Fun Facts about Chinese Culture and History

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Kang Xi Emperor Xuan Ye -- The Longest Reigning in the History of China

Teenager Kang Xi Emperor and His Aggressive Regent


Xuan Ye (1654 -- 1722), also respected as Kang Xi Emperor or Qing Sheng Zu, was the third son of Shun Zhi Emperor, the one who left the throne at a young age.


Xuan Ye ascended to the throne as Kang Xi Emperor when he was 7 years old, and his birth mother passed away only two years later.


Hence, he was assisted by his smart and powerful grandmother and four other regents. 


One of the regents was very powerful but arrogant, who had occupied many authorities and had done many illegal activities that made Kang Xi Emperor feel threatening.


Consequently, he smartly captured that minister and his followers and took back all the power under his control when he was 15.


Defeating of Rebellion Forces and Unifying of the Nation

Four years later, Kang Xi Emperor wanted to weaken Wu Sangui and two other kings’ power and remove them from their independent troops.


Then Wu started to rebel and almost occupied half China.


Kang Xi Emperor offered the amnesty policy to other forces, and only attacked Wu Sangui, firmly; and the differentiation policy turned out worked well.


This war lasted for eight years, until Wu Sangui passed away and his grandson committed suicide.


After this, Kang Xi included large numbers of cities in the southeast China into Qing Empire’s absolute control. 


Years later, the king of Taiwan, who dedicated his entire life to recovering the Ming Dynasty, passed away; his weak son ascended to the title.


Kang Xi Emperor then sent his army to attack them and put Taiwan officially under Qing Empire’s control.


Till then, the last powerful force that was still loyal to the former Ming Dynasty in the history of China complied.


Then Kang Xi Emperor spent around ten years further extended the territory in the northwest of China; he even participated in some battles himself to make sure his army could succeed. 


Starting of Autarchy 

Kang Xi Emperor also enhanced his centralized power, nominated many talented officers, again abolished the Enclosure Movement and lowered many types of taxes.


He respected Confucianism, and commanded to edit and publish many books, calendars and maps. As a big fan of western science, Kang Xi had learnt a lot from western missionaries.


He toured many places in China for several times, trying to get first-hand information of people’s living conditions. Under his ruling period, agriculture and the economy were further developed. 


Kang Xi Emperor sometimes was criticized for having banned maritime trade and implemented the Literary Inquisition (though much less than his grandson Hong Li did).


Also, the system that imperial censors could freely criticize everything without being killed, which had been widely popularized in former dynasties, was completely abrogated in the Qing Dynasty.


No one could criticize the powerful ruling class; writing or even just reading some “rebel books” (mostly regarding memories of the Ming Dynasty) would be sentenced to death. 

Contention Over the Throne Among Kang Xi Emperor's Sons

Kang Xi Emperor's first queen, also the love of his life, passed away after gave birth to their first baby boy. He nominated this boy as his crown prince and carefully educated him.


Maybe because he had never spent warm moments with his own parents, Kang Xi loved his sons very much, and tried his best to take care of them.


Kang Xi gave most of his sons many opportunities to get involved in politics and gain power. His intention was good; most of his sons were taught well and strong.


However, when many qualified princes were all equally ambitious and resourceful, intense competition over the throne would arise. 


Years later, Kang Xi Emperor abolished his beloved crown prince and then re-titled him, then abrogated him and kept him imprisoned until he died.


Kang Xi Emperor’s irresolution on choosing his heir and permission of all of his sons' participation in politic gave most of his elder sons big hope to compete for the throne.


Consequently, nine of his elder sons and a large number of officials got entangled into the intense contention over the throne, which caused the empire some backslides in Kang Xi's late years. 


In spite of the chaos, Kang Xi Emperor was an excellent and decisive monarch in the history of China with remarkable achievements. The whole of the nation got unified again under his reign, when civilians could live in stability. 


After Kang Xi Emperor passed away in his palace, his fourth son Ying Zhen immediately took control of everything and ascended to the throne.