Princess Ningguo Zhu Changning — An Honorable Princess in A Difficult Situation

Zhu Changning (1364 — 1434), respected as Princess Ningguo, was an honorable princess of the Ming Dynasty (1368 — 1644). 

 

As her beloved parents’ favorite daughter, she married a talented, handsome young man. 

 

The life of Princess Ningguo was perfect, until a rebellious war outburst.

Honorable Princess Ningguo and Her Perfect Life

Princess Ningguo was one of the most honorable princesses of the Ming Dynasty: her father was Hongwu Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang, the founder of the prosperous Ming Dynasty, and her mother was saint Empress Xiaocigao.

As her parent’s first daughter, Princess Ningguo was doted by her powerful parents and older brothers. 

After she grew up, she married a decent, handsome, and talented noble named Mei Yin (1360 — 1405). They truly loved each other and had two sons. 

Mei Yin was highly appreciated by Hongwu Emperor, who promoted him several times and trusted him with more power. 

Before Hongwu Emperor passed away, he commanded Mei Yin to assist the new emperor Zhu Yunwen. 

Gold Hairpin (Zan) of Ming Dynasty Decorated with Gems — Nanjing Museum (Photo by Dongmaiying)

Incident of Jingnan and the Shifted Throne

Zhu Yunwen (1377 — ?), respected as Jianwen Emperor or Emperor Huizong of Ming, was the grandson of Hongwu Emperor, the nephew of Princess Ningguo. 

After he ascended to the throne, he started to remove kings, most of them were his uncles, from their half independent fiefs, where they obtained army and power. 

Hence, the most powerful king Zhu Di (1360 — 1424) initiated a rebel war, the Incident of Jingnan (1399 — 1402). 

Royal Nine-tasselled Crown (Jiu Liu Mian), Unearthed From Tomb of Prince Zhu Tan, the Tenth Son of Hongwu Emperor, Younger Brother of Princess Ningguo and Prince Zhu Di — Shandong Museum (Photo by Dongmaiying)

Mei Yin was nominated as a general that led 400,000 soldiers garrison on an important military site to defend against Zhu Di.  

Princess Ningguo was quite upset seeing her big brother Zhu Di fighting against her nephew and husband, so she wrote many letters to persuade Zhu Di to honor their father’s will and stop the war. 

She and her husband fully supported their nephew Jianwen Emperor, the legit heir that was chosen by their father Hongwu Emperor. 

Doubtful Death of Princess’ Husband Mei Yin

After four years of intense wars, Zhu Di occupied the capital city, Jianwen Emperor burnt down the royal palace and disappeared. 

Then, Zhu Di forced Princess Ningguo to write a letter in blood to ask her husband to surrender.

Her husband Mei Yin had to, therefore, surrender and come back, but didn't show respect to Zhu Di. 

Zhu Di, now the Yongle Emperor or Emperor Chengzu of Ming, disliked Mei Yin even more; hence, Zhu Di sent many secret agents to spy on him, and soon, some people “found out” Mei Yin’s crimes and accused him. 

Later, Mei Yin fell into a river on his way to the royal palace to work and drowned to death.  

Imperial guards nearby said that Mei Yin jumped into the river himself and committed suicide, but many other people doubted that, especially his beloved wife, the Princess Ningguo.  

Crystal Drum of Ming Dynasty — Zhongxiang Museum (Photo by Dongmaiying)

Disrespectful but Pardoned Princess Ningguo

Princess Ningguo was quite sad and angry. 

She confronted Zhu Di in person, dragged his sleeves, cried out loud, and interrogated if he commanded to murder her husband.

Zhu Di kept denying patiently and nicely and promised her to investigate this case carefully. 

Soon, he executed people that were suspected to be the murderers and wrote the princess a letter to inform her and apologized. 

Zhu Di then gave her and her children the most honorable titles and the most amount of money among royal family members.

Princess Ningguo, afterward, had displeased Zhu Di for several times but had never been blamed. 

She didn’t get married again, and raised her two sons well, on her own. 

Princess Ningguo passed away peacefully in her 70s after experienced a long, wealthy, honored life. 

Carved Lacquer Case Produced Under Yongle Emperor's Reign — Philadelphia Museum of Art (Photo by Dongmaiying)

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