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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.

Princess Ningguo Zhu Changning of the Ming Dynasty

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 on 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

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

The Incident of Jingnan and the Shifted Throne

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

After he ascended to the throne, he removed kings, most of whom were his uncles, from their half-independent fiefs, where they obtained armies and power. 

Hence, the most potent 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 Zhu Yuanzhang of the Ming Dynasty

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 who led 400,000 soldiers and garrisoned an important military site to defend against Zhu Di.  

Princess Ningguo was 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 their father, Hongwu Emperor, chose. 

Doubtful Death of Princess' Husband Mei Yin

After four years of intense wars, Zhu Di occupied the capital city, and 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.

Therefore, her husband, Mei Yin, had to surrender and return 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" about 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 others doubted that, especially his beloved wife, Princess Ningguo.  

Crystal Drum of Ming Dynasty

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 her to murder her husband.

Zhu Di denied this patiently and nicely and promised to investigate this case carefully. 

Soon, he executed people suspected of being murderers and wrote the princess a letter to inform her and apologize. 

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

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

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

Princess Ningguo died peacefully in her 70s after experiencing a long, wealthy, honored life. 

Carved Lacquer Case Produced Under Yongle Emperor's Reign

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

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