Friday, September 5, 2008

Shunzhi Emperor

The Shunzhi Emperor was the second of the Manchu Qing dynasty, and the first Qing emperor to rule over China proper from 1644 to 1661.

Early years

He ascended to the throne aged five in 1643 upon the death of his father, Huang Taiji, but actual power during the early part of his reign lay in the hands of the appointed regents, Princes Dorgon and Jirgalang. With the Qing pacification of the former Ming provinces almost complete, he died still a young man, although in circumstances that have lent themselves to rumour and speculation.

In the midst of much upheaval, the Manchus seized control of Beijing in June 1644, and in October of the same year the Shunzhi emperor's uncle, the chief regent Prince, proclaimed the Qing dynasty to be the legitimate successor to the Ming Dynasty. Therefore, although the Shunzhi emperor was not the founder of the Qing dynasty, he was the first Qing emperor of China.

One of Dorgon's most controversial decisions was his 1646 imperial edict which forced all Han Chinese men, on pain of death, to adopt the Manchu style of dress, including shaving the front of their heads and combing the remaining hair into a queue. To the Manchus this policy might both be a symbolic act of submission and in practical terms an aid in identification of friend from foe, however for the Han Chinese it totally went against their traditional Confucian values. Unsurprisingly it was deeply unpopular and, together with other policies unfavourable towards the Han Chinese, might account for the increasingly steep resistance met by Qing forces after 1646. Hundreds of thousands of people were killed before all of China was brought into compliance.

His mother was the who was an excellent politician during the period. The young emperor disliked his uncle, the chief regent Prince Dorgon, and after Dorgon's death in 1650 the emperor stripped both him and Dorgon's brother, , of their titles, although he was only 17 years old at the time.

Brief reign

During his short reign, the Shunzhi emperor encouraged the Han Chinese to participate in government activities. He was a scholar and employed Han Chinese to teach his children. He was also an open minded emperor and relied on the advice of Johann Adam Schall von Bell 湯若望, a Jesuit from Germany, for guidance ranging from astronomy, technologies, to tips for governing an empire. Shunzhi also elevated Schall to his personal mentor and was given free access to the palace.

The emperor married his mother's niece, but demoted the empress several years later. In 1661, Shunzhi's favourite concubine Donggo suddenly died as a result of grief over the loss of a child. Overwhelmed with grief himself, Shunzhi contracted smallpox and died shortly thereafter. Before he died, he appointed four regents to govern for his child son, - Oboi, Sonin, Suksaha, and Ebilun.

According to official sources, the Shunzhi Emperor died in 1661 of smallpox. It was also believed by some that the young emperor did not pass away but left the palace to become a monk. He was interred in the Eastern Qing Tombs , 125 kilometers/75 miles east of Beijing, in the Xiaoling mausoleum complex .

Huang Taiji had changed the name of the dynasty from Later Jin to
Qing in 1636 because of the fraternal struggles and skirmishes between brothers and half brothers for the throne. According to Taoist philosophy,
the name Jin has the meaning of metal and fire in its constituent,
thereby igniting the tempers of the brothers of the Manchu Royal household into open conflicts and wars.
Huangtaiji therefore adopted the new name of Qing 清, the Chinese character of which has the water symbol on its left hand side. The name, which means clear and transparent, with its water symbol was hoped to put out the feud among the brothers of the Manchu Royal household.

Because of power issues in the Qing's ancestors' way, Shunzi ultimately took another step to consolidate the power of the emperor. According to the old way, the 8 Banners were passed with succession much like how Nurhaci decided to give his Yellow Banners to Dorgun, but could potentially be controlled by someone like Huang Taji who switched the Banners. To solve this problem, Shunzi ordered the Upper 3 Banners- Plain Yellow, Striped Yellow, and Plain White to be under the control of the emperor. This would be maintained until Yongzheng and Qianlong's reign when they took the last step and controlled all 8 Banners.

It's also noteworthy that the empire was generally clean from corrupt officials as Shunzi despised corrupt officials.


*Father: Huang Taiji, emperor of Manchuria

*Mother: concubine Zhuang, who later became the Empress Dowager Xiaozhuang , the daughter of a Mongol prince of the Borjigit clan
*Grandfather: Nurhaci, founder of the Qing dynasty
*Grandmother: , from the Yehe Nara clan.
#The Demoted Empress Suoerna, from the Borjigit clan, niece of , demoted in 1653
# from the Borjigit clan, made empress in 1654
#Concubine from the Tunggiya clan . Her family was of Jurchen origin but lived among Chinese for generations. It had Chinese family name Tong but switched to the Manchu clan name Tunggiya. She was made in 1661 when Kangxi became emperor. She is known posthumously as .
#, Concubine from the Donggo clan , the concubine with whom Shunzhi was madly in love, posthumously raised to . She had a Han Chinese mother and was therefore not a pure blooded Manchu, but she was the one that the emperor loved the most. Her son died after a month of birth because the empress/another concubine gave him items from a prince who was sick with small pox, to prevent "tainting of the blood line". The young concubine soon died of exhaustion and extreme depression over her lost son. A short while after she died, the emperor died of small pox, although it is rumored that he became a monk.

# Yinti
# Fuquan
# 4th Son, died before he was named, but created Prince Rong posthumously
# Changning
# Jishou
# Longxi
# Yonggan

# 1st Daughter
# 2nd Daughter , created Princess Gongque .
# 3rd Daughter
# 4th Daughter
# 5th Daughter
# 6th Daughter

*Adopted Daughters
# Princess Heshun
# Princess Roujia
# Princess Duanmin

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