An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Ming Xiaozong 明孝宗, the Hongzhi Emperor 弘治

Jan 17, 2014 © Ulrich Theobald

Emperor Xiaozong 明孝宗 (1470-1505, r. 1487-1505), personal name Zhu Youcheng 朱祐樘, was a ruler of the mid-Ming period 明 (1368-1644). As the third son of Emperor Xianzong 明憲宗 (the Chenghua Emperor 成化, r. 1464-1487) and Ms Ji, Lady Shu 淑妃紀氏. It is said that during the time he was born the emperor's favourite was Lady Wan 萬貴妃, and therefore nobody dared to announce the birth of a son by Lady Shu. When his mother died the boy Zhu Youcheng so perfectly conducted the mourning rites like an adult, and therefore gained the favour of his father who made him heir apparent in 1475. After accession to the throne, adopted the reign motto Hongzhi 弘治 "Magnanimous Reign".
He first purged his predecessor's minions like the palace eunuch (taijian 太監) Liang Fang 梁芳, the magician Li Zisheng 李孜省 and Wan Xi 萬喜, a relative of the Empress Dowager, and announced the release of more than a thousand political prisoners. He dismissed his father's Chan 禪 priests, Daoist masters and a large number of Buddhist monks at the court. Emperor Xiaozong's own trusted ministers were Xu Pu 徐溥, Liu Jian 劉健, Qiu Jun 丘浚, Xie Qian 謝遷 and Li Dongyang 李東陽. The only high minister of his father whom he did not dismiss was Liu Jiyi 劉吉一. He rehabilitated posthumously Yu Qian 于謙, a high minister of the emperors Xuanzong 明宣宗 (the Xuande Emperor 宣德, r. 1426-1435) and Daizong 明代宗 (the Jingtai Emperor 景泰, r. 1449-1457), and bestowed upon him the honorific title Duke Sumin "XXX" 于肅愍公 and inaugurated a shrine for him.
Emperor Xiaozong decided to exert a government of responsibility, cut expenditure in many fields, proclaimed tax moratoria (ting na su li 停納粟例), and prohibited member of the imperial house to seize land belonging to the people. He sparingly used the method of corvée labour and proclaimed tax annulations in regions afflicted by natural disasters. His reign is therefore seen as one of the best among all Ming emperors, at least in theory, because in fact Xizong was barely able to get grip on the wide-spread corruption in the empire. This can be seen in a memorial by Xi Shu 席書, a vice director in the Ministry of Revenue (hubu yuanwailang 戶部員外郎) who lamented that the government still spent too much money.
An empire-wide census in 1504 resulted in a number of 10,588,935 households and a population of 60,105,835 persons. The statecraft canon Da-Ming huidian 大明會典 was revised during that time.
There was only one rebellion during the Hongzhi reign, by the female native chieftain Lumi 米魯 in Pu'an 普安 (modern Panxian 盤縣, Guizhou) who called herself Wudi tianwang 無敵天王 Heavenly King Vanquishing all Enemies".
When Emperor Xiaozong died he was buried in the tomb hill Tailing 明泰陵, was granted the posthumous honorific title Emperor Jing 敬皇帝 and given the temple name Xiaozong 孝宗. He was succeeded by his son, Emperor Wuzong 明武宗 (the Zhengde Emperor 正德, r. 1505-1521).

Chen Quanli 陳全力, Hou Xinyi 侯欣一, eds. (1988). Diwang cidian 帝王辭典 (Xi'an: Shaanxi renmin jiaoyu chubanshe), 204.
Xiong Tieji 熊鐵基, Yang Youli 楊有禮, eds. (1994). Zhongguo diwang zaixiang cidian 中國帝王宰相辭典 (Wuhan: Hubei jiaoyu chubanshe), 341.