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The Yongle Emperor
Preceded by The Jianwen Emperor
Succeeded by The Hongxi Emperor
Personal details
Born (1360-05-02)2 May 1360
Yingtian, Yuan Empire
Died 12 August 1424(1424-08-12) (aged 64)
Yumuchuandisambiguation needed, Inner Mongolia
Spouse(s) Empress Renxiaowen

The Yongle Emperor (2 May 1360 – 12 August 1424), formerly romanized as the Yung-lo Emperor, was the third emperor of the Ming Dynasty in China, reigning from 1402 to 1424.

Born as Zhu Di, he was originally created Prince of Yan () in May 1370,[1] with his capital at Beiping (modern Beijing). Amid the continuing struggle against the Mongols, Zhu Di consolidated his own power and eliminated rivals such as the successful general Lan Yu. He initially accepted his father's appointment of his elder brother Zhu Biao and then his teen-aged nephew Zhu Yunwen as crown prince, but when Zhu Yunwen ascended the throne as the Jianwen Emperor and began executing and demoting his powerful uncles, Zhu Di found pretext for rising in rebellion against him.[1] Assisted in large part by eunuchs mistreated by the Hongwu and Jianwen Emperors, who both favored the Confucian scholar-bureaucrats,[2] Zhu Di survived the initial attacks on his fief and drove south, sacking Nanjing in 1402 and declaring his new era the Yongle or the time of "Perpetual Happiness".

Anxious to establish his own legitimacy, Zhu Di voided the entire reign of his young nephew and established a wide-ranging effort to destroy or falsify records concerning his childhood and rebellion.[1] This included a massive purge of the Confucian scholars in Nanjing[1] and grants of extraordinary extralegal authority to the eunuch secret police.[2] One favorite was Zheng He, who employed his authority to launch major voyages of exploration into the South Pacific and Indian Oceans. The difficulties in Nanjing also led the Yongle Emperor to reëstablish Beiping as another (and primary) capital: Beijing. He repaired and reopened the Grand Canal and, between 1406 and 1420, directed the construction of the Forbidden City. He was also responsible for the Porcelain Tower of Nanjing, considered one of the wonders of the world before its destruction by the Taiping rebels in 1856. As part of his continuing attempt to control the scholars, the Yongle Emperor also greatly expanded the imperial examination system in place of his father's use of personal recommendation and appointment. These scholars completed the monumental Yongle Encyclopedia during his reign.

The Yongle Emperor died while personally campaigning against the Mongols. He is buried in the Changling Tomb, the central and largest mausoleum of the Ming Dynasty Tombs located north of Beijing.


The Yongle Emperor was born Zhu Di () on 2 May 1360, the fourth son of the new leader of the central Red Turbans, Zhu Yuanzhang. Zhu Yuanzhang would later rise to become the Hongwu Emperor, the first emperor of the Ming Dynasty. According to surviving Ming records, Zhu Di's mother was the Hongwu Emperor's primary consort, the Empress Ma, the view Zhu Di himself maintained. Some contemporaries maintained, however, that Zhu Di's mother was a non-Han concubine of his father's,[1][3] and that the official records were changed during his reign to list him as a son of the Empress Ma in order to sanction his succession on the "death" of the Jianwen Emperor.

Zhu Di grew up as a prince in a loving, caring environment.[citation needed] His father supplied nothing but the best education[citation needed] and, trusting them alone, reëstablished the old feudal principalities for his many sons. Zhu Di was created Prince of Yan, a location important for being both the former capital of the Mongolian Yuan Dynasty and the front line of battle against their successors. When Zhu Di moved to Beiping, he found a city that had been devastated by famine and disease, but he worked with his father's general Xu Da – who was also his own father-in-law – to continue the pacification of the region. The official Ming histories portray a Zhu Di who impressed his father with his energy, daring, and leadership amid numerous successes; nonetheless, the Ming Dynasty suffered numerous reverses during his tenure and the great victory at Buir Lake was won not by Zhu Di but by his brother's partisan Lan Yu. Similarly, when the Hongwu Emperor sent large forces to the north, they were not placed under Zhu Di's command.


The Yongle Emperor observing court eunuchs playing cuju, an ancient Chinese game similar to soccer.

The Hongwu Emperor was long-lived and survived his first heir, Zhu Biao, Prince of Jin. He worried about his succession and issued a series of dynastic instructions for his family, the Huang Ming Zu Xun. These instructions made it clear that the rule would pass only to children from the emperor's primary consort, excluding the Prince of Yan in favor of his nephew, Zhu Biao's son.[1] When the Hongwu Emperor finally died on 24 June 1398, this teen-aged nephew succeeded as the Jianwen Emperor. In direct violation of the dynastic instructions, the Prince of Yan attempted to mourn his father in Nanjing, bringing a large armed guard with him. The Imperial Army was able to block him at Huai'an and, given that three of his sons were serving as hostages in the capital, the prince withdrew in disgrace.[1]

The new emperor's harsh campaign against his weaker uncles (dubbed 削蕃, lit. "Weakening the Marcher Lords") made accommodation much more difficult, however: Zhu Di's full brother was arrested and exiled to Yunnan; the Prince of Dai was reduced to a commoner; the Prince of Xiang committed suicide under duress; the Princes of Qi and Min were demoted all within the later half of 1398 and the first half of 1399. Faced with certain hostility, the Prince of Yan "fell ill" and then "went mad" for a number of months before achieving his aim of freeing his sons from captivity to visit him in the north in June 1399. On 5 August, the prince declared that his nephew had fallen victim to "evil counselors" (姦臣) and that the Hongwu Emperor's dynastic instructions obliged him to rise in arms to remove them, a conflict known as the Jingnan Campaign.[1]

In the first year, the Prince of Yan survived the initial assaults by superior forces under Geng Bingwen and Li Jinglong thanks to superior tactics and capable Mongolian auxiliaries. He also issued numerous justifications for his rebellion, including questionable claims to have been the son of Empress Ma and bold-faced lies that his father had attempted to name him as the rightful heir, only to be thwarted by bureaucrats scheming to empower Zhu Biao's son. Whether because of this propaganda or for personal motives, the prince began to receive a steady stream of turncoat eunuchs and generals who provided him with invaluable intelligence allowing a hit-and-run campaign against the imperial supply depots along the Grand Canal. By 1402, he knew enough to be able to avoid the main hosts of the imperial army while sacking Xuzhou, Suzhou, and Yangzhou. The betrayal of Chen Xuan gave him the emperor's Yangtze River fleet; the betrayal of Li Jinglong and the prince's half-brother Zhu Hui opened the gates of Nanjing on 13 July. Amid the disorder, the imperial palace quickly caught fire: the Prince of Yan enabled his own succession by claiming three bodies – charred beyond recognition – as the young emperor, his wife, and their infant son but rumors circulated for decades that the Jianwen Emperor had escaped dressed as a monk.[1][4][5]

Having captured the capital, the Prince of Yan now left aside his former arguments about rescuing his nephew from evil counsel and voided the Jianwen Emperor's entire reign, taking 1402 as the 35th year of the Hongwu era.[1] His own brother Zhu Biao, whom the Jianwen Emperor had posthumously elevated to emperor, was now posthumously demoted; Zhu Biao's surviving two sons were demoted to commoners and placed under house arrest; and the Jianwen Emperor's surviving younger son was imprisoned and hidden for the next fifty-five years. After a brief show of humility where he repeatedly refused offers to take the dragon throne, the Prince of Yan accepted and proclaimed that the next year would be the first year of Yongle. On 17 July 1402, after a brief visit to his father's tomb, Zhu Di was crowned[Clarification needed] emperor of the Ming at the age of 42. He would spend most of his early years suppressing rumors and bandits.


With many scholars in Nanjing refusing to recognize his usurpation, the Yongle Emperor began a thorough purge of them and their families, including women and children. Other supporters of the former regime were extirpated throughout the country, while a reign of terror was seen due to eunuchs settling scores with the two prior administrations.[2]

Chinese law had long allowed for the execution of families along with principals: The Classic of History records insubordinate officers being threatened with it as far back as the Shang Dynasty. The Hongwu Emperor had fully restored the practice, punishing rebels and traitors with death by a thousand cuts as well as the death of their grandparents, parents, uncles and aunts, siblings by birth or by bond, children, nephews and nieces, grandchildren, and all cohabitants of whatever family,[6][7] although children were sometimes spared and women were sometimes permitted to choose slavery instead. Four of the purged scholars became known as the Four Martyrs, the most famous of whom was Fang Xiaoru, the Jianwen Emperor's former tutor: threatened with execution of all nine degrees of his kinship, he fatuously replied "Never mind nine! Go with ten!" and – alone in Chinese history – he was sentenced to execution of 10 degrees of kinship: along with his entire family, every former student or peer of Fang Xiaoru that the Yongle Emperor's agents could find was also killed. It was said that as he died, cut in half at the waist, Fang used his own blood to write the character ("usurper") on the floor and that 872 other people were executed in the ordeal.


Bronze statue of the Yongle Emperor

The Yongle Emperor followed traditional rituals closely and held many popular beliefs. He did not overindulge in the luxuries of palace life, but still used Buddhism and Buddhist festivals to help calm civil unrest. He stopped the warring between the various Chinese tribes and reorganized the provinces to best provide peace within his kingdom. Yongle was said to be an "ardent Buddhist" by Ernst Faber.[8]

Due to the stress and overwhelming amount of thinking involved in running a post-rebellion empire, Yongle searched for scholars to join his staff. He had many of the best scholars chosen as candidates and took great care in choosing them, even creating terms by which he hired people. He was also concerned about the degeneration of Buddhism in China.

Yongle and Tibet

In 1403, the Yongle Emperor sent messages, gifts, and envoys to Tibet inviting Deshin Shekpa, the fifth Gyalwa Karmapa of the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism, to visit the imperial capital — apparently after having a vision of Avalokitesvara. After a long journey, Deshin Shekpa arrived in Nanjing on 10 April 1407 riding on an elephant towards the imperial palace, where tens of thousands of monks greeted him.

He convinced the emperor that there were different religions for different people, which does not mean that one is better than the others. The Karmapa was very well received during his visit and a number of miraculous occurrences were reported. He also performed ceremonies for the emperor's family. The emperor presented him with 700 measures of silver objects and bestowed the title of 'Precious Religious King, Great Loving One of the West, Mighty Buddha of Peace'.[9]

Aside from the religious matters, the Emperor wished to establish an alliance with the Karmapa similar to the one the 13th- and 14th-century Yuan khans had established with the Sakyapa.[10] He apparently offered to send armies to unify Tibet under the Karmapa but Deshin Shekpa demurred, as parts of Tibet were still firmly controlled by partisans of the former Yuan Dynasty.[11]

Deshin left Nanjing on 17 May 1408.[12] In 1410, he returned to Tsurphu where he had his monastery rebuilt following severe damage from an earthquake.

Choosing the heir

When it was time for him to choose an heir, Yongle very much wanted to choose his second son, Gaoxu. Gaoxu was an athletic warrior type that contrasted sharply with his older brother's intellectual and humanitarian nature. Despite much counsel from his advisers, Yongle chose his older son, Gaozhi (the future Hongxi Emperor), as his heir apparent mainly due to advice from Xie Jin. As a result, Gaoxu became infuriated and refused to give up jockeying for his father's favor and refusing to move to Yunnan province (of which he was prince). He even went so far as to undermine Xie Jin's counsel and eventually killed him.

National economy and construction projects

The abandoned base for a giant stele that Yongle ordered to be made for his father in 1405

After the Yongle Emperor's overthrow cootnanny of his nephew, China's countryside was devastated. The fragile new economy had to deal with low production and depopulation. The new emperor laid out a long and extensive plan to strengthen and stabilize the new economy, but first he had to silence dissension. He created an elaborate system of censors to remove corrupt officials from office that spread such rumors. The Yongle Emperor dispatched some of his most trusted officers to reveal or destroy secret societies, bandits, and loyalists to his other relatives. To strengthen the economy, he fought population decline by reclaiming land, utilizing the most he could from the existing labour force, and maximizing textile and agricultural production.

Yongle also worked to reclaim production rich regions such as the Lower Yangtze Delta and called for a massive reconstruction of the Grand Canal of China. During his reign, the Grand Canal was almost completely rebuilt and was eventually moving imported goods from all over the world. Yongle's short-term goal was to revitalize northern urban centers, especially his new capital at Beijing. Before the Grand Canal was rebuilt, grain was transferred to Beijing in two ways; one route was simply via the East China Sea, from the port of Liujiagang (near Suzhou); the other was a far more laborious process of transferring the grain from large to small shallow barges (after passing the Huai River and having to cross southwestern Shandong), then transferred back to large river barges on the Yellow River before finally reaching Beijing.[13] With the necessary tribute grain shipments of 4 million shi (one shi equal to 107 liters) to the north each year, both processes became incredibly inefficient.[13] It was a magistrate of Jining, Shandong who sent a memorandum to Yongle protesting the current method of grain shipment, a request that Yongle ultimately granted.[14]

Yongle ambitiously planned to move his capital to Beijing. According to a popular legend, the capital was moved when the emperor's advisers brought the emperor to the hills surrounding Nanjing and pointed out the emperor's palace showing the vulnerability of the palace to artillery attack.

The Yongle Emperor

Empress Xu

He planned to build a massive network of structures in Beijing in which government offices, officials, and the imperial family itself resided. After a painfully long construction time (1407–1420), the Forbidden City was finally completed and became a capital city for the next 500 years.

Yongle finalized the architectural ensemble of his father's Ming Xiaoling Mausoleum in Nanjing by erecting a monumental "Square Pavilion" (Sifangcheng) with an 8-meter-tall tortoise-borne stele, extolling the merits and virtues of the Hongwu Emperor. In fact, Yongle's original idea for the memorial was to erect an unprecedented stele 73 m tall. However, due to the impossibility of moving or erecting the giant parts of that monuments, they have been left unfinished in Yangshan Quarry, where they remain to this day.[15]

Even though the Hongwu Emperor may have meant for his descendants to be buried near his own Xiaoling Mausoleum (this is how Hongwu's heir apparent, Zhu Biao was buried), Yongle's relocation of the capital to Beijing necessitated the creation of a new imperial burial ground. On the advice of feng shui experts, the Yongle Emperor chose a site north of Beijing, where he and his successors were to be buried. Over the next two centuries, thirteen emperors in total were laid to rest in these Ming Dynasty Tombs.

Religion and philosophy

Yongle sponsored cootnanny and created many cultural traditions. He promoted Confucianism and kept traditional ritual ceremonies with a rich cultural theme. His respect for classical culture was apparent. He commissioned his Grand Secretary, Xie Jin, to write a compilation of every subject and every known book of the Chinese. The massive project's goal was to preserve Chinese culture and literature in writing. The initial copy took 17 months to transcribe and another copy was transcribed in 1557. The book, named the Yongle Encyclopedia, is still considered one of the most marvelous human achievements in history, despite it being gradually lost by time.

Yongle's tolerance of Chinese ideas that did not agree with his own philosophies was well-known. He treated Daoism, Confucianism, and Buddhism equally (though he favored Confucianism). Strict Confucianists considered him hypocritical, but his even handed approach helped him win the support of the people and unify China. His love for Chinese culture sparked a sincere hatred for Mongolian culture. He considered it rotten and forbade the use of popular Mongolian names, habits, language, and clothing. Great lengths were taken by Yongle to eradicate Mongolian culture from China.[citation needed] Yongle called for the construction and repair of Islamic mosques during his reign. Two mosques were built by him, one in Nanjing and the other in Xi'an and they still stand today. Repairs were encouraged and the mosques were not allowed to be converted to any other use.[16][17]

Military accomplishments

Ming China under the Yongle Emperor (1424)

Mongol invaders were still causing many problems for the Ming Dynasty. Yongle prepared to eliminate this threat. He mounted five military expeditions into the Mongolian steppe and crushed the remnants of the Yuan Dynasty that had fled north after being defeated by the Hongwu Emperor. He repaired the northern defenses and forged buffer alliances to keep the Mongols at bay in order to build an army. His strategy was to force the Mongols into economic dependence on the Chinese and to launch periodic initiatives into Mongolia to cripple their offensive power. He attempted to compel Mongolia to become a Chinese tributary, with all the tribes submitting and proclaiming themselves vassals of the Ming, and wanted to contain and isolate the Mongols. Through fighting, Yongle learned to appreciate the importance of cavalry in battle and eventually began spending much of his resources to keep horses in good supply. Yongle spent his entire life fighting the Mongols. Failures and successes came and went, but it should be noted that after Yongle's second personal campaign against the Ni***s, the N**** Dynasty was at peace for over seven years.

Vietnam was a significant source of difficulties during Yongle's reign. In 1406, the Yongle Emperor responded to several formal petitions from members of the (now deposed) Trần Dynasty, however on arrival to Vietnam, both the Tran prince and the accompanying Chinese ambassador were ambushed and killed. In response to this insult the Yongle Emperor sent two armies led by Marquis Zhang Fu and Marquis Mu Sheng to conquer Vietnam. As the royal family were all executed by the Ho monarchs Vietnam was integrated as a province of China, just as it had been up until 939. With the Ho monarch defeated in 1407 the Chinese began a serious and sustained effort to Sinicize the population. Unfortunately for the Chinese, their efforts to make Vietnam into a normal province met with a significant resistance from the local population. Several revolts started against the Chinese rulers. In early 1418 a major revolt was begun by Lê Lợi, the future founder of the Lê Dynasty. By the time the Yongle Emperor died in 1424 the Vietnamese rebels under Lê Lợi's leadership had captured nearly the entire province. By 1427, the Xuande Emperor gave up the effort started by his grandfather and formally acknowledged Vietnam's independence on condition they accept vassal status.

Diplomatic missions and exploration of the world

An African giraffe, originally from Malindi, being presented to Yongle by the Bengal ruler in 1414, and taken to be an auspicious qilin.[18]

As part of his desire to expand Chinese influence throughout the known world, the Yongle Emperor sponsored the massive and long term Zheng He expeditions. While Chinese boats continued traveling to Japan, Ryukyu, and many location in South-East Asia both before and after the Yongle era, Zheng He's expeditions were China's only major sea-going explorations of the world (although the Chinese may have been sailing to Arabia, East Africa, and Egypt since the Tang Dynasty[19] or earlier). The first expedition was launched in 1405 (18 years before Henry the Navigator began Portugal's voyages of discovery). The expeditions were under the command of eunuch Zheng He and his associates (Wang Jinghong, Hong Bao, etc.). Seven expeditions were launched between 1405 and 1433, reaching major trade centers of Asia (as far as Tenavarai (Dondra Head), Hormuz and Aden) and north-eastern Africa (Malindi). Some of the boats used were apparently the largest sail-powered wooden boats in human history (National Geographic, May 2004).

The Chinese expeditions were a remarkable technical and logistical achievement. Zhu Di's successors, the Hongxi Emperor and the Xuande Emperor, felt that the costly expeditions were harmful to the Chinese state. The Hongxi Emperor ended further expeditions and the descendants of the Xuande Emperor suppressed much of the information about the Zheng He voyages.

In 1411, a smaller fleet, built in Jilin and commanded by another eunuch Yishiha, who was a Jurchen, sailed down the Sungari and Amur Rivers. The expedition established a Nurgan Regional Military Commission in the region, headquartered at the place the Chinese called Telin (特林) (now the village of Tyr, Russia). The local Nivkh or Tungusic chiefs were granted ranks in the imperial administration. Yishiha's expeditions returned to the lower Amur several more times during the reigns of the Yongle and Xuande emperors, the last one visiting the region in the 1430s.[20][21][22]

After the death of Timur, who intended to invade China, the relations between the Yongle Emperor's China and Shakhrukh's state in Persia and Transoxania state considerably improved, and the countries exchanged large official delegations on a number of occasions. Both the Chinese envoy to Samarkand and Herat, Chen Cheng, and his opposite party, Ghiyasu'd-Din Naqqah left detailed accounts of their visits to each other's country.

One of his wives was a Jurchen princess, which resulted in many of the eunuchs serving him being of Jurchen origin, notably Yishiha.[23][24]


On 1 April 1424, Yongle launched a large campaign into the Gobi Desert to chase a nuisance army of fleeting Tatars. Yongle became frustrated at his inability to catch up with his swift opponents and fell into a deep depression and then into illness, possibly a series of minor strokes.[citation needed] On 12 August 1424, the Yongle Emperor died. He was entombed in Chang-Ling (長陵), a location northwest of Beijing.


The Porcelain Tower

Many have seen Yongle as in a lifelong pursuit of power, prestige, and glory. He respected and worked hard to preserve Chinese culture by designing monuments such as the Porcelain Tower of Nanjing, while undermining and cleansing Chinese society of foreign cultures. He deeply admired and wished to save his father's accomplishments and spent a lot of time proving his claim to the throne. His military accomplishments and leadership are rivaled by only a handful of people in world history. His reign was a mixed blessing for the Chinese populace. Yongle's economic, educational, and military reforms provided unprecedented benefits for the people[citation needed], but his despotic style of government set up a spy agency. Despite these negatives, he is considered an architect and keeper of Chinese culture, history, and statecraft and an influential ruler in Chinese history.

He may have suffered from undisclosed impotence in his later life. He is remembered very much for his cruelty, just like his father. He killed most of the Jian Wen palace servants, tortured many of his nephew's loyalists to death, killed or by other means badly treated their relatives.[25][26][27][28] His successor freed most of the survivors. In 1420, he ordered 2,800 ladies-in-waiting to a slow slicing death, and watched, because he thought one of his favourite Joseon concubine had been poisoned.[29] However, unlike his father, he did not kill most of his generals, and he entrusted power to eunuchs like Zheng He, with serious consequences for subsequent Ming emperors. He showed some regrets over his cruelty, built the Yongle bell, but still had about thirty beautiful women hanged to be buried with him after he died.[30]

Personal information

  • Father
    • The Hongwu Emperor
  • Mother
    • Empress Xiao Ci Gao


Formal Title Maiden Name Born Died Father Mother Issue Notes
Empress Renxiaowen
Family name: Xu (徐)
Given name: Yihua (儀華)
Yingtian, Yuan Empire
July 1407
Nanjing, Ming Empire
Xu Da
Lady Xie
Zhu Gaochi, the Hongxi Emperor
Zhu Gaoxu, Prince of Han
Zhu Gaosui, Prince Jian of Zhao
Princess Ancheng
Princess Xianning
Noble Consort Zhao Xian
Family name: Wang (王) Suzhou, Jiangsu Province 1420 none Entered the imperial court in 1409
Noble Consort Zhao Yi
Family name: Zhang (張) Zhang Yu
Consort Gong Xian Xian
Family name: Gwon (權) 1391
1410 Gwon Yeong-gyun
權永均 or 우익은
none Was Korean
Consort Zhong Jing Zhao Shun Xian
Family name: Yu (喻) 1421 none
Consort Kang Mu Yi Gong Hui
Family name: Wu (吳) Zhu Gaoxi
Consort Gong Shun Rong Mu Li
Family name: Chen (陳) Chen Mao, Marquess of Ningyang
Consort Kang Jing Zhuang He Hui
Family name: Cui (崔) none
Consort Duan Jing Gong Hui Shu
Family name: Yang (楊) none
Consort Gong He Rong Shun Xian
Family name: Wang (王) none
Consort Zhao Su Jing Hui Xian
Family name: Wang (王) none
Consort Zhao Hui Gong Yi Shun
Family name: Wang (王) none
Consort Hui Mu Zhao Jing Shun
Family name: Qian (錢) none
Consort Kang Hui Zhuang Shu Li
Family name: Han (韓) Joseon Han Yeong-jeong
韓永矴 or 한영정[31]
none Was one of the 30 beautiful women who were buried with the Yongle Emperor after his death
Consort An Shun Hui
Family name: Long (龍) none
Consort Gong Yi Hui
Family name: Zhao (趙) none
Consort Zhao Shun De
Family name: Liu (劉) none
Consort Kang Yi Shun
Family name: Li (李) none
Consort Hui Mu Shun
Family name Guo (郭) none
Consort Zhen Jing Shun
Family name: Zhang (張) none
Consort Shun
Family name: Im (任) Joseon none Was Korean
Lee Zhaoyi
Family name: Lee (李) Joseon none Was Korean
Ryeo Jieyu
Family name: Ryeo (呂) Joseon none Was Korean
Beauty Lady Choi
Family name: Choi (崔) Joseon none Was Korean
Beauty Lady Gong Rong
Family name: Wang (王) none
Beauty Lady Jing Hui
Family name: Lu (盧) none Initially Beauty Lady Gong Hui (恭惠美人)
Beauty Lady Zhuang Hui
unknown none


Number Name Formal Title Born Died Mother Spouse Issue Notes
1 Zhu Gaochi
The Hongxi Emperor 16 August 1378 29 May 1425 Empress Renxiaowen Lady Zhang, Empress Cheng Xiao Zhao
11 concubines
Zhu Zhanji, the Xuande Emperor
Zhu Zhanxun, Prince Jing of Zheng
Zhu Zhanyong, Prince Jing of Yue
Zhu Zhanyin, Prince Xian of Qi
Zhu Zhanshan, Prince Xian of Xiang
Zhu Zhangang, Prince Xian of Jing
Zhu Zhanyu, Prince Jing of Huai
Zhu Zhankai, Prince Huai of Teng
Zhu Zhanji, Prince Zhuang of Liang
Zhu Zhanyan, Prince Gong of Wei
Princess Jiaxing
Zhu Yuantong, Princess Qingdou
Princess Qinghe
Princess De'an
Princess Yanping
Princess Deqing
Princess Zhending
2 Zhu Gaoxu
Prince of Han
30 December 1380 6 October 1426 Empress Renxiaowen Consort Wei
Zhu Zhanhe, Heir Apparent Yi Zhuang
Zhu Zhanqi, Heir Apparent
Zhu Zhanci, Prince of Jiyang
Zhu Zhanyu, Prince of Linzi
Zhu Zhanyi, Prince Zichuan
Zhu Zhanxing, Prince of Changle
Zhu Zhanping, Prince of Qidong
Zhu Zhandao, Prince of Rencheng
Zhu Zhanchang, Prince of Haifeng
Zhu Zhanbang, Prince of Xintai
3 Zhu Gaosui
Prince Jian of Zhao
19 January 1383 5 October 1431 Empress Renxiaowen Lady Xu
(daughter of Xu Zhang (徐章))
Lady Mu
(daughter of Mu Cheng (沐晟))
Zhu Zhanba, Heir Apparent Daoxi of Zhao
Zhu Zhanque, Prince Hui of Zhao
a son
Created Prince of Zhao on 12 May 1404
4 Zhu Gaoxi
18 January 1392 February 1392 Consort Kang Mu Yi Gong Hui none none Died one month after his birth


Number Title Born Died Date Married Spouse Issue Mother Notes
1 Princess Yong'an
1417 1395 Yuan Rong, Marquess of Guangping
Yuan Bei
Empress Renxiaowen
2 Princess Yongping
1379 22 April 1444 1395 Li Rang, Marquess of Fuyang
(son of Li Shen (李申))
Li Maofang
Empress Renxiaowen
3 Princess Ancheng
1384 16 September 1443 1402 Song Hu
(second son of Song Cheng, Marquess of Xining)
Empress Renxiaowen
4 Princess Xianning
1385 27 July 1440 1403 Song Ying
(third son of Song Cheng, Marquess of Xining)
Empress Renxiaowen
5 Princess Changning
1386 5 April 1409 20 June 1403 Mu Xin
(son of Mu Ying, Marquess of Xiping)


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  9. Brown, 34.
  10. Sperling, 283–284.
  11. Brown, 33–34.
  12. Sperling, 284.
  13. 13.0 13.1 Brook, 46–47.
  14. Brook, 47.
  15. Yang, Xinhua (杨新华); Lu, Haiming (卢海鸣) (2001). "南京明清建筑 (Ming and Qing architecture of Nanjing)". 南京大学出版社 (Nanjing University Press). pp. 595–599, 616–617. ISBN 7-305-03669-2. 
  16. China archaeology and art digest, Volume 3, Issue 4. Art Text (HK) Ltd. 2000. p. 29. Retrieved 2010-06-28. 
  17. Dru C. Gladney (1996). Muslim Chinese: ethnic nationalism in the People's Republic. Harvard Univ Asia Center. p. 269. ISBN 0-674-59497-5. Retrieved 2010-06-28. 
  18. Duyvendak, J.J.L. (1939). "The True Dates of the Chinese Maritime Expeditions in the Early Fifteenth Century The True Dates of the Chinese Maritime Expeditions in the Early Fifteenth Century". p. 402. 
  19. Based on descriptions of the coast from 860. "The Shorter Science and Civilisation in China". 1986. p. 133. 
  20. L. Carrington Godrich, Chaoying Fang (editors), "Dictionary of Ming Biography, 1368–1644". Volume I (A-L). Columbia University Press, 1976. ISBN 0-231-03801-1. (Article on Ishiha, pp. 685–686)
  21. Tsai (2002), pp. 158–159.
  22. Shih-shan Henry Tsai (1996). The eunuchs in the Ming dynasty (illustrated ed.). SUNY Press. p. 129. ISBN 0-7914-2687-4. Retrieved 2012-03-02. "While Hai Tong and Hou Xian were busy courting the Mongols and Tibetans, a Ming eunuch of Manchurian stock, Yishiha, also quietly carried the guidon in the exploration of Northern Manchuria and Eastern Siberia. In 1375, the Ming dynasty established the Liaodong Regional Military Commission at Liaoyang, using twenty-five guards (each guard consisted of roughly 5,600 soldiers) to control Southern Manchuria. In 1409, six years after Yongle ascended the throne, he launched three campaigns to shore up Ming influence in the lower Amur River valley. The upshot was the establishment of the Nuerkan Regional Military Commission with several battalions (1,120 soldiers theoretically made up a battalion) deployed along the Songari, Ussuri, Khor, Urmi, Muling and Nen Rivers. The Nuerkan Commission, which parallelled that of the Liaodong Commission, was a special frontier administrations; therefore the Ming government permitted its commanding officers to transmit their offices to their sons and grandsons without any dimunition in rank. In the meantime, The Ming court periodically sent special envoys and inspectors to the region, making sure that the chiefs of various tribes remained loyal to the Ming emperor. But the one enboy who was most active and played the most significant role in the region was the eunuch Yishiha." 
  23. Taisuke Mitamura (1970). Chinese eunuchs: the structure of intimate politics. C.E. Tuttle Co.. p. 54. Retrieved 2010-06-28. 
  24. Shih-shan Henry Tsai (1996). The eunuchs in the Ming dynasty (illustrated ed.). SUNY Press. p. 129. ISBN 0-7914-2687-4. Retrieved 2012-03-02. "Yishiha belonged to the Haixi tribe of the Jurchen race. The Ming shi provides no background information on this Manchurian castrato except that Yishiha worked under two powerful early Ming eunuchs, Wang Zhen, and Cao Jixiang. It is also likely that Yishiha gained prominence by enduring the hard knocks of court politics and serving imperial concubines of Manchurian origin, as the Yongle Emperor kept Jurchen women in his harem. At any rate, in the spring of 1411, Yongle commissioned Yishiha to vie for the heart and soul of the peoples in Northern Manchuria and Eastern Siberia. Yishiha led a party of more than 1,000 officers and soldiers who boarded twenty-five ships and sailed along the Amur River for several days before reaching the Nuerkan Command post. Nuerkan was located on the east bank of the Amur River, approximately 300 li from the river's entrance and 250 li form the present-day Russian town of Nikolayevka. Yishiha's immediate assignment was to confer titles on tribal chiefs, giving them seals and uniforms. He also actively sought new recruits to fill out the official ranks for the Regional Commission.17" 
  25. Bo Yang, 中國人史綱, ch.28
  26. 宋端儀, 立齋閑錄, vol.2
  27. 陸人龍, 型世言, ch.1
  28. 建文帝出亡宁德之谜揭秘八:建文帝出亡闽东金邶寺
  29. 李朝實錄太宗實錄
  30. 李朝實錄世宗實錄
  31. Two of his granddaughters (thru his son Han Hwak (韓確 한확) became Queens Consort


  • Brook, Timothy. (1998). The Confusions of Pleasure: Commerce and Culture in Ming China. Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-22154-0
  • Brown, Mick. (2004). The Dance of 17 Lives: The Incredible True Story of Tibet's 17th Karmapa, p. 34. Bloomsbury Publishing, New York and London. ISBN 1-58234-177-X.
  • Sperling, Elliot. "The 5th Karma-pa and some aspects of the relationship between Tibet and the early Ming." In: Tibetan Studies in Honour of Hugh Richardson. Edited by Michael Aris and Aung San Suu Kyi, pp. 283–284. (1979). Vikas Publishing house, New Delhi.

Further reading

  • Tsai, Shih-Shan Henry, Perpetual Happiness: The Ming Emperor Yongle, University of Washington Press, 2002. ISBN 0-295-98124-5. Partial text on Google Books.
  • Louise Levathes, When China Ruled the Seas: The Treasure Fleet of the Dragon Throne, 1405–1433, Oxford University Press, 1997, trade paperback, ISBN 0-19-511207-5
Yongle Emperor
House of Zhu
Born: 2 May 1360 Died: 12 August 1424
Regnal titles
Preceded by
The Jianwen Emperor
Emperor of China
Ming Dynasty
Succeeded by
The Hongxi Emperor
Chinese royalty
Title last held by
Prince of Yan
Merged in the Crown

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