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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 Jiajing Emperor (approx. 1522–1566)
Renwu Year (approx. 1522)
Jiajing Reign, 1st Year
The emperor recognizes his uncle, the late Hongzhi Emperor (Zhu Youtang), as Deceased Imperial Father, and honors his aunt, Empress Dowager Cishou (lit. “benevolent longevity”), as Divine Mother (shengmu). His biological parents, the late Prince Xian of Xing and his consort, are honored as Emperor Xian of Xing and Empress of Xing.
Lady Chen is appointed as empress.
Guiwei Year (approx. 1523)
Jiajing Reign, 2nd Year
The status of the biological parents of the Jiajing Emperor is elevated. His father, the late Prince Xian of Xing, is honored as the Late Biological Imperial Father, while his living mother is named Empress Dowager Zhangsheng, the Divine Biological Mother.
Wuzi Year (approx. 1528)
Jiajing Reign, 7th Year
The empress, née Chen, dies.
Consort Shun (Shun fei, lit. “Complaisant Consort”), née Zhang, is appointed as empress.
Gengyin Year (approx. 1530)
Jiajing Reign, 9th Year
It is stipulated that the offerings to heaven and earth are to be separately conducted at the southern and northern border altars, respectively. Two other sacrificial altars, the Temple of the Sun and the Temple of the Moon, are built outside the capital city near the eastern and western borders, respectively.
Imperial orders are issued to arrange consort and concubine selections.
Nine ladies are appointed as concubines (pin, palace women ranking below the principal wife and consorts).
Xinmao Year (approx. 1531)
Jiajing Reign, 10th Year
The ritual of praying for male heirs is held at the Hall of Imperial Peace (Qin’an dian), a Taoist temple in the imperial palace.
Guisi Year (approx. 1533)
Jiajing Reign, 12th Year
The Classics Colloquium lectures commence.
Zhang Heling—the Duke of the State of Chang—and his younger brother Zhang Yanling, both younger brothers of Empress Dowager Cishou, are arrested and imprisoned.
Zhang Yanling is sentenced to death, and Zhang Heling is stripped of his noble title.
Jiawu Year (approx. 1534)
Jiajing Reign, 13th Year
The empress, née Zhang, is deposed. Lady Fang, also known as Consort De (De fei, lit. “Virtuous Consort”), is named empress.
Yiwei Year (approx. 1535)
Jiajing Reign, 14th Year
Imperial orders are issued for additional consorts and concubines to be selected for the emperor.
Bingshen Year (approx. 1536)
Jiajing Reign, 15th Year
The late biological father of the Jiajing Emperor who was posthumously named Emperor Xian is included in the imperial lineage.
The deposed empress, née Zhang, dies.
Dingyou Year (approx. 1536)
Jiajing Reign, 16th Year
Zhu Zaihou, the third imperial son, is born.
Wuxu Year (approx. 1538)
Jiajing Reign, 17th Year
In order to legitimize the imperial position of the emperor’s biological father (the late Emperor Xian of Xing) into imperial lineage, the temple name of the late Yongle Emperor (Zhu Di, r. 1403-1424) is changed from Taizong (lit. “Grand Ancestor”) to Chengzu (lit. “Accomplished Progenitor”), while the late Emperor Xian receives Ruizong (lit. “Insightful Ancestor”) as his temple name.
Yihai Year (approx. 1539)
Jiajing Reign, 18th Year
The imperial son Zhu Zaihe is installed as the heir apparent. His brothers Zhu Zaihou and Zhu Zaizhen are named as Prince of Yu and Prince of Jing.
Gengzi Year (approx. 1540)
Jiajing Reign, 19th Year
Approximately a hundred women are selected for roles in the palace.
Xinchou Year (approx. 1541)
Jiajing Reign, 20th Year
Empress Dowager Cishou dies.
Renyin Year (approx. 1542)
Jiajing Reign, 21st Year
The construction of the Hall of High Heaven (Dagao xuandian), for the worship of Taoist deities, is completed outside the northwest corner of the imperial palace.
Upset by the tortuous treatment from their zealous Taoist ruler, about a dozen young maidens try to strangle the emperor in his sleep but fail. All of them suffer horrific executions. Due to this incident, the emperor permanently moves to live in the Palace of Myriad Longevity (Wanshou gong) in the West Gardens far from the imperial palace. This event is later known as the Renyin Year Palace Incident (Renyin gongbian).
Jiachen Year (approx. 1544)
Jiajing Reign, 23rd Year
Mongols, under Altan Khan's dominion, harass the Ming in the empire’s northern territory. Assuming a defensive posture, the capital establishes martial law.
Dingwei Year (approx. 1547)
Jiajing Reign, 26th Year
Three hundred women are selected to serve in the imperial palace.
The empress, née Fang, dies. She is posthumously named Xiaolie (lit. “Filial and Exemplary”).
Wushen Year (approx. 1548)
Jiajing Reign, 27th Year
Senior Grand Secretary Yan Song (1480-1567) begins to amass power.
The emperor’s imperial tomb is named the Yong Tomb and is chosen for Empress Xiaolie's burial.
Jiyou Year (approx. 1549)
Jiajing Reign, 28th Year
The capping ceremony (guanli) is held for the heir apparent. He dies a mere two days after the ritual.
Gengxu Year (approx. 1550)
Jiajing Reign, 29th Year
Mongolian troops led by Altan Khan breach the northern defense line and invade the region around the capital. Surrounding the capital, they demand rights to submit tribute in exchange of Chinese products (e.g., iron, grain, and textiles) and threaten to attack the city. The Mongolian forces eventually withdraw to north, and the imperial court is overwhelmed with scandal due to the mishandling of the siege. (This series of events is known as the Incident of the Gengxu Year.)
Jiayin Year (approx. 1554)
Jiajing Reign, 33rd Year
Consort Kang (Kang fei, lit. “Composed Consort”), née Du, the biological mother of the future Longqing Emperor, dies.
Yimao Year (approx. 1555)
Jiajing Reign, 34th Year
One hundred and sixty young women are selected to serve in the imperial palace.
Dingsi Year (approx. 1557)
Jiajing Reign, 36th Year
The Hall of Venerating Heaven (Fengtian dian), Hall of Splendid Canopy (Huagai dian), and Hall of Scrupulous Behavior (Jinshen dian)—the three main halls in the outer court of the imperial city—are destroyed by fire.
Xinyou Year (approx. 1561)
Jiajing Reign, 40th Year
The Hall of Myriad Longevity (Wanshou gong) in the West Gardens where the emperor resides is destroyed by fire. He moves to the Palace of Jade Luster (Yuxi gong). The military general Qi Jiguang successfully quells the increasingly frequent raids of Japanese pirates along the coast.
Renxu Year (approx. 1562)
Jiajing Reign, 41st Year
The reconstruction of the Hall of Myriad Longevity (Wanshou gong) is completed.
The emperor begins to reside in the newly built Hall of Myriad Longevity.
Guihai Year (approx. 1563)
Jiajing Reign, 42nd Year
The third son of the Prince of Yu is born and named Zhu Yijun.
Harassed and raided by the Altan Khan, the capital again establishes military rule as a defensive measure.
Jiazi Year (approx. 1564)
Jiajing Reign, 43rd Year
Three hundred women are selected to serve in the imperial palace.
Yichou Year (approx. 1565)
Jiajing Reign, 44th Year
The former Senior Grand Secretary Yan Song is deposed, and his property is confiscated. His son Yan Shifan (1513-1565) is executed on the charge of treason.
The official Hai Rui bitterly criticizes the emperor in his memorial and is consequently imprisoned.
Bingyin Year (approx. 1566)
Jiajing Reign, 45th Year
The emperor is seriously ill.
On the fourteenth day, the emperor returns from the West Gardens to the Hall of Heavenly Purity (Qianqing gong) in the imperial palace and dies at the age of sixty (in sui). According to his final orders, the Prince of Yu is eligible for succession, in spite of the fact that the prince has not been appointed as the heir apparent. On the twenty-sixth day, Zhu Zaihou, the Prince of Yu, succeeds the throne, and the following year is designated as the first year of the Longqing reign.
Translated and edited by Li Yang, Zhuang Ying, Adam J. Ensign, et al.