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Xianfeng Emperor

From Academic Kids

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The Xianfeng Emperor, born Yizhu, (July 17, 1831 - August 22, 1861) was the eighth Emperor of the Manchu Qing dynasty, and the seventh Qing emperor to rule over China, from 1850 to 1861.

Yizhu was born in 1831 at the Old Summer Palace, eight kilometers northwest of the walls of Beijing, and was the fourth son of the Daoguang Emperor. His mother was the concubine of the 2nd rank Quan (全貴妃), of the (Manchu) Niohuru clan, who was made Empress in 1834, and is known posthumously as Empress Xiaoquan Cheng (孝全成皇后).

Chosen as the Crown Prince in the later years of Daoguang's reign, Yizhu had reputed ability in literature and administration which surpassed most of his brothers. He succeeded the throne in 1850, at age 19, and was a relatively young Emperor. He was left with a crumbling dynasty that faced challenges not only internally, but also from Europeans. The situation was not reflected at all by his reign title, Xianfeng (咸豐), which means "Great in entirety". The Taiping Rebellion began in 1851, and spread to several provinces with amazing speed. Xianfeng dispatched several prominent mandarins, like Zeng Guofan, and Imperial relatives, like Sengeliqin (僧格林沁), to crush the rebellion, with limited success. Several muslim rebellions in the southwest began in 1855.

As western imperialism was cruising its way through Asia, China was not spared. The Europeans saw a crumbling regime as ripe for the enforcement of imperialistic policies on China. Western forces, led by France, after inciting a few battles on the coast near Tianjin, of which not all were decisive victories, attempted "negotiation" with the Qing Government. Xianfeng, under the influence of the Concubine Yi (懿贵妃, later the Empress Dowager Cixi), believed in Chinese superiority and would not agree to any western demands. He delegated Prince Gong for several negotiations that failed to solve any significant problems. On October 18, 1860, the western forces went on to loot and burn the Imperial Summer Palace (圆明园).

While negotiations are still ongoing with western governments, Xianfeng and his Imperial entourage fled to the northern travelling palace in Jehol. Becoming more ill physically, Xianfeng's ability to govern also deteriorated, leading to competing ideologies in court that eventually formed two distinct factions those under the rich Manchu Sushun, Princes Yi and Zheng; and those under the Concubine Yi, supported by Gen. Ronglu and Yeho-nala Bannermen.

Xianfeng died on August 22, 1861 at the Jehol Traveling Palace (熱河行宫), 230 kilometers northeast of Beijing. Being succeeded by his one surviving son, Zaichun, who was barely six years old, Xianfeng had summoned Sushun and his group to his bedside a day before, giving them an Imperial Edict that made Sushun, Zaiheng, Duanhua, and others Regents during the child-Emperor's minority. By tradition, after the death of an Emperor, the body is to be accompanied to the Capital by the regents. Concubine Yi and the Empress, who are now both given titles of Empress Dowager, traveled to Beijing ahead of time, and planned a coup that ousted Sushun's regency. The Empress Dowager Cixi would rule China for the next 47 years.

Xianfeng was interred amidst the Eastern Qing Tombs (清東陵), 125 kilometers/75 miles east of Beijing, in the Dingling (定陵 - meaning "Tomb of quietude") mausoleum complex.

See also:


Preceded by:
Daoguang Emperor
Emperor of China
(Qing Dynasty)
1850–1861
Succeeded by:
Tongzhi Emperor

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