The Tianqi Emperor (23 December 1605 – 30 September 1627), personal name Zhu Youjiao, was the 16th Emperor of the Ming dynasty, reigned from 1620 to 1627.[1] He was the eldest son of the Taichang Emperor and a elder brother of the Chongzhen Emperor, who succeeded him. "Tianqi", the era name of his reign, means "heavenly opening".[2]

Tianqi Emperor
16th Emperor of the Ming dynasty
Reign1 October 1620 –
30 September 1627
Coronation1 October 1620
PredecessorTaichang Emperor
SuccessorChongzhen Emperor
Born(1605-12-23)23 December 1605
Died30 September 1627(1627-09-30) (aged 21)
Empress Xiao'aizhe (m. 1621⁠–⁠1627)
Full name
Family name: Zhu (朱)
Given name: Youjiao (由校)
Era name and dates
Tianqi (天啓): 22 January 1621 –
4 February 1628
Posthumous name
Emperor Datian Chandao Dunxiao Duyou Zhangwen Xiangwu Jingmu Zhuangqin Zhe
Temple name
Ming Xizong
HouseHouse of Zhu
FatherTaichang Emperor
MotherEmpress Dowager Xiaohe
Tianqi Era Teacups, Nantoyōsō Collection, Japan


Zhu Youjiao became emperor at the age of 15, following the death of his father, the Taichang Emperor, who ruled less than a month.[2] He did not pay much attention to state affairs, and was accused of failing in his filial duties to his late father by not continuing the latter's wishes. It is possible that Zhu Youjiao suffered from a learning disability or something more. He was illiterate[2] and showed no interest in his studies. However, he was an outstanding carpenter and craftsman, often spending vast amounts of time on woodworking and instructing his servants to sell his creations undercover on the market just to see how much they were worth.

Because the Tianqi Emperor was unable to read court memorials and uninterested in state affairs, the court eunuch Wei Zhongxian[1] and the emperor's wet nurse Madam Ke seized power and controlled the Ming imperial court, with the Tianqi Emperor as merely a puppet ruler.[2] The Tianqi Emperor apparently devoted his time to carpentry.[1] Wei Zhongxian took advantage of the situation and began appointing the people he trusted to important positions in the imperial court. Meanwhile, Madam Ke sought to retain power by removing all other women from the emperor's harem by locking away the emperor's concubines and starving them to death. It is believed that he had two private palaces; one for his female lovers and one for his male lovers.[3]

One Confucian moralist group, the Donglin Movement, expressed distress at the conditions of the government.[4] In response, the imperial court, under Wei Zhongxian's control, covertly ordered the execution of a number of officials associated with the Donglin Movement. Living conditions worsened during the Tianqi Emperor's reign. The Ming dynasty also faced several popular uprisings.

The Tianqi Emperor died heirless on 30 September 1627 and was succeeded by his fifth and sole surviving brother, Zhu Youjian, because he had no sons to succeed him. Zhu Youjian was enthroned as the Chongzhen Emperor. As both the Tianqi Emperor's daughters died early too, it seems that there are no natural heirs from the emperor left alive.


  • Parents:
    • Zhu Changluo, the Taichang Emperor (光宗 朱常洛; 28 August 1582 – 26 September 1620)
    • Empress Dowager Xiaohe, of the Wang clan (孝和皇太后 王氏; 1582–1619)
  • Consorts and Issue:
    • Empress Xiao'aizhe, of the Zhang clan (孝哀悊皇后 張氏; 1610–1644), personal name Yan ()
      • Zhu Ciran, Crown Prince Huaichong (懷衝皇太子 朱慈燃; 4 November 1623), first son
    • Imperial Noble Consort, of the Fan clan (皇貴妃 范氏)
      • Princess Yongning (永寧公主; 1622–1624), personal name Shu'e (淑娥), first daughter
      • Zhu Ciyu, Crown Prince Daohuai (悼懷皇太子 朱慈焴; 1623–1624), second son
    • Imperial Noble Consort, of the Ren clan (皇貴妃 任氏)
      • Zhu Cijiong, Crown Prince Xianhuai (獻懷皇太子 朱慈炅; 31 October 1625 – 30 May 1626), third son, died during the Wanggongchang Explosion
    • Consort Gonghuichun, of the Duan clan (恭惠純妃 段氏; 10 May 1607 – 3 July 1629)
    • Consort Cheng, of the Li clan (成妃 李氏; 1605 – 21 December 1637)
      • Princess Huaining (懷寧公主; 1624), personal name Shumo (淑嫫), second daughter
    • Consort Daoshunyu, of the Zhang clan (悼順裕妃 張氏; 22 August 1606 – 16 September 1623)


Portrayals in the mediaEdit

In August and September 2009, a 42-hour television series dramatising the events during the reign of the Tianqi Emperor was shown on Chinese television – two hours per night for 21 days. It vividly showed how a hereditary monarchy can lead to the rampant abuse of power. The series ended on 17 September, just two weeks before the 60th anniversary (five 12-year cycles) of the establishment of the People's Republic of China.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c "Tianqi". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 2014-03-22.
  2. ^ a b c d "Zhu Yujiao – The Tianqi Emperor". Retrieved 2014-03-22.
  3. ^ "History of Homosexuality". Shanghai Star. Archived from the original on Nov 19, 2003. Retrieved 26 November 2016.
  4. ^ "Donglin". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 2014-03-22.
Tianqi Emperor
Born: 23 December 1605 Died: 30 September 1627
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Taichang Emperor
Emperor of the Ming dynasty
Emperor of China

Succeeded by
Chongzhen Emperor