and chicks, with a written eulogy at the top inscribed by the Chenghua Emperor describing his fondness for this work.

Reign as emperorEdit

The Chenghua Emperor ascended the throne at the age of 17.[2] During the early part of his administration, he carried out new government policies to reduce tax and strengthen the Ming dynasty. However these did not last and by the closing years of his reign, governmental affairs once again fell into the hands of eunuchs, notably Wang Zhi. Peasant uprisings occurred throughout the country; however, they were violently suppressed. The Chenghua Emperor's reign was also more autocratic than his predecessors' and freedom was sharply curtailed when the emperor established institutes such as the Western Depot (to complement the existing Eastern Depot), monitoring all civilians' actions and words. This institute, not unlike a spy agency, would administer punishment to those whom they suspected of treason. The Western Depot would eventually be shut down but it was the start of a dangerous trend and the Chenghua Emperor's descendants would again revive the Western Depot during the 16th century.

Consort WanEdit

The Chenghua Emperor spent most of his reign under the influence of Consort Wan, an imperial concubine who was seventeen years older than him.[3] Lady Wan had been a mother figure to the young emperor, rearing and protecting the young prince.[2] After he ascended the throne, she quickly became the emperor's favourite consort. She gave birth to a child in 1466, but he died shortly thereafter.[4] She would come to dominate the Emperor's harem for nearly two decades. Lady Wan would employ eunuchs to oversee the harem and report back to her if any concubines became pregnant. Tactics including the forced abortions and even murders of members of the harem resulted in the Chenghua Emperor lamenting that by the age of thirty-one he still lacked a male heir. It was only then revealed to the Emperor that a male heir, the future Hongzhi Emperor, was secretly saved and raised in a secure location outside the palace. After reuniting with the young prince, Zhu Youcheng was created crown prince. Consort Wan died in 1487, and shortly after, the Chenghua Emperor died in the same year, after 23 years on the throne. He was buried in the Maoling Mausoleum of the Ming tombs.


This painting, by an imperial court painter in 1485, depicts the Chenghua Emperor enjoying the festivities with families in the Forbidden City during the Lantern Festival. It includes acrobatic performances, operas, magic shows and setting off firecrackers.

The Chenghua Emperor's reign can be distinguished by his early attempts to reform the government and trying his best to rule the country. His reign also saw a cultural flourishing with famous persons such as Hu Juren and Chen Baisha dominating the academic scene. However, the Chenghua Emperor's reign was prone to dominating individuals in the government and the emperor was easily influenced into granting favours based on who he liked rather than their abilities. This led to the degradation of the ruling class and wasteful spending by corrupt individuals which eventually depleted the Ming government's coffers.


Consorts and Issue:

  • Deposed Empress, of the Wu clan (廢后 吳氏; d. 1509)
  • Empress Xiaozhenchun, of the Wang clan (孝貞純皇后 王氏; d. 1518)
  • Empress Xiaomu, of the Ji clan (孝穆皇后 紀氏; 1451 – July 1475), personal name Tangmei (唐妹)
    • Zhu Youcheng, the Hongzhi Emperor (弘治帝 朱佑樘; 30 July 1470 – 9 June 1505), third son
  • Empress Xiaohui, of the Shao clan (孝惠皇后 邵氏; d. 1522)
    • Zhu Youyuan, Emperor Ruizong (睿宗 朱佑杬; 22 July 1476 – 13 July 1519), fourth son (father of the Jiajing Emperor)
    • Zhu Youlun, Prince Hui of Qi (岐惠王 朱佑棆; 12 November 1478 – 2 December 1501), fifth son
    • Zhu Youyun, Prince Jing of Yong (雍靖王 朱佑枟; 29 June 1481 – 17 January 1507), eighth son
  • Imperial Noble Consort Gongsu, of the Wan clan (恭肅皇貴妃 萬氏; 1428–1487), personal name Zhen'er (貞兒)
    • First son (14 February 1466 – November 1466)
  • Consort Duanshunxian, of the Bo clan (端順賢妃 柏氏; d. 1527)
    • Zhu Youji, Crown Prince Daogong (悼恭皇太子 朱佑極; 7 June 1469 – 5 March 1472), second son
  • Consort Zhuangjingshun, of the Wang clan (莊靖順妃 王氏; 22 April 1448 – 9 January 1495)
    • Princess Renhe (仁和公主; 1476–1544), first daughter
      • Married Qi Shimei (齊世美; d. 1503) in 1489, and had issue (five sons)
  • Consort Gonghuihe, of the Liang clan (恭惠和妃 梁氏; d. 1533)
  • Consort Duanrongzhao, of the Wang clan (端榮昭妃 王氏)
  • Consort Jingshunhui, of the Guo clan (靖順惠妃 郭氏; d. 1491)
    • Princess Yongkang (永康公主; 1478–1547), second daughter
      • Married Cui Yuan (崔元) in 1493, and had issue (two sons, two daughters)
  • Consort Zhuangyide, of the Zhang clan (莊懿德妃 張氏; d. 1497)
    • Zhu Youbin, Prince Duan of Yi (益端王 朱佑檳; 26 January 1479 – 5 October 1539), sixth son
    • Zhu Youhui, Prince Gong of Heng (衡恭王 朱佑楎; 8 December 1479 – 30 August 1538), seventh son
    • Zhu Youpeng, Prince An of Ru (汝安王 朱佑梈; 13 October 1484 – 1541), 11th son
  • Consort Duanyi'an, of the Yao clan (端懿安妃 姚氏; d. 1491)
    • Zhu Youzhi, Prince Ding of Shou (壽定王 朱佑榰; 2 December 1481 – 1545), ninth son
  • Consort Ronghuigong, of the Yang clan (榮惠恭妃 楊氏)
    • Zhu Youshun, Prince Jian of Jing (涇簡王 朱佑橓; 31 March 1485 – 10 July 1537), 12th son
    • Zhu Youkai, Prince Yi of Shen (申懿王 朱佑楷; 3 February 1487 – 20 August 1503), 14th son
  • Consort Kangshunduan, of the Pan clan (康順端妃 潘氏; d. 1538)
    • Zhu Youshu, Prince Zhuang of Rong (榮莊王 朱佑樞; 22 January 1486 – 16 February 1539), 13th son
  • Consort Gongyijing, of the Wang clan (恭懿敬妃 王氏; 1465–1510)
    • Tenth son (19 August 1483 – 8 October 1483)
  • Consort Zhaoshunli, of the Zhang clan (昭順麗妃 章氏; d. 1501)
    • Princess Deqing (德清公主; 17 August 1478 – 17 July 1549), third daughter
      • Married Lin Yue (林岳; d. 1518) in 1496, and had issue (two sons)
  • Consort Hehuijing, of the Yue clan (和惠靜妃 岳氏; 1465–1534)
    • Princess Xianyou (仙遊公主; d. 1492), sixth daughter
  • Consort Jingxirong, of the Tang clan (靖僖榮妃 唐氏; d. 1524)
  • Unknown
    • Fourth daughter
    • Princess Changtai (長泰公主; d. 1487), fifth daughter


Yongle Emperor (1360–1424)
Hongxi Emperor (1378–1425)
Empress Renxiaowen (1362–1407)
Xuande Emperor (1399–1435)
Zhang Qi
Empress Chengxiaozhao (1379–1442)
Lady Tong
Emperor Yingzong of Ming (1427–1464)
Sun Shiying
Sun Zhong (1368–1452)
Lady Ding
Empress Xiaogongzhang (1399–1462)
Dong Yangong
Lady Dong
Lady Qi
Chenghua Emperor (1447–1487)
Zhou Deqing
Zhou Fushan
Lady Du
Zhou Neng
Lady Guo
Empress Xiaosu (1430–1504)
Lady Zhen

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ His original given name Jianjun was changed into Jianshen in 1457 when his father Emperor Yingzong of Ming restored on the throne as Tianshun Emperor.
  2. ^ a b Weatherford, Jack (2010). The secret history of the Mongol queens : how the daughters of Genghis Khan rescued his empire (1st ed.). New York: Crown Publishers. p. 169. ISBN 9780307407153. OCLC 354817523.
  3. ^ Weatherford 2010, p. 169-170.
  4. ^ Weatherford 2010, p. 170.

¹ Imperial China – 900–1800, F.W. Mote, Page 630, First Harvard University Press, 2003.

Chenghua Emperor
Born: 9 December 1447 Died: 9 September 1487
Chinese royalty
Title last held by
Crown Prince Zhu Qizhen
Crown Prince of the Ming dynasty
(First time)

Succeeded by
Zhu Jianji, Crown Prince Huaixian
New title Prince of Yi
Became the Crown Prince
Title last held by
Zhu Jianji, Crown Prince Huaixian
Crown Prince of the Ming dynasty
(Second time)

Title next held by
Zhu Youji, Crown Prince Daogong
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Emperor Yingzong of Ming
(Tianshun Emperor)
Emperor of the Ming dynasty
Emperor of China

Succeeded by