An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Zhu Youlang 朱由榔, Prince of Gui 桂王, the Yongli Emperor 永曆

Jan 25, 2014 © Ulrich Theobald

Zhu Youlang 朱由榔 (1623-1661), known as the Yongli Emperor 永曆 (r. 1646-1661), was the last emperor of the Emperor Shenzong 明神宗 (r. 1572-1619) and inherited his father's title of Prince of Gui 桂王. In the early Chongzhen reign 崇禎 (1628-1644) he was given the title of Prince of Yongming 永明. In 1646, after the death of the Longwu 隆武 (r. 1645-1646) and the Shaowu 紹武 (r. 1646) emperor, he was urged by Qu Shisi 瞿式耜, Lü Daqi 呂大器 and Ding Kuichu 丁魁楚 to adopt the title of regent, and then that of emperor. This happened in Zhaoqing 肇慶 near Guangzhou 廣州, Guangdong. He chose the reign motto 永曆 "Everlasting Calendar (i.e. Reign)". At that time the territory of his empire covered the provinces of Guangdong, Guangxi, Yunnan, Guizhou, Hunan, Jiangxi and Sichuan. His army did not only consist of the remaining troops of the Ming empire 明 (1368-1644), but to a large extent of local militia that had decided to fight against the Manchu invaders. For a decade, he was quite successful with this tactic, but his regime was very unstable because regular court politics could not be made among the rival factions of courtiers. The peasant leaders Sun Kewang 孫可望 and Li Dingguo 李定國 proclaimed themselved kings. Sun adopted the reign motto Xingchao 興朝 "Flourishing Dynasty". Both were willing to collaborate with the Southern Ming, and Sun was allowed to call himself king of Qin 秦. A few years later the two kings began fighting against each other. In 1656, after the northern parts of his empire were conquered by the Manchus and Guangdong threatened from the east, the Yongli Emperor followed the invitation of Li Dingguo, who controled Yunnan, to move his seat to that remote province. A year later Sun Kewang defected to the Qing 清 (1644-1911) and revealed that the remaining troops of the Southern Ming were very weak. When the Qing invaded Yunnan in 1657 the Yongli Emperor fled to the hilly north of Myanmar. Only in 1660 he was arrested and handed over to the Manchus. A year later he was executed by strangulation in Kunming, Yunnan. His temple name is Emperor Zhaozong 明昭宗.

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