Daoguang Emperor

The Daoguang Emperor (Chinese: 道光帝; pinyin: Dàoguāng Dì; 16 September 1782 – 26 February 1850) was the seventh Emperor of the Qing dynasty, and the sixth Qing emperor to rule over China proper, reigning from 1820 to 1850. His reign was marked by "external disaster and internal rebellion," that is, by the First Opium War, and the beginning of the Taiping Rebellion which nearly brought down the dynasty. The historian Jonathan Spence characterizes the Daoguang Emperor as a "well meaning but ineffective man" who promoted officials who "presented a purist view even if they had nothing to say about the domestic and foreign problems surrounding the dynasty."[1]

Daoguang Emperor
清 佚名 《清宣宗道光皇帝朝服像》.jpg
Prince Zhi of the First Rank
Reign1813 – 3 October 1820
Emperor of the Qing dynasty
Reign3 October 1820 – 26 February 1850
PredecessorJiaqing Emperor
SuccessorXianfeng Emperor
BornAisin Gioro Mianning
(1782-09-16)16 September 1782
(乾隆四十七年 八月 十日)
Xiefang Hall, Forbidden City
Died26 February 1850(1850-02-26) (aged 67)
(道光三十年 正月 十五日)
Jiuzhou Qingyan Hall, Old Summer Palace
Mu Mausoleum, Western Qing tombs
(m. 1796; died 1808)

(m. 1809; died 1833)

(m. 1821; died 1840)

(m. 1825⁠–⁠1850)
Xianfeng Emperor
Yicong, Prince Dunqin of the First Rank
Yixin, Prince Gongzhong of the First Rank
Yixuan, Prince Chunxian of the First Rank
Yihe, Prince Zhongduan of the Second Rank
Yihui, Prince Fujing of the Second Rank
Princess Shou'an of the First Rank
Princess Shouzang of the Second Rank
Princess Shou'en of the First Rank
Princess Shouxi of the Second Rank
Princess Shouzhuang of the First Rank
Aisin Gioro Minning
(愛新覺羅 旻寧)
Manchu: Min ning (ᠮᡳᠨ ᠨᡳᠩ)
Era dates
(道光; 3 February 1821 – 31 January 1851)
Manchu: Doro eldengge (ᡩᠣᡵᠣ ᡝᠯᡩᡝᠩᡤᡝ)
Mongolian: Төр Гэрэлт (ᠲᠥᠷᠥ ᠭᠡᠷᠡᠯᠲᠦ)
Posthumous name
Emperor Xiaotian Fuyun Lizhong Tizheng Zhiwen Shengwu Zhiyong Renci Jianqin Xiaomin Kuanding Cheng
Manchu: Šanggan hūwangdi (ᡧᠠᠩᡤᠠᠨ
Temple name
Manchu: Siowandzung (ᠰᡳᡠᠸᠠᠨᡯᡠᠩ)
HouseAisin Gioro
FatherJiaqing Emperor
MotherEmpress Xiaoshurui
Daoguang Emperor

Early yearsEdit

The Daoguang Emperor was born in the Forbidden City, Beijing, in 1782, and was given the name Mianning (绵宁; 綿寧; Miánníng; Mien-ning). It was later changed to Minning (旻宁; 旻寧; Mǐnníng; Min-ning) when he became emperor. The first character of his private name was changed from Mian to Min to avoid the relatively common character Mian. This novelty was introduced by his grandfather, the reigning Qianlong Emperor, who thought it inappropriate to use a common character in the emperor's private name due to the longstanding practice of naming taboo.

Mianning was the second son of Prince Yongyan, the 15th son and heir of the Qianlong Emperor. Even though he was Yongyan's second son, he was first in line after Prince Yongyan to his grandfather's throne. This was because according to the dishu system, his mother, Lady Hitara, was Yongyan's primary spouse whereas his elder brother was born to Yongyan's concubine. Mianning was favoured by his grandfather, the Qianlong Emperor. He frequently accompanied his grandfather on hunting trips. On one such trip, at the age of nine, Mianning successfully hunted a deer, which greatly amused the Qianlong Emperor. The emperor would abdicate five years after that incident, in 1796, when Mianning was 14. Mianning’s father Prince Yongyan was then enthroned as the Jiaqing Emperor, after which he made Lady Hitara (Mianning's mother) his empress consort. The elderly Qianlong would live three more years in retirement before dying in 1799, aged 88, when Mianning was 17.

In 1813, while he was still a prince, Mianning also played a vital role in repelling and killing Eight Trigrams invaders who stormed the Forbidden City.


The Daoguang Emperor inspecting his guards at the Meridian Gate of the Forbidden City

Khoja rebellion in XinjiangEdit

The Daoguang Emperor is presented with prisoners of the campaign to pacify rebels in Xinjiang at the Meridian Gate in 1828

In September 1820, at the age of 38, Mianning inherited the throne after the Jiaqing Emperor died suddenly of unknown causes. He became the first Qing emperor who was the eldest legitimate son of his father. Now known as the Daoguang Emperor, he inherited a declining empire with Westerners encroaching upon the borders of China. The Daoguang Emperor had been ruling for six years when the exiled heir to the Khojas, Jahangir Khoja, attacked Xinjiang from Kokand in the Afaqi Khoja revolts. By the end of 1826, the former Qing cities of Kashgar, Yarkand, Khotan, and Yangihissar had all fallen to the rebels.[2][3] After a friend betrayed him in March 1827, Khoja was sent to Beijing in an iron litter and subsequently executed,[4] while the Qing Empire regained control of their lost territory. The Uyghur Muslim Sayyid and Naqshbandi Sufi rebel of the Afaqi suborder, Jahangir Khoja was sliced to death (Lingchi) in 1828 by the Manchus for leading a rebellion against the Qing.

First Opium WarEdit

During the Daoguang Emperor's reign, China experienced major problems with opium, which was imported into China by British merchants. Opium had started to trickle into China during the reign of the Yongzheng Emperor, but was limited to approximately 200 chests annually. By the time of the Qianlong era, this amount had increased to 1,000 chests, 4,000 chests by the Jiaqing era and more than 30,000 chests during the Daoguang era.

Destroying Chinese war junks during the First Opium War

The Daoguang Emperor issued many imperial edicts banning opium in the 1820s and 1830s, which were carried out by Lin Zexu, whom he appointed as an Imperial Commissioner. Lin Zexu's efforts to halt the spread of opium in China led directly to the First Opium War. With the development of the First Opium War, Lin Zexu was made a scapegoat. The Daoguang Emperor removed his authority and banished him to Yili. Meanwhile, in the Himalayas, the Sikh Empire attempted an occupation of Tibet but was defeated in the Sino-Sikh war (1841–1842). On the coasts, the Qing Empire lost the war, exposing their technological and military inferiority to European powers, and ceded Hong Kong to the British in the Treaty of Nanjing in August 1842.


In 1811, a clause sentencing Europeans to death for spreading Catholicism had been added to the statute called "Prohibitions Concerning Sorcerers and Sorceresses" (禁止師巫邪術) in the Great Qing Legal Code.[5] Protestants hoped that the Qing government would discriminate between Protestantism and Catholicism, since the law mentioned the latter by name, but after Protestant missionaries gave Christian books to Chinese people[who?] in 1835 and 1836, the Daoguang Emperor demanded to know who were the "traitorous natives" in Guangzhou who had supplied them with books.[6][page needed]

Nobility titlesEdit

The Daoguang Emperor granted the title of "Wujing Boshi" (五經博士; Wǔjīng Bóshì) to the descendants of Ran Qiu.[7]

Death and legacyEdit

The Daoguang Emperor died on 26 February 1850 at the Old Summer Palace, 8 km/5 miles northwest of Beijing, being the last Qing emperor to pass away in that Palace before it was burnt down by Anglo-French troops during the Second Opium War, a decade later. He was succeeded by his eldest surviving son, Yizhu, who was later enthroned as the Xianfeng Emperor. The Daoguang Emperor failed to understand the intention or determination of the Europeans, or the basic economics of a war on drugs. Although the Europeans were outnumbered and thousands of miles away from logistical support in their native countries, they could bring far superior firepower to bear at any point of contact along the Chinese coast. The Qing government was highly dependent on the continued flow of taxes from southern China via the Grand Canal, which the British expeditionary force easily cut off at Zhenjiang. The Daoguang Emperor ultimately had a poor understanding of the British and the industrial revolution that Britain and Western Europe had undergone, preferring to turn a blind eye to the rest of the world, though the distance from China to Europe most likely played a part. It was said that the emperor did not even know where Britain was located in the world. His 30-year reign introduced the initial onslaught by Western imperialism and foreign invasions that would plague China, in one form or another, for the next one hundred years.

The Daoguang Emperor was interred in the Mu (慕; lit. "Longing" or "Admiration") mausoleum complex, which is part of the Western Qing Tombs, 120 kilometers/75 miles southwest of Beijing.

On a side note, the Daoguang Emperor was the last Qing emperor to be able to choose an heir among his sons since his successors either had only one surviving son or had no offspring.


From top to bottom, left to right: Empress Xiaoquancheng, the Daoguang Emperor, Princess Shou'an of the First Rank, Yizhu, a lady-in-waiting, Yixin, Noble Consort Jing and Noble Consort Tong; circa 1837
From left to right: Yixin, Yizhu, Yihe, Yihui, Yixuan, the Daoguang Emperor, Princess Shou'an of the First Rank and Princess Shou'en of the First Rank; circa 1848

Consorts and IssueEdit

  • Empress Xiaomucheng, of the Niohuru clan (孝穆成皇后 鈕祜祿氏; 1781 – 17 February 1808), fifth cousin eight times removed
  • Empress Xiaoshencheng, of the Tunggiya clan (孝慎成皇后 佟佳氏; 5 July 1792 – 16 June 1833)
    • Princess Duanmin of the First Rank (端憫固倫公主; 29 July 1813 – 7 December 1819), first daughter
  • Empress Xiaoquancheng, of the Niohuru clan (孝全成皇后 鈕祜祿氏; 24 March 1808 – 13 February 1840)
    • Miscarriage (2 January 1824)
    • Princess Duanshun of the First Rank (端順固倫公主; 8 April 1825 – 27 December 1835), third daughter
    • Princess Shou'an of the First Rank (壽安固倫公主; 12 May 1826 – 24 March 1860), fourth daughter
      • Married Demchüghjab (德穆楚克扎布; d. 1865) of the Naiman Borjigit clan on 15 November 1841
    • Yizhu, the Xianfeng Emperor (文宗 奕詝; 17 July 1831 – 22 August 1861), fourth son
  • Empress Xiaojingcheng, of the Khorchin Borjigit clan (孝靜成皇后 博爾濟吉特氏; 19 June 1812 – 21 August 1855), fifth cousin
    • Yigang, Prince Shunhe of the Second Rank (順和郡王 奕綱; 22 November 1826 – 5 March 1827), second son
    • Miscarriage at four months (28 June 1828)
    • Yiji, Prince Huizhi of the Second Rank (慧質郡王 奕繼; 2 December 1829 – 22 January 1830), third son
    • Princess Shou'en of the First Rank (壽恩固倫公主; 20 January 1831 – 15 May 1859), sixth daughter
      • Married Jingshou (景壽; 1829–1889) of the Manchu Fuca clan in May/June 1845, and had issue (one son)
    • Yixin, Prince Gongzhong of the First Rank (恭忠親王 奕䜣; 11 January 1833 – 29 May 1898), sixth son
  • Imperial Noble Consort Zhuangshun, of the Uya clan (莊順皇貴妃 烏雅氏; 29 November 1822 – 13 December 1866)
    • Yixuan, Prince Chunxian of the First Rank (醇賢親王 奕譞; 16 October 1840 – 1 January 1891), seventh son
    • Princess Shouzhuang of the First Rank (壽莊固倫公主; 24 March 1844 – 11 March 1935), ninth daughter
      • Married Dehui (德徽; d. 1859) of the Bolod (博罗特) clan in December 1859 or January 1860 and had issue (daughter)
    • Yihe, Prince Zhongduan of the Second Rank (鐘端郡王 奕詥; 14 March 1844 – 17 December 1868), eighth son
    • Yihui, Prince Fujing of the Second Rank (孚敬郡王 奕譓; 15 November 1845 – 22 March 1877), ninth son
    • Miscarriage (1848)
  • Noble Consort Tong, of the Šumuru clan (彤貴妃 舒穆魯氏; 3 June 1817 – 1877)
    • Seventh daughter (30 July 1840 – 27 January 1845)
    • Princess Shouxi of the Second Rank (壽禧和碩公主; 7 January 1842 – 10 September 1866), eighth daughter
      • Married Jalafungga (扎拉豐阿; d. 1898) of the Manchu Niohuru clan in November/December 1863
    • Tenth daughter (4 May 1844 – 26 February 1845)
  • Noble Consort Jia, of the Gogiya clan (佳貴妃 郭佳氏; 21 November 1816 – 24 May 1890)
  • Noble Consort Cheng, of the Niohuru clan (成貴妃 鈕祜祿氏; 10 March 1813 – 10 May 1888)
  • Consort He, of the Hoifa Nara clan (和妃 輝發那拉氏; d. 18 May 1836)
    • Yiwei, Prince Yinzhi of the Second Rank (隱志郡王 奕緯; 16 May 1808 – 23 May 1831), first son and heir presumptive for the greater part of his father's early reign
  • Consort Xiang, of the Niohuru clan (祥妃 鈕祜祿氏; 9 February 1808 – 15 February 1861)
    • Second daughter (2 March 1825 – 27 August 1825)
    • Princess Shouzang of the Second Rank (壽臧和碩公主; 15 November 1829 – 9 August 1856), fifth daughter
      • Married Enchong (恩崇; d. 1864) of the Manchu Namdulu (那木都魯) clan on 3 January 1843
    • Yicong, Prince Dunqin of the First Rank (惇勤親王 奕誴; 23 July 1831 – 18 February 1889), fifth son; adopted by his uncle Miankai (綿愷) early on
  • Consort Chang, of the Hešeri clan (常妃 赫舍里氏; 31 December 1808 – 10 May 1860)
  • Concubine Tian, of the Fuca clan (恬嬪 富察氏; 15 April 1789 – 21 August 1845)
  • Concubine Shun, of the Nara clan (順嬪 那拉氏; 28 February 1811 – 11 April 1868)
  • Concubine Yu, of the Shang clan (豫嬪 尚氏; 20 December 1816 – 24 September 1897)
  • Concubine Heng, of the Cai clan (恆嬪 蔡氏; d. 28 May 1876)


Kangxi Emperor (1654–1722)
Yongzheng Emperor (1678–1735)
Empress Xiaogongren (1660–1723)
Qianlong Emperor (1711–1799)
Lingzhu (1664–1754)
Empress Xiaoshengxian (1692–1777)
Lady Peng
Jiaqing Emperor (1760–1820)
Empress Xiaoyichun (1727–1775)
Lady Yanggiya
Daoguang Emperor (1782–1850)
Lady Wanggiya
Lady Ligiya
Empress Xiaoshurui (1760–1797)
Lady Wanggiya

In fiction and popular cultureEdit

See alsoEdit



  1. ^ Spence 1990, pp. 149, 166.
  2. ^ Millward 1998, p. 34.
  3. ^ "Zhuozhou Celebrity — Lu Kun (涿州名人-卢坤)". Xinhuanet (in Chinese). 15 June 2012. Archived from the original on 21 January 2013. Retrieved 21 February 2014.
  4. ^ Rahul 2000, p. 98.
  5. ^ Maclay 1861, pp. 336–337.
  6. ^ Maclay 1861.
  7. ^ Qin ding da Qing hui dian (Jiaqing chao)0. 1818. p. 1084.


Further readingEdit

  • Jane Kate Leonard. Controlling from Afar: The Daoguang Emperor's Management of the Grand Canal Crisis, 1824–1826. Michigan Monographs in Chinese Studies. Ann Arbor: Center for Chinese Studies, University of Michigan, 1996. ISBN 0892641142. Shows the Daoguang Emperor in a competent and effective mode when dealing with a crisis early in his reign.
  • Pierre-Etienne Will, "Views of the Realm in Crisis: Testimonies on Imperial Audiences in the Nineteenth Century." Late Imperial China 29, no. 1S (2008): 125–59. JSTOR Link. Uses transcripts of imperial audiences to present Daoguang as more a victim of circumstances than the bumbling administrator in many accounts.
  • Gützlaff, Karl (1852). Life of Taou-Kwang, Late Emperor of China. London, England: Smith, Elder & Co. The only biography of the Daoguang Emperor; written by a missionary and contemporary.
  • Evelyn S. Rawski, The Last Emperors: A Social History of Qing Imperial Institutions (Berkeley: University of Californian Press, 2001) ISBN 0-520-22837-5.
  • Daily life in the Forbidden City, Wan Yi, Wang Shuqing, Lu Yanzhen. ISBN 0-670-81164-5.
  • 《清史稿》 [Draft History of Qing] (in Chinese).

External linksEdit

Daoguang Emperor
Born: 16 September 1782 Died: 26 February 1850
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Jiaqing Emperor
Emperor of the Qing dynasty
Emperor of China

Succeeded by
Xianfeng Emperor