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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 Xuande Emperor (approx. 1426–1435)
Bingwu Year (approx. 1426)
Xuande Reign, 1st Year
Zhu Gaoxu, the Prince of Han, rises in revolt. The Xuande Emperor personally leads a campaign against this sedition and besieges the rebel stronghold of Le’an (in present-day Shandong Province). The Prince of Han submits to defeat and confesses to treason. He and his family are sent to the northern capital and confined in a dwelling in the southwestern area of the imperial palace. Over six hundred and forty accomplices are sentenced to death and the rest are banished to the frontier.
Dingwei Year (approx. 1427)
Xuande Reign, 2nd Year
Zhu Qizhen, the eldest son of the emperor, is born to the honored consort, née Sun. She is excessively favored by the emperor for the birth of the son. According to the Comprehensive Mirror of the Ming (Ming tongjian), this child was actually the son of a palace woman that the honored consort surreptitiously took as her own.
Wushen Year (approx. 1428)
Xuande Reign, 3rd Year
The emperor installs Zhu Qizhen as his heir apparent. The empress, née Hu, requests to demit her position. The emperor accompanies the empress dowager to visit the Western Garden and climb the Hill of Myriad Years (Wansui shan) to celebrate her longevity.
The empress, née Hu, demits her position and resides in the Palace of Eternal Peace (Chang’an gong). The honored consort, née Sun, is elevated as empress.
The emperor is accompanied by Jian Yi and Yang Rong on his inspection of the north, which is a measure taken against possible northern revolts. The second son of the emperor, Zhu Qiyu, is born to Lady Wu, also known as Consort Xian (Xian fei, lit. “Worthy Consort”).
Jiyou Year (approx. 1429)
Xuande Reign, 4th Year
The emperor visits the confined Prince of Han but is deliberately shamed by the vengeful prince. The furious emperor orders his men to place the errant prince in a large bronze vat, which is then heated and used to burn the prince to death. All his sons are subsequently executed.
The emperor conducts military training on the outskirts of the capital and hunts at Yukou.
Gengxu Year (approx. 1430)
Xuande Reign, 5th Year
On the day of Pure Brightness Festival (Qingming jie, also called Tomb Sweeping Day), the emperor, accompanied by the empress dowager, worships at the Chang Tomb (the Yongle Emperor’s tomb) and the Xian Tomb (the Hongxi Emperor’s tomb). The emperor rides a horse and leads the way for the empress dowager. Upon reaching the Qinghe Bridge, the emperor dismounts and leads his horse to a peasant family's home. The empress dowager tries the food and wine and says, “An emperor should know the taste of the countryside.”
The emperor instructs Zheng He to take another maritime expedition.
Renzi Year (approx. 1432)
Xuande Reign, 7th Year
A man shouts what are considered defamatory words outside the West Prosperity Gate (Xihua men). Guards apprehend him, and he is taken to see the emperor. He continues his shouting his views. Court officials request the man be sent to the judiciary office. The emperor says, "Ancient Sage Rulers never accused slanderous subjects. How could I convict such a man? Release him."
Jiayin Year (approx. 1434)
Xuande Reign, 9th Year
State ministers greet the heir apparent at the Hall of Literary Brilliance (Wenhua dian). The heir apparent is but eight years old (in sui).
The emperor says: “Although all is well in Our realm, We ought not neglect military preparedness.” He personally leads an inspection army accompanied by Yang Shiqi, Yang Rong, Yang Pu, and Hu Ying and returns in the tenth month.
The emperor falls ill.
Yimao Year (approx. 1435)
Xuande Reign, 10th Year
The emperor's illness prohibits him from attending audiences. He orders court officials to assemble and report to the heir apparent in the Hall of Literary Brilliance (Wenhua dian). On the third day, the emperor dies in the Palace of Heavenly Purity (Qianqing gong) at the age of thirty-eight (in sui). His final testament reads, “Crucial state affairs shall be reported to the empress dowager. The heir apparent Zhu Qizhen shall ascend to the throne, with the following year as the first year of his Zhengtong reign.”
The heir apparent is merely nine years old (in sui). A rumor spreads saying the empress dowager intends for the Prince of Xiang to claim the throne. Grand Secretaries Yang Shiqi and Yang Rong lead a group of court officials to the imperial palace to greet the heir apparent in the Palace of Heavenly Purity (Qianqing gong). The empress dowager soon arrives, declaring the heir apparent to be the new emperor. Officials immediately pay homage to Zhu Qizhen. The rumor is put to rest. On the eleventh day, the construction of the Xuande Emperor's tomb begins. On the twenty-fifth day, the posthumous title and the temple name of the late Xuande Emperor are designated.
The empress dowager is elevated as grand empress dowager. The widowed empress is named empress dowager. At times, officials request the dowager to attend to state affairs from behind a screen, but she refuses. She defers negligible matters, has the palace cleared of recreational items, and exhorts the newly enthroned emperor to be studious. Crucial state affairs sent to the dowager are delivered to the Grand Secretariat by her order and await implementation after discussion by Yang Shiqi and other grand secretaries. On the ninth day, the emperor’s younger brother Zhu Qiyu is designated as the Prince of Cheng.
Over 3,800 music performers from the Music Office are discharged.
More than 17,000 forced laborers are freed.
The late Xuande Emperor is buried at the Jing Tomb (Jingling, with ling meaning tomb).
The eunuch Wang Zhen is designated as the Directorate of Ceremonial. In his youth, he was elected to attend the Eunuch School and later served the emperor in the Eastern Palace, craftily earning the sovereign's favor.
Translated and edited by Li Yang, Zhuang Ying, Adam J. Ensign, et al.
The Xuande Emperor (r. 1426-1435)
Lady Sun, Empress Xiaogong of the Xuande Emperor (r. 1426-1435)