Fun Facts about Chinese Culture and History

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Tianqi Emperor Zhu Youjiao -- Excellent Carpenter Monarch and A Weird Explosion in Ming Dynasty

Zhu Youjiao (1605 -- 1627), also respected as Tianqi Emperor or Ming Xi Zong, was an exceptional carpenter in the history of China.


However, he was not a qualified monarch.


Illiterate and Unappreciated Prince Zhu Youjiao

Zhu Youjiao's grandmother was a maid in the royal palace; he and his father were never liked by his grandfather Wanli Emperor Zhu Yijun


After the Emperor Zhu Yijun lost in a 15-year long debate against officials, he finally nominated Youjiao's father as the crown prince.


However, his father passed away only one month after having ascended to the throne. Therefore, Zhu Youjiao became the Tianqi Emperor when he was 15 years old. 


Tianqi Emperor Zhu Youjiao was not actually illiterate, however, he was not very well educated; since his father and he were not quite appreciated before. 


His grandfather didn't like Zhu Youjiao and had never tried to educate him to be an heir; what's worse, he left to him an empire with partial conflicting and strong enemy.


The political conflicting among different parties in his grandfather’s ruling period was among civil officials, however, under Tianqi Emperor's reign, it changed to conflicts among some loyal and integrity civil officials against his favorite eunuch.


If the combat in his grandfather’s ruling era made the kingdom declining, the chaos under his reign made the empire got into a much worse situation in the history of China. 


Tianqi Emperor's Incapable Ruling and His Evil Eunuch Wei

In the beginning of Tianqi Emperor's ruling period, integrity officials still had advantages; many decent people were nominated into the appropriate positions. 


Three years later, however, powerful eunuch Wei Zhongxian and his lover, also Youjiao’s wet nurse, framed up and executed those opponent officials, and possessed more and more power. Many exceptional generals who were capable to protect the Ming Empire from perishing were sentenced to death. 


Whoever didn’t comply to Wei were demoted or executed, no matter if they were contributive and loyal or not. 


This fake couple also plundered large numbers of treasures from civilians.


In addition, the wet nurse also murdered many of Tianqi Emperor's babies, only because those babies’ mothers didn’t follow her orders; then she kept sending the emperor beautiful women who complied to her. 

A Remarkable Architect and A Great Carpenter

As a horrible monarch, Tianqi Emperor turned out to be another person who chose the wrong occupation in the history of China. 


He fully trusted Eunuch Wei with the governance of the Ming Empire, and dedicated his entire life to being a great architecture and a carpenter.


When civilians were living in chaos, and those loyal and capable ministers were sabotaged by Eunuch Wei, Tianqi Emperor was building extraordinary carpenter masterpieces.


He was indeed a genius artist; from spectacular buildings to tiny models, from designing draft to carving and painting, he mastered them all.


When he sent people to put his works on the market, anonymously, his carpentries were sold as the most expensive and valuable products.


Despite his monarch status, he was considered as the second exceptional carpenter artist in the history of China. 


A Destructive, Mysterious Explosion 

In the sixth year of his ruling, an extremely weird and mysterious explosion happened in the capital city, which was considered as a warning of Tianqi Emperor being a horrible monarch. 


The year before this mysterious explosion, many extreme natural phenomena had appeared, included severe drought and cold, red and purple clouds in the sky, etc.


Days before the explosion, people saw colorful and black clouds and heard some unexplainable musics; some statues of the God of Fire were shaking intensely as well.


On that explosion day, a huge fireball rushed out into the sky and exploded; with a shocking blare, dust, cracks, blood, and pieces of body parts were spreading, along with countless cries and screams.


Tianqi Emperor’s crown prince was dead in this explosion, so did more than 20,000 other people. 


The weird explosion in the Ming Dynasty cannot be explained by poor management of ammunition nor earthquake.


The most eccentric thing was that all the dead bodies were naked; their clothes and jewelry were blown to a mountain nearby capital city.

Scared Emperor and His Sudden Death

This mythical disaster made Tianqi Emperor believed that he was a horrible monarch; so he wrote and published an article of self criticizing, and tried to make up his mind to be a better monarch. 


However, he only wrote it down, and didn’t change anything.


The same year after the explosion, flood and drought disaster happened in different places in China; large numbers of civilians were suffering from poverty and starvation.


The next year, when Tianqi Emperor was drinking wine with his close eunuchs in a boat, a gust of wind overthrew him into the lake; he got scared, and passed away several months later. 

Tianqi's Beauitful, Smart Queen and His Reluctant Heir


Tianqi Emperor’s wife Zhang Yan was a very beautiful and smart woman, who was selected to be the queen from 5,000 pretty girls. 


Her stunningly gorgeous appearance impressed the emperor, and made him fell in love with her at the first sight.


Soon, her baby was aborted by the emperor's evil wet nurse using poison, because she did't comply.


Zhang Yan was outrageous and sad, and started to plan her vengeance.


She was the only one that Tianqi Emperor loved and trusted, other than that powerful Eunuch Wei and the wet nurse; this poor queen tried for several times to persuade Tianqi Emperor to trust loyal and righteous officials and generals, instead of that greedy couple, but her husband never listened. 

After the Tianqi Emperor almost drowned to death, he was sick in bed, with no sons. The eunuch and wet nurse then planed to find another baby to ascend to the throne; that way, they could be in charge for another few decades.


Surprisingly, Tianqi Emperor even agreed with this ridiculous idea.

Queen Zhang Yan was strongly against this decision, considering both Ming Empire and her own benefit. 


So she spent a long time to persuade her husband to give the throne to his 16-year-old younger brother Zhu Youjian, instead of an unknown baby who might be a puppet emperor forever. 


Then she convinced Zhu Youjian to agree to inherit the throne. Eunuch Wei and the evil wet nurse were executed by this new emperor soon.


This beautiful and decent queen Zhang Yan committed suicide with honor, after the Ming Dynasty was perished. 


Tianqi Emperor Zhu Youjiao, the artistic monarch passed away when he was only 22 years old, and left to his poor brother, also the last emperor of the Ming Dynasty in the history of China, a chaos kingdom with many treacherous but powerful officers, a powerful nomadic enemy Manchu, and some large scale uprisings.