An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Ming Daizong 明代宗, the Jingtai Emperor 景泰

Jan 17, 2014 © Ulrich Theobald

Emperor Jingdi 明景帝 (1428-1757, r. 1449-1457), personal name Zhu Qiyu 朱祁鈺, was a ruler of the Ming dynasty. He was the second son of Emperor Xuanzong 明宣宗 (the Xuande Emperor 宣德, r. 1426-1435). On the accession of his brother Emperor Yingzong 明英宗 (the Zhengtong Emperor 正統, first reign r. 1435-1449) to the throne he was given the title of Prince of Cheng 郕王. In 1449 Yingzong undertook an ill-planned military campaign against the Oirat (Western Mongol) khan Esen 也先. In the open field near the garrison of Tumu 土木 the emperor was captured by the Mongols and taken as a hostage. The "Tumu incident" (Tumu zhi bian 土木之變) threw the Ming dynasty into dismay.
The Empress Dowager ordered Zhu Qiyu to act as resident regent as long as Emperor Yingzong was away, and made Yingzong's son Zhu Jianshen 朱見深 heir apparent. Yu Qian 于謙 was made Minister of War (bingbu shangshu 兵部尚書) and prepared for the defense of the capital. Yet the Prince of Cheng decided to assume the title of emperor, proclaimed the reign motto Jingtai 景泰 "Brilliant Grandness", and bestowed upon Yingzong the title of "emperor emeritus" (taishanghuang 太上皇). The defense preparations succeeded—all the more as Esen Khan waited too long before charging the capital, but only in 1450 the emperor was released and returned to the capital. For Esen Khan, he had no longer any use because of Prince Cheng's enthronement.
Yingzong was forced to lodge in the Southern Palace 南宮. Three years later Prince Cheng made a further step to the consolidation of his rule and deprived Zhu Jianshen of his title of heir apparent by making his own son, Zhu Ziji 朱見濟, crown prince. In the eight year of his reign the Prince of Cheng fell ill, and some court officials like Shi Heng 石亨 and Xu Youzhen 徐有貞 as well as the chief eunuch Cao Jixiang 曹吉祥 decided to make a coup d'état, forced the Prince to retire and enthroned Emperor Yingzong again. Prince Cheng was allowed to retain his title of Prince. When he died shortly later he was given the posthumous honorific title of Prince Li of Cheng 郕戾王. In 1475 Emperor Xianzong 明憲宗 (the Chenghua Emperor 成化, r. 1464-1487) posthumously conferred upon him the title of Emperor Jing 明景帝 and the temple name Daizong 明代宗, expressing that he had only reigned as a "representative" (dai 代) of his brother. He was buried according to the funeral rites of princes in the tomb mound Tailing 泰陵. This tomb was originally called Xishan 西山 and only later renamed Tailing. The imperial tomb that Prince Cheng had originally built for himself, Shouling 壽陵, was destroyed after he had been demoted.

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