Fun Facts about Chinese Culture and History

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Zhengde Emperor Zhu Houzhao -- Spoiled Monarch with Ridiculous Behaviors and Excellent Achievements in the History of China 

Zhu Houzhao (1491 -- 1521), also respected as Zhengde Emperor or Ming Wu Zong, was the most controversial monarch of the Ming Dynasty.


He was quite deviant and curious, and had spent most of his life trying to escape from the fancy royal palace.


Most offcials were dissatisfied with his unusual and ridiculous behaviors, even most of his big decisions were all proved correct.


As an honorable monarch, however, he dedicated his entire life to pursuing of absolute freedom. 

Crown Prince Surrounded by Love and His Perfect Childhood

Zhu Houzhao's father, the great emperor Zhu Youcheng, strictly followed monogamous and deeply loved his queen.


Houzhao was a very smart and well educated prince; as the only child of the royal family, he obtained his affectionate parents’ full love and entire attention.


As a boy who had both the royal's honor and authority, and the civilian's genuine and happy family, Houzhao was one of the happiest crown prince in the history of China. In the meanwhile, he had an elegant and unconventional soul. 


The Frequently Absent Zhengde Emperor

Zhu Houzhao ascended to the throne when he was 14 years old, as Zhengde Emperor, when he was still enjoying having fun with eunuchs around him.


He listened to his eunuchs and dismissed intelligent ministers that his father left to him, only because they frequently suggested him to stop playing and pay more attention to his kingdom. 


Thanks to his father’s hard working and efficient political system, the government ran well, even though Zhengde Emperor kept being absent to many government meetings.


Some time later, his offcials had given up persuading him to show up at important meetings, and got used to his long term absence. 


However, Zhengde Emperor did select many talented and responsible officials to do daily administration works for him.


When important things happened, as the monarch, he always could respond instantly and make the right decision.​

Zhengde Emperor's Absurd Life Outside of the Royal Palace

Zhengde Emperor Zhu Houzhao didn’t like to live in the fancy Forbidden City, so he built many other buildings to stay and have fun. 


His favorite palace was filled with valuable animals like leopards, beautiful women and musicians.


He also enjoyed traveling a lot, where he could meet and take different women home; according to some gossips, he even visited brothels sometimes.


More surprisingly, he asked his followers not to call him emperor; he enjoyed being respected as a minister or a marshal. 


This was the first emperor in the history of China who loved demoting himself.   

Escaping from the Capital City Secretly

Some years later, another nomadic lord, a very excellent militarist, became powerful; he unified many Mongolia clans and then started to invade Ming’s borders, which caused many destructions to the Ming Empire.


Zhengde Emperor wanted to lead the army himself and fight against the nomadic lord, but everyone in his government strongly disagreed, because of what had happened to Emperor Zhu Qizhen before. 


They definitely didn't want to risk having another emperor captured by nomadic regimes; even just thinking about he possibility was already scary enough.


Seeing that he was impossible to get support from those civil officials, Zhengde Emperor only took with his close followers and escaped out of his capital city seceretly. He had reached the northern borders for several times.


Encounter of Enemy and Zhengde Emperor's Great Victory

Once, when Zhu Houzhao secretly arrived a small city in the border, that aggressive nomadic lord led 50,000 cavalry warriors marched outside of the city as well, trying to attack Ming Empire again.


At that time, this small city only had thousands of soldiers, who could defend the city from the strong and outnumbered nomad army only for a while. 


But Zhengde Emperor refused to go back to his capital to be safe; instead, he insisted to stay there, and nominated himself as the chief marshal of the Ming Empire’s army.


He also invented a new title for himself, which even had clearly set salary and welfare.


Then Zhengde Emperor, now the Marshal Zhu Houzhao, set his command post near the border.


Afterwards, he transferred and reorganized some nearby armies, refused the suggestions of other experienced generals.


Finally, he got to command Ming Empire's troop on his own.  

Everyone in Ming's government and the army was worried, because everything sounds quite ridiculous and spontaneous. 


However, it turned out that the Zhengde Emperor's military talent was quite exceptional; all of his commands in the battlefields were proved correct. 


He ate and stayed with other common soldiers, which greatly inspired everyone in his army.


When his army was actively attacking their nomadic enemies, he also joined in the battlefield, and even killed a cavalryman on his own. 


Consequently, Zhengde Emperor successfully defeated this exceptional nomadic lord using less numbers of soldiers, and brought peace to the borders of his empire.


After this war, the nomadic regime didn’t attack Ming Empire again for decades. 


However, because Zhengde Emperor secretly ran to this city and didn’t take with any civil officials, this large scale war wasn’t documented in detail in the history.


After this big success, he left this city and toured many other northern cities for months; he refused to go back to his royal palace, until his beloved grandmother passed away. 


Finally Succeed Journey to the South

After Zhengde Emperor finished his tours in the northern China, now he wanted to visit some places in the south.


But this time, his officials all strongly disagreed and tried their best to stop him from being a tourist all the time; so he had to stop this plan.


Then he built a business street inside his royal palace and asked servants to act as retailers, where he could be safely shopping, lingering, and acting as a normal free civilian. 


Few years later, a king, who was also Zhu Houzhao's uncle, initiated another rebel war.


Zhengde Emperor was very excited to hear about this and decided to led the army conquering that king on his own, because this rebel happened in the southern China, where he always wanted to visit.


But soon after he left the capital city, an extremely talented minister named Wang Shouren already defeated the whole of the rebel army, alone.


Zhengde Emperor was unhappy and continued to march southward, until Wang Shouren said that the battle was won because of the Marshal Zhu Houzhao’s exceptional commands.


But Zhengde Emperor still insisted on setting this rebel king free, and then captured him again on his own. 


Unwelcomed Zhengde Emperor and His Deviant Trip

During that journey, Zhengde Emperor visited many places in the southern China, though most of his governors were unhappy with him showing up, and always persuaded him to go back.


Again, he took some of his followers left the big guardian army once, only to meet and pick up a woman that he liked, which was then caused many critics.


He also left the world with many stories and gossips during these tours, most of them were hard to prove if they were actually had happened or not. 


Zhu Houzhao liked fishing in this trip when he could sell his fishes to his nearby eunuchs and officials. 


He also tried to ask for local specialties from governors, however, he never got angry when most of them refused to tribute. 

Mysterious Fall and Zhengde's Questionable, Sudden Death

On his way back, he accidentally fell into a lake when he was fishing; he then got sick and passed away soon, when he was only 30 years old.


Zhengde Emperor was a strong person who was excellent at martial art and military training; therefore, the lethal sickness after just a falling aroused many suspiciousness. 


But no one could exactly tell what actually caused his death.


He had no sons, so his cousin Zhu Houcong was then supported to be the next emperor of the Ming Empire.  


Controversial Zhengde Emperor​ Zhu Houzhao​

Z​hu Houzhao, the Zhengde Emperor, was documented quite controversial in the history of China.

Some thought he was ridiculous and unbelievable, because of his extremely deviant behaviors.


Others believed that he was just playful, curious and a huge fan of absolute freedom, but he was still a good monarch who achieved excellent military success and always made right decisions in regard to governance. 


He did select many intelligent officials and applied devolution; in the meanwhile, he always had everything under control.


Moreover, even many imperial censors were sometimes being quite disrespectful and critical, Zhengde Emperor barely got angry; he usually could stay reasonable and kind, and would just smile and let go. 


Based on Zhu Houzhao's deviance and colorful life experiences, probably he had never cared what people would say or write about him at all.