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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 Zhengde Emperor (approx. 1506–1521)

Bingyin Year (approx. 1506)
Zhengde Reign, 1st Year 

6th Month:
Liu Jin, a eunuch of the Directorate of Palace Eunuchs, is charged to administrate the Twelve Integrated Divisions, the capital’s military organization.
8th Month:
Lady Xia is named empress. 
12th Month:
The empress, née Wang, of the late interim Jingtai Emperor, dies and is buried in the Western Hills near her late husband.
Dingmao Year (approx. 1507)
Zhengde Reign, 2nd Year 

3rd Month:

Having won the favor of the young emperor, the eunuch Liu Jin controls the court. He forges imperial orders to prosecute fifty-six leading officials as traitors, including the grand secretaries Liu Jian and Xie Qian, and has their names shamefully posted in public. Those officials not charged are investigated by the Ministry of Personnel. Once crimes are determined, they will be forced to resign from their posts. Liu Jin also issues false orders giving all eunuchs serving as grand defenders in the northern regions special privileges.
8th Month:
A separate residential palace called the Leopard Quarter (Bao fang) is built inside the Gate of Western Peace (Xi’an men, no longer extant), the west gate of the imperial city.
Wuchen Year (approx. 1508)
Zhengde Reign, 3rd Year 

6th Month:
On the twenty-sixth day, as the imperial procession withdraws from the midday court audience, an anonymous memorandum of accusation detailing Liu Jin's crimes is found on the imperial walkway.

Gengwu Year (approx. 1510)
Zhengde Reign, 5th Year

6th Month:
As a devout Buddhist, the emperor names himself the Great Buddha of the Western Paradise of the Path of Enlightenment with Unrestrained Introspective Meditation and Wisdom and orders the casting of a seal bearing this title.
8th Month:

Liu Jin’s treachery is exposed; he is promptly executed. 
Jiaxu Year (approx. 1514)
Zhengde Reign, 9th Year

1st Month:
An accident involving lanterns causes a fire in the Palace of Heavenly Purity (Qianqing gong). 
Dingchou Year (approx. 1517)
Zhengde Reign, 12th Year

9th Month:
The emperor leaves the Forbidden City for a tour and stays in a temporary residence built in Xuanfu (present-day Xuanhua, Hebei Province) on the northern line of defense. His retinue includes beautiful women, leopards, and curios. On the nineteenth day, the imperial procession stops at Yanghe (modern-day Yanggao in northeastern Shanxi Province), where the emperor grants himself the military title the Great Valiant General (Weiyong da jiangjun).
Wuyin Year (approx. 1518)
Zhengde Reign, 13th Year

2nd Month:
The grand empress dowager dies on the tenth day.
6th Month:
The grand empress dowager is buried at the Mao Tomb, the tomb of the Chenghua Emperor.
7th Month: 
The emperor tours northern regions on the pretext of an alleged imminent crisis. He acts as the Great Valiant General Zhu Shou in leading the inspection.

Jimao Year (approx. 1519)
Zhengde Reign, 14th Year

6th Month: 
Zhu Chenhao, the Prince of Ning, leads a rebellion. 
8th Month:

Acting as the Great Valiant General Zhu Shou, the emperor personally leads the border troops in a campaign to suppress Zhu Chenhao’s uprising.
9th Month:
Censor-in-chief Wang Shouren (1472-1529) escorts the rebellion's shackled leader, Zhu Chenhao, to Hangzhou.
Gengchen Year (approx. 1520)
Zhengde Reign, 15th Year

8th Month (Intercalary):
The emperor orders the Presentation of Captives (xianfu) ritual to celebrate his supposed single-handed arrest of Zhu Chenhao. 
12th Month:
On the fifth day, the emperor forces Zhu Chenhao to commit suicide. 
Xinsi Year (approx. 1521)
Zhengde Reign, 16th Year

3rd Month:
On the thirteenth day, the emperor is critically ill. He dies on the following day in the Leopard Quarter. On the eighteenth day, the empress dowager orders the arrest and imprisonment of the late emperor’s favorite military companion Jiang Bin and his accomplices.
4th Month:
The late Zhengde Emperor has no male heir. On the twenty-second day, it is decided that Zhu Houcong, the heir of the Prince Xian of Xing, will come to the capital and succeed the throne. The following year is designated as the first year of the Jiajing reign. 
5th Month:
On the eighth day, the late Zhengde Emperor is given his posthumous title. 
9th Month:
The late Zhengde Emperor is buried in the Kang Tomb. 


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

The Zhengde Emperor (r. 1506-1521)
The Zhengde Emperor, Zhu Houzhao (temple name Emperor Wuzong), was born in 1491 (the twenty-fourth day of the ninth lunar month in the fourth year of the Hongzhi reign). He was the eldest son of the Hongzhi Emperor (r. 1488-1505) with his chief consort née Zhang. 
  The Zhengde Emperor, who was naughty and willful, lived only thirty-one years. His short life was surrounded by three controversies. There were persistent rumors that he had been born not to the empress but to a palace woman who waited upon the empress; instead of enjoying the glory of being an emperor, he liked considering himself a military general; and, third, he indulged excessively in various forms of entertainment. 
  The emperor fell prey to the wiles of the eunuchs around him. He specially favored eight eunuchs (the so-called “Eight Tigers”) who had served him when he was still heir apparent. After his accession, he transferred the eight eunuchs to his personal staff and always pursued pleasure in their company. Court officials led by the Grand Academician Liu Jian were alarmed by the emperor’s distractions and submitted a petition requesting their execution. The Zhengde Emperor chose to side with his entourage, nominating Liu Jin (ca. 1452-1510) as Director of Ceremonials, also in charge of the imperial body guard agency called the Embroidered Uniform Guard (jinyi wei) and the surveillance agency Eastern Depot (Dongchang). Many of upright officials were purged and the court was haunted by terror. It soon became clear that the emperor did not want to deal with state affairs. Instead, he wanted to be a military general. He entrusted the government matters to those eunuchs he favored, while he and his new favorites such as Qian Ning (d. 1521) and a former cavalry officer named Jiang Bin left the Forbidden City for “inspection tours”. He fancied himself supreme commander of the military, Grand Preceptor (taishi), and Duke who Stabilizes the Realm (Zhenguo gong), and gave himself a new title: he insisted that all his orders and requisitions be issued in the name of the “Supreme Commander Zhu Shou”. All dissident voices in court were suppressed or crushed by the despotic eunuch director Liu Jin. 
  The emperor felt suffocated by the solemnity of the Forbidden City. Therefore, soon after his accession, he ordered a new palace to be built to the northwest of the Forbidden City, on the western bank of the Pool of Great Secretion (Taiye chi, today’s Beihai lake and Zhonghai lake) which the emperor referred to as the Leopard Quarter (Bao fang) or his “new residence”. In this two-hundred-room, complicatedly structured residence, the emperor summoned women for his harem, his favorite musicians, Tibetan Buddhist monks, Daoist clerics, sorcerers to entertain him. He routinely canceled official court audiences and sometimes stayed away from the Forbidden City for months.  In 1521, he ordered the transferring of four battalions from northern garrisons (called “the exterior four troops”) to the capital for drilling on fields adjacent to the Leopard Quarter. 
  Emperor Wuzong was considered one of the most dissipated emperors of all Chinese imperial history. The emperor dedicated himself to carnal pleasures. While the court was dominated by treacherous eunuchs, upright courtiers were forced out of office. The profligate rule devoid of any principles encouraged waves of uprisings, among which the most famous were the rebellions of Prince of Anhua and Prince of Ning. 
  In 1520 (the fifteenth year of the Zhengde reign), Zhu Houzhao was seriously ill after falling into the water in a drunken boating accident during an inspection tour of the southern region. The following year he died from complications in the Leopard Quarter on the fourteenth day of the third lunar month. With the temple name Emperor Wuzong (literally “the martial ancestor”), he was buried in Indulgence Mausoleum (Kang ling) in Changping, on the northern outskirts of Beijing. 

Lady Xia, Empress Xiaojing of the Zhengde Emperor (r. 1506-1521)

Introduction: Historians spilt little ink on Lady Xia, the primary consort of the Zhengde Emperor (r. 1506-1521). When she died in 1535, the reigning Jiajing Emperor refused to give her the standard posthumous title until one year later.
Lady Xia was a native of Nanjing in east China. In 1506, the first year of the Zhengde reign (1506-1521), she was promoted to supreme consort, the equivalent of empress. Her husband died in 1521, with no male heir to succeed to the throne. Therefore, the emperor’s half-brother Zhu Houcong ascended the throne as the Jiajing Emperor (r. 1522-1566). The next year, the widow was merely given the title of “Imperial Sister-in-law, Empress of Dignity and Solemnity”. 
  Lady Xia died in 1535. Her brother-in-law, the reigning Jiajing Emperor sought excuses to make her funeral inferior. Against officials’ disapproval, he only granted her a short posthumous title. It was not until 1536 that the Jiajing Emperor extended her posthumous title to twelve characters, which was standard for an empress. 
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