Xuande Emperor

The Xuande Emperor (16 March 1399[1] – 31 January 1435), personal name Zhu Zhanji (朱瞻基), was the fifth Emperor of the Ming dynasty, reigned from 1425 to 1435. His era name "Xuande" means "proclamation of virtue".

Xuande Emperor
Portrait assis de l'empereur Ming Xuanzong.jpg
Palace portrait on a hanging scroll, kept in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, Taiwan
5th Emperor of the Ming dynasty
Reign27 June 1425 – 31 January 1435
Enthronement27 June 1425
PredecessorHongxi Emperor
SuccessorEmperor Yingzong
(Zhengtong Emperor)
Crown Prince of the Ming dynasty
Tenure1 November 1424 – 27 June 1425
PredecessorCrown Prince Zhu Gaochi
SuccessorCrown Prince Zhu Qizhen
Imperial Grandson-heir of the Ming dynasty

along with Crown Prince Zhu Gaochi from 1411
PredecessorImperial Grandson-heir Zhu Yunwen
SuccessorNone (last holder)
Born16 March 1399
Hongwu 32, 9th day of the 2nd month
Died31 January 1435(1435-01-31) (aged 35)
Xuande 10, 3rd day of the 1st month
Palace of Heavenly Purity, Forbidden City, Beijing
Jingling Mausoleum, Ming tombs, Beijing
Zhu Zhanji
Era name and dates
Xuande (宣德): 8 February 1426 – 17 January 1436
Posthumous name
Emperor Xiantian Chongdao Yingming Shensheng Qinwen Zhaowu Kuanren Chunxiao Zhang
Temple name
Xuanzong (宣宗)
HouseHouse of Zhu
DynastyMing dynasty
FatherHongxi Emperor
MotherEmpress Chengxiaozhao
Xuande Emperor
Xuande Emperor.jpg
Emperor Xuanzong of the Ming on Horseback
Hunting of Emperor Xuanzong of Ming Dynasty with arrows


Zhu Zhanji was the eldest son of the Hongxi Emperor and Empress Chengxiaozhao. He was described as a crown prince who was endowed with the quality of an excellent monarch in a section of his biography surrounded by superstition. His grandfather, the Yongle Emperor, had high hopes that he might play an important part to assist his father.[2]

He was fond of poetry and literature. Although he continued to refer to Beijing as the secondary capital on all official documents, he maintained it as his residence and continued to rule there in the style of his grandfather, the Yongle Emperor. He permitted Zheng He to lead the seventh and last of his maritime expeditions.

The Xuande Emperor's uncle, Zhu Gaoxu, Prince of Han had been a favorite of the Yongle Emperor for his military successes, but he disobeyed imperial instructions and in 1417 had been exiled to the small fief of Le'an in Shandong. When Zhu Gaoxu revolted, the Xuande Emperor took 20,000 soldiers and attacked him at Le'an. Zhu Gaoxu surrendered soon afterward, was reduced to the status of a commoner. Six hundred rebelling officials were executed, and 2,200 were banished. The emperor did not wish to execute his uncle at the start, but later events angered the emperor so much that Zhu Gaoxu was executed through fire torture. All his sons were executed as well. It is very likely that Zhu Gaoxu's arrogance, well detailed in many historic texts, offended the emperor. A theory states that when the emperor went to visit his uncle, Zhu Gaoxu intentionally tripped him.

In 1428, the Xuande Emperor granted King Hashi of Chūzan the family name Shang (尚, Shō in Japanese), gave him the title of Liuqiu Wang (琉球王, Ryūkyū-Ō in Japanese, lit. 'King of Ryūkyū'), and gifted him a red lacquered tablet with Chung Shan (中山, Chūzan in Japanese) inscribed in gold, which was then placed on the Chūzonmon gate near Shuri Castle.[3]

The Xuande Emperor wanted to withdraw his troops from Việt Nam, but some of his advisors disagreed. After Ming garrisons suffered heavy casualties, the emperor sent Liu Sheng with an army. These were badly defeated by the Vietnamese. The Ming forces withdrew and the Xuande Emperor eventually recognized the independence of Việt Nam. In the north, the Xuande Emperor was inspecting the border with 3,000 cavalry troops in 1428 and was able to retaliate against a raid by the Mongols of the Northern Yuan. The Ming government let Arughtai's Eastern Mongols battle with Toghon's Oirat tribes of the west. The Ming imperial court received horses annually from Arughtai, but he was defeated by the Oirats in 1431 and was killed in 1434 when Toghon took over eastern Mongolia. The Ming government then maintained friendly relations with the Oirats. China's diplomatic relations with Japan improved in 1432. Relations with Korea were generally good with the exception of the Koreans resenting having to send virgins occasionally to the Xuande Emperor's imperial harem.

A privy council of eunuchs strengthened centralized power by controlling the Jinyiwei (secret police), and their influence continued to grow. In 1428, the notorious censor Liu Guan was sentenced to penal servitude and was replaced by the incorruptible Gu Zuo (d. 1446), who dismissed 43 members of the Beijing and Nanjing censorates for incompetence. Some censors were demoted, imprisoned, and banished, but none were executed. Replacements were put on probation as the censorate investigated the entire Ming administration including the military. The same year the emperor reformed the rules governing military conscription and the treatment of deserters. Yet the hereditary military continued to be inefficient and to suffer from poor morale. Huge inequalities in tax burdens had caused many farmers in some areas to leave their farms in the past forty years. In 1430, the Xuande Emperor ordered tax reductions on all imperial lands and sent out "touring pacifiers" to coordinate provincial administration, exercising civilian control over the military. They attempted to eliminate the irregularities and the corruption of the revenue collectors. The emperor often ordered retrials that allowed thousands of innocent people to be released.

The Xuande Emperor died of illness in 1435 after ruling for ten years. He ruled over a remarkably peaceful period with no significant external or internal problems. Later historians have considered his reign to be the height of the Ming dynasty's golden age.

The emperor as an artistEdit

A porcelain ding vessel from the Xuande era of the Ming dynasty.

The Xuande Emperor was known as an accomplished painter, particularly skilled at painting animals. Some of his art work is preserved in the National Palace Museum, Taipei and formerly in the Arthur M. Sackler Museum (a division of Harvard Art Museum) in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Robert D. Mowry, the curator of Chinese art at the Arthur M. Sackler Museum, described him as "the only Ming emperor who displayed genuine artistic talent and interest."[4]

Also, the Xuande mark and period (1426–35) is often considered one of the most sophisticated periods in the history of Chinese Blue and White porcelain crafts.[5]

Portrayal in artEdit

The Ming Emperor Xuanzong Enjoying Himself (明宣宗行樂圖)


Portrait of the Xuande Emperor

Consorts and Issue:

  • Empress Gongrangzhang, of the Hu clan (恭讓章皇后 胡氏; 20 May 1402 – 5 December 1443), personal name Shanxiang (善祥)
    • Princess Shunde (順德公主; 1420–1443), first daughter
      • Married Shi Jing (石璟; 9 January 1420 – 17 October 1479) in 1437
    • Princess Yongqing (永清公主; d. 1433), second daughter
  • Empress Xiaogongzhang, of the Sun clan (孝恭章皇后 孫氏; 1399–1462)
    • Princess Changde (常德公主; 1424–1470), third daughter
      • Married Xue Huan (薛桓) in 1440
    • Zhu Qizhen, Emperor Yingzong (英宗 朱祁鎮; 29 November 1427 – 23 February 1464), first son
  • Consort Rongsixian, of the Wu clan (榮思賢妃 吳氏; 1397 – 16 January 1462)
    • Zhu Qiyu, the Jingtai Emperor (景泰帝 朱祁鈺; 21 September 1428 – 14 March 1457), second son
  • Noble Consort Duanjing, of the He clan (端靜貴妃 何氏; d. 1435)
  • Consort Chunjingxian, of the Zhao clan (純靜賢妃 趙氏; d. 1435)
  • Consort Zhenshunhui, of the Wu clan (貞順惠妃 吳氏; d. 1435)
  • Consort Zhuangjingshu, of the Jiao clan (莊靜淑妃 焦氏; d. 1435)
  • Consort Zhuangshunjing, of the Cao clan (莊順敬妃 曹氏; d. 1435)
  • Consort Zhenhuishun, of the Xu clan (貞惠順妃 徐氏; d. 1435)
  • Consort Gongdingli, of the Yuan clan (恭定麗妃 袁氏; d. 1435)
  • Consort Zhenjinggong, of the Zhu clan (貞靜恭妃 諸氏; d. 1435)
  • Consort Gongshunchong, of the Li clan (恭順充妃 李氏; d. 1435)
  • Consort Suxicheng, of the He clan (肅僖成妃 何氏; d. 1435)
  • Consort Shu, of the Liu clan (淑妃 劉氏)
  • Concubine Zhen'aiguo, of the Guo clan (貞哀國嬪 郭氏; d. 1435), personal name Ai ()
  • Lady Gongshen, of the Korean Cheongju Han clan (恭愼夫人 清州韓氏; 9 April 1410 – 18 May 1483), personal name Gye-ran (桂蘭)[6]


Zhu Shizhen (1281–1344)
Hongwu Emperor (1328–1398)
Empress Chun (1286–1344)
Yongle Emperor (1360–1424)
Empress Xiaocigao (1332–1382)
Lady Zheng
Hongxi Emperor (1378–1425)
Xu Liusi
Xu Da (1332–1385)
Lady Cai
Empress Renxiaowen (1362–1407)
Xie Zaixing
Lady Xie
Xuande Emperor (1399–1435)
Zhang Jinghui
Zhang Congyi
Lady Liu
Zhang Qi
Lady Zhu
Empress Chengxiaozhao (1379–1442)
Tong Shan
Lady Tong

Cultural referencesEdit

  • Portrayed by Zhu Ya Wen in the 2017 Hunan TV series Ming Dynasty
  • Portrayed by Xu Kai in the 2022 Hunan/Mango TV series Royal Feast "尚食".

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ 《宣宗章皇帝實錄》. “仁宗昭皇帝嫡長子,母今太皇太后,以己卯歲二月九日生上於北京。” (in Chinese)
  2. ^ "本紀第九 宣宗". 明史 [History of Ming]. Vol. 9 – via Wikisource.
  3. ^ Kerr, George (1958). Okinawa: History of an Island People. Tokyo: Charles E. Tuttle Company. p. 90.
  4. ^ "Imperial Salukis: Speedy hounds, portrayed by a Chinese emperor". Harvard Magazine, May–June 2007.
  5. ^ Yi Ching, Leung. "2016 Top 20 Chinese porcelain auctions (Sotheby's/ Christie's)". www.zentopia-culture.com/. Leung Yi Ching. Retrieved 15 January 2017.
  6. ^ Her eldest sister was Consort Kanghuizhuangshuli, a concubine of the Yongle Emperor; while her niece was Queen Sohye, the mother of King Seongjong of Joseon.


Further readingEdit

  • Dreyer, Edward L. (1982). Early Ming China : a political history, 1355-1435. Stanford University Press. ISBN 9780804711050.
  • "Chinese Government in Ming Times" by Charles Hucker (1969).
Xuande Emperor
Born: 25 February 1398 Died: 31 January 1435
Regnal titles
Preceded by Emperor of the Ming dynasty
Emperor of China

Succeeded by
Emperor Yingzong of Ming
(Zhengtong Emperor)