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Period of the reign of Daoguang Emperor (道光)

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Examples of the Daoguang imperial porcelain

Names / Owners

1821 - 1850: 
Daoguang Emperor (道光)

Historical note

The Daoguang Emperor (Chinese: 道光帝; pinyin: Dàoguāng Dì; Wade–Giles: Tao4-kuang1 Ti4; Manchu: ᡩᠣᡵᠣ ᡝᠯᡩᡝᠩᡤᡝ, Doro Eldengge Hūwangdi; ᠲᠥᠷᠥ ᠭᠡᠷᠡᠯᠲᠦ, Төр Гэрэлт Хаан; 16 September 1782 – 25 February 1850) was the eighth emperor of the Manchu-led Qing dynasty and the sixth Qing emperor to rule over China, from 1820 to 1850. His reign was marked by "external disaster and internal rebellion," that is, by the First Opium War, and the beginning of the Taiping Rebellion which nearly brought down the dynasty. The historian Jonathan Spence characterizes the Daoguang Emperor as a "well meaning but ineffective man," who promoted officials who "presented a purist view even if they had nothing to say about the domestic and foreign problems surrounding the dynasty."

Early years

The Daoguang Emperor was born in the Forbidden City, Beijing, and was given the name Mianning (绵宁; 綿寧; Miánníng; Mien-ning). It was later changed to Minning (旻宁; 旻寧; Mǐnníng; Min-ning; Manchu: ᠮᡳᠨ ᠨᡳᠩ Min-ning) when he became emperor: The first character of his private name was changed from Mian to Min to avoid the relatively common character Mian. This novelty was introduced by his grandfather, the Qianlong Emperor, who thought it inappropriate to use a common character in the emperor's private name due to the longstanding practice of naming taboo.

Mianning was the second son of Yongyan, the 15th son of the Qianlong Emperor. Even though he was Yongyan's second son, he was first in line to succeed his father according to the dishu system because his mother, Lady Hitara, was Yongyan's primary spouse whereas his elder brother was born to Yongyan's concubine. In 1796, Yongyan was enthroned as the Jiaqing Emperor, after which he made Lady Hitara his empress consort.

Mianning was favoured by his grandfather, the Qianlong Emperor. He frequently accompanied his grandfather on hunting trips. On one such trip, at the age of nine, Mianning successfully hunted a deer, which greatly amused the Qianlong Emperor. In 1813, while he was still a prince, Mianning also played a vital role in repelling and killing White Lotus invaders who stormed the Forbidden City. This action earned him important merit in securing his claim to the throne later on.

Daoguang Emperor

Reign

Khoja rebellion in Xinjiang
In September 1820, at the age of 38, Mianning inherited the throne after the Jiaqing Emperor died suddenly of unknown causes. He became the first Qing emperor who was the eldest legitimate son of his father. Now known as the Daoguang Emperor, he inherited a declining empire with Westerners encroaching upon the borders of China. The Daoguang Emperor had been ruling for six years when the exiled heir to the Khojas, Jahangir Khoja, attacked Xinjiang from Kokand. By the end of 1826, the former Qing cities of Kashgar, Yarkand, Khotan, and Yangihissar had all fallen to the rebels. After a friend betrayed him in March 1827, Khoja was sent to Beijing in an iron litter and subsequently executed, while the Qing Empire regained control of their lost territory.

First Opium War
During the Daoguang Emperor's reign, China experienced major problems with opium, which was imported into China by British merchants. Opium had started to trickle into China during the reign of the Yongzheng Emperor, but was limited to approximately 200 chests annually. By the time of the Qianlong era, this amount had increased to 1,000 chests, 4,000 chests by the Jiaqing era and more than 30,000 chests during the Daoguang era.

The Daoguang Emperor issued many imperial edicts banning opium in the 1820s and 1830s, which were carried out by Lin Zexu, whom he appointed as an Imperial Commissioner. Lin Zexu's efforts to halt the spread of opium in China led directly to the First Opium War. With the development of the First Opium War, Lin Zexu was made a scapegoat and the Daoguang Emperor removed Lin's authority and banished him to Yili. Meanwhile, in the Himalayas, the Sikh Empire attempted an occupation of Tibet but was defeated in the Sino-Sikh war (1841–1842). On the coasts, technologically and militarily inferior to the European powers, the Qing Empire lost the war and ceded Hong Kong to the British in the Treaty of Nanjing in August 1842.

Anti-Christianity
In 1811, a clause sentencing Europeans to death for spreading Catholicism had been added to the statute called "Prohibitions Concerning Sorcerers and Sorceresses" (禁止師巫邪術) in the Great Qing Code. Protestants hoped that the Qing government would discriminate between Protestantism and Catholicism, since the law mentioned the latter by name, but after Protestant missionaries gave Christian books to Chinese in 1835 and 1836, the Daoguang Emperor demanded to know who were the "traitorous natives" in Guangzhou who had supplied them with books.

Death and legacy

The Daoguang Emperor died on 25 February 1850 at the Old Summer Palace, 8 km/5 miles northwest of Beijing. He was succeeded by his eldest surviving son, Yizhu, who was later enthroned as the Xianfeng Emperor. The Daoguang Emperor failed to understand the intention or determination of the Europeans, or the basic economics of a war on drugs. Although the Europeans were outnumbered and thousands of miles away from logistical support in their native countries, they could bring far superior firepower to bear at any point of contact along the Chinese coast. The Qing government was highly dependent on the continued flow of taxes from southern China via the Grand Canal, which the British expeditionary force easily cut off at Zhenjiang. The Daoguang Emperor ultimately had a poor understanding of the British and the industrial revolution that Britain and Western Europe had undergone, preferring to turn a blind eye to the rest of the world. It was said that the emperor did not even know where Britain was located in the world. His 30-year reign introduced the initial onslaught by Western imperialism and foreign invasions that would plague China, in one form or another, for the next one hundred years.

The Daoguang Emperor was interred in the Muling (慕陵; literally "Tomb of Longing" or "Tomb of Admiration") mausoleum, which is part of the Western Qing Tombs, 120 kilometers/75 miles southwest of Beijing.

On a side note, the Daoguang Emperor was the last Qing emperor to be able to choose an heir among his sons since his successors either had only one surviving son or had no offspring.