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Yixuan (16 October 1840 – 1 January 1891), formally known as Prince Chun, was an imperial prince of the Aisin Gioro clan and a statesman of the Manchu-led Qing dynasty in China. He was the father of the Guangxu Emperor (his second son), and the paternal grandfather of Puyi (the Last Emperor) through his fifth son Zaifeng.

Prince Chun of the First Rank
Tenure1872 – 1 January 1891
BornAisin Gioro Yixuan
(愛新覺羅 奕譞)
(1840-10-16)16 October 1840
(道光二十年 九月 二十一日)
Died1 January 1891(1891-01-01) (aged 50)
(光緒十六年 十一月 二十一日)
Prince Chun Mansion
Miaogaofeng, Western Hills
Yehe Nara Wanzhen (m. 1860–1891)
IssueGuangxu Emperor
Zaifeng, Prince Chun of the First Rank
Full name
Aisin Gioro Yixuan
(愛新覺羅 奕譞)
Manchu: I-Huwan (
Posthumous name
Prince Chunxian of the First Rank
HouseAisin Gioro
FatherDaoguang Emperor
MotherImperial Noble Consort Zhuangshun
Prince Chun
Traditional Chinese醇親王
Simplified Chinese醇亲王


Family backgroundEdit

Yixuan was born in the Aisin Gioro clan as the seventh son of the Daoguang Emperor. His mother was Lady Uya (烏雅氏). Four months after his birth, Lady Uya, a concubine of the Daoguang Emperor who was recently promoted to "Noble Lady Lin" (琳貴人), was further elevated to the status of "Imperial Concubine Lin" (琳嬪), a rare distinction. Lady Uya's rapid rise through the ranks continued, and she was promoted to "Consort Lin" (琳妃) and "Noble Consort Lin" (琳貴妃) in 1842 and 1847 respectively. The Tongzhi Emperor granted her the posthumous title "Imperial Noble Consort Zhuangshun" (莊順皇貴妃), making her second only to the Empress.

During the Xianfeng and Tongzhi emperors' reignsEdit

In February 1850, after the Daoguang Emperor's death, Yixuan's fourth brother, Yizhu, ascended the throne and became historically known as the Xianfeng Emperor. The Xianfeng Emperor made Yixuan a junwang (second-rank prince) under the title "Prince Chun of the Second Rank" (醇郡王). Yixuan kept a low profile in politics throughout the Xianfeng Emperor's 11-year reign.

In 1860, by the Xianfeng Emperor's decree, Yixuan married Wanzhen of the Yehe Nara clan, who was a younger sister of Noble Consort Yi, one of the Xianfeng Emperor's consorts. The marriage forged a close bond between Yixuan and Noble Consort Yi. The Xianfeng Emperor died in August 1861, leaving the throne to his five-year-old son, Zaichun, who would reign as the Tongzhi Emperor. On the Xianfeng Emperor's death, a power struggle emerged over the regency for the emperor, with one faction led by Sushun, and princes Duanhua and Zaiyuan, and another faction led by Yixuan's sixth brother, Prince Gong, as well as the Xianfeng Emperor's empress, honoured with the title of Empress Dowager Ci'an, and Noble Consort Yi, the mother of the new emperor, honored with the title of Empress Dowager Cixi. In November 1861, Yixuan sided with Prince Gong and the two dowager empresses and launched the Xinyou Coup to seize the regency from Sushun and his faction. Yixuan personally led imperial forces to arrest Sushun and bring him back to Beijing, where he was executed.

As a consequence of the Xinyou Coup, Yixuan found himself elevated to the highest ranks in the imperial court. In the 14-year reign of the Tongzhi Emperor from 1861–1875, he had a dual career in the military and civil services. In 1872, he was promoted from junwang (second-rank prince) to a qinwang (first-rank prince), hence he became known as "Prince Chun of the First Rank" (醇親王). In 1874, he was dismissed from office by the Tongzhi Emperor, along with Prince Gong, and several others, due to his involvement in a reprimand of the emperor for his poor conduct, only to be reinstated, along with the others, thanks to the intervention of the dowager empresses.

During the Guangxu Emperor's reignEdit

In January 1875, the Tongzhi Emperor died without an heir, so Empress Dowager Cixi chose Yixuan's second son, Zaitian, to be the new emperor. Zaitian was adopted into the Xianfeng Emperor's lineage; this meant that he was nominally no longer Yixuan's son. As the Xianfeng Emperor's "son", Zaitian was installed on the throne and became historically known as the Guangxu Emperor. This choice brought advantages to Cixi: Zaitian was her nephew (Zaitian's mother, Wanzhen, was Cixi's younger sister); Zaitian's father, Yixuan, had been a loyal supporter of Cixi; Zaitian was still young so Cixi could continue ruling as regent. As for Yixuan himself, however, Cixi's choice was a catastrophe for him. When he heard that his son had been chosen to be the new emperor, he reportedly hit himself and wept bitterly before sinking into unconsciousness.

In the last centuries of imperial China, it was very unusual for an emperor's father to be still alive while the emperor was reigning. The only prior example in the Qing dynasty was that of the situation between 1796 and 1799, when the Qianlong Emperor abdicated in favour of his 15th son, the Jiaqing Emperor, and became a taishang huang (retired emperor). Since filial piety is a highly revered value in Chinese culture, it meant that Yixuan, the biological father of the reigning emperor, would be endowed with the highest honours and privileges. However, Yixuan perceived himself to be in an extremely dangerous and uncomfortable position, given the prickly nature of Empress Dowager Cixi and her obsessional paranoia of any potential threat to her status.

The first decision that Yixuan made, after his son became the emperor, was to resign from all his official positions. He tried to keep a low profile but could not avoid being showered with honours and privileges, which he tried to decline as much as possible. Soon after his son became the emperor, Yixuan was awarded the "iron-cap" privilege, which meant that he could pass on his Prince Chun title to his descendants without the title being downgraded one grade per generation.

In 1876, Yixuan wrote a memorial to the Guangxu Emperor, condemning in advance anyone who would propose to grant him a special position in the hierarchy on the grounds that he was the emperor's biological father. Following resignation from his military and civil posts, he was entrusted with the education of the young emperor, to which he consented. In the following years, with the disgrace of his sixth brother Yixin (Prince Gong), Yixuan unwillingly became the second most powerful figure in the imperial court after Empress Dowager Cixi. The empress dowager even ordered all court officials to discuss matters with Yixuan before making decisions.

Empress Dowager Cixi's co-regent, Empress Dowager Ci'an, died suddenly in 1881 and was rumoured to have been poisoned by Cixi. This made Yixuan even more cautious and eager to please Cixi in all possible ways. When the Guangxu Emperor reached adulthood in early 1887 and was ready to take over the reins of power from Empress Dowager Cixi, Yixuan formally requested Cixi to prolong her regency.

In 1885, Empress Dowager Cixi appointed Yixuan as "Controller of the Admiralty", putting him in charge of supervising the building of a new imperial navy. Yixuan was sent on an inspection tour to the naval shipyards on the coast of China.

Before her adopted son, Emperor Guangxu, took over the throne in 1889, Cixi wrote out explicit orders that the navy should continue to develop and expand gradually.[1] However, after Cixi went into retirement, all naval and military development came to a drastic halt. Japan’s victories over China has often been falsely rumored to be the fault of Cixi.[2] Many believed that Cixi was the cause of the navy’s defeat by embezzling funds from the navy in order to build the Summer Palace in Beijing. However, extensive research by Chinese historians revealed that Cixi was not the cause of the Chinese navy’s decline. In actuality, China’s defeat was caused by Emperor Guangxu’s lack of interest in developing and maintaining the military.[1] His close adviser, Grand Tutor Weng Tonghe, advised Guangxu to cut all funding to the navy and army, because he did not see Japan as a true threat, and there were several natural disasters during the early 1890s which the emperor thought to be more pressing to expend funds on.[1]

Yixuan died on 1 January 1891, shortly before the enlargement works on the Summer Palace were completed. His fifth son, Zaifeng, inherited his title "Prince Chun of the First Rank". Yixuan was granted a posthumous name xian (賢), so his full posthumous title became "Prince Chunxian of the First Rank" (醇賢親王).

Names and titlesEdit

Prince Chun TombEdit

Tomb of Prince Chun

Yixuan was interred in a tomb of princely status, now popularly known as the "Seventh Prince's Grave" (七王墳), located 35 km/22 miles northwest of Beijing. According to Puyi's autobiography, a ginkgo tree grew on the tomb of Yixuan, and became very tall and imposing. This fact was reported to Empress Dowager Cixi and greatly alarmed her. In the Chinese language, the first character of the word "ginkgo tree" is bai (白), while the first character of the word "emperor" is huang (皇), which combines the character bai with the character wang (王 – meaning "prince", 親王). A ginkgo (白) growing on the tomb of Yixuan (王) was interpreted as a sign that a new emperor (皇) would emerge in the house of Yixuan. This was unacceptable for the very superstitious Cixi, as obsessed as ever with thwarting any challenge to her power, and so she promptly had the tree felled. The tomb of Yixuan was restored by the People's Republic of China after 1949 and is now one of the tourist attractions around Beijing.

The tomb and surrounding area appears in Quentin Tarantino's 2004 film Kill Bill: Volume 2 as the home and training grounds of the legendary Shaolin monk Pai Mei.

Prince Chun MansionEdit

A former residence of Yixuan, now known as the Prince Chun Mansion, is located near Shichahai, Beijing.


Yixuan's consorts
  • Parents:
    • Minning, the Daoguang Emperor (宣宗 旻寧; 16 September 1782 – 26 February 1850)
    • Imperial Noble Consort Zhuangshun, of the Uya clan (莊順皇貴妃 烏雅氏; 29 November 1822 – 13 December 1866)
  • Consorts and Issue:
    • Primary consort, of the Yehe Nara clan (嫡福晉 葉赫那拉氏; 13 September 1841 – 17 June 1896), personal name Wanzhen (婉貞)
      • Zaihan (載瀚; 4 February 1865 – 9 December 1866), first son
      • Zaitian, the Guangxu Emperor (德宗 載湉; 14 August 1871 – 14 November 1908), second son
      • Third son (13 February 1875 – 14 February 1875)
      • Zaiguang (載洸; 27 November 1880 – 18 May 1884), fourth son
    • Secondary consort, of the Yanja clan (側福晉 顏扎氏)
      • First daughter (11 April 1861 – 24 November 1866)
    • Secondary consort, of the Liugiya clan (側福晉 劉佳氏; 1866–1925), personal name Cuiyan (翠妍)
      • Zaifeng, Prince Chun of the First Rank (醇親王 載灃; 12 February 1883 – 3 February 1951), fifth son
      • Zaixun, Prince of the Third Rank (貝勒 載洵; 20 May 1885 – 1949), sixth son
      • Zaitao, Prince of the Third Rank (貝勒 載濤; 23 June 1887 – 2 September 1970), seventh son
      • Second daughter
    • Secondary consort, of the Ligiya clan (側福晉 李佳氏; 1869–1928)
      • Third daughter (23 November 1887 – 1914)
        • Married Songchun (松椿; d. 1927) of the Manchu Fuca clan in 1905

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c Chang, Jung (2013). The Concubine Who Launched Modern China: Empress Dowager Cixi. New York: Anchor Books. pp. 182–184. ISBN 9780307456700.
  2. ^ Chang, Jung (2013). The Concubine Who Launched Modern China: Empress Dowager Cixi. New York: Anchor Books. pp. 160–161. ISBN 9780307456700.
  • Veritable records of Emperor Wenzong of Qing (清文宗实录).
  • Veritable records of Emperor Dezong of Qing (清德宗實錄).
  • Royal archives of the Qing dynasty (清宫档案).
  • Qing imperial genealogy (清皇室四谱).
  • Draft history of the Qing dynasty (清史稿).
  • Sterling Seagraves, "Dragon Lady" ISBN 0-679-73369-8.
  • Maria Warner", "The Dragon Empress": Life and Times of Tz'u-Hsi, 1835–1908, Empress of China". ISBN 0-689-70714-2.
  • Daily life in the Forbidden City, Wan Yi, Wang Shuqing, Lu Yanzhen. ISBN 0-670-81164-5.
Yixuan, Prince Chun
Born: 16 October 1840 Died: 1 January 1891
Chinese nobility
New title Prince Chun
Succeeded by