Emperor Yingzong of Ming

(Redirected from Zhengtong Emperor)

Emperor Yingzong of Ming (Chinese: 明英宗; pinyin: Míng Yīngzōng; 29 November 1427 – 23 February 1464), personal name Zhu Qizhen (simplified Chinese: 朱祁镇; traditional Chinese: 朱祁鎮; pinyin: Zhū Qízhèn), was the sixth and eighth Emperor of the Ming dynasty. He ascended the throne as the Zhengtong Emperor (simplified Chinese: 正统帝; traditional Chinese: 正統帝; pinyin: Zhèngtǒng Dì; lit. 'right governance') in 1435, but was forced to abdicate in 1449, in favour of his younger brother the Jingtai Emperor, after being captured by the Northern Yuan dynasty during the Tumu Crisis. In 1457, he deposed the Jingtai Emperor and ruled again as the Tianshun Emperor (simplified Chinese: 天顺帝; traditional Chinese: 天順帝; pinyin: Tiānshùn Dì; lit. 'obedience to Heaven') until his death in 1464.[2]

Emperor Yingzong of Ming
Emperor Emeritus (1449–1457)
Ming Yingzong (1).jpg
Palace portrait on a hanging scroll, kept in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, Taiwan
6th and 8th Emperor of the Ming dynasty
First reign7 February 1435 – 1 September 1449
Enthronement7 February 1435
PredecessorXuande Emperor
SuccessorJingtai Emperor
See list
Second reign11 February 1457 – 23 February 1464
PredecessorJingtai Emperor
SuccessorChenghua Emperor
Crown Prince of the Ming dynasty
PredecessorCrown Prince Zhu Zhanji
SuccessorCrown Prince Zhu Jianshen
Born29 November 1427
Xuande 2, 11th day of the 11th month
Died23 February 1464(1464-02-23) (aged 36)
Tianshun 8, 17th day of the 1st month
Yuling Mausoleum, Ming tombs, Beijing
(m. 1442⁠–⁠1464)
(before 1464)
  • Chenghua Emperor
  • Zhu Jianlin, Prince Zhuang of De
  • Zhu Jianshi
  • Zhu Jianchun, Prince Dao of Xu
  • Zhu Jianshu, Prince Huai of Xiu
  • Zhu Jianze, Prince Jian of Chong
  • Zhu Jianjun, Prince Jian of Ji
  • Zhu Jianzhi, Prince Mu of Xin
  • Zhu Jianpei, Prince Zhuang of Hui
  • Princess Chongqing
  • Princess Jiashan
  • Princess Chun'an
  • Princess Chongde
  • Princess Guangde
  • Princess Yixing
  • Princess Longqing
  • Princess Jiaxiang
  • Ninth daughter
  • Tenth daughter
Zhu Qizhen
Era dates
  • Zhengtong (正統): 18 January 1436 – 13 January 1450
  • Tianshun[1](天順): 15 February 1457 – 26 January 1465
Posthumous name
Emperor Fatian Lidao Renming Chengjing Zhaowen Xianwu Zhide Guangxiao Rui
Temple name
Yingzong (英宗)
HouseHouse of Zhu
DynastyMing dynasty
FatherXuande Emperor
MotherEmpress Xiaogongzhang
Stele commemorating rebuilding of the Temple of Yan Hui in Qufu in 1441 (6th year of the Zhengtong era)

First reignEdit

Zhu Qizhen was the son of the Xuande Emperor and his second wife Empress Sun. At the beginning of the Zhengtong reign, the Ming dynasty was prosperous and at the height of its power as a result of the Xuande Emperor's able administration. The Zhengtong Emperor's accession at the age of eight made him the first child emperor of the dynasty – hence the Zhengtong Emperor was easily influenced by others, especially the eunuch Wang Zhen. At first, Wang Zhen was kept under control by his father's mother, Grand Empress Dowager Zhang, the unofficial regent, who collaborated closely with three ministers, all with the surname Yang (hence the common name "Three Yangs"), thus the good administration continued. In 1442 though, Empress Zhang died, and the three Yangs also died or retired around that time.[3] The emperor began to completely rely on Wang Zhen for advice and guidance.

Imprisonment by the MongolsEdit

At the age of 21, in 1449, the Zhengtong Emperor, advised by Wang Zhen, personally directed and lost the Battle of Tumu Fortress against the Mongols under Esen Taishi (d.1455). In one of the most humiliating battles in Chinese history, the Ming army, half million strong, led by Zhengtong, was crushed by Esen's forces, estimated to be 20,000 cavalry.[4][5] His capture by the enemy force shook the empire to its core, and the ensuing crisis almost caused the dynasty to collapse had it not been for the capable governing of a prominent minister named Yu Qian. Yu Qian was responsible for the Defense of Beijing.

Although the Zhengtong Emperor was a prisoner of the Mongols, he became a good friend to both Tayisung Khan Toghtoa Bukha (1416–1453) and his grand preceptor (taishi) Esen. Meanwhile, to calm the crisis at home, his younger brother Zhu Qiyu was installed as the Jingtai Emperor. This reduced the Zhengtong Emperor's imperial status and he was granted the title of Tàishàng Huángdi (emperor emeritus).

Historians at the time, in an effort to avoid what is an obvious taboo of the country's head of state becoming a prisoner of war, referred to this chapter of Yingzong's life as the "Northern Hunt" (Chinese: 北狩).[6]

House arrest and second reignEdit

The Zhengtong Emperor was released one year later in 1450, but when he returned to China, he was immediately put under house arrest by his brother for almost seven years. He resided in the southern palace of the Forbidden City, and all outside contacts were severely curtailed by the Jingtai Emperor. His son, who later became the Chenghua Emperor, was stripped of the title of crown prince and replaced by the Jingtai Emperor's own son. This act greatly upset and devastated the former Zhengtong Emperor, but the heir apparent died shortly thereafter. Overcome with grief, the Jingtai Emperor fell ill, and the former Zhengtong Emperor decided to depose his brother by a palace coup. The emperor emeritus was successful in seizing the throne from the Jingtai Emperor when the latter was ill, after which he changed his regnal name to "Tianshun" (lit. "obedience to Heaven") and went on to rule for another seven years. Jingtai Emperor was demoted to the Prince of Cheng and put under house arrest and soon died, probably murdered.

On 6 August 1461, the Tianshun Emperor issued an edict warning his subjects to be loyal to the throne and not to violate the laws.[7] This was a veiled threat aimed at the general Cao Qin (d. 1461), who had become embroiled in a controversy when he had one of his retainers kill a man whom Ming authorities were attempting to interrogate (to find out about Cao's illegal foreign business transactions).[7] On 7 August 1461, Cao Qin and his cohorts of Mongol descent attempted a coup against the Tianshun Emperor.[8] However, during the first hours of the morning of 7 August, prominent Ming generals Wu Jin and Wu Cong, who were alerted of the coup, immediately relayed a warning to the emperor.[9] Although alarmed, the Tianshun Emperor and his court made preparations for a conflict and barred the gates of the palace.[10] During the ensuing onslaught in the capital later that morning, the Minister of Works and the Commander of the Imperial Guard were killed, while the rebels set the gates of the Forbidden City on fire.[8] The eastern and western gates of the imperial city were only saved when pouring rains came and extinguished the fires.[11] The fight lasted for nearly the entire day within the city; during which three of Cao Qin's brothers were killed, and Cao himself received wounds to both arms. With the failure of the coup, in order to escape being executed, Cao fled to his residence and committed suicide by jumping down a well within the walled compound of his home.[12]

The Tianshun Emperor died at the age of 36 in 1464 and was buried in the Yuling Mausoleum of the Ming tombs. Before he died, he had given an order, which was rated highly as an act of imperial magnanimity, that ended the practice of burying alive concubines and palace maids (so that they could follow emperors to the next world).[13]


Portraits of Emperor Yingzong and Empress Xiaozhuangrui

Consorts and Issue:

  • Empress Xiaozhuangrui, of the Qian clan (孝莊睿皇后 錢氏; 1426–1468)
  • Empress Xiaosu, of the Zhou clan (孝肅皇后 周氏; 1430–1504)
    • Princess Chongqing (重慶公主; 1446–1499), first daughter
      • Married Zhou Jing (周景) in 1461, and had issue (one son)
    • Zhu Jianshen, the Chenghua Emperor (憲宗 朱見深; 9 December 1447 – 9 September 1487), first son
    • Zhu Jianze, Prince Jian of Chong (崇簡王 朱見澤; 2 May 1455 – 27 August 1505), sixth son
  • Consort Jingzhuanganmuchen, of the Wan clan (靖莊安穆宸妃 萬氏; 1432–1468)
    • Zhu Jianlin, Prince Zhuang of De (德莊王 朱見潾; 7 May 1448 – 7 September 1517), second son
    • Zhu Jianshi (朱見湜; 2 August 1449 – 30 August 1451), third son
    • Princess Chun'an (淳安公主; 1453-1536), third daughter
      • Married Cai Zhen (蔡震) in 1466, and had issue (four sons, two daughters)
    • Princess Guangde (廣德公主; 1454–1484), personal name Yanxiang (延祥), fifth daughter
      • Married Fan Kai (樊凱; d. 1513) in 1472, and had issue (four sons, two daughters)
    • Zhu Jianjun, Prince Jian of Ji (吉簡王 朱見浚; 11 July 1456 – 16 August 1527), seventh son
    • Zhu Jianzhi, Prince Mu of Xin (忻穆王 朱見治; 18 March 1458 – 2 April 1472), eighth son
  • Consort Duanjinganhehui, of the Wang clan (端靖安和惠妃 王氏; 1429–1485)
    • Princess Jiashan (嘉善公主; d. 1499), second daughter
      • Married Wang Zeng (王增) in 1466, and had issue (two daughters)
    • Zhu Jianchun, Prince Dao of Xu (許悼王 朱見淳; 6 April 1450 – 3 January 1453), fourth son
  • Consort Zhuangxiduansu'an, of the Yang clan (莊僖端肅安妃 楊氏; 18 July 1414 – 2 November 1487)
    • Princess Chongde (崇德公主; d. 1489), fourth daughter
      • Married Yang Wei (楊偉) in 1466, and had issue (one son)
  • Consort Zhuangjinganrongshu, of the Gao clan (莊靜安榮淑妃 高氏; 1429–1511)
    • Zhu Jianshu, Prince Huai of Xiu (秀懷王 朱見澍; 12 March 1452 – 13 October 1472), fifth son
    • Princess Longqing (隆慶公主; 6 November 1455 – 18 December 1480), seventh daughter
      • Married You Tai (遊泰; 1458–1533) in 1473, and had issue (one daughter)
  • Consort Gongduanzhuanghuide, of the Wei clan (恭端莊惠德妃 魏氏; 1426–1469)
    • Princess Yixing (宜興公主; d. 1514), sixth daughter
      • Married Ma Cheng (馬誠) in 1473
    • Ninth daughter
    • Zhu Jianpei, Prince Zhuang of Hui (徽莊王 朱見沛; 2 March 1462 – 13 June 1505), ninth son
  • Consort Gongheanjingshun, of the Fan clan (恭和安靜順妃 樊氏; 1414–1470)
    • Tenth daughter
  • Consort Anherongjingli, of the Liu clan (安和榮靖麗妃 劉氏; 1426–1512)
  • Consort Zhaosujingduanxian, of the Wang clan (昭肅靖端賢妃 王氏; 1430–1474)
  • Consort Duanzhuangzhao, of the Wu clan (端莊昭妃 武氏; 1431–1467)
  • Consort Gong'anhe, of the Gong clan (恭安和妃 宮氏; 1430–1467)
  • Consort Rongjingzhen, of the Wang clan (榮靖貞妃 王氏; 1427–1507)
  • Consort Gongjingzhuang, of the Zhao clan (恭靖莊妃 趙氏; 1446–1514)
  • Consort Zhenshunyigongjing, of the Liu clan (貞順懿恭敬妃 劉氏; d. 1463)
  • Consort Zhaojinggong, of the Liu clan (昭靜恭妃 劉氏; d. 1500)
  • Consort Zhaoyixian, of the Li clan (昭懿賢妃 李氏)
  • Consort Gongxicheng, of the Zhang clan (恭僖成妃 張氏; d. 1504)
  • Consort Xikechong, of the Yu clan (僖恪充妃 余氏; d. 1503)
  • Consort Huiheli, of the Chen clan (惠和麗妃 陳氏; d. 1500)
  • Unknown
    • Princess Jiaxiang (嘉祥公主; d. 1483), eight daughter
      • Married Huang Yong (黃鏞; d. 1510) in 1477


Hongwu Emperor (1328–1398)
Yongle Emperor (1360–1424)
Empress Xiaocigao (1332–1382)
Hongxi Emperor (1378–1425)
Xu Da (1332–1385)
Empress Renxiaowen (1362–1407)
Lady Xie
Xuande Emperor (1399–1435)
Zhang Congyi
Zhang Qi
Lady Zhu
Empress Chengxiaozhao (1379–1442)
Tong Shan
Lady Tong
Emperor Yingzong of Ming (1427–1464)
Sun Fuchu
Sun Shiying
Lady Gao
Sun Zhong (1368–1452)
Ding Qiweng
Lady Ding
Empress Xiaogongzhang (1399–1462)
Dong Yangong
Lady Dong
Lady Qi

Popular cultureEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Tianshun (天順) was also the name of a reign era in the Yuan dynasty.
  2. ^ Leo K. Shin (2006), The Making of the Chinese State: Ethnicity and Expansion on the Ming Borderlands, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 978-0-521-85354-5
  3. ^ Liu, Jinze (刘金泽) (1998). 政鉴. 经济日报出版社. p. 828. ISBN 9787801275103.
  4. ^ Haskew, Michael E. (2008). Fighting Techniques of the Oriental World AD 1200-1860: Equipment, Combat Skills And Tactics, Christer Jørgensen. Amber Books. p. 12. ISBN 9781905704965.
  5. ^ Wen chao yue kan, Volume 5. Beijing: 全国图书馆文献缩微复制中心. 2005. p. 128.
  6. ^ Han, Weiling. 明英宗“北狩”史料之蒙古风俗文化刍议 [The History of Ming Yingzong Emperor's "Northern Hunt": Debate over Mongolian Cultures and Customs]. 中国边疆民族研究 [Chinese Frontier Ethnic Research] (in Simplified Chinese). 2017. Retrieved 19 November 2018. 明人讳称此事为英宗"北狩"。 [Ming citizens, out of taboo, refer to this incident as Yingzong's "Northern Hunt".]
  7. ^ a b Robinson, 97.
  8. ^ a b Robinson, 79.
  9. ^ Robinson, 101–102.
  10. ^ Robinson, 102.
  11. ^ Robinson, 105.
  12. ^ Robinson, 107–108.
  13. ^ Zhonghua quan guo fu nü lian he hui (1984). Women of China. Foreign Language Press.
  • Robinson, David M. "Politics, Force and Ethnicity in Ming China: Mongols and the Abortive Coup of 1461," Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies (Volume 59: Number 1, June 1999): 79–123.
Emperor Yingzong of Ming
Born: 29 November 1427 Died: 23 February 1464
Chinese royalty
Title last held by
Crown Prince Zhu Zhanji
Crown Prince of the Ming dynasty
Title next held by
Crown Prince Zhu Jianshen
Regnal titles
Preceded by Emperor of the Ming dynasty
Emperor of China
(First time)

Succeeded by
Preceded by Emperor of the Ming dynasty
Emperor of China

Succeeded by
Honorary titles
Title last held by
Emperor Shenzong of Western Xia
Emperor Emeritus of China
Title next held by
Qianlong Emperor (Qing dynasty)