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Yongzheng Emperor

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  • Reign: 1722-1735
  • Other Names: Aisin Gioro Yinzhen
  • Chinese: 雍正帝 (Yōngzhèng dì)

The Yongzheng Emperor ruled Qing Dynasty China from 1722 to 1735. His reign saw a number of efforts at reforms, including a revision of the tax code in order to allow the government to better capture revenue from the agricultural and commercial expansion being enjoyed by the people.[1]

Prior to becoming emperor, Prince Yinzhen was perhaps the most trusted son of the Kangxi Emperor. His elder brother, Yinreng, was named heir apparent for a time, but then was stripped of this title and placed under house arrest as a result of frequent scandalous and inappropriate behavior. Yinzhen was placed in charge of overseeing his brother's imprisonment.

Following this series of events, the Kangxi Emperor refused to name a new heir. When he died in 1722, Yinzhen was the only one of his sons present in the palace, and, asserting himself as Kangxi's choice for successor, had himself named Emperor. As a result, Yongzheng struggled throughout his reign with accusations of being a usurper, though historian Jonathan Spence supports his claim to the throne.[2] Yongzheng moved quickly to secure the support of his brothers, naming them to high-ranking positions and having those who continued to express suspicions arrested; some of those arrested later died in prison. Only Kangxi's thirteenth son, Yinxiang, earned Yongzheng's complete trust, and was elevated to particularly elite offices, including as head of a board of financial review which was established to oversee the Ministry of Finance.

The Yongzheng reign also saw the outlawing of prostitution, and the abolition of many underclasses in the official status system, ostensibly raising most if not all imperial subjects to the status of "free commoners."[3] In 1724, the Yongzheng Emperor also declared proscriptions on Christianity, allowing exceptions for those with especially valuable skills, such as Jesuit astronomers.

The Yongzheng Emperor is described as hardworking, devoting himself to court business for lengthy hours each day, as well as to Buddhist practice and Confucian study. His Chinese was more fluent (and his writing smoother and more natural) than that of his father, and he similarly devoted himself less than his predecessors to certain Manchu practices such as hunting trips.

Preceded by
Kangxi Emperor
Emperor of Qing
1722-1735
Succeeded by
Qianlong Emperor

References

  • Jonathan Spence, The Search for Modern China, Second Edition, W.W. Norton & Co. (1999), 74-95.
  1. Spence, 5.
  2. Spence, 74.
  3. Matthew Sommer, "Foreword," Amy Stanley, Selling Women: Prostitution, Markets, and the Household in Early Modern Japan, UC Press (2012), xv, 5.
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