The Jiajing Emperor was the 12th emperor of China's Ming Dynasty. He was the first to succeed as a nephew, and not a son, of the previous emperor. A great supporter of Taoism, he has been referred to as "the Taoist Emperor."
Jiajing's reign saw the revival of the power of the scholar-bureaucracy, which had been somewhat pushed aside by his predecessor, the Zhengde Emperor. As the scholar-bureaucrats reasserted their power, they worked to diminish the influence of court eunuchs; some were even put to death.
Where Zhengde, in his last years, frequently skipped out on court rituals and daily audiences for lengthy periods, Jiajing is said to have tended to his duties quite diligently, and to have even worked to restore certain rituals to better adhere to older precedents. Like his predecessor, however, in the latter half of his reign, Jiajing similarly shied away from court rituals, retiring to the Inner Palace, and holding audiences only rarely in the final twenty years of his lengthy reign. During this time, he occupied himself with Taoist rituals, some lasting for stretches of up to two weeks, and with the formulation and consumption of Taoist immortality elixirs.
His behavior became the target of an unprecedented memorial from a middle-ranking official named Hai Jui; while memorials typically advised the emperor on a given policy, or protested individual decisions, never before had an official so boldly criticized an emperor's behavior over the course of decades. In essence, Hai accused the emperor of wasting his time and neglecting his duties with pointless superstition, criticized a number of his policies in broad strokes, and pleaded with him to correct his ways and return to sagely rule, lest he lose the Mandate of Heaven. Hai Jui escaped retribution for many months, while his critique is said to have weighed on the emperor's mind.
|Emperor of Ming
- Ray Huang, 1587: A Year of No Significance, Yale University Press (1981), 8.
- Conrad Schirokauer, et al, A Brief History of Chinese and Japanese Civilizations, Fourth Edition, Cengage Learning (2012), 248, 259.
- Huang, 135-136.