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Period of the reign of Hongzhi Emperor (弘治)

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Examples of the Hongzhi imperial porcelain

Names / Owners

1488 - 1505: 
Hongzhi Emperor (弘治)

Historical note

The Hongzhi Emperor (Chinese: 弘治; pinyin: Hóngzhì) (30 July 1470 – 8 June 1505) was an emperor of the Ming dynasty in China between 1487 and 1505. Born Zhu Youcheng (often mispronounced as "Zhu Youtang" since 樘 has two pronunciations, and according to records it is pronounced as "cheng", meaning "foundation"), he was the son of the Chenghua Emperor and his reign as emperor of China is called the "Hongzhi Silver Age". His era name, "Hongzhi", means "great government."

A peace-loving emperor, the Hongzhi Emperor also had only one empress and no concubines, granting him the distinction of being the sole perpetually monogamous emperor in Chinese history. He was emperor during the middle years of the Ming dynasty.

Early years

Zhu Youcheng was only then reunited with his father at the age of 5 because the emperor Chenghua did not want to upset his favourite concubine lady Wan who was trying to conceive a child of her own , in 1475 and was created crown prince. He had been a brilliant child early on and he received the best education offered at that time. He was immersed in Confucian schooling and he excelled in his studies.

Hongzhi Emperor

Reign as emperor

After Hongzhi ascended the throne in 1487, his administration was modelled after Confucian ideology and he became a hardworking and diligent emperor. He closely supervised all affairs of state, lowered taxes, reduced government spending and made wise decisions when employing ministers to government post. Individuals such as Liu Jian, Xie Qian and Wang Shu worked hand in hand with Hongzhi thus creating a seldom-witnessed atmosphere of cooperation within the government. In addition, Emperor Hongzhi also encouraged his ministers to be up front about all issues, even acknowledging criticisms directed towards the Emperor himself. This created a more transparent government and introduced fresh energy into the Ming dynasty. As a result the populace once again prospered under his rule. It was said that individual eunuchs' power was curtailed and palace intrigues, prevalent in previous reigns, was absent during his reign. Hongzhi has been compared to his predecessors Emperor Hongwu and Emperor Yongle as one of the most brilliant emperors of the Ming dynasty.

In the spring of 1488, the shipwrecked Korean crew of the Jeju-do official Choe Bu (1454–1504) were traveling up the Grand Canal of China while escorted by the Ming courier service en route back to Korea. Choe observed ferry ships passing by holding officials who were from the Ministries of War, Justice, and Personnel.[2] When he asked what was going on, it was explained to him that the new Emperor Hongzhi was ridding his government of corrupt and incompetent officials, and this was a final gesture of good will by the emperor by providing them with a comfortable passage back home by ship.

Succession crisis

Unlike almost all of his predecessors who took up many concubines which bore many children to the Emperor, Hongzhi had only one Empress during his lifetime. Coupled with the fact that the Empress Zhang had only 2 sons (one of which died in infancy), Hongzhi was left with only one nominee to succeed him. After Emperor Hongzhi died in 1505 he was succeeded by his son, the Zhengde Emperor. Unfortunately, Zhengde died childless in 1521 and the throne had to be passed to a cousin from Hubei, effectively ending Hongzhi's own line of succession.

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More info: Hongzhi Emperor (Wikipedia)