Shun Zhi Emperor Fu Lin — Smart Monarch of the Qing Dynasty with A Mysterious Ending

Fu Lin (1638 — 1661), respected as Shunzhi Emperor or Emperor Shizu of Qing, was the first monarch after the Qing Dynasty became a national regime.

Shun Zhi Emperor was a smart, diligent, and decisive monarch that pacified intense resistances of civilians of the late Ming Dynasty, and implemented a series of policies that facilitated the recovery of agriculture and economy. 

As a mature, strong emperor, he had been quite impulsive and straightforward about his love life. After his vigorous love story ended sadly, Shunzhi Emperor disappeared from the public.

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

Toddler Shunzhi Emperor and His Expanding Empire

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

Forces of these two parties were equally powerful and determined, with whom all refused to compromise to another. 

Soon, they came to a consensus that they could not let any infighting weaken their regime. Therefore, they chose the five-year-old Fu Lin as the next emperor, while those powerful adults obtaining power as regents. 

Fu Lin’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 gossips, he and Fu Lin’s mother had a romantic relationship. 

Soon, the six-year-old Fu Lin ascended to the throne as the Shun Zhi 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 marched inside the Beijing City.

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

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

Overbearing Regent Dorgon and His Brutal Governance

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 powerful regent of Qing.

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

Under the Dorgon’s reign, the Qing’s 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 the braided hairstyle, and millions of civilians sacrificed for fighting against this policy.

As Qing’s most powerful 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 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

Conflictive Ideology of 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. 

As a decisive and smart monarch, however, the Shunzhi Emperor had been frequently 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 of privileges.

On the other side, he highly adored Emperor 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 that was born and grew up in a nomadic regime that highly respected military force, Shunzhi Emperor’s reading, writing, painting, and literary skill of Han culture were all quite excellent.

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

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

Ironically, however, those inhuman slaughters, though implemented by his uncle Dorgon, indeed, happened under Shunzhi Emperor’s ruling period. 

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

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

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

Positive Consequences of Shunzhi Emperor's Governance

In the end, his contradictory ideology eased up intense conflict among the Han and the Manchu people.

Shunzhi Emperor stopped the cruel behavior that 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. To these nobles who set big obstacles, however, Shunzhi Emperor was always firm and insistent.  

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

 

Undoubtedly, he was 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 — Palace Museum

Shunzhi Emperor's Sad Love Story

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

When he was 14, he married to his first queen, an arrogant girl that was assigned by Dorgon.

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

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

Two years later, the Shunzhi Emperor met one of his general’s wife, 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 this general. Afterward, her ex-husband committed suicide.

Shunzhi Emperor, then, tried very hard to make this woman named Dong to be 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

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

Soon, Dong gave birth to a baby boy, the fourth son of 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 — Capital Museum (Photo by Dongmaiying)

Shunzhi Emperor's Sudden Disappear and Mysterious End

The Shunzhi Emperor left the world in the next year after Dong’s death, and his seven-year-old son Xuan Ye ascended to the throne.

The official document recorded that Shunzhi Emperor had passed away because of sickness, while there were many gossips and shreds of evidence showed 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 even already shaved his head and tried to practice 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. 

Anyway, this bright emperor left to his heir a relatively stable empire with much less hostile civilians. 

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

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

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