Home > Explore > Timeline of the Ming & Qing Palace Events

Timeline of the Ming & Qing Palace Events

Introductory Matters
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 Tianshun Emperor (approx. 1457–1464)

Dingchou Year (approx. 1457)
Tianshun Reign, 1st Year 

1st Month: 
On the twenty-first day, the emperor emeritus (the former Zhengtong Emperor) ascends the throne, offers sacrifices to the ancestors in the Imperial Ancestral Temple, and changes the year designation from the eighth year of the Jingtai reign to the first year of the Tianshun reign, establishing his restored reign with a new reign title. Upon his restoration, he names Xu Youzhen (also known as Xu Cheng) as the chancellor of the Hanlin Academy, while allowing him to maintain his original post so as to participate in managing state affairs. On the following day, Xu Youzhen is additionally named as the minister of the Ministry of War. On the twenty-second day, the junior guardian and former Minister of War Yu Qian and Grand Secretary Wang Wen are executed, and their personal property is confiscated. Many of their relatives and supporters are executed, denounced, or exiled to distant regions to serve in garrisons.
2nd Month:
The Jingtai Emperor is dethroned and given his former title, the Prince of Cheng. He is relocated to a residence in the southwestern part of the imperial palace. The empress dowager, née Wu, his biological mother, is demoted as Consort Xian (Xian fei, lit. “Worthy Consort”), which was her former title granted by the deceased Xuande Emperor. The late empress, née Hang, is also demoted by shortening her posthumous title. The deceased heir apparent, Huaixian, son of the interim Jingtai Emperor, is accordingly demoted as an heir, a princely title. All these measures are claimed to be carried out according to the will of the empress dowager, née Sun.
Vice Minister of Personnel Li Xian serves as chancellor of the Hanlin Academy and participates in state 
The Prince of Cheng dies, and his burial is ordered to follow princely funerary arrangements. Construction on the former interim emperor's tomb, the Shou Tomb (Shouling, lit. "longevity tomb"), is discontinued, and the structure is destroyed. Instead, he is buried in the Western Hills where imperial princes and princesses who die before reaching adulthood are buried. He is given the humiliating posthumous title Li (lit. "rebellion"). Burial sacrifices include Lady Tang and other concubines.
3rd Month:
Zhu Jianshen is restored as heir apparent. 
7th Month:
The Gate of Accepting Heavenly Mandate (Chengtian men, the present-day gate known as Tian’an men) catches fire.
10th Month:
The emperor awards posthumous honors to the eunuch Wang Zhen who died during the battle at Tumu. These honors include a funeral and sacrifice for his death and a shrine in his memory. 
Xuyin Year (approx. 1458)
Tianshun Reign, 2nd Year 

1st Month:
The empress dowager receives her honorary title. This is announced across the empire. 
Yimao Year (approx. 1459)
Tianshun Reign, 3rd Year 

8th Month:
Shi Heng and his nephew Shi Biao are imprisoned for their roles in plotting the interim emperor’s restoration.
Xinsi Year (approx. 1461)
Tianshun Reign, 5th Year 

7th Month:
The eunuch Cao Jixiang, another conspirator in the emperor’s restoration, is executed as an insurrectionist.

Renwu Year (approx. 1461)
Tianshun Reign, 6th Year 

9th Month:

The empress dowager, née Sun, dies. 
10th Month:
The late empress dowager receives her posthumous honorary title. 
11th Month:
The late empress dowager is buried in the Jing Tomb. 
Guiwei Year (approx. 1463)
Tianshun Reign, 7th Year 

7th Month (Intercalary):
The late Xuande Emperor’s empress, née Hu, who demitted her position, is posthumously restored her title and rank and given an additional honorary title.

12th Month:
The practice of sacrificing concubines as part of funerals for emperors is abolished. 

Jiashen Year (approx. 1464)
Tianshun Reign, 8th Year 

1st Month:

On the second day, the emperor falls ill. The heir apparent administers the empire in the Hall of Literary Brilliance. On the sixteenth day, the emperor’s last edict is drafted, which announces the abolishment of concubine sacrifice. On the seventeenth day, the emperor dies at the age of thirty-eight (in sui). His eldest son, Heir Apparent Zhu Jianshen, ascends to the throne on the twenty-second day and designates the following year as the first year of the Chenghua reign.

2nd Month:
The late Tianshun Emperor is given his posthumous title on the twelfth day. 
3rd Month:

On the first day, the late emperor’s empress, née Qian, is elevated as empress dowager and given the honorary title Ciyi (lit. “benevolent and ideally virtuous”). The new emperor’s biological mother, the honored consort, née Zhou, is also appointed as empress dowager. Grand Secretary Li Xian with other fellow court officials request the emperor to dismiss the plethora of palace maids recruited during the four previous reigns (the Xuande reign, 1426-1435, to the Tianshun reign, 1457-1464) and release noble women from the Palace Laundry Service (Huanyi ju) who were sentenced to serve there due to their familial association with officials charged with criminal activity. The emperor agrees to the requests. 
5th Month:
The late Tianshun Emperor is buried in the Yu Tomb. 
7th Month:

Lady Wu is appointed as empress. 
8th Month:
The empress, née Wu, is deposed. 
10th Month: 

Lady Wang is appointed as empress. 


Translated and edited by Li Yang, Zhuang Ying, Adam J. Ensign, et al.

The Tianshun Emperor (r. 1457-1464)
The Zhengtong Emperor, Zhu Qizhen (temple name Emperor Yingzong), was the eldest son of the Xuande Emperor and his secondary consort née Sun. He was born in 1427 (on the eleventh day of the eleventh lunar month in the second year of the Xuande reign) [Freda will check date in a concordance at home.]. Zhu Qizhen was enthroned at about the age of nine with the reign title Zhengtong and ruled the empire for fourteen years. In 1449 (the fourteenth year of the Zhengtong reign), the emperor was captured by the Oirats in the ”Tumu incident”. His half brother Zhu Qiyu ascended the throne as the Jingtai Emperor (r. 1450-1456), while the ex-emperor was given the title Emperor Emeritus.
  In 1450 (the eighth lunar month of the first year of Jingtai reign), the Oirat general Esen returned the ex-emperor to Beijing. He took up residence in the Southern Palace. In 1456 (the seventh year of the Jingtai reign), the emperor fell severely ill. In the small hours of the seventeenth day of the twelfth lunar month, the general Shi Heng (d. 1460), vice-censor-in-chief Xu Youzhen (1407-1472), Commissioner-in-chief Zhang Yue and the eunuch Cao Jixiang (d. 1461) seized the opportunity to stage a coup d’état to restore the deposed Zhengtong Emperor to the throne. This is the famous “forcing the palace gate” incident (duomen zhibian), in which the Tianshun Emperor reascended the throne and promulgated the new reign name Tianshun (literally meaning “obedient to heaven”). 
  Xu Youzhen and Shi Heng also instigated the restored Tianshun Emperor to purge the Jingtai Emperor’s supporters. Yu Qian (1398-1457), for instance, the Minister of War who had saved the dynasty in the crisis of 1449, was indicted for high treason and beheaded. The eunuch Cao Jixiang was made Director of Ceremonial, chief of the eunuch establishment. No remarkable accomplishment marked the second period of Emperor Yingzong’s reign.
  In 1464 (the eighth year of the Tianshun reign), the emperor died in the first lunar month at the age of thirty-eight (by traditional account). Before his death, he issued an edict ordering the abolishment of sacrificial immolation of his imperial consorts. With the temple name Yingzong, he was buried in the Benevolent Mausoleum (Yu ling) in Changping, on the northern outskirts of Beijing. 
Lady Zhou, Empress Dowager Xiaosu of the Zhengtong Emperor (r. 1436-1449)
Introduction: since her teenage years, Lady Zhou was considered perceptive. During the reign of her son, the Chenghua Emperor (r. 1465-1487), he saw fit to honor his consort, Lady Wan, who subsequently abused her power in the imperial household. Lady Zhou brought up her grandson, the heir apparent Zhu Youtang, whose biological mother was said to have been killed by Lady Wan.
Lady Zhou (?-1504) was a native of Beijing, daughter of a noble family. A rabbit was the matchmaker for her and the Zhengtong Emperor. While hunting in the suburbs, the emperor chased a rabbit into Lady Zhou’s home. The break-in scared all family members away except her, a teenage girl. Finding her charming and interesting, Zhengtong brought her back to the Forbidden City. 
  In 1447, Lady Zhou gave birth to prince Zhu Jianshen. In 1457, she was promoted as the Honored Consort. Later her son succeeded to the throne as the Chenghua Emperor (r. 1465-1487), and she was venerated as Empress Dowager. After two decades, in 1487 the Chenghua Emperor died. Her grandson Zhu Youtang ascended the throne as the Hongzhi Emperor (r. 1488-1505) and gave her the special title of the “Grand Empress Dowager of Compassion and Longevity”. The Hongzhi Emperor had a strong affection for his grandmother who brought him up after his biological mother died [under suspicious circumstances in the Yongshou gong when he was five or six]. However, Lady Zhou was no angel. The Zhengtong Emperor’s officially appointed empress was Lady Qian. But after Zhu Jianshen ascended the throne, Lady Zhou as his biological mother was also elevated to the empress and was reluctant to share her status with Qian. After Lady Qian’s death, Zhou tried to obstruct her burial in the same tomb with their deceased emperor husband. Her selfish try was rejected by the leading officials. 
About the
Palace Museum