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In this imperial chronology, each year is listed according to the Chinese lunar calendar with traditional notations for each year (e.g., jiashen) followed by the internationally recognized Gregorian calendar year (e.g., 1644) that approximately corresponds to the given lunar year. Information on the imperial reign is listed with each calendar year. Specific events are listed after a title denoting the lunar month (e.g., 1st Month) in which they occurred.
Ages of historical figures are given as traditionally calculated by the Chinese lunar calendar. This traditional way of counting a person's age uses the word sui (year of age). The word conveys how many lunar years—even if only for a few days or months—an individual has experienced in life.
Chinese names are shown in the conventional Chinese order with the surname (family name) followed by the given name. When possible, Manchu names are rendered according to the Möllendorff system of transliteration (Romanization). If the original Manchu name is unknown, the name is shown with a hyphenated version of the transliterated Chinese name. Some Jurchen and Manchu figures are more commonly known by their Chinese names; in those cases, the Chinese name is used. Official titles and imperial institutions are rendered according to Charles O. Hucker's A Dictionary of Official Titles in Imperial China (Stanford, 1985) when possible.
The Reign of the Hongwu Emperor (approx. 1368–1398)
Xinmao Year (approx. 1351)
Yuan Dynasty: Zhizheng Reign, 11th Year
The Red Turban Rebellion erupts.
Bingshen Year (approx. 1356)
Yuan Dynasty: Zhizheng Reign, 16th Year
Zhu Yuanzhang establishes his regime in the city of Jiqing (later renamed Yingtian and Jiankang, now known as Nanjing), which becomes his base for further conquest. The old Confucius scholar Zhu Sheng of Huizhou prescribes war strategy.
Guimao Year (approx. 1363)
Yuan Dynasty: Zhizheng Reign, 23rd Year
The opposing forces led by Zhu Yuanzhang and Chen Youliang battle at Lake Poyang.
The Courteous Reception of the Virtuous (Lixian guan) is established. Liu Ji, Tao An, and other notable scholars lecture on classical studies.
Chen Youliang is killed on the battlefield. The impending conquest of his insurgent regime, the Great Han, begins.
Jiachen Year (approx. 1364)
Yuan Dynasty: Zhizheng Reign, 24th Year
Assistant Administrator Li Shanchang and General-in-chief Xu Da repeatedly present memorials outlining Zhu Yuanzhang's rightful authority.
After these actions, Zhu Yuanzhang will declare himself the Prince of Wu and establish his government with official rankings. He institutes the Secretariat and names Li Shanchang and Xu Da as his right (civil) and left (military) grand councilors, respectively. Chang Yuchun and Yu Tonghai are appointed as managers of governmental affairs. Wang Guangyang is instated as director of the Right Office and Zhang Chang as Left Office manager.
Zhu Yuanzhang sets his capital in Jiankang (present-day Nanjing) and establishes Yamen official rankings. A provincial-level official of Jiangxi presents the incised gold bed of Chen Youliang to Zhu Yuanzhang who orders its destruction saying, "The senior and junior Chens were extravagant to a wasteful extreme! How could their regime not be overturned!"
Bingwu Year (approx. 1366)
Yuan Dynasty: Zhizheng Reign, 26th Year
The capital Jiankang (present-day Nanjing) is expanded. Liu Ji and others are commissioned to select a tract of land to build the new palace on the southern side of Mount Zhong, some two li (one li is approx. a kilometer in length) outside of the Baixia Gate on the east side of the old city (some sources read "some three li”).
Xu Da is sent with an army to vanquish the remaining Yuan dynasty forces.
The architects present sketches of the future palace to Zhu Yuanzhang. He orders the elimination of elaborate ornamentation.
Dingwei Year (approx. 1367)
1st Year of the Prince of Wu's Reign
Yuan Dynasty: Zhizheng Reign, 27th Year
The expansion of Jiankang is completed.
Handsome, talented Taoist children are chosen to serve as musicians and dancers. Zhu Yuanzhang summons the scholar Zhu Sheng and Fan Quan at the Gate of Ji (where imperial insignia is stored) and gives instructions to musicians and dancers. Zhu Yuanzhang personally plays the stone chimes and orders Zhu Sheng to distinguish the five tones in the traditional Chinese musical scale. Zhu Sheng is unable to do so, wrongly identifying gong (the first tone) as zhi (the fourth tone).
The Circular Mound Altar (Yuan qiu), Square Mound Altar (Fang qiu), and Altar of Land and Grain are completed. The Circular Mound Altar is located to the southeast of the capital city outside the Zhengyang Gate on the southern side of Mount Zhong. The Square Mound Altar is located outside the Taiping Gate on the northern side of Mount Zhong. Facing north, the Altar of Land and Grain is located to the southwest of the palace complex.
The Imperial Ancestral Shrine (Tai miao) faces south and is completed to the southeast of the palace. The Directorate of Palace Attendants (Neishi jian) is established with the director-eunuch as a fourth-rank official, whose position is later changed to rank three when the additional third-rank director for the Directorate for Imperial Accoutrements (Yuyong jian) is established within the consortium of eunuch services. These officials managed various affairs, including archives, clothing, and medicine.
The new palace complex is completed. The main hall is called the Hall of Venerating Heaven (Fengtian dian), which is behind the Hall of Splendid Canopy (Huagai dian) and in front of the Hall of Scrupulous Behavior (Jinshen dian). These halls are flanked with colonnades. To the left and right of the Hall of Venerating Heaven are the Edifice of Literary Accomplishment (Wen lou) and Edifice of Martial Deeds (Wu lou). Behind the Hall of Scrupulous Behavior is the Palace of Heavenly Purity (Qianqing gong), Palace of Earthly Tranquility (Kunning gong), and the Six Palaces (Liu gong). The greater imperial city complex surrounds these halls, with the Meridian Gate (Wu men) opening to the south, East Prosperity Gate (Donghua men) to the east, West Prosperity Gate (Xihua men) on the west side, and the Dark Warrior Gate (Xuanwu men) to the north.
All officials are ordered to adhere to the rites in which the left officials are superior to the right officials. The right left grand councilor becomes the left grand councilor (a position in charge of civil affairs), while the former left grand councilor becomes the right grand councilor (in charge of military affairs). The ordering of all officials follows this pattern.
The Seals and Music Offices are established. The Seals Office is headed by a high fifth-rank chief minister with a subordinate rank-five vice minister and a high sixth-rank aide. The Palace Ceremonial Office is founded with the highest-ranking official holding a rank of a subordinate fifth-rank official. The Music Office is established with the chief official holding a high ninth rank. This agency organizes banquet music and is headed by a commissioner and vice commissioner with two subordinate attendants. The six matrons, the heads of the Six Palace Services, are installed. Li Shanchang, the left grand councilor of the Secretariat, leads officials in proposing the ceremonial rites for the Prince of Wu's ascension to the imperial throne, rites for the arrangement of imperial processionals, the placement of officials during audiences, and the coronation ceremonies for the imperial consort and heir apparent.
Wushen Year (approx. 1368)
Ming Dynasty: The First Year of the Hongwu Reign
Yuan Dynasty: Zhizheng Reign, 28th Year
1st Month, 4th Day:
Zhu Yuanzhang, the Prince of Wu, sacrifices to heaven and earth at the southern border altar of Jiankang (present-day Nanjing) and ascends to the imperial throne. He proclaims Ming as the name of his dominion and establishes his Hongwu reign. He appoints Lady Ma as the empress and his son, Zhu Biao, as heir apparent. These proceedings are announced throughout the land. Zhu Yuanzhang takes up residence in the new palace. Officials are appointed to serve in the Eastern Palace (the residence of the heir apparent), and Li Shanchang concurrently serves as the heir's junior preceptor. Xu Da serves as junior mentor, and Chang Yuchun as junior guardian. The Hanlin Academy under the Secretariat proposes sacrificial rites for the border altar and ancestral shrine in the southern outskirts of the city.
Zhu Yuanzhang decides to implement a policy of maintaining two capitals with one administrative center. Jinling (originally called Jiankang, present-day Nanjing) is designated as the southern capital and Daliang (present-day Kaifeng) as the northern capital. Inspection tours are conducted at the northern capital.
Jiyou Year (approx. 1369)
Hongwu Reign, 2nd Year
The Yuan-dynasty work Veritable Records of the Thirteen Reigns (Shisan chao shilu) is obtained and a literary team led by Left Grand Councilor Li Shanchang and Song Lian (the former archivist) compile History of the Yuan Dynasty (Yuan shi). The Hongwu Emperor personally sacrifices to the god of agriculture and plows the sacred field (jitian).
The organizational structure for palace attendants is established. The Directorate of Palace Attendants (Nei shi) is formed with sixty chief stewards (eunuchs) to manage various affairs regarding seals, headgear, archives, delicacies, and other aspects of imperial life and administration. Additional posts are filled for the management of commodities, horses, and other items for daily use. Special attention is given to the management of the Eastern Palace with six services for seals, writing implements, cuisine, attire, music, and chariots. Gate attendants are also appointed.
Six imperial seals are crafted with three of white jade and three of green jade and inscribed with "Son of Heaven: Representative Seal" (Tianzi xingbao, used when conferring titles on foreign dignitaries or for bestowing gifts to them), "Son of Heaven: Seal of Trust" (Tianzi xinbao, used when summoning vassal states or setting out troops), "Seal of the Son of Heaven" (Tianzi zhi bao, used when making sacrifices to heaven, mountains , demons, divine spirits, and gods), "Imperial Representative Seal" (Huangdi xingbao, used when conferring or bestowing), "Imperial Seal of Trust" (Huangdi xinbao, used when summoning imperial princes, court officials, or maneuvering troops), and "Imperial Treasure"(Huangdi zhi bao, used when issuing imperial edicts and designations). Linhao (present-day Fengyang in Anhui Province) is designated as the central capital (zhongdu).
Gengxu Year (approx. 1370)
Hongwu Reign, 3rd Year
The imperial civil service examination system (keju) is reinstated.
The land is subdivided under various princes. Zhu Shang, the emperor's second son, is named the Prince of Qin. Zhu Gang, the third son, is appointed the Prince of Jin. Zhu Di, the fourth son, is named the Prince of Yan. Zhu Su, the fifth son, is appointed as the Prince of Wu. Zhu Zhen, the sixth son, is named the Prince of Chu. Zhu Fu, the seventh son, is named the Prince of Qi. Zhu Zi, the eighth son, is appointed as the Prince of Tan. Zhu Qi, the ninth son, is named the Prince of Zhao. Zhu Tan, the tenth son, is appointed as the Prince of Lu. Some feudal designations are changed are modified at a later time.
Lady Sun is conferred the title honored consort. Lady Wu is named Consort Chong (or Consort of Fulfillment, Chong fei). Lady Guo is given the title Consort Hui (Hui fei, lit. “Gracious Consort”), while another Lady Guo is conferred the title Consort Ning (Ning fei, lit. “Restful Consort”). Lady Da is given the title Consort Ding (Ding fei, lit. “Consort of Pacification”), and Lady Hu is conferred the title Consort Shun (Shun fei, lit. “Complaisant Consort”).
The rites for imperial audiences are instituted.
The order of music and dance at audiences, banquets, and sacrifices is established.
The winter attire for civil and military officials is determined. The manner of dress for the palace attendants is designated anew.
The Hall for Ancestral Worship (Fengxian dian) is built. Sacrifices are held on the first and fifteenth days of the lunar month and for seasonal sacrifices, and the family rites are conducted.
Xinhai Year (approx. 1371)
Hongwu Reign, 4th Year
Left Grand Councilor Li Shanchang (who is also the grand preceptor and Duke of the State of Han) resigns. Right Aide of the Secretariat and the Faithful Earl Wang Guangyang becomes the right grand councilor, while Administration Vice Commissioner Hu Weiyong becomes the right aide.
The daughter of Chang Yuchun is summoned to become the crowned prince's principal consort.
Eunuchs are banned from court. Women servants are appointed in their place with one directress over each of the Six Palace Services, namely, the General Palace Service (Shanggong ju), Workshops Service (Shanggong ju), Ceremonial Service (Shangyi ju), Wardrobe Service (Shangfu ju), Food Service (Shangshi ju), and Housekeeping Service (Shangqin ju). Each service heads four subordinate Offices, of which the Office of Palace Surveillance (Gongzheng si) is in charge of keeping watch over and disciplining the whole staff of palace women. The officials number seventy-five, and female attendants number eighteen. The regulations for the architectural style of the princess’ residence are established. Red plaques inscribed with admonitions for the imperial consort and concubines are created.
Jiayin Year (approx. 1374)
Hongwu Reign, 7th Year
The new system of military organization (weisuo, a term used to denote guards, or wei; and battalions and companies, or suo) is established.
The honored consort, Lady Sun, dies at the age of thirty-two (in sui).
The Hall for Ancestral Worship (Fengxian dian) is expanded.
Yimao Year (approx. 1375)
Hongwu Reign, 8th Year
Imperial Ancestral Temple is rebuilt.
The inner halls of the palace are reconstructed.
By imperial order, the heir apparent, the Prince of Qin, Prince of Jin, Prince of Chu, and Prince of Jingjiang tour the central capital and conduct martial training.
Bingchen Year (approx. 1376)
Hongwu Reign, 9th Year
Li Hong, the eldest son of the Duke of the State of Han (Li Shanchang), marries the emperor's eldest daughter, Princess Lin'an.
Dingsi Year (approx. 1377)
Hongwu Reign, 10th Year
On the bingyin day, the order is given for political happenings throughout the empire to be reported first to the heir apparent and then officially reported in memorials to the throne.
Construction on the inner halls of the palace is completed.
With the emperor’s desire for simplicity in the design of inner palace halls, he is recorded saying, "Frugality is sufficient for character cultivation, whereas extravagance will result in immorality." The emperor's second grandson, Zhu Yunwen, is born on the jimao day. On the Winter Solstice (the dinghai day), joint sacrifices to heaven and earth are held at the Hall of Venerating Heaven.
Wuwu Year (approx. 1378)
Hongwu Reign, 11th Year
The following sons of the emperor are given titles: Zhu Chun as the Prince of Shu, Zhu Bo as the Prince of Xiang, Zhu Gui as the Prince of Yu, Zhu Ying as the Prince of Han, and Zhu Zhi as the Prince of Wei. The title of Zhu Su, the Prince of Wu, is changed to the Prince of Zhou. The stele for the imperial tomb at the central capital is designed. Not satisfied with the epitaph written by his Confucian court officials who whitewash his humble origin, the emperor personally drafts the text, clearly describing the hardships he encountered in difficult times. The stele is thus engraved.
The emperor's grandson Zhu Gaochi is born on the guisi day to the Prince of Yan as the first son of his primary wife.
Jiwei Year (approx. 1379)
Hongwu Reign, 12th Year
The Imperial Music Office (Shenyue guan) is established.
Right Grand Councilor Wang Guangyang is demoted for withholding truth from the emperor and banished to the island of Hainan in the southernmost extremes of imperial territory. He is later executed.
Gengshen Year (approx. 1380)
Hongwu Reign, 13th Year
Left Grand Councilor Hu Weiyong is executed for treason, and approximately 15,000 individuals associated with him are either executed or imprisoned.
The Prince of Yan, Zhu Di, begins his rule over Beiping (the ancient name of Beijing).
On the emperor's birthday, called the Festival of Ten Thousand Longevities (Wanshou jie), the yisi day, Zhu Yuanzhang holds an audience at the Hall of Venerating Heaven (Fengtian dian) to receive felicitations and a feast for officials in the Hall of Scrupulous Behavior (Jinshen dian). This precedent is followed henceforth.
Xinyou Year (approx. 1381)
Hongwu Reign, 14th Year
The imperial consort's birthday is celebrated as the Thousand Autumns Festival (Qianqiu jie), and rites for the observance of this day are established.
Renxu Year (approx. 1382)
Hongwu Reign, 15th Year
1st Month, 1st Day:
Feasting is held in the Hall of Scrupulous Behavior (Jinshen dian) and the Nine Songs (Jiuzou) are first used.
Jiazi Year (approx. 1384)
Hongwu Reign, 17th Year
Lady Li is promoted to hold the title of Consort Shu (Shu fei, lit. “Pure Consort”) and is designated to manage affairs in the Six Palaces. She dies shortly thereafter, and Lady Guo, who was originally named Consort Ning (Ning fei, lit. “Restful Consort”), replaces her as the holder of the title Consort Shu and assumes her duties.
Bingyin Year (approx. 1386)
Hongwu Reign, 19th Year
The heir apparent goes to Xuyi in the north and buries the crown and garments of his great-grandfather, great-great-grandfather, and great-great-great-grandfather and their empresses. He has the architecture enhanced and names the complex the Ancestral Mausoleum.
Dingmao Year (approx. 1387)
Hongwu Reign, 20th Year
The emperor conducts a military inspection outside the Meridian Gate. He commands generals and guards to practice archery outside the Meridian Gate everyday thereafter.
Gengwu Year (approx. 1390)
Hongwu Reign, 23rd Year
At the age of seventy-seven (in sui), the grand preceptor and Duke of the State of Han Li Shanchang is ordered to commit suicide on suspicion of conspiracy against the state. More than seventy members of his family are also executed.
Xinwei Year (approx. 1391)
Hongwu Reign, 24th Year
Zhu Zhan is named as the Prince of Qing, Zhu Quan as the Prince of Ning, Zhu Pian as the Prince of Min, Zhu Hui as the Prince of Gu, Zhu Song as the Prince of Han, Zhu Mo as the Prince of Shen, Zhu Ying as the Prince of An, Zhu Jing as the Prince of Tang, Zhu Dong as the Prince of Ying, and Zhu Yi as the Prince of Yi.
In the eighth month of this year, the heir apparent received orders to undertake the position as the grand coordinator of Shaanxi. He returns to the capital, offers the map of the north-central region stretching from Guanzhong to Luoyang as a gift to the emperor, and suggests that his new capital be sited in the city of Chang'an.
Renshen Year (approx. 1392)
Hongwu Reign, 25th Year
The Prince of Yu's (Zhu Gui) title is changed to the Prince of Dai. The Prince of Han (Zhu Ying) is given the new title of the Prince of Su. The Prince of Wei (Zhu Zhi) is renamed the Prince of Liao.
The heir apparent dies at the age of thirty-nine (in sui).
The heir apparent is buried to the right of the empress’ (née Ma) tomb and is given the posthumous title Yiwen. The Court of the Imperial Clan (Zongren fu), Five Chief Military Commissions (Wu fu), Six Ministries (Liu bu), and Office of Imperial Sacrifices (Taichang si) are built outside the Gate of Venerating Heaven and facing east and west. Only the Three Judicial Offices remain outside the Taiping Gate (lit. “Peace Gate”, one of the city gates).
On the gengyin day, the emperor's third grandson Zhu Yunwen is named as Imperial Grandson-heir.
Guiyou Year (approx. 1393)
Hongwu Reign, 26th Year
All of the concubines who had given birth to children are listed in official records.
General Lan Yu is accused of treason and executed along with thousands of others alleged to be involved in the conspiracy.
Wuyin Year (approx. 1398)
Hongwu Reign, 31st Year
5th Month (Intercalary):
On the eighth day, the emperor lies on his deathbed. On the tenth day, he dies in the West Palace at the age of seventy-one (in sui). The posthumous edict for his grandson Zhu Yunwen to succeed to the throne is proclaimed. On the sixteenth day, Zhu Yunwen ascends to the throne, and the next year is deemed the first year of the Jianwen reign. On the same day, the emperor and empress are buried together on the southern side of Mount Zhong. Their tomb is named the Xiao Tomb (Xiaoling, lit. “Filial Mausoleum”), and they are given posthumous titles. The Hongwu Emperor is posthumously named Taizu (lit. “Great Ancestor”). Lady Lü, mother of the Jianwen Emperor, is honored as the empress dowager.
According to the posthumous order, Vice Minister Qi Tai becomes the minister of the Ministry of War. The chief minister of the Court of Imperial Sacrifices (Taichang si qing) and former reader-companion in the East Palace, Huang Zicheng, concurrently serves as a Hanlin Academician, participating in the handling of military affairs.
Qi Tai and Huang Zicheng suggest the reclamation of feudal lands. The Prince of Zhou, Zhu Su, is apprehended on charges of conspiracy. The Confucian scholar Fang Xiaoru of Hanzhong Prefecture is selected for service in the Hanlin Academy. He serves daily as the emperor's consultant and comes to audience for official reports, negotiations with court officials, and commenting on and replying to issues reported to the throne.
The Prince of Zhou, Zhu Su, is deposed as a commoner. Arrests are ordered for the Prince of Qi, Zhu Fu; the Prince of Dai, Zhu Gui; and the Prince of Min, Zhu Pian. The Prince of Yan, Zhu Di, is plagued by doubts and fear.
Monk Daoyan (secular name Yao Guangxiao), who went with the Prince of Yan to Beiping, secretly advises the prince to take up arms. The Prince of Yan feigns illness and secretly trains soldiers.
The emperor sends Vice Minister Zhang Bing of the Ministry of Works to serve as the provincial administration commissioner of Beiping. He also designates Regional Military Commissioner Xie Gui and Zhang Xin to administer the Regional Military Commission of Beiping. Meanwhile, they receive covert imperial orders to monitor the Prince of Yan.
Administrator Ge Cheng of Yan Prefecture is sent by the Prince of Yan to the metropolitan area (i.e., the imperial capital) to report to the emperor. Meeting the emperor, he faithfully reports happenings in Beiping. The emperor sends Ge Cheng back, calling for him to act as a spy, and asking him to gather evidence that could lead to the arrest of the Prince of Yan. The Prince of Yan senses that a plot is at hand.
Translated and edited by Li Yang, Zhuang Ying, Adam J. Ensign, et al.