1628, Wuchen Year
Ming Dynasty: Chongzhen Reign, 1st year
The practice of daily administration of state affairs by the emperor with secretary officials in the Hall of Literary Brilliance (Wenhua dian) is instituted .
Hong Taiji attacks Ligdan Khan and pacifies Southern Mongolia.
1629, Jisi Year
Ming Dynasty: Chongzhen Reign, 2nd year
The eldest imperial son Zhu Cilang is born and designated as heir apparent the following year.
The Latter Jin holds the first high-level civil service examinations.
1630, Gengwu Year
Ming Dynasty: Chongzhen Reign, 3rd year
Hong Taiji imprisons his cousin Amin (the second son of Nurhaci’s younger brother Šurhaci) for failing to guard the four major occupied cities inside the Great Wall.
1631, Xinwei Year
Ming Dynasty: Chongzhen Reign, 4th year
Hong Taiji enacts an ordinance that allows slaves to indict their masters and become freemen through relevant legal process.
Manggūltai (the fifth son of Nurhaci), one of the Four Great Princes (Sida beile), is demoted.
1632, Renshen Year
Ming Dynasty: Chongzhen Reign, 5th year
Hong Taiji sits alone to the south, thus abolishing the practice of having the khan seated with the three senior princes (beile).
Reforms of the Manchu script are codified and are attributed to the scholar Dahai.
The third imperial son Zhu Cican is born and later designated as the Prince of Ding.
1633, Guiyou Year
Ming Dynasty: Chongzhen Reign, 6th year
The fourth imperial son Zhu Cihuan is born and is later designated as the Prince of Yong.
Hong Taiji consolidates khanate powers and abolishes exclusive control by Eight Banners commanders.
1635, Yihai Year
Ming Dynasty: Chongzhen Reign, 8th year
Hong Taiji penalizes Daišan for various infractions.
1636, Bingzi Year
Ming Dynasty: Chongzhen Reign, 9th year
Hong Taiji inaugurates the Three Palace Academies.
Three Khalkha Mongol clans submit to Latter Jin rule. Hong Taiji designates Qing as the new title of his dynasty.
Hong Taiji inaugurates the Censorate.
Hong Taiji leads the second invasion of Joseon Korea.
1638, Wuyin Year
Ming Dynasty: Chongzhen Reign, 11th year
The Court of Colonial Affairs supersedes the Mongol Agency for the management of relations with Mongolian and other non-Han ethnic groups.
1641, Xinsi Year
Ming Dynasty: Chongzhen Reign, 14th year
The Battle of Songjin between the Qing and Ming over the cities of Songshan and Jinzhou begins.
1644, Jiashen Year
Ming Dynasty: Chongzhen Reign, 17th year
On the first day, Li Zicheng declares himself the king of the Great Shun dynasty in Xi’an.
The peasant revolt army led by Li Zicheng storms the capital (Beijing). On the eighteenth day, the Chongzhen Emperor hangs himself on the hill overlooking the Forbidden City (Wansui shan). Manchu troops enter the Shanhai Pass. The Ming dynasty collapses. The coffins of the late emperor and empress are buried at Siling (ling meaning tomb) in Changping.
The Chongzhen Emperor (r. 1628-1644)
The Chongzhen Emperor Zhu Youjian was born in 1611 (on the twenty-fourth day of the twelfth lunar month in the thirty-eighth year of the Wanli reign) in the Eastern Palace. Posthumously he was given three temple names at different times: first Emperor Sizong, then Emperor Yizong, and then in the Qing dynasty (1644-1911), his temple name was changed to Emperor Huaizong. He was the fifth son of Emperor Guangzong, the Taichang Emperor (r. 1620) with his consort née Liu. Because all three sons of Emperor Xizong, the Tianqi Emperor (r. 1621-1627) had died prematurely, the emperor issued an edict from his deathbed to summon his eldest surviving half brother Zhu Youjian to imperial succession.
Compared with many of his predecessors, Zhu Youjian turned out to be a more diligent and dedicated ruler. He attended classic expositions (jingyan) on a regular basis, and was modest enough to take counsel with court officials. He paid personal attention to most matters of state. His commitment raised hope among optimists who saw the new emperor’s accession as an opportunity to revive the dynasty. Early in his reign, the emperor’s most remarkable accomplishments included eradicating Wei Zhongxian’s influence at court and setting personnel issues to right. Shortly after his enthronement, the Chongzhen Emperor dismissed several officials who were connected with Wei Zhongxian (1568-1627) and ordered the eunuch to leave the capital for a minor ceremonial post in Fengyang, Anhui province, the ancestral home of the first Ming emperor. Within days, the emperor ordered Wei to be arrested. Upon hearing the news, Wei hanged himself. His corpse was subsequently humiliated through dismemberment. The rest of Wei’s former associates were executed, banished to the frontiers, sentenced to military service or imprisoned for life. Officials murdered or persecuted during the previous reign were rehabilitated, with those still alive restored to their original posts. Comprehensive reviews of administrative performances were carried out among officials in an effort to combat factional strife. Court officials were forbidden to engage in any way with eunuchs. Yuan Chonghuan (1584-1630) was recalled and reinstated as Minister of War (bingbu shangshu) and supreme commander of the northeastern frontier. He was entrusted with substantial military power and the mission to recapture lands lost to the Manchus.
Unfortunately, the political activism of the Chongzhen Emperor was not enough to compensate for accumulated and long-standing crises confronting the ramshackle dynasty. Moreover, his rashness, suspiciousness, and stubbornness inclined him to willful actions even when vigorously opposed by his officials. Increasingly dissatisfied with his civil and military officials and the information they provided, the emperor started to send eunuchs to northern frontiers as military inspectors or supervisors. As special investigators for the throne, the eunuchs gradually regained their influence, sometimes even overriding the authority of local administrators. In the central government, the eunuchs ordered to supervise the Ministry of Revenue and Ministry of Work went so far as to shove the two ministers aside and, for all practical purposes, ran the ministries. In the critical moment when Manchu forces marched towards the capital city, the emperor was credulous of a rumor started by the Manchus to the effect that Yuan Chonghuan colluded with the Manchu generals. The rumor successfully discredited Yuan who was subsequently imprisoned for treason and later cut to pieces. In the months following, the Ming troops suffered a series of humiliating defeats in front of the overwhelming Manchu forces. Overwhelmed by military and fiscal difficulties threatening the dynasty’s survival, the Chongzhen Emperor issued edicts to express his repentance and at the same time ordered cuts in expenditures for banquets and rituals. He resorted to various religious intercessory prayer ceremonies to mitigate social and military calamities. Disappointed by the Daoist deities who never answered his calls, he developed substantial interest in Catholicism and invited foreign missionaries to preach in the palace. In 1644, the seventeenth year of the Chongzhen reign, the dynasty experienced its bleakest moment. Ming troops were completely routed and lost all morale and discipline. Beijing was besieged by peasant rebels on 25 April 1644 (the seventeenth day of the third lunar month in the seventeenth year of the Chongzhen reign). The following night the emperor stabbed his consorts and daughters to death. The next morning, as peasant rebels overran his capital, he hanged himself in the Pavilion of Imperial Longevity (Shouhuang ting) on Coal Hill (Mei shan, today’s Jing shan, Prospect Hill) overlooking the Forbidden City.
The Chongzhen Emperor was buried in Memorial Mausoleum (Si ling) in Changping, on the northern outskirt of Beijing.
Lady Zhou, Empress Xiaojie of the Chongzhen Emperor (r. 1628-1644)
Introduction: Lady Zhou, primary consort of the Chongzhen Emperor (r. 1628-1644), was careful, gentle, and kind. She was consort to the emperor during days of social turmoil.
Lady Zhou (? -1644) was Princess of Xin before she was given the title of Empress when her husband Zhu Youjian ascended the throne as the Chongzhen Emperor (r. 1628-1644)
It was a time of chaotic peasant rebellions. Once she hinted to the emperor: “I still have a home in Nanjing.” But the emperor did not understand her implied suggestion to move the capital from Beijing to Nanjing.
Lady Tian, the Honored Consort, was spoiled and pushy. As the chief of palace ladies, Zhou found a way to show her. On a New Year’s Day, when lady Tian went to greet her, she made her wait outside in the cold for a long time. When the impatient Tian extended her new year’s greeting to her, she was aloof and unreceptive. Contradictorily, Lady Zhou warmly received another consort and chatted with her for a long time. Lady Tian was so angry that she went to complain in tears to the emperor. Still holding a grudge against Lady Zhou over an argument in the Hall of Union (Jiaotai dian), the emperor went to the empress’ palace and shoved her to the ground.
Lady Zhou resorted to starvation to show her resentment, which made the emperor a bit regretful. Soon he sent a eunuch to see her and bestow a fur on her. Later, Lady Tian was punished for misbehavior and was expelled to live in the Palace of Auspicious Beginning (Qixiang gong, in the Qing dynasty it was changed into the Hall of the Supreme Principle, Taiji dian). For three solid months the emperor did not summon her. One day when the Chongzhen Emperor and Lady Zhou were viewing flowers together, Zhou suggested summoning lady Tian. When the Chongzhen Emperor did not respond her, she took that as permission and had Lady Tian called to the garden. They got on good terms again.
The social turmoil drove the Chongzhen Emperor to worry day and night. Seeing the Emperor’s health decline day by day, Lady Zhou sent him food she had prepared. Meanwhile, the emperor received a letter from his grandmother, who told him that in her dream his deceased mother urged him to take care of himself. Recalling Lady Zhou’s care to him, the Emperor was touched. He showed her his grandmother’s letter and burst into tears with her over the meal.
In the third month of 1644, peasant troops captured the capital Beijing. At the order of the Chongzhen Emperor, Lady Zhou hanged herself in the palace. She was given the posthumous title of Xiaojie by the exiled Ming government in south China.