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Timeline of the Ming & Qing Palace Events

1403, Guiwei Year
Ming Dynasty: Yongle Reign, 1st Year 
 
1st month
The emperor entertains the various princes with a feast at the Hall of Splendid Canopy (Huagai dian). An imperial edict is issued to designate Beiping as the northern capital.
 
1404, Jiashen Year
Ming Dynasty: Yongle Reign, 2nd Year

4th month 
Monk Daoyan is designated as the junior preceptor of the heir apparent. He resumes his secular identity with his family name Yao. The emperor bestows upon him the given name Guangxiao. The Heir Zhu Gaochi is named the heir apparent. Zhu Gaoxun is named the prince of Han, while Zhu Gaosui is appointed as the prince of Zhao.
 
1405, Yiyou Year
Ming Dynasty: Yongle Reign, 3rd Year

6th month
The eunuch Zheng He (1371-1433) is sent by imperial order on his maritime expedition to Southeast and South Asia, after which he continues his historic voyages. 
 
1406, Bingxu Year
Ming Dynasty: Yongle Reign, 4th Year

7th month (intercalary)
The emperor orders the construction of the imperial palace in the northern capital, Beiping, for the following year. In preparation, he sends Song Li and others to gather timber and fire bricks and commissions the Marquis of Taining Chen Guidong to manage the project. 
 
1407, Dinghai Year
Ming Dynasty: Yongle Reign, 5th Year

7th month
Empress Lady Xu, the principal consort of the emperor dies. She receives the posthumous title Renxiao in the tenth month. 
 
9th month
Zheng He returns from his voyage.
 
11th month
The compilation of the Great Compendium of the Yongle Reign (Yongle dadian) is completed, consisting of 22,937 volumes. 
 
1409, Yichou Year
Ming Dynasty: Yongle Reign, 7th Year

2nd month
The emperor is on an inspection tour in the north, leaving the heir apparent supervising state affairs. Lady Zhang is designated as the honored consort. Lady Quan is designated as Worthy Consort (Xian fei). Lady Ren is named Complaisant Consort (Shun fei). Lady Wang is promoted as the Lady of Bright Countenance (Zhaorong). Lady Li is named Lady of Bright Deportment (Zhaoyi). Another Lady Li is promoted as Lady of Handsome Fairness (Jieyu), and Lady Cui is named as a Beauty (Meiren). 
 
4th month
The emperor selects a site north of Beiping (today's Changping in present-day Beijing) for his tomb and names the mountain where the tomb shall be constructed as Tianshou (lit. heavenly longevity).
 
1410, Gengyin Year
Ming Dynasty: Yongle Reign, 8th Year

2nd month
The emperor orders his eldest grandson Zhu Zhanji to stay in the northern capital. Leading the troops in person, the emperor defeats Mongols outside the empire’s northern frontier. In the seventh month, he returns to the northern capital (present-day Beijing), and in the tenth month, he is back to the southern capital (modern day Nanjing).
 
1411, Xinmao Year
Ming Dynasty: Yongle Reign, 9th Year

11th month
Zhu Zhanji is formally designated as the imperial grandson-heir. The crowning ritual is held at the Hall of Splendid Canopy (Huagai dian).
 
1412, Renchen Year
Ming Dynasty: Yongle Reign, 10th Year

10th month
The Imperial Grandson-heir Zhu Zhanji leads a group of young soldiers to perform martial arts at Mount Fang, and the frost descends the next morning, which is considered a good omen. Officials offer their congratulations. 
 
11th month
The eunuch Zheng He is dispatched to lead a maritime expedition to Southeastern Asian countries including Bangladesh and Java. 
 
1413, Guisi Year
Ming Dynasty: Yongle Reign, 11th Year
 
1st month 
Escorted by the Prince of Han, Zhu Gaoxun, the coffin of the emperor’s late principal consort Empress Renxiao is moved to the capital. The construction of the imperial tomb at Mount Tianshou is completed and becomes known as Changling (or the Chang Tomb). 
 
2nd month
The emperor begins his inspection tour to the north from the southern capital accompanied by 
 
the imperial grandson-heir, Zhu Zhanji. The Empress Renxiao is buried in the Changling tomb. 
 
1414, Jiawu Year
Ming Dynasty: Yongle Reign, 12th Year
 
6th month
The emperor leads the army and defeats Oyirat Mongols, driving them to the Tura River where the army withdraws. 
 
1415, YiweiYear
Ming Dynasty: Yongle Reign, 13th Year

5th month
The Prince of Han, Zhu Gaoxun, is imprisoned for breaking the law numerous times and will be demoted to a commoner's status. The Heir Apparent Zhu Gaochi tries his best to rescue his brother from this fate. As a result, only two of Gaoxun's escort guards are reduced as punishment. The emperor relocates Zhu Gaoxun’s fief to Le’an (in today’s Shandong province). Zhu Gaoxun harbors a grudge. 
 
1416, Bingshen Year
Ming Dynasty: Yongle Reign, 14th Year

8th month
The construction of the West Palace in Beiping begins. 
 
9th month
The emperor returns to the southern capital. 
 
11th month
Discussions regarding the construction of the imperial palace in the northern capital resume.  
 
12th month
Admiral Zheng He again sets out as the imperial envoy for another maritime expedition to South and Southeast Asian countries. 
 
1417, Dingyou Year
Ming Dynasty: Yongle Reign, 15th Year

2nd month
Relying on his merit of having assisted the Prince of Yan in the civil war by opening the city gate of Jinchuan for his troops in the fourth year of the Jianwen reign, Zhu Hui, the Prince of Gu, becomes arrogant and unbridled. He appropriates peasants’ farmland, kills innocent people, and plots against the regime. Eventually he is demoted to a commoner. The emperor orders Chen Gui, the Marquis of Taining, to resume his supervision of the construction in the northern capital and appoints Liu Sheng, the Marquis of Anyuan, and Wang Tong, the Marquis of Chengshan, as aides. 
 
4th month
The construction of the West Palace in the northern capital is completed. 
 
5th month
The emperor moves to the northern capital, and receives an audience at the newly built West Palace. 
 
7th month
Lady Hu is promoted as the principal consort of the imperial grandson-heir.
 
1418, Wuxu Year
Ming Dynasty: Yongle Reign, 16th Year

3rd month
Yao Guangxiao (Monk Daoyan), the junior preceptor of the heir apparent, dies. 
 
1420, Gengzi Year
Ming Dynasty: Yongle Reign, 18th Year
 
1st month (intercalary)
Yang Rong and Jin Youzi, chancellors of the Hanlin Academy, are promoted as grand secretaries of the Hall of Literary Profundity (Wenyuange daxueshi). 
 
8th month
The Eastern Depot (Dong chang) is created in Beiping. 
 
9th month
The construction of the imperial palace at Beiping is close to completion. The emperor sends Xia Yuanji (1366-1430), the auxiliary minister of revenue, to summon the heir apparent to move to Beiping by the end of the twelfth month. He also asks the imperial grandson-heir to accompany him. The Auxiliary Ministry of Rites receives imperial instruction calling for the northern capital to be designated as the capital of the empire from the beginning of the following year. The prefix “auxiliary” is to then no longer be used, and the Six Ministries will be established. Seals are to be transferred from government offices in the former capital to those in the new capital. New seals for the government offices in the southern capital are to be cast with two more characters “Nan Jing” (lit. southern capital) as prefix added on the seal surface. 
 
11th month
The transfer of the capital to the northern capital Beiping (modern day Beijing) is announced. 
 
12th month
The heir apparent and the imperial grandson-heir arrive in Beiping, in which the construction of the imperial palace is completed with a similar layout as that in Yingtian but on a more magnificent scale. The construction project had taken thirteen years to finish since it began in the sixth month of the sixth year of the Yongle reign. The emperor awards contributors of the project with grants. Among them, Cai Xin, a director of the Ministry of Works, is promoted as the right vice minister. 
 
1421, Xinchou Year
Ming Dynasty: Yongle Reign, 19th Year

1st month
On the first day, the emperor issues an order to place the spirit tablets of the five late ancestors of the imperial family at the Imperial Ancestral Temple for worship. The heir apparent orders the placement of the tablets of gods of Heaven and Earth at the southern border altars just outside the city complex. The imperial grandson-heir orders the placement of tablets for the worship of the gods at the Altar of Land and Grain. The Duke of the State of Qian, Mu Cheng, orders the placement of tablets for worshiping the gods of agriculture at the Altar of the God of Agriculture. The emperor holds celebrations in the Hall of Venerating Heaven, the most sacred building of the newly built imperial palace, to receive homage by the entire court and has a feast to entertain the court officials. Zheng He is sent for another maritime expedition. 
 
4th month
The three main halls in the imperial palace, the Hall of Venerating Heaven (Fengtian dian), the Hall of Splendid Canopy (Huagai dian), and the Hall of Scrupulous Behavior (Jinshen dian), are destroyed by fire. 
 
1422, Renyin Year
Ming Dynasty: Yongle Reign, 20th Year

1st month
The emperor, against all dissuasions, decides to lead his army to battle Arughtai, a Mongolian general, in the northern frontier. He orders the heir apparent to stay in the capital and supervise the country. 
 
8th month
The army withdraws after a huge victory and arrives at Beiping in the ninth month. 
 
12th month (intercalary)
The Palace of Heavenly Purity (Qianqing gong) is destroyed in a fire. 
 
1423, Guimao Year
Ming Dynasty: Yongle Reign, 21st Year

5th month
The Commander of the Changshan Guard, Meng Xian, plots to poison the emperor, dethrone the heir apparent, and proclaim Zhu Gaosui, the Price of Zhao, as emperor. The conspiracy is uncovered. Meng Xian and his co-conspirators are executed. Zhu Gaosui, however, is spared the death penalty because the heir apparent asks the emperor for mercy.
 
7th month
Arughtai invades again. In defense, the emperor prepares to personally command the army.
 
1424, Jiachen Year
Ming Dynasty: Yongle Reign, 22nd Year

1st month
Zheng He is commissioned on another maritime expedition to the South and Southeastern Asian countries.
 
4th month
The emperor sets out from Beiping accompanied by Grand Secretaries Yang Rong and Jin Youzi. He commands troops under the regional military commissions of Shanxi, Shandong, Henan, Shaanxi, and Liaodong to congregate with another three Guards at Xuanfu (modern day Xuanhua of Hebei province) first and then to move toward the northern frontier. The heir apparent is ordered to stay to supervise the country in the capital, with Yang Shiqi as his aide.
 
7th month
On the seventeenth day, the army stations at Khailas-ausu (northwest of modern day Duolun County in Inner Mongolia) upon their return. Critically ill, the emperor summons the Duke of the State of Ying, Zhang Fu, to announce his deathbed edict “to pass the throne on to the imperial heir apparent”. On the following day, the emperor dies at the age of sixty-five.
 
8th month
The heir apparent ascends the throne, designating the following year as the first year of the Hongxi reign. He promotes Yang Rong as the minister of the Court of Imperial Sacrifices. Jin Youzi is promoted as the vice minister of Ministry of Revenue while concurrently serving as grand secretary. Yang Shiqi is promoted as left vice minister of the Ministry of Rites while continuing as the grand secretary of the Hall of Splendid Canopy. Huang Huai is promoted as the commissioner of the Office of Transmission and grand secretary of the Hall of Martial Valor.
 
9th month
The late emperor receives his posthumous title, and, accordingly, the late empress, too, is given a posthumous title.Lady Zhang, the principal consort of the former heir apparent, who is now the emperor, is designated as the empress. Lady Guo, Lady Li, Lady Zhao, and the two others named Lady Wang are designated as the Honored Consort (Guifei), the Worthy Consort, Gracious Consort (Huifei), Pure Consort (Shufei), and Lady of Bright Countenance (Zhaorong), respectively. The imperial grandson-heir Zhu Zhanji is designated as the heir apparent, his wife Lady Hu as his principal consort. A group of imperial kinsmen receive their titles as princes and heirs.
 
12th month
The late emperor is buried in the Changling tomb.
 
 
The Yongle Emperor (r. 1403-1424)
 
Born in the Yuan dynasty, on the seventeenth day of the fourth lunar month of the twentieth year of the Zhizheng reign (1341-1368), Zhu Di, later known as the Yongle Emperor, was the fourth son of Zhu Yuanzhang, Emperor Taizu (r. 1368-1398) of the Ming dynasty (1368-1644). His mother was Empress Ma, the Xiaoci Empress, while some argued that he was actually the son of Consort Gong. He was conferred the title "Prince of Yan (the name of present-day Beijing; after the fall of the Yuan dynasty it had been renamed Beiping)" in 1370. Competent both in wisdom and bravery, he scored many victories on the battlefield as a distinguished general. After the death of Emperor Taizu, the newly-enthroned Jianwen Emperor (r. 1399-1402) adopted a policy of "reduce the feudatories" (xiao fan) to right the excessive decentralization of military power implicit in the princedoms created for Emperor Taizu's many sons. Unwilling to be subdued, the Prince of Yan proclaimed a military campaign to "rescue his nephew" from the perverse officials whom he claimed were dominating the court. After a four-year civil war, Zhu Di seized power and was enthroned as the Yongle Emperor. His reign lasted twenty-two years. 
  That Zhu Di's temple name "Emperor Chengzu" (the Chinese character "Cheng" literally means accomplishment or success) indicates that he was regarded by his successor as the founder of 
the dynasty second only to his father. On one hand, the Yongle Emperor restored policies inaugurated by his father while nullifying the Jianwen Emperor's reforms. On the other hand, he consolidated and expanded the rule of the new dynasty. He relocated the capital from Nanjing to Beijing, launched military campaigns in Annan (present-day Vietnam), went on five military expeditions against the Mongolians, and reinforced political control over the Northwest, Northeast, and the Tibetan regions. Also, he sponsored the compilation of the Great Compendium Composed during the Yongle Reign (Yongle dadian). The Yongle Emperor also ordered "Eunuch Sanbao", the mariner and fleet admiral Zheng He to set off on six naval expeditions to the Indian Ocean. It is said that the Emperor did this in order to look for the deposed Jianwen Emperor. 
  His decision to relocate the capital and to construct the Forbidden City had significant implications for the unification of the Ming dynasty. After the fall of the Yuan dynasty, the dethroned Mongolians kept invading the northern borders. In order to consolidate the northern border, in 1406, the fourth year of the Yongle reign, the Emperor decided to initiate the construction of the imperial palaces in Beijing. The comprehensive construction started in 1417, and finished in the twelfth lunar month of eighteenth year of the Yongle reign.
  After moving his capital to Beijing, Zhu Di started preparations for his northern expeditions. From spring of 1422, three consecutive military expeditions were launched in three years' time. During his last expedition, on the seventeenth day of the seventh lunar month, the Yongle Emperor was close to death. He summoned Prince Ying to his bedside and designated the heir-apparent as his successor. The Emperor died the following day at the age of sixty-four. 
Lady Xu, Empress Renxiao of the Yongle Emperor (r. 1403-1424)
 
Introduction: Lady Xu, Empress Renxiao of the Yongle Emperor (r. 1403-1424), was a virtuous empress and gave significant support to her husband.
 
Lady Xu (1362-1407) was a native of Anhui province. She was the eldest daughter of Xu Da, one of the founders of the Ming empire, and the biological mother of Zhu Gaozhi, the future Hongxi Emperor (r. 1425-1425). In her childhood, Lady Xu showed her serenity, intelligence, virtue, and interest in reading. In 1376, she was given the title of Princess of Yan. At the time her husband Zhu Di was the Prince of Yan (today's Beijing). 
  The ambitious Zhu Di disputed the rule of his nephew Zhu Yunwen, the Jianwen Emperor (r. 1399-1402), who succeeded his grandfather to the throne after his father the heir apparent died. Zhu Di indirectly declared war against the Jianwen Emperor and led his troops down to the south where the capital was at Nanjing, leaving his wife and son in Beijing. Seizing the opportunity, the Jianwen Emperor dispatched troops north to encircle Zhu Di’s domain, trying to divert his uncle’s attention. Lady Xu came to the rescue and took charge of the defense. With few military forces left in the city, Lady Xu persuaded all the residents, whether civilians or soldiers, to put on armor and defend the city walls. It was her efforts that saved the city. 
  After Zhu Di succeeded in usurping the throne, he bestowed on Lady Xu the title of Empress. Xu persuaded her husband to continue to use the capable people of the Hongwu Emperor (r. 1368-1398), in order to ensure a quick recovery from the turmoil of the civil war and to establish a positive image for the new emperor. She also instructed the wives of ministers to be supportive of their husbands.
Before Zhu Di ascended the throne, the younger brother of Lady Xu sent a secret report about the Jianwen Emperor to Zhu Di and was executed by the Jianwen Emperor as a traitor. Years later, Zhu Di as the emperor wanted to bestow a posthumous title on his brother-in-law and allow his son to inherit the title. Disagreeing with her husband, Lady Xu reckoned that any conferment on her relatives might encourage ambition and threaten Zhu’s rulership. Ignoring her wife’s disapproval, Zhu Di did as he wanted. But Lady Xu gave no gratifying response to the conferment. 
  Lady Xu had three sons and four daughters. Her eldest son Zhu Gaozhi succeeded to the throne as the Hongxi Emperor. 
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