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Chenghua Emperor
Portrait assis de l'empereur Ming Xianzong.jpg
9th Emperor of the Ming dynasty
Reign 28 February 1464 – 9 September 1487
Coronation 28 February 1464
Predecessor Emperor Yingzong of Ming
(Tianshun Emperor)
Successor Hongzhi Emperor
Born 9 December 1447
Died 9 September 1487(1487-09-09) (aged 39)
Burial Ming tombs, Beijing
Consorts
Lady Wu
(m. 1464; dep. 1464)

Empress Xiaozhenchun
(m. 1464⁠–⁠1487)

Empress Xiaomu
(m. 1466; died 1475)

Empress Xiaohui
(before 1487)
Issue Hongzhi Emperor
Zhu Youyuan
Zhu Youlun
Zhu Youbin
Zhu Youhui
Zhu Youyun
Zhu Youzhi
Zhu Youpeng
Zhu Youshun
Zhu Youshu
Zhu Youkai
Princess Renhe
Princess Yongkang
Princess Deqing
Full name
Family name: Zhu (朱)
Given name: Jianshen (見深), later Jianru (見濡)
Era name and dates
Chénghuà (成化): 27 January 1465 – 13 February 1488
Posthumous name
Emperor Jitian Ningdao Chengming Renjing Chongwen Suwu Hongde Shengxiao Chun
繼天凝道誠明仁敬崇文肅武宏德聖孝純皇帝
Temple name
Ming Xianzong
明憲宗
House House of Zhu
Father Emperor Yingzong of Ming
Mother Empress Xiaosu

The Chenghua Emperor (Chinese: 成化; pinyin: Chénghuà; 9 December 1447 – 9 September 1487), born Zhu Jianshen, was the ninth Emperor of the Ming dynasty, reigned from 1464 to 1487. His era name "Chenghua" means "accomplished change".

Childhood

Zhu Jianshen was a son of the Zhengtong Emperor (also known as the Tianshun Emperor). He was only two years old when his father was captured by the Oirat Mongols and held captive in 1449. After that, his uncle, the Jingtai Emperor, took over the throne whilst his father was released from Oirats and returned to Beijing in 1450 and was put under house arrest for almost seven years. During this time, Zhu Jianshen lived under his uncle's shadow and even had his title of crown prince removed while the Jingtai Emperor installed his own son as heir. Zhu Jianshen was only reinstated as crown prince on the eve of the death of the Jingtai Emperor in 1457.

Mother Hen and Chicks, Song Dynasty
A Song dynasty (960–1279) painting of a mother hen and chicks, with a written eulogy at the top inscribed by the Chenghua Emperor describing his fondness for this work.

Reign as Emperor

The Chenghua Emperor ascended the throne at the age of 17. During the early part of his administration, he carried out new government policies to reduce tax and strengthen the Ming dynasty. However these did not last and by the closing years of his reign, governmental affairs once again fell into the hands of eunuchs, notably Wang Zhi. Peasant uprisings occurred throughout the country; however, they were violently suppressed. The Chenghua Emperor's reign was also more autocratic than his predecessors' and freedom was sharply curtailed when the emperor established institutes such as the Western Depot (to complement the existing Eastern Depot), monitoring all civilians' actions and words. This institute, not unlike a spy agency, would administer punishment to those whom they suspected of treason. The Western Depot would eventually be shut down but it was the start of a dangerous trend and the Chenghua Emperor's descendants would again revive the Western Depot during the 16th century.

Legacy

This painting, by an imperial court painter in 1485, depicts the Chenghua Emperor enjoying the festivities with families in the Forbidden City during the Lantern Festival. It includes acrobatic performances, operas, magic shows and setting off firecrackers.

The Chenghua Emperor's reign can be distinguished by his early attempts to reform the government and trying his best to rule the country. His reign also saw a cultural flourishing with famous persons such as Hu Juren and Chen Baisha dominating the academic scene. However, the Chenghua Emperor's reign was prone to dominating individuals in the government and the emperor was easily influenced into granting favours based on who he liked rather than their abilities. This led to the degradation of the ruling class and wasteful spending by corrupt individuals which eventually depleted the Ming government's coffers.

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