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Shunzhi Emperor Fulin — A Smart Monarch of the Qing Dynasty with A Mysterious Ending

Shunzhi Emperor (1638 — 1661), named Fulin, revered as Emperor Shizu of Qing, was the first monarch after the Qing Dynasty became a national regime.

The Shunzhi Emperor was an intelligent, diligent, and decisive monarch who quelled the intense resistance of civilians from the late Ming Dynasty and implemented a series of policies that facilitated the recovery of agriculture and the economy.

As a mature, strong emperor, he was impulsive and straightforward about his love life.


After his vigorous love story ended sadly, the Shunzhi Emperor disappeared from the public.

Portrait of Shunzhi Emperor, By Court Artist of the Qing Dynasty

Portrait of Shunzhi Emperor, By Court Artist of the Qing Dynasty — Palace Museum

Toddler Shunzhi Emperor and the Expansion of His Empire

When Fulin was five years old, his father, King Hong Taiji (1592 — 1643), passed away, which caused intense contention over the throne between his oldest brother and his uncle Dorgon (1612 — 1650).

The forces of these two parties were equally powerful and determined, and all refused to compromise with one another. 

Soon, they came to a consensus that they could not let infighting weaken their regime.


Therefore, they chose the five-year-old Fulin as the next emperor, while those powerful adults obtained power as regents. 

Fulin's big brother's side agreed to his ascending to the throne because he was also the son of the late King Hong Taiji.


Dorgon supported him because, in some gossip, he and Fulin's mother had a romantic relationship. 

Soon, the six-year-old Fulin ascended to the throne as the Shunzhi Emperor. 

In the same year, after Ming's last emperor Zhu Youjian committed suicide, Dorgon tricked and forced General Wu Sangui to open the gate of the Shanhai Pass on the Great Wall and led Qing's army to march inside Beijing City.

Afterward, the Shunzhi Emperor moved to the Forbidden Palace, and the Qing Empire officially started its reign as a national authority in the history of China.

Forbidden Palace in Beijing City

Forbidden Palace in Beijing City — Royal Palace of the Qing Dynasty

Overbearing Regent Dorgon and His Brutal Rule

Later, Dorgon perished Shunzhi Emperor's big brother's political group and other political enemies with no mercy and obtained centralized authority as the most potent regent of Qing.

In some historical notes, Dorgon married Shunzhi's mother, Empress Xiaozhuangwen (1613 — 1688).  

Under Dorgon's reign, the Qing army kept winning and expanding while committing many large-scale inhuman massacres in some defeated cities.


He also forced every man to shave half of their head and have a braided hairstyle, and millions of civilians were sacrificed for fighting against this policy.

As Qing's most potent and contributed regent, Dorgon had been strict, arrogant, and disrespectful to his young monarch.

Hence, two months after Dorgon's departure, many officials brought charges against him, his noble titles were removed, and his dead body was excavated and tortured under the command of the Shunzhi Emperor. 

Dorgon's contribution to the Qing Dynasty was restored and clarified about a century later by the Qianlong Emperor

Portrait of Manchu Regent Dorgon of the Qing Dynasty

Portrait of Regent Dorgon of the Qing Dynasty

Conflicting Ideologies of the Shunzhi Emperor

After Dorgon’s death, the 13-year-old Shunzhi Emperor obtained and enlarged the centralized power and set a series of etiquettes and administration systems based on the late Ming Empire’s governance. 

However, as a decisive and intelligent monarch, the Shunzhi Emperor had frequently been in complicated contradictions.

On one side, he respected his nomadic Manchu origin and insisted on preserving some of their traditions; people of his nomadic race still obtained paramount privileges.

On the other side, he highly adored Zhu Yuanzhang and Zhu Youjian, the first and last emperors of the Ming Dynasty.


Besides, the Shunzhi Emperor was also a big fan of Han culture and Confucianism

As a prince born and grew up in a nomadic regime that highly respected military force, the Shunzhi Emperor’s reading, writing, painting, and literary skills in Han culture were excellent.

Calligraphy "Xingshu Wang Wei Shi" of Shunzhi Emperor

Calligraphy "Xingshu Wang Wei Shi" of Shunzhi Emperor — Palace Museum

For those fighting intensely against Qing's reign, the Shunzhi Emperor showed great sympathy and respect and considered them brave heroes. 

Ironically, though implemented by his uncle Dorgon, those inhuman slaughters happened under the Shunzhi Emperor's ruling period. 

Consequently, the Shunzhi Emperor tried to improve Han officials' power and status in his government while still showing obvious bias and preferences toward his nomadic ministers.

Under his reign, the Shunzhi Emperor allowed his nomadic people to marry the Han people, went to Ming emperors' mausoleums and condoled them, respected Confucians, and kept sending his army to defeat forces who tried to recover the Ming Empire.

Gold Saddle of Shunzhi Emperor that Decorated with Dragon Patterns and Gems

Gold Saddle of Shunzhi Emperor that Decorated with Dragon Patterns and Gems — Palace Museum (Photo by Dongmaiying)

Positive Outcomes of the Shunzhi Emperor's Governance

In the end, his contradictory ideology helped alleviate intense conflicts between the Han and Manchu people.

Shunzhi Emperor stopped the cruel behavior of killing all the residents of a conquered city, which had been widely implemented by his father and uncle before. He also promoted many amnesty policies to all of Ming's troops. 


He banned the Movement of Enclosure by Manchu nobles and encouraged civilians to exploit and cultivate more farmlands.

There were many objections from Manchu aristocrats who still honored their absolute privilege and slaughter policy.


However, the Shunzhi Emperor was always firm and insistent with these nobles who set big obstacles.  

After Shunzhi obtained power from Dorgon, large-scale slaughters finally stopped, and agriculture and the economy started to recover.


He was undoubtedly a good and intelligent monarch who dealt with complicated situations well. 

Porcelain Plate with Mythical Animal Qilin's Pattern, Produced Under Shunzhi Emperor's Reign

Porcelain Plate with Mythical Animal Qilin's Pattern, Produced Under Shunzhi Emperor's Reign — Palace Museum

The Tragic Love Story of the Shunzhi Emperor

However, the love life of the young and brilliant Shunzhi Emperor was unfortunate. 

At the age of 14, he married his first queen, an arrogant girl assigned by Dorgon.

After he obtained power, Shunzhi immediately demoted this queen and called off this political marriage.

Soon, his mother chose another queen he disliked; but this queen was kind and polite, giving Shunzhi no excuse to abolish her. 

Two years later, the Shunzhi Emperor met one of his general’s wives, and some people say this general was one of his younger brothers. 

Shunzhi fell in love with this girl at first sight and took her away from her husband, the general. Afterward, her ex-husband committed suicide.

Shunzhi Emperor tried hard to make this woman named Dong his queen, but his mother and other aristocrats strongly disagreed.

So, Dong became Shunzhi’s favorite and honorable imperial concubine, and they spent some happy times together.

Portrait of Imperial Consort Dong of Shunzhi Emperor

Portrait of Imperial Consort Dong

Most people believed they were soul mates, and Dong was indeed the love of his life. 

Soon, Dong gave birth to a baby boy, the fourth son of the Shunzhi Emperor. 

But he told the whole world that this was his first beloved child and gave him many honorable titles, which was against the royal traditions.

Unfortunately, this boy passed away only a few months later, and Dong died three years later because of sickness and sadness.

Shunzhi Emperor conferred her the most honored posthumous titles and buried her using a queen’s ceremony. 

Phoenix Shaped Gold Hairpin (Zan) of the Qing Dynasty

Phoenix Shaped Gold Hairpin (Zan) of the Qing Dynasty — Capital Museum (Photo by Dongmaiying)

Sudden Disappearance and Mysterious End of the Shunzhi Emperor

The Shunzhi Emperor left the world the following year after Dong's death, and his seven-year-old son Xuanye ascended to the throne.

The official document recorded that the Shunzhi Emperor had passed away because of sickness.


At the same time, there was lots of gossip and evidence showing that he believed in Buddhism and practiced in a temple on Mount Wutai after the love of his life passed away.

In the last few years of Shunzhi being the emperor, after he and Dong lost their baby boy, he spent lots of time meeting with monks and formally respected one of them as his master. He shaved his head and tried practicing Buddhism full-time when Dong was sick.

After Dong passed away, the Shunzhi Emperor left the throne and disappeared from the public when he was only 23 years old. 

This bright emperor left a relatively stable empire with fewer hostile civilians to his heir. 

As a highly spoony person, he left a sad love story and a mysterious ending to the world. 

Mount Wutai of Shanxi Province

Mount Wutai of Shanxi Province, Shunzhi Emperor Believed to Practice Buddhism There After Dong Passed Away.

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