An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Ming Muzong 明穆宗, the Longqing Emperor 隆慶

May 7, 2011 © Ulrich Theobald

Emperor Muzong 明穆宗 (1537-1572, r. 1567-1572), personal name Zhu Zaihou 朱載垕, known as the Longqing Emperor 隆慶, was a ruler of the mid-Ming period 明 (1368-1644). He was the third son of Emperor Shizong (the Jiajing Emperor 嘉靖, r. 1521-1566) and Lady Du 杜康妃. In 1539 he was given the title of Prince of Yu 裕王, and in 1567 succeeded his father to the throne, choosing the reign motto Longqing 隆慶 "Abundant Blessings".
The first spectactular decisions of Emperor Muzong was to abolish several verdicts that his predecessors had issued. These concerned several high-standing court officials that were thrown into jail. Among these were people like the famous and courageous Hai Rui 海瑞. Emperor Muzong also abolished several Daoist fasting rituals and decreed that the court was to spend less on luxurious items and elaborate ceremonials. He stopped a series of construction projects and also refrained from an extravagant lifestyle himself. His new politics of austerity and justness hit some Daoist magicians (fangshi 方士) that were incarcerated. In the first year of his reign he furthermore generousl waived half of tax payments as an expression of his benevolence towards the common people.
In the field of foreign policy he relied on the suggestions of Gao Gong 高拱 and Zhang Juzheng 張居正. They advocated a kind of appeasement policy, and the most powerful Mongol ruler, Altan Khan 俺答, was in 1570 invested as King Shunyi 順義王, and allowed to present horses as tribute to the Ming court. This was only possible because Altan Khan's grandson Bahannaji 把漢那吉 submitted to the Ming in 1570. A border market was opened in Guihua 歸化城 (modern Hohhot 呼和浩特, Inner Mongolia). Yet at the same time general Qi Jiguang 戚繼光 was ordered to reinforce the Great Wall, so that the northern border of the Ming empire was quite stable at that time. Emperor Muzong was not able to prevent factional strifes among the court officials.
After only six years of rule the Longqing emperor died. In his testamentary edict he appointed the eunuch Feng Bao 馮保 as Director of Ceremonial (silijian 司禮監). He was buried in the tomb hill Zhaoling 明昭陵. His posthumous honorific title is Emperor Xiaozhuang 孝莊皇帝, his temple name Muzong 穆宗. He was succeeded by his third son, Emperor Shenzong 明神宗 (the Wanli Emperor 萬曆, r. 1572-1619).

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