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Yixin (11 January 1833 – 29 May 1898), better known in English as Prince Kung or Gong, was an imperial prince of the Aisin Gioro clan and an important statesman of the Manchu-led Qing dynasty in China. He was a regent of the empire from 1861 to 1865 and wielded great influence at other times as well.
|Prince Gong of the First Rank|
|Prince Gong of the First Rank|
|Tenure||25 February 1850 – 29 May 1898|
|In office||1853 – 1855|
|In office||1861 – 1884|
|In office||1894 – 1898|
|Born||11 January 1833|
|Died||29 May 1898 (aged 65)|
(m. 1848; died 1880)
Princess Rongshou of the First Rank
At a young age, Yixin was already noted for his brilliance and was once considered by his father the Daoguang Emperor as a potential heir. However, his older half-brother Yizhu eventually inherited the throne as the Xianfeng Emperor. During the Second Opium War in 1860, Prince Gong negotiated with the British, French and Russians, signing the Convention of Beijing on behalf of the Qing Empire. Following the death of the Xianfeng Emperor, Prince Gong launched the Xinyou Coup in 1861 with the aid of the Empress Dowagers Ci'an and Cixi and seized power from a group of eight regents appointed by the Xianfeng Emperor on his deathbed to assist his young son and successor, the Tongzhi Emperor. After the coup, he served as Prince-Regent from 1861–65 and presided over the reforms implemented during the Tongzhi Restoration (1860–74). Despite his demotions in 1865 and 1874 for alleged corruption and disrespect towards the Emperor, Prince Gong continued to lead the Grand Council and remain a highly influential figure in the Qing government. The final decades of Prince Gong's career, under the reign of his nephew the Guangxu Emperor, were marred by his conflict with conservative elements in the Qing imperial court – particularly his former ally Cixi – and ended with his death in relative disgrace.
Having established in 1861 the Zongli Yamen, the Qing government's de facto foreign affairs ministry, Prince Gong is best remembered for advocating greater constructive engagement between the Qing Empire and the great powers of that era, as well as for his attempts to modernise China in the late 19th century. His former residence, "Prince Gong's Mansion", is now one of Beijing's few AAAAA-rated tourist attractions.
|Literal meaning||Master of the Hall of the Way of Music|
|Manchu script||ᡳ ᡥᡳᠨ|
|Literal meaning||The Respectful Prince of the Blood|
|Literal meaning||The Respectful and Loyal Prince of the Blood|
Yixin is the pinyin romanisation of the Mandarin pronunciation of his Manchu name I-hin. He shared his surname Aisin Gioro with the other members of the Qing imperial family. His courtesy or art name was "Master of the Yuedao Hall" or "Hall of the Way of Music".
Kung is the Wade-Giles romanisation of Mandarin pronunciation of the same Chinese character 恭, now spelt Gōng in pinyin. It is not really a name but a part of a descriptive title — "The Respectful Prince of the Blood" — previously borne by Changning, the fifth son of the Shunzhi Emperor. The Chinese title 王 translates literally as "king" but is usually understood as a "prince" in terms of the imperial Chinese nobility. Because Changning's rank had not been given "iron-cap" status, each generation of his descendants were reduced in rank unless they somehow proved themselves anew and earned a new title of their own. Yixin, however, was given "iron-cap" status and his direct heirs inherited his full title as well. In English, however, it is usually misunderstood as a name: Prince Kung in older sources and Prince Gong in newer ones. He was also sometimes known as the "Sixth Prince" or, less flatteringly, "Devil #6". He was posthumously known as "the Respectful and Loyal Prince of the Blood": Prince Kung-chung or Gongzhong.
Yixin was born in the Aisin Gioro clan, the imperial clan of the Manchu-led Qing dynasty, as the sixth son of the Daoguang Emperor. He was the third son of his mother, Imperial Noble Consort Jing, who was from the Khorchin Mongol Borjigit clan. He studied in the imperial library and practised martial arts with his fourth brother, Yizhu. He created 28 qiang (spear) movements and 18 dao (sword) movements, which were respectively named "Lihua Xieli" (棣華協力) and "Bao'e Xuanwei" (寶鍔宣威) by his father. His father also gave him a White Rainbow Sword (白虹刀) as a gift.
Yixin was mentored by Zhuo Bingtian (卓秉恬) and Jia Zhen (賈楨), two eminent scholar-officials who obtained the position of jinshi (進士; successful candidate) in the imperial examination in 1802 and 1826 respectively.
In 1850, when the Daoguang Emperor became critically ill, he summoned Zaiquan (載銓), Zaiyuan, Duanhua, Sengge Rinchen, Mujangga, He Rulin (何汝霖), Chen Fu'en (陳孚恩) and Ji Zhichang (季芝昌) to Shende Hall (慎德堂) in the Old Summer Palace, where he revealed to them a secret edict he wrote previously. According to the edict, the Fourth Prince, Yizhu, would become the new emperor while Yixin, the Sixth Prince, would be made a qinwang (first-rank prince). He died on the same day.
Under the Xianfeng EmperorEdit
Yizhu ascended the throne in 1850 after the death of the Daoguang Emperor and adopted the regnal title "Xianfeng"; he is thus historically known as the Xianfeng Emperor. In accordance with their father's secret edict, the newly enthroned Xianfeng Emperor granted Yixin the title "Prince Gong of the First Rank" (恭親王) in the same year. In 1851, the Xianfeng Emperor established an office for Prince Gong, gave him permission to enter the inner imperial court, assigned him to be in charge of patrol and defence matters, and ordered him to continue carrying the White Rainbow Sword given to him by their father.
In October 1853, as the Taiping rebels closed in on Jinan (畿南; the area south of the Hai River), Prince Gong was appointed to the Grand Council, which was in charge of military affairs. The following year, he received three additional appointments: dutong (都統; Banner Commander), you zongzheng (右宗正; Right Director of the Imperial Clan Court) and zongling (宗令; Head of the Imperial Clan Court). He was publicly praised in May 1855 after the Taiping rebels were driven out of Jinan.
When Prince Gong's mother died in August 1855, the Xianfeng Emperor reprimanded Prince Gong for failing to observe court protocol and removed him from the Grand Council and his zongling and dutong appointments. However, Prince Gong was still permitted to enter the inner imperial court and the imperial library. He was restored to his position as a dutong in June 1856, and further appointed as an Interior Minister (內大臣) in May 1859.
Second Opium WarEdit
In September 1860, during the Second Opium War, as the Anglo-French forces closed in on the capital Beijing, the Xianfeng Emperor ordered Zaiyuan and Muyin (穆廕) to negotiate for peace at Tongzhou with the enemy. The Anglo-French delegation, which included Harry Smith Parkes and Henry Loch, were taken prisoner by the Mongol general Sengge Rinchen during the negotiations. Sengge Rinchen then led his elite Mongol cavalry to attack the Anglo-French forces at the Battle of Baliqiao but was defeated. The Xianfeng Emperor recalled Zaiyuan and Muyin from Tongzhou, fled with most of his imperial court to Rehe Province, and appointed Prince Gong as an Imperial Commissioner with Discretion and Full Authority (欽差便宜行事全權大臣).
Prince Gong moved to Changxindian (長辛店; in present-day Fengtai District, Beijing) and called for an assembly of the troops stationed there to enforce greater discipline and raise their morale. On one hand, Qinghui (慶惠) suggested to the Xianfeng Emperor to release Harry Smith Parkes and let Prince Gong continue negotiating. On the other hand, Yidao (義道) urged the emperor to surrender Beijing to the enemy. In the meantime, the British and French looted and burnt down the Old Summer Palace in the northwest of Beijing.
On 24 October 1860, Prince Gong concluded the negotiations with the British, French and Russians, and signed the Convention of Beijing on behalf of the Qing Empire. He then wrote a memorial to the Xianfeng Emperor, requesting to be punished for signing the unequal treaty. The emperor replied, "The responsibility assigned to Prince Gong to carry on peace negotiations is not an easy one to shoulder. I deeply understand the difficult situation he was put into. There is no need to punish him." Prince Gong settled the diplomatic affairs in Beijing by the end of 1860.
In 1861, Prince Gong set up the Zongli Yamen, which functioned as the Qing government's de facto foreign affairs ministry, and placed Guiliang (桂良) and Wenxiang in charge of it. He wrote a memorial to the Xianfeng Emperor, proposing to enhance the training of Banner Troops in Beijing and let the Qing troops stationed in Jilin and Heilongjiang provinces train with the Russian Empire's forces and stockpile military supplies. The generals Shengbao (勝保), Jingchun (景淳) and others were ordered to train the troops in Beijing and northeast China.
Under the Tongzhi EmperorEdit
Before the Xianfeng Emperor died in August 1861 in the Chengde Mountain Resort, he appointed a group of eight regents – led by Zaiyuan, Duanhua and Sushun – to assist his underage son and successor, Zaichun. Yixin's flexible attitude towards dealing with the Western powers had put him at odds with the eight regents, who were politically conservative and opposed to Western influence. Upon request, Prince Gong was granted permission to travel to Chengde to attend the funeral. In Chengde, he met the Empress Dowagers Ci'an and Cixi and told them about how the eight regents monopolised state power. When the Xianfeng Emperor's coffin arrived back in Beijing in November 1861, Prince Gong and the two empress dowagers launched a coup – historically known as the Xinyou Coup (辛酉政變) – to oust the eight regents from power. The regents were arrested and removed from their positions of power.
Zaichun, who was enthroned as the "Tongzhi Emperor", appointed Prince Gong as Prince-Regent (議政王) and granted him some special privileges. These privileges included: "iron-cap" status awarded to the Prince Gong title/peerage; an increment in salary to twice that of a normal qinwang (first-rank prince); exemptions from having to kowtow in the emperor's presence and having to write his name on memorials submitted to the emperor. Prince Gong firmly declined to accept the "iron-cap" privilege, and instead sought to be concurrently appointed as zongling (宗令; Head of the Imperial Clan Court) and put in charge of the Shenjiying (a firearms-equipped unit in the Qing army). The two empress dowagers also ordered Prince Gong to supervise Hongde Hall (弘德殿; a hall in the Forbidden City), where the Tongzhi Emperor studied.
In 1864, Qing forces finally suppressed the Taiping Rebellion after a war lasting more than a decade, and recaptured Jiangning (江寧; in present-day Nanjing) from the rebels. The imperial court issued a decree to praise Prince Gong for his effective leadership in the regency that led to the end of the rebellion – in addition to conferring more prestigious titles on his sons Zaicheng, Zaijun and Zaiying.
As the longstanding leader of the Zongli Yamen, which he established in 1861, Prince Gong was responsible for spearheading various reforms in the early stages of the Self-Strengthening Movement, a series of measures and policy changes implemented by the Qing government with the aim of modernising China. He also founded the Tongwen Guan in 1862 for Chinese scholars to study technology and foreign languages.
Fall from graceEdit
Around April 1865, an official, Cai Shouqi (蔡壽祺), accused Prince Gong of "monopolising state power, accepting bribes, practising favouritism, behaving arrogantly, and showing disrespect towards the Emperor". The Empress Dowagers Ci'an and Cixi publicly reprimanded Prince Gong and stripped him of his position as Prince-Regent. Yishen (奕脤), Yixuan, Wang Zheng (王拯), Sun Yimou (孫翼謀), Yin Zhaoyong (殷兆鏞), Pan Zuyin, Wang Weizhen (王維珍), Guangcheng (廣誠) and others pleaded with the empress dowagers to pardon Prince Gong and make him Prince-Regent again. Although the empress dowagers did not restore Prince Gong as Prince-Regent, they permitted him to remain in the inner imperial court and continue running the Zongli Yamen. Prince Gong personally thanked the empress dowagers and made a tearful apology. The empress dowagers issued a decree announcing: "The Prince practised favouritism. As we are bound by a common cause and have high expectations of him, we cannot show leniency in punishing him. He will still be allowed to oversee the Grand Council."
In March 1868, as the Nian rebels approached the suburbs of Beijing, Prince Gong was tasked with mobilising troops and managing defence arrangements. He was also appointed as you zongzheng (右宗正; Right Director of the Imperial Clan Court).
In 1869, An Dehai, a court eunuch and close aide of Empress Dowager Cixi, was arrested and executed in Shandong Province by Ding Baozhen, the provincial governor. This was because it was a capital crime for eunuchs to travel out of the Forbidden City without authorisation. The empress dowager became more suspicious of Prince Gong because she believed that he instigated Ding Baozhen to execute An Dehai.
Demotion and restorationEdit
In October 1872, when the Tongzhi Emperor married the Jiashun Empress, he granted Prince Gong the "iron-cap" privilege again. He officially took over the reins of power from his regents in around February 1873. In the same year, Prince Gong displeased Empress Dowager Cixi when he strongly opposed her plan to rebuild the Old Summer Palace.
In August 1874, Prince Gong was reprimanded and punished again for failing to observe court protocol. This time, he was demoted from a qinwang (first-rank prince) to a junwang (second-rank prince). Zaicheng, Prince Gong's eldest son, also lost his beile title. Despite his demotion, Prince Gong was still allowed to remain in the Grand Council. The following day, the empress dowagers ordered Prince Gong and Zaicheng to be restored as a qinwang and beile respectively. Towards the end of the year, the Tongzhi Emperor increased Prince Gong's salary by more than twice that of a normal qinwang, but died not long later in around December.
Under the Guangxu EmperorEdit
The Guangxu Emperor, who succeeded the Tongzhi Emperor in 1875, continued the practices of exempting Prince Gong from having to kowtow in the emperor's presence and having to write his name on memorials submitted to the emperor. Prince Gong was also appointed as zongling (宗令; Head of the Imperial Clan Court).
In 1884, when the French invaded Vietnam, Prince Gong and the members of the Grand Council were unable to arrive at a decision on whether or not to intervene in Vietnam and go to war with the French. As a consequence, Empress Dowager Cixi reprimanded Prince Gong and his colleagues for their dispirited and indecisive attitude towards the war, and removed them from their positions. Prince Gong stopped receiving his double salary and was ordered to retire to recuperate from illness. However, he started receiving his double salary again from November 1886 and was allowed to receive his share of the offerings from ceremonial events. He remained in Jietai Temple in western Beijing for most of the time.
Prince Gong's seventh brother, Yixuan (Prince Chun), replaced him as the head of the Grand Council. Some officials such as Baojun (寶鋆), Li Hongzao, Jinglian (景廉) and Weng Tonghe, who previously served in Prince Gong's administration, were also dismissed from office. The incident is known as the "Cabinet Change of Jiashen" (甲申易樞) or "Political Change of Jiashen" (甲申朝局之變) because it took place in the jiashen year according to the Chinese sexagenary cycle.
First Sino-Japanese WarEdit
In 1894, when the Japanese invaded Korea and the situation became dire, Empress Dowager Cixi summoned Prince Gong back to the imperial court, placed him in charge of the Zongli Yamen again, and tasked him with supervising the Beiyang Fleet (the Qing navy) and military affairs. Although Prince Gong had been recalled to politics, Empress Dowager Cixi also decreed that since he had not yet recovered from illness, he was exempted from having to constantly attend court sessions.
In 1898, Prince Gong was appointed as zongling again, but he became critically ill by the end of April. Empress Dowager Cixi visited him thrice during this period of time. He eventually died at the age of 67 (by East Asian age reckoning) in May.
The Guangxu Emperor personally attended Prince Gong's funeral and, as a sign of mourning, cancelled imperial court sessions for five days and ordered mourning attire to be worn for 15 days. The emperor also granted Prince Gong the posthumous name "Zhong" (忠; literally "loyal"), gave him a place in the Imperial Ancestral Temple, and issued an edict honouring Prince Gong as a role model of loyalty that all Qing subjects should learn from.
Consorts and Issue:
- Primary consort, of the Gūwalgiya clan (嫡福晉 瓜爾佳氏; 1834 – 29 June 1880)
- Princess Rongshou of the First Rank (榮壽固倫公主; 28 February 1854 – 1924), first daughter
- Married Zhiduan (志端; d. 1871) of the Manchu Fuca clan on 15 October 1866
- Zaicheng, Prince Guomin of the Third Rank (果敏貝勒 載澂; 12 September 1858 – 21 July 1885), first son
- Second daughter (15 March 1860 – 28 March 1864)
- Zaijun, Duke of the Second Rank (輔國公 載濬; 31 July 1864 – 6 June 1866), third son
- Princess Rongshou of the First Rank (榮壽固倫公主; 28 February 1854 – 1924), first daughter
- Secondary consort, of the Xuegiya clan (側福晉 薛佳氏)
- Zaiying, Prince of the Third Rank (貝勒 載瀅; 11 March 1861 – 29 September 1909), second son
- Secondary consort, of the Liugiya clan (側福晉 劉佳氏)
- Third daughter (6 March 1879 – 12 June 1880)
- Fifth daughter (b. 24 July 1884)
- Secondary consort, of the Liugiya clan (側福晉 劉佳氏)
- Zaihuang, Duke of the Fourth Rank (不入八分輔國公 載潢; 11 November 1880 – 3 March 1885), fourth son
- Secondary consort, of the Janggiya clan (側福晉 張佳氏; 1858 – 4 October 1883)
- Fourth daughter (31 August 1881 – 8 September 1882)
|Yongzheng Emperor (1678–1735)|
|Qianlong Emperor (1711–1799)|
|Empress Xiaoshengxian (1692–1777)|
|Jiaqing Emperor (1760–1820)|
|Empress Xiaoyichun (1727–1775)|
|Daoguang Emperor (1782–1850)|
|Empress Xiaoshurui (1760–1797)|
|Empress Xiaojingcheng (1812–1855)|
|Chengxin (d. 1758)|
|Yongxi (d. 1821)|
|Lady Aisin Gioro|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Yixin, 1st Prince Gong.|
- Official site, Beijing: Prince Kung's Palace Museum, 2014, archived from the original on 2018-08-29, retrieved 2017-11-08.
- Fang, Chao-ying (1943). "I-hsin". In Arthur W. Hummel (ed.). Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period. Washington: United States Government Printing Office. pp. 380–384.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
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- (與文宗同在書房，肄武事，共制槍法二十八勢、刀法十八勢，宣宗賜以名，槍曰「棣華協力」，刀曰「寶鍔宣威」，並以白虹刀賜奕訢。) Qing Shi Gao vol. 221.
- Qing Shi Liezhuan vol. 40.
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- (丙午，上不豫。丁未，上疾大漸。召宗人府宗令載銓，御前大臣載垣、端華、僧格林沁，軍機大臣穆彰阿、賽尚阿、何汝霖、陳孚恩、季芝昌，總管內務府大臣文慶公啟鐍匣，宣示御書「皇四子立為皇太子」。是日，上崩於圓明園慎德堂苫次。硃諭「封皇六子奕訢為親王」。) Qing Shi Gao vol. 19.
- (文宗即位，封為恭親王。咸豐二年四月，分府，命仍在內廷行走。內大臣辦理巡防，命仍佩白虹刀。) Qing Shi Gao vol. 221.
- (三年九月，洪秀全兵逼畿南，以王署領侍命在軍機大臣上行走。四年，迭授都統、右宗正、宗令。五年四月，以畿輔肅清，予優叙。) Qing Shi Gao vol. 221.
- (七月，孝靜成皇后崩，上責王禮儀疏略，罷軍機大臣、宗令、都統，仍在內廷行走，上書房讀書。七年五月，復授都統。九年四月，授內大臣。) Qing Shi Gao vol. 221.
- (十年八月，英吉利、法蘭西兵逼京師，上命怡親王載垣、尚書穆廕與議和，誘執英使巴夏禮，與戰，師不利。文宗幸熱河，召回載垣、穆廕，授王欽差便宜行事全權大臣。) Qing Shi Gao vol. 221.
- (王出駐長辛店，奏請飭統兵大臣激勵兵心，以維大局。克勤郡王慶惠等奏釋巴夏禮，趣王入城議和。英、法兵焚圓明園。豫親王義道等奏啟城，許英、法兵入。) Qing Shi Gao vol. 221.
- (王入城與議和，定約，悉從英、法人所請，奏請降旨宣示，並自請議處。上諭曰：「恭親王辦理撫局，本屬不易。朕深諒苦衷，毋庸議處。」十二月，奏通商善後諸事。) Qing Shi Gao vol. 221.
- (初設總理各國事務衙門，命王與大學士桂良、侍郎文祥領其事。王疏請訓練京師旗兵，並以吉林、黑龍江與俄羅斯相議練兵籌餉。上命都統勝保議練京兵，將軍景淳等議練東三省兵。) Qing Shi Gao vol. 221.
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- (十一年七月，文宗崩，王請奔赴，兩太后召見，諭以贊襄政務王大臣載垣、端華、肅順等擅政狀。) Qing Shi Gao vol. 221.
- (穆宗侍兩太后奉文宗喪還京師，譴黜載垣等，授議政王，在軍機處行走，命王爵世襲，食親王雙俸，並免召對叩拜、奏事書名。王堅辭世襲，尋命兼宗令、領神機營。同治元年，上就傅，兩太后命王弘德殿行走，稽察課程。) Qing Shi Gao vol. 221.
- (三年，江寧克復。上諭曰：「恭親王自授議政王，於今三載。東南兵事方殷，用人行政，徵兵籌餉，深資贊畫，弼亮忠勤。加封貝勒，以授其子輔國公載澂，並封載濬輔國公、載瀅不入八分輔國公。」) Qing Shi Gao vol. 221.
- (四年三月，兩太后諭責王信任親戚，內廷召對，時有不檢，罷議政王及一切職任。尋以惇親王奕脤、醇郡王奕枻及通政使王拯、御史孫翼謀、內閣學士殷兆鏞、左副都御史潘祖廕、內閣侍讀學士王維珍、給事中廣誠等奏請任用，廣誠語尤切。兩太后命仍在內廷行走，管理總理各國事務衙門。王入謝，痛哭引咎，兩太后復諭：「王親信重臣，相關休戚，期望既厚，責備不得不嚴。仍在軍機大臣上行走。」) Qing Shi Gao vol. 221.
- (七年二月，西捻逼畿輔，命節制各路統兵大臣。授右宗正。) Qing Shi Gao vol. 221.
- (十一年九月，穆宗大婚，復命王爵世襲。十二年正月，穆宗親政， ...) Qing Shi Gao vol. 221.
- (.... 十三年七月，上諭責王召對失儀，降郡王，仍在軍機大臣上行走，並奪載澂貝勒。翌日，以兩太后命復親王世襲及載澂爵。十二月，上疾有間，於雙俸外復加賜親王俸。旋復加劇，遂崩。) Qing Shi Gao vol. 221.
- (德宗即位，復命免召對叩拜、奏事書名。光緒元年，署宗令。十年，法蘭西侵越南，王與軍機大臣不欲輕言戰，言路交章論劾。太后諭責王等委靡因循，罷軍機大臣，停雙俸。家居養疾。十二年十月，復雙俸。自是國及甲數，歲時祀事賜神糕，節序輒有賞賚，以為常。) Qing Shi Gao vol. 221.
- (二十年，日本侵朝鮮，兵？有慶屢增護事急，太后召王入見，復起王管理總理各國事務衙門，並總理海軍，會同辦理軍務，內廷行走；仍諭王疾未癒，免常川入直。尋又命王督辦軍務，節制各路統兵大臣。十一月，授軍機大臣。) Qing Shi Gao vol. 221.
- (二十四年，授宗令。王疾作，閏三月增劇，上奉太后三臨視，四月薨，年六十七。) Qing Shi Gao vol. 221.
- (上再臨奠，輟朝五日，持服十五日。諡曰忠，配享太廟，並諭：「王忠誠匡弼，悉協機宜，諸臣當以王為法。」) Qing Shi Gao vol. 221.
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Prince GongBorn: 11 January 1833 Died: 29 May 1898
None. Title created.
| Prince Gong of the First Rank