Tianqi Emperor

Tianqi Emperor
15th Emperor of the Ming dynasty
Reign 1 October 1620 
30 September 1627
Predecessor Taichang Emperor
Successor Chongzhen Emperor
Born (1605-12-23)23 December 1605
Died 30 September 1627(1627-09-30) (aged 21)
Burial Deling, Ming tombs, Beijing, China
Spouse Empress Xiaoaizhe
Issue 3 sons and 3 daughters
Full name
Family name: Zhu (朱)
Given name: Youjiao (由校)
Era name and dates
Tianqi (天啓): 22 January 1621 
4 February 1628
Posthumous name
Emperor Datian Chandao Dunxiao Duyou Zhangwen Xiangwu Jingmu Zhuangqin Zhe
Temple name
Ming Xizong
House House of Zhu
Father Taichang Emperor
Mother Empress Dowager Xiaohe
Tianqi Era Teacups, Nantoyōsō Collection, Japan

The Tianqi Emperor (23 December 1605 – 30 September 1627), personal name Zhu Youxiao, was the 15th emperor of the Ming dynasty of China, reigning from 1620–1627.[1] He was the eldest son of the Taichang Emperor and a brother of the Chongzhen Emperor, who succeeded him. "Tianqi", the era name of his reign, means "heavenly opening".[2]


Zhu Youxiao became emperor at the age of 15, following the death of his father, the Taichang Emperor, who ruled less than a month.[2] He did not pay much attention to state affairs, and was accused of failing in his filial duties to his late father by not continuing the latter's wishes. It is possible that Zhu Youxiao suffered from a learning disability or something more. He was illiterate[2] and showed no interest in his studies. However, he was an outstanding carpenter and craftsman, often spending vast amounts of time on woodworking and instructing his servants to sell his creations undercover on the market just to see how much they were worth.

Because the Tianqi Emperor was unable to read court memorials and uninterested in state affairs, the court eunuch Wei Zhongxian,[1] and the emperor's wet nurse Madam Ke seized power and controlled the Ming imperial court, with the Tianqi Emperor as merely a puppet ruler.[2] The Tianqi Emperor apparently devoted his time to carpentry.[1] Wei Zhongxian took advantage of the situation and began appointing the people he trusted to important positions in the imperial court. Meanwhile, Madam Ke sought to retain power by removing all other women from the emperor's harem by locking away the emperor's concubines and starving them to death.

One Confucian moralist group, the Donglin Movement, expressed distress at the conditions of the government.[3] In response, the imperial court, under Wei Zhongxian's control, covertly ordered the execution of a number of officials associated with the Donglin Movement. Living conditions worsened during the Tianqi Emperor's reign. The Ming dynasty also faced several popular uprisings.

The Tianqi Emperor died in 1627 and was succeeded by his fifth and sole surviving brother, Zhu Youjian, because he had no sons to succeed him. Zhu Youjian was enthroned as the Chongzhen Emperor. As both the Tianqi Emperor's daughters died early too, it seems that there are no natural heirs from the emperor left alive.


Number Title Name Born Death Married Spouse Mother Notes
1 Crown Prince Huaichong
Family name: Zhu (朱)
Given name: Ciran (慈燃)
1623 1623 none none Empress Zhang Stillborn
2 Crown Prince Daohuai
Family name: Zhu (朱)
Given name: Ciyu (慈焴)
1623 1624 none none Consort Hui, née Fan
3 Crown Prince Xianchong
Family name: Zhu (朱)
Given name: Cijiong (慈炅)
1625 30 May 1626 none none Consort Rong, née Ren Died in the Wanggongchang Explosion


Number Title Name Born Death Married Spouse Mother Notes
1 Princess Yongning
Family name: Zhu (朱)
Given name: Shu'e (淑娥)
1622 1624 none none Consort Hui, née Fan
2 Princess Huaining
Family name: Zhu (朱)
Given name: Shumo (淑嫫)
17 April 1624 1625 none none Consort Cheng, née Li Born during an earthquake in Beijing

Portrayals in the media

In August and September 2009, a 42-hour television series dramatising the events during the reign of the Tianqi Emperor was shown on Chinese television – two hours per night for 21 days. It vividly showed how a hereditary monarchy can lead to the rampant abuse of power. The series ended on 17 September, just two weeks before the 60th anniversary (five 12-year cycles) of the establishment of the People's Republic of China.


  1. 1 2 3 "Tianqi". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 2014-03-22.
  2. 1 2 3 4 "Zhu Yujiao – The Tianqi Emperor". Retrieved 2014-03-22.
  3. "Donglin". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 2014-03-22.


Tianqi Emperor
Born: 23 December 1605 Died: 30 September 1627
Regnal titles
Preceded by
The Taichang Emperor
Emperor of China
Succeeded by
The Chongzhen Emperor
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