Emperor Yingzong of Ming

Zhu Qizhen (Chinese: 朱祁鎮; 29 November 1427 – 23 February 1464) was the sixth and eighth Emperor of the Ming dynasty. He ascended the throne as the Zhengtong Emperor (Chinese: 正統; pinyin: Zhèngtǒng; literally: '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 Mongols during the Tumu Crisis. In 1457, he deposed Jingtai and ruled again as the Tianshun Emperor (Chinese: 天順; pinyin: Tiānshùn; literally: 'obedience to Heaven') until his death in 1464.[2] His temple name is Yingzong (英宗).

Emperor Yingzong of Ming
6th Emperor of the Ming dynasty
1st reign7 February 1435 – 1 September 1449
Coronation7 February 1435
PredecessorXuande Emperor
SuccessorJingtai Emperor
8th Emperor of the Ming dynasty
2nd reign11 February 1457 – 23 February 1464
PredecessorJingtai Emperor
SuccessorChenghua Emperor
Born29 November 1427
Died23 February 1464(1464-02-23) (aged 36)
Empress Xiaozhuangrui (m. 14421464)

Empress Xiaosu (before 1464)
IssueChenghua Emperor
Zhu Jianlin
Zhu Jianshu
Zhu Jianze
Zhu Jianjun
Zhu Jianzhi
Zhu Jianpei
Princess Chongqing
Princess Jiashan
Princess Chun'an
Princess Chongde
Princess Guangde
Princess Yixing
Princess Longqing
Princess Jiaxiang
Full name
Surname: Zhu ()
Given name: Qizhen (祁鎮)
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
Ming Yingzong
HouseHouse of Zhu
FatherXuande Emperor
MotherEmpress Xiaogongzhang

First reign

Emperor Yingzong of Ming's hanging portrait (left). Empress Changxiao (middle).

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 Grand Mother Empress Zhang, Zhengtong's grandmother and 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 Mongols

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.

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 reign

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 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 (裕陵) mausoleum of the Ming Dynasty 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]


  • Parents:
  • Consorts and Issue:
    • Empress Xiaozhuangrui, of the Qian clan (孝莊睿皇后 錢氏; 1426–1468), personal name Jinluan (錦鸞)
    • 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 Chongjian (崇簡王 朱見澤; 2 May 1455 – 27 August 1505), sixth son
    • Consort Jingzhuangchen, of the Wan clan (靖莊宸妃 萬氏; 1432–1468)
      • Zhu Jianlin, Prince Dezhuang (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)
        • 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)
        • Married Fan Kai (樊凱; d. 1513) in 1472, and had issue (four sons, two daughters)
      • Zhu Jianjun, Prince Jijian (吉簡王 朱見浚; 11 July 1456 – 16 August 1527), seventh son
      • Zhu Jianzhi, Prince Xinmu (忻穆王 朱見治; 18 March 1458 – 2 April 1472), eighth son
    • Consort Duanjinghui, of the Wang clan (端靖惠妃 王氏; 1429–1485)
      • Princess Jiashan (嘉善公主; d. 1499)
        • Married Wang Zeng (王增) in 1466, and had issue (two daughters)
      • Zhu Jianchun, Prince Xudao (許悼王 朱見淳; 6 April 1450 – 3 January 1453), fourth son
    • Consort Zhuangxi'an, of the Yang clan (莊僖安妃 楊氏; 18 July 1414 – 2 November 1487)
      • Princess Chongde (崇德公主; d. 1489)
        • Married Yang Wei (楊偉) in 1466, and had issue (one son)
    • Consort Zhuangjingshu, of the Gao clan (莊靜淑妃 高氏; 1429–1511)
      • Zhu Jianshu, Prince Xiuhuai (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), 11th daughter
        • Married You Tai (遊泰; 1458–1533) in 1473, and had issue (one daughter)
    • Consort Gongduande, of the Wei clan (恭端德妃 魏氏; 1426–1469)
      • Princess Yixing (宜興公主; d. 1514)
        • Married Ma Cheng (馬誠) in 1473
      • Unnamed daughter
      • Zhu Jianpei, Prince Huizhuang (徽莊王 朱見沛; 2 March 1462 – 13 June 1505), ninth son
    • Consort Gongheshun, of the Fan clan (恭和順妃 樊氏; 1414–1470)
      • Unnamed daughter
    • Consort Anheli, of the Liu clan (安和麗妃 劉氏; 1426–1512)
    • Consort Zhaosuxian, of the Wang clan (昭肅賢妃 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 Zhenshunjing, of the Liu clan (貞順敬妃 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)
    • Consort, of the Liu clan (妃 劉氏)
      • Princess Jiaxiang (嘉祥公主; d. 1483)
        • Married Huang Yong (黃鏞; d. 1510) in 1477

See also


  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 Chinese). 2017 (00). 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".] Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |journal= (help)
  7. Robinson, 97.
  8. 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
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Xuande Emperor
Emperor of the Ming dynasty
Emperor of China
(Zhengtong Emperor)

Succeeded by
Jingtai Emperor
Preceded by
Jingtai Emperor
Emperor of the Ming dynasty
Emperor of China
(Tianshun Emperor)

Succeeded by
Chenghua Emperor
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