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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 Chenghua Emperor (approx. 1465–1487)

Yiyou Year (approx. 1465)
Chenghua Reign, 1st Year

2nd Month:
The late junior guardian, Yu Qian, who was falsely accused of treason and executed, is exonerated. His son, son-in-law, and the son of late Grand Secretary Wang Wen, who was executed with Yu Qian, are released from their distant posts and called back to the capital.

Bingxu Year (approx. 1466)
Chenghua Reign, 2nd Year

1st Month:
The emperor’s first son is born to Consort Wan. 
2nd Month:
Consort Wan is promoted as the honored consort. 
8th Month:
Yu Qian’s son Yu Mian is restored to his original official post. 
11th Month:

The eldest imperial son born to honored consort, née Wan, dies in infancy. 
Wuzi Year (approx. 1468)
Chenghua Reign, 4th Year

6th Month:
Empress Dowager Ciyi (lit. "benevolent and ideally virtuous") dies at the age of forty-three (in sui).
7th Month:
The late empress dowager receives her posthumous title. 
9th Month:
The empress dowager is buried in the Yu Tomb in another chamber. Her memorial tablet is placed in the Imperial Ancestral Temple with that of the late Tianshun Emperor. 
Jichou Year (approx. 1469)
Chenghua Reign, 5th Year

4th Month:
The imperial son Zhu Youji is born. 
Gengyin Year (approx. 1470)
Chenghua Reign, 6th Year 

7th Month:
Another imperial son, Zhu Youtang, is born in a remote corner of the imperial palace's western residences.
Xinmao Year (approx. 1471)
Chenghua Reign, 7th Year (approx. ) 

11th Month:
Zhu Youji is named as the heir apparent. 
Renchen Year (approx. 1471)
Chenghua Reign, 8th Year 

1st Month:
Heir Apparent Zhu Youji dies in infancy and is subsequently given the posthumous name Daogong (lit. “grief and respect”). 
Yiwei Year (approx. 1475)
Chenghua Reign, 11th Year 

5th Month:
The imperial son Zhu Youtang and his biological mother Consort Shu (Shu fei, lit. “Pure Consort”), née Ji, meet the emperor and move to the central area of the imperial palace.
6th Month:

Consort Shu, née Ji, dies suddenly. 
11th Month:

Zhu Youtang is appointed as the heir apparent. 
12th Month:
The emperor reinstates the imperial reign name of Zhu Qiyu, the late Jingtai Emperor, who was demoted as the Prince of Cheng after being dethroned from his interim reign.
Bingshen Year (approx. 1476)
Chenghua Reign, 12th Year 

7th Month:
The imperial son Zhu Youyuan is born. 
Dingyou Year (approx. 1477)
Chenghua Reign, 13th Year 

1st Month: 
The Western Depot (a secret-service agency) is established with the eunuch Wang Zhi as the director. This position affords him incredible power.
Wuxu Year (approx. 1478)
Chenghua Reign, 14th Year 

2nd Month:
Heir Apparent Zhu Youtang begins his formal education.

Dingwei Year (approx. 1487)
Chenghua Reign, 23rd Year

1st Month:
The honored consort, née Wan, dies. 
8th Month:

The emperor falls ill on the seventeenth day. He asks the heir apparent to attend to state affairs in the Hall of Literary Brilliance (Wenhua dian). On the twenty-first day, the emperor is critically ill and dies the following day.
9th Month: 
Heir Apparent Zhou Youtang ascends the throne on the sixth day, and the following year is designated as the first year of the Hongzhi reign. On the nineteenth day, the late Chenghua Emperor receives his posthumous title and is buried in the Mao Tomb. 
10th Month: 
The empress dowager, née Zhou, is promoted as the grand empress dowager. The empress, née Wang, is elevated as the empress dowager. The following day, Lady Zhang is designated as the empress. On the twenty-sixth day, the emperor posthumously names his biological mother, the late Consort Shu (Shu fei, lit. “Pure Consort”), as Empress Dowager Xiaomu (lit. "filial and sincere").


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

The Chenghua Emperor (r. 1465-1487)
The Chenghua Emperor, Zhu Jianshen (originally named Zhu Jianjun, temple name Emperor Xianzong), was born in 1447 (on the second day of the eleventh lunar month, in the twelfth year of the Zhengtong reign). He was the eldest son of Emperor Yingzong (r. 1436-1449, 1457-1464) and his secondary consort née Zhou. 
  Since his boyhood, the Chenghua Emperor had been through ups and downs. As the eldest son of Emperor Yingzong, when his father was captured in the Tumu incident in 1449 (the fourteenth year of the Zhengtong reign), he was designated heir apparent when his uncle Zhu Qiyu, posthumously know as Emperor Daizong, was enthroned as the Jingtai Emperor (r. 1450-1456). In 1452 (the third year of the Jingtai reign), the emperor downgraded the heir apparent to the Prince of Yi. In 1457, a coup d’état restored Emperor Yingzong to the throne in the so-called “forcing the palace gate” incident. Zhu Jianjun was reappointed heir apparent, and changed his name to Jianshen. Emperor Daizong was downgraded to Prince of Cheng and confined to the Western Palace. He died soon after the coup. Eight years later, Emperor Yingzong died and his son Zhu Jianshen was formally enthroned with the reign title Chenghua. 
  In the early Chenghua years the court was confronted with two major political crises. In the first year of the Chenghua reign, a group of bandits consisting of unregistered, displaced population was led by Liu Tong and Shi Long. They rebelled in Fang county (in today’s Hubei province). Liu and Shi were said to have attracted some forty thousand followers to their standard. The emperor dispatched troops to quell the rebellion successfully, and Liu Tong was caught and beheaded, while Shi Long fled to Sichuan province. Another uprising of the Yao ethnic people in Guangxi, the so-called “The Big Rattan Gorge (Dateng xia) Campaign (1465-1466)”, was also soon crushed. 
  Upon his enthronement, the generous-minded emperor rehabilitated Zhu Qiyu, the Prince of Cheng’s status as the former Jingtai Emperor, and bestowed on him the posthumous name “the Emperor of Jing”. He also ordered the rehabilitation of Yu Qian (1398-1457), and reinstated a considerable number of forthright and able officials dismissed or banished by his father because of their loyalty to the Jingtai Emperor. These measures revitalized the court which had been frustrated by the political purges conducted by Emperor Yingzong during his reign. Nevertheless, the emperor’s vigorous efforts did not last for long. 
  Gradually, the Chenghua emperor was enchanted with mysticism, Buddhism, and elixirs for immortality. He indulged in sensual pleasures and the petty practice of enhancing his own income. In the meantime, he showed his indecisiveness and caprice in governing. He appointed Buddhist clerics who practiced mysticism to high posts and performed regularly intercessory prayer ceremonies (the Daoist zhaiqiao). He also directly appointed persons to government offices by imperial edicts issued from within the palace (called chuanfeng guan), ignoring the usual procedures of personnel nomination and approval.  He was especially fond of and trusted eunuchs and Buddhist and Daoist priests. The eunuch Wang Zhi (d. 1487), whose career prospered under Senior Consort Wang’s patronage, was made director of the Western Depot (Xichang), a eunuch secret-service agency established in 1477 under imperial authorization. During his term, the agency evolved into a state organ of terrorism. Senior Consort Wan, his favorite consort who was seventeen years older than him, dominated the emperor and exerted considerable influence on the court. Many statesmen who reprimanded the emperor’s misconduct were banished. In 1474, it was difficult to find any upright officials in the Chenghua Emperor’s court. 
  In the first lunar month of the twenty-first year of the Chenghua reign (1485), Supervising Secretary (jishizhong) Li Jun from the Office for Scrutiny of Personnel (li ke) submitted a memorial, vigorously scolding the emperor for six administrative malpractices. The emperor was forced to dismiss the Daoist sorcerer Li Zixing, but he brooded on the officials’ remonstrance to the point that he wrote privately on a wall over sixty names of officials who supported Li Jun, and awaited opportunities to banish all of them from court. 
  The Chenghua period witnessed a degenerative trend at the court and throughout the administration. Eunuchs exercised enormous power; the Western Depot perpetrated outrages; the ruler encouraged degradation of his own officialdom by sharing their avarice in making improper profit. The corrupted administration, together with perennial natural disasters, contributed to the sufferings of the common people. 
  In 1487 (on the twenty-second day of the eighth lunar month of the twenty-third year of the Chenghua reign), the emperor died in the Palace of Heavenly Purity (Qianqing gong) at the age of forty-one (by traditional account). He ruled the empire for twenty-four years. With the temple name Emperor Xianzong, he was buried in the Diligent Mausoleum (Mao ling) in Changping, on the northern outskirts of Beijing. 

Lady Wan, the Honored Consort of the Chenghua Emperor (r. 1465-1487)

Introduction: Lady Wan, the honored consort, monopolized the favors of the Chenghua Emperor (r. 1465-1487) who was seventeen years her junior. Although she had cruelly killed the emperor’s unborn children and corrupted the court, she still was the darling of the emperor. Soon after her sudden death, the emperor passed away, too.  

Lady Wan (1430-1487), a Shandong native, was selected into the Ming imperial palace as a lady-in-waiting at the age of four. First she served the empress dowager of the Xuande Emperor (r. 1426-1435). As a grown up, she looked after the crown prince Zhu Jianshen, who was seventeen years her junior. When Zhu succeeded to the throne at eighteen, she was already thirty-five.

  Despite her seniority, she seemed to have a knack for catering to the emperor’s wishes and had seduced the young boy against court code. Having known the affair between Wan and her husband, the furious empress, Lady Wu, scolded her and ordered she be beaten with sticks. The revenge-seeking Lady Wan slandered her to the emperor, who was convinced and demoted the empress. Lady Wan monopolized the favor of the emperor, not letting any other consort or concubine see the emperor in private or have a tête-à-tête with him. When the emperor went out of the palace, Lady Wan would be dressed in armor on a horse at the front of the entourage. In 1466, she gave birth to a boy, the first son of the Chenghua Emperor (r. 1465-1487). The delighted emperor sent eunuchs to sacrifice to nature, and gave Lady Wan the title of Imperial Honored Consort. But soon after, the baby died, and Lady Wan did not again get pregnant. 

  Years passed. The emperor still did not have any son to succeed him on the throne. Both the imperial family and the ministry were anxious. Ministers petitioned the emperor to apportion his favour to other consorts and concubines so that they could produce more offspring for him. But Zhu Jianshen rejected the proposal, considering it his private affair. Backed by the emperor, Lady Wan was even more overbearing and pushy. Eunuchs who she thought offended her were immediately expelled. Once she had news of a concubine happening to be pregnant, she dispatched eunuchs to administer medicine that induces a miscarriage. She, however, was unaware of the birth of a son to Lady Ji until the boy, hidden in the back of the palace, was five years old. After he was made heir apparent to the Chenghua Emperor, the sudden death of his biological mother was ascribed to Lady Wan. Lady Wan trusted the sycophantic eunuchs Qian Neng, Qin Qin, and Wang Zhi, who accumulated people’s wealth by unfair means and curried favour with her though misappropriated court funds. 

  In 1487, Lady Wan died suddenly. Soon after her death, the emperor passed away. She was buried at the Ming tombs in Beijing. 

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