Qianlong Emperor of Qing Dynasty 清乾隆帝

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The Qianlong Emperor Hung Li Aisin Gioro

Chinese: 〔清〕高宗純皇帝【(愛新覺羅)】弘曆(四), Manchu: The Qianlong Emperor ᡥᡠᠩ ᠯᡳ ᠠᡳᠰᡳᠨ ᡤᡳᠣᡵᠣ
Also Known As: "Qianlong Emperor", "Hongli"
Birthplace: Beijing, Beijing, China
Death: Died in Beijing, Beijing, China
Immediate Family:

Son of Yongzheng Emperor of Qing Dynasty 清雍正帝 and 孝聖憲皇后(崇慶) Niohuru
Husband of 哲憫皇貴妃 富察氏; 孝賢純皇后 Fuca; 純惠皇貴妃 蘇氏; 淑嘉皇貴妃 金氏; 愉貴妃 珂里葉特氏 and 14 others
Father of 定安親王 永璜(一); 皇次女; (一); 端慧皇太子 永璉(二); 固倫和敬公主(三) and 22 others
Half brother of 和碩懐恪公主(二); 弘昐(殤); 弘昀(二.殤); 弘時(三); 果恭郡王 弘曕(六) and 8 others

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About Qianlong Emperor of Qing Dynasty 清乾隆帝

Hung-li 弘曆 (H. 長春居士, 信天主人, 古稀天子, 十全老人), Sept. 25, 1711-1799, Feb. 7, 3: the fourth emperor of the Ch'ing dynasty, who ruled under the reign-title Ch'ien-lung 乾隆 (1736-1796). As the fourth son of Emperor Shih-tsung (see under Yin-chên), Hung-li was born in the palace known as Yung Ch'in-wang fu 雍親王府 when his father was a prince. This palace has been used since 1722 as the lamasery called Yung-ho kung 雍和宮. His mother, Empress Hsiao-shêng 孝聖憲皇后, (Jan. 1, 1693-1777), was a great-granddaughter of Eidu [q.v.] of the Niuhuru clan. As a child Hung-li is said to have won the good will of his grandfather, Emperor Shêng-tsu (see under Hsüan-yeh), who appointed the eminent scholar, Fumin 福敏 (T. 龍翰, posthumous name 文端 1673-1756), as his tutor in language and literature. According to one anecdote, Hung-li went, at the age of twelve (sui), with his grandfather on a hunting trip, and when attacked by a bear calmly sat his pony until the beast was killed. In this and other ways Emperor Shêng-tsu is reported to have been impressed by his grandson, and to have left the throne to Yin-chên in order that Hung-li might succeed to it. In any event, soon after Yin-chên became emperor he made a secret will naming Hung-li as his successor. In the meantime Hung-li was tutored in national affairs and in 1733 was made a prince of the first degree with the designation Pao 寶親王. On October 7, 1735, the day before Yin-chên died, Hung-li was declared the heir-apparent. He was enthroned on October 18 when he was twenty-five sui and began his long and illustrious reign of more than sixty years.

Politically the reign of Hung-li may be divided into three periods, according to his choice of ministers. In the early years he was assisted by several experienced statesmen, notably O-êr-t'ai and Chang T'ing-yü [qq.v.]. It was a period of peace and prosperity in which the gains made by his father toward centralization of power in the throne were consumated, and the princes of the imperial clan remained docile and submissive (see under Yin-chên). After the death of O-êr-t'ai (1745) and the retirement of Chang T'ing-yü (1749), Hung-li was left with a free hand. During the ensuing thirty years (1750-80), his chief ministers were his brother-in-law, Fu-hêng, and later, Yü Min-chung [qq.v.]. It seems that Fu-hêng rarely disagreed with the emperor and that Yü never dared to do so. The ministers were chiefly occupied in writing eulogies or in compiling official publications. The Court began the luxurious trend which soon spread throughout the empire. Hung-li was unfortunate in the choice of his last chief minister, Ho-shên [q.v.] who, though intelligent, was unscrupulous. As Hung-li grew older Ho-shên used his vast power for personal gain. Corruption, which usually accompanies a luxurious Court, went to extremes; and though after the death of Hung-li the power of Ho-shên came to an end, the foundations of government were permanently undermined, and Hung-li's successors were unable to repair them.

In his military ventures Hung-li was very successful. He loved the show of force and always tried to keep up the military spirit of his people. By 1792, in an essay entitled Shih ch'üan chi 十全記 -- whence his hao, Shih-ch'üan lao-jên (老人) -- he could enumerate ten great victories of his reign. He boasted of conquering the Sungars in two campaigns (1755, 1755-57, see under Amursana); of pacifying the Mohammedans of Turkestan (1758-59, see under Chaohui); of annihilating the Chin-ch'uan rebels in two wars (1747-49, see under Fu-hêng; 1771-76, see under A-kuei); of putting down a rebellion in Taiwan (1787-88, see under Fu-k'ang-an); of subjugating the Burmese (1766-70, see under Fu-hêng); of bringing under his suzerainty the Annamese (17 87-89, see under Sun Shih-i); and of twice conquering the Gurkas (1790-92, see under Fu-k'ang-an). Several of these campaigns can hardly be called victories in any far-reaching sense; the only victories of great import were the conquests of Ili and Turkestan which resulted in an increase of about six million square miles to the empire and the elimination of possible invasion by the Mongols and Turks-a menace that had existed from ancient times. Partly in consequence of these victories, the Torguts in Russia (see under Tulišen) were able to migrate back to the depopulated Ili region (1771-72).

The conquest of Ili and Turkestan cost about twenty-three million taels and the conquest of the Chin-ch'uan tribes about three times that amount. The other wars also made heavy drains on the treasury. Moreover on special occasions taxes were not exacted from famine-stricken regions and from other areas of the country. These losses in revenue, coupled with the expense of six tours to the Yangtze valley (1751, 1757, 1762, 1765, 1780, 1784) are estimated at two hundred million taels. Despite these drains the national treasury was far from being exhausted. At the beginning of his reign, the treasury reported a surplus of twenty-four million taels, but in 1786 the surplus was three times that amount. This apparent prosperity is in part attributable to the efficient readjustment of national finances by Yin-chên and in part to an enormous increase in population and in arable land. Simultaneously, however, the cost of government increased, as did also the corruption among high officials (see under Ho-shên). In 1782, Hung-li ordered an increase of sixty thousand men in the regular army, which meant an annual additional expense of three million taels. Owing to expenditures of this kind, and to others incurred in the suppression of various rebellious sects in the succeeding Chia-ch'ing period (1796-1821), the reserve funds became so depleted and the annual revenues so diminished that the government was financially unable to withstand later foreign encroachments (see under Min-ning).

Hung-li, like his grandfather, patronized not only the scholars but the artists and literary men of his day. He supported a number of painters at Court and was particularly pleased with the art of such European missionaries as Castiglione and Jean-Denis Attiret (for both see under Chao-hui). Though he himself painted with indifferent success, he was a confident critic and accumulated an enormous collection of masterpieces both in painting and calligraphy (see under Chang Chao). In his own calligraphy he imitated successfully the style of Tung Ch'i-ch'ang [q.v.]. He was also interested in music and the drama. Owing to his encouragement, porcelain and cloisonné wares made advances, particularly in decorative design. Workmanship in jade and ivory also improved. European mechanics were employed to assemble and repair the clacks and other machines brought to him as gifts from Europe. Several Jesuit missionaries served as architects in constructing the buildings and landscape garden in Italian style which formed a part of the Old Summer Palace, Yüan-ming Yüan 圓明園. This palace was originally a country villa given to Yin-chên by his father, and there (after about 1725) Yin-chên resided several months each year. During his reign Hung-li made the villa one of his three main residences the other two being in Peking and Jehôl. Gradually his yearly sojourn at the Yüan-ming Yüan grew longer, and he made it a unique garden supplied with many treasures. He selected forty scenic spots to be painted by Sun Hu 孫祜 and Shên Yüan 沈源. These paintings, each with a poem composed by the emperor, were reproduced in 1745 under the title, Yüan-ming Yüan Ssu-shih ching shih ping t'u 四十景詩並圖, 2 chüan. In or about 1747 a fountain in the Western style was constructed by Michel Benoist 蔣友仁 (T. 德翊, 1715-1774) and it thereafter became the nucleus of a group of buildings in the Italian style designed by Castiglione. These buildings were destroyed when the Yüan-ming Yüan and other gardens in the neighborhood were pillaged and burnt by the allied British and French troops in 1860.

Throughout his life Hung-li was interested in literary pursuits. Before he ascended the throne, he had made notes on his studies which were printed in 1736 under the title, 日知薈說 Jih-chih hui-shuo, 4 chüan; and had produced a collection of prose and verse, entitled 樂善堂全集 Lo-shan t'ang ch'uan-chi, 40 chüan, which was printed in 1737--a definitive edition appearing in 1758 in 30 chüan, under the title of Lo-shan t'ang ch'uan-chi ting-pên (定本). His writings in prose, which he composed after he became emperor, make a total of 92 chüan and bear the titles, 清高宗御製文初集 Ch'ing Kao-tsung yü-chih wên ch'u-chi, 30 chüan, printed in 1763; Er (二) chi 44 chüan, printed in 1785; San (三) chi, 16 chüan, printed in 1795; and Yü (餘) chi, 2 chüan, printed in 1800. His six collections of verse, making a total of 454 chüan, bear the titles, Ch'ing Kao-tsung yü-chih shih (詩) ch'u chi, 44 chüan, printed in 1748; Êr-chi, 90 chüan, printed in 1761; San-chi, 100 chüan, printed in 1771; Ssû (四) chi, 100 chüan, printed in 1783; Wu (五) chi, 100 chüan, printed in 1795; Yü-chi, 20 chüan, printed in 1800. In addition there are several small editions of his verse on special subjects, among them the 盛京賊 Shêng-ching fu, a long poem about Mukden, printed in 1743. The total number of poems attributed to him exceeds 42,000. If he himself wrote them all -- as he almost certainly did not -- he was by far the most prolific poet in Chinese history. But he was essentially not a poet, and what he wrote is valued chiefly for the light it throws on the cultural and historical background of his time.

The scholars whom the emperor patronized were kept busy compiling and editing official works of which the most outstanding was the Imperial Manuscript Library, comprising more than 36,000 volumes and known as the Ssû-k'u ch'üan-shu (see under Chi Yün). About eight titles in this work were compiled or edited under his special direction and these are both well done and informative. But it can scarcely be maintained that in ordering the compilation or the revision of certain works he was motivated solely by a desire to promote sound historical scholarship. He had a strong desire to expunge from them all slanderous references to the Manchus, and for this purpose alone many works were revised. Even early Manchu chronicles, and their Chinese versions, were rigorously checked, and the Chinese words chosen for transliteration of Manchu names were often changed to avoid any covert disrespectful meaning. At the same time, the emperor was very harsh in punishing writers who made remarks, however unintentional, which might be interpreted as prejudicial to the Manchus. From 1774 to 1782 hundreds of works were ordered to be totally destroyed and banned, or were listed as partially or wholly objectionable. Because of these restrictions doubtless many men of letters refrained from writing on political or economic subjects, finding it safer to devote their time to less dangerous pursuits such as the collating of ancient classical texts (see under Tai Chên). One consequence of this was a dearth, for many years, of able statesmen in the empire.

Trade between China and Europe, which since the sixteenth century had been carried on with the Portuguese and the Dutch, increased rapidly in the Ch'ien-lung reign-period. The English, through the East India Company, gradually became the dominant traders at Canton and in other ports of South China. They were dissatisfied, however, with the restrictions on trade and on the freedom of their nationals in China which the Co-hong system and the closing of all ports except Canton entailed (see under Li Shih-yao). To eliminate these restrictions and to extend the market in China for England's growing industries, a British Embassy, under the leadership of Earl George Macartney (1737-1806) was sent to Peking to present petitions. The envoys landed at Taku on August 5, 1793 and were later quartered at the Hung-yü Yüan 宏雅園, a garden south of the Yüan-ming Yüan. They then proceeded to the summer palace at Jehôl and were granted two audiences with Hung-li on September 14 and 17, the latter date being Hungli's eighty-third birthday. The Embassy was received with courtesy and hospitality, and splendid gifts were exchanged. After returning to Peking Macartney presented on October 3 England's petitions regarding trade which, however, were either rejected or were only vaguely acknowledged. Four days later the Embassy left Peking with a reply that promised nothing, and with a letter to King George üI. Hung-li, however, was not unaware of the political consequences of the mission, for on October 4, when he decided to reject England's requests, he secretly ordered the governor-general at Canton to take certain precautions; and told him that in view of England's naval strength and her predominant position in trade at Canton, merchants of other European countries should be approached to prevent them from joining England in case that country should create trouble. Hung-li's attitude towards the missionaries differed little from that of his father or his grandfather. Europeans were allowed to live and work in Peking, some being employed as astronomers or artists. In the provinces missionary work was not officially tolerated, but was not actively hindered except in a few cases when some zealous official invoked the law to have foreigners expelled. The decline of the Roman Catholic Church in China in the Ch'ien-lung period must be, attributed chiefly to conflicting policies in Rome and to the dissolution of the Society of Jesus in 1773.

From the beginning of his reign in 1735 Hungli wished to emulate, and perhaps to surpass, the achievements of his grandfather. We have his own word for it that when he ascended the throne he prayed to Heaven to grant him a reign of almost equal duration, but not longer than that of his grandfather who ruled for sixty-one years. Hence after reigning for almost a cycle he publicly announced, on October 15, 1795, his choice of Yung-yen [q.v.] as heir-apparent to occupy the throne in the following year. On February 9, 1796, on Chinese New Year's Day, a great ceremony making this announcement effective, took place. The whole empire then began to use the reign-title Chia-ch'ing; but out of respect to the aged emperor the reign-title Ch'ien-lung remained in force within the palace precincts until his death. After his formal abdication Hung-li was referred to as "Super Emperor", or T'ai-shang Huang-ti 太上皇帝 but continued to 'instruct' (指教) Yung-yen in the conduct of national affairs until the end. In view of the fact that Ho-shên was still retained as chief minister, and composed the edicts in the name of the Super Emperor, it is not unfair to say that Hung-li actually ruled more than sixty-three years-or longer than any Chinese monarch in historical times. In the course of his long life he had seen seven generations, from his grandfather to his great-great-grandson. It was fitting therefore that after he was seventy sui he should use the hao 古稀天子 Ku-hsi T'ien-tzü which, interpreted literally, means, "An Emperor whose like was seldom seen since antiquity".

Father Benoist, acting as interpreter for Joseph Panzi 潘廷璋 (T. 若瑟, c. 1733-before 1812) who made a portrait of Hung-li in 1773, commented on the emperor's remarkable sitting posture and on his evident vitality. George L. Staunton (1737-1801) who accompanied the Macartney Embassy in 1793 likewise remarked that the emperor "walked firm and erect". Chinese accounts corroborate these assertions, and from them we learn that, except for light refreshments at night, he took only two meals a day--at eight in the morning and at two in the afternoon--each meal lasting about fifteen minutes. He rose at six in the morning and, after the morning meal, read reports and memorials which he decided upon in consultation with his ministers. Then he received the newly appointed officials to whom he gave instructions. In the afternoon he would read, paint, or write verse. No matter where he stayed-in Peking, Jehôl, or the Yüan-ming Yüan or elsewhere this was his daily routine. He scorned the use of spectacles, and to the end was able to read and write. Two years before his death he participated in a hunting expedition.

Hung-li was straightforward, open-minded, and abhorred falsehood. All his responsibilities as an emperor he took seriously. In his decrees and writings, as edited in his literary collections and in the 高宗純皇帝 Kao-tsung Ch'un Huang-ti shêng-hsün 聖訓, 300 chüan, printed in 1799, one finds him reasonable, intelligent, and truthful, exhibiting strength of character and a keen sense of responsibility. He insisted that his sons attend regularly the Palace School (see under Yin-chên), but he did not entrust one of them with important duties of state. He was strict also with the eunuchs in the Palace. His last official act was to direct the campaign for suppression of the White Lily Sect (see under Ê-lê-têng-pao) and the last poem he wrote was one entitled "Waiting for Victory" (望捷 Wang-chieh). Ho-shên and other courtiers humored him with false reports of victories, thus leading him to believe that his last days were as splendid as the first, though there was already a perceptible decline in the country's morale and in its powers of resistance. He died in his favorite apartment, the Yang-hsin Tien 養心殿, where he had spent so many working hours. He was given the temple name, Kao-tsung 高宗 and the posthumous name, Ch'un Huang-ti 純皇帝. His tomb, named Yü-ling 裕陵, is situated at Ma-lan-yü northeast of Peking (see under Hsiao Yung-tsao).

In his private life Hung-li was devoted to his first wife, Empress Hsiao-hsien (see under Mishan), whom he married in 1727 while a prince. In 1730 she gave birth to a son named Yung-lien 永璉 whom Hung-li secretly designated as his heir but who died in 1738. This child was posthumously proclaimed heir-apparent and was canonized as Tuan-hui Huang T'ai tzu 端慧皇太子. The second wife of Hung-li, née Ula Nara 烏拉納喇氏, was formerly a secondary consort but was elevated to Empress in 1750. In 1765, when she accompanied Hungli on a tour in Shantung, she tonsured her hair and became a nun. She was branded as insane, but it is more likely that she chose this course because of some dispute with the emperor. This episode gave rise to many fanciful rumors, some of which place the emperor in a very unfavorable light.

Hung-li had seventeen sons and ten daughters. Ten of his sons grew to maturity, the most prominent being Yung-yen, Yung-ch'ang, Yung-hsüan, Yung-hsing, and Yung-lin [qq.v.]. Others who deserve mention are Yung-huang (see under Tsai-ch'üan), Yung-ch'i (see under I-hui), Yungchang (see under I-ching), and Yung-jung 永瑢 (T. 惺齋 H. 九思主人, 西園主人, 1744-1790).

Five of Hung-li's daughters attained maturity. They were the third, Princess Ho-ching 和敬公主 (1731-1792), whose husband was the Mongolian prince, Septen Baljur 色布騰巴勒珠爾 (d. 1775, posthumous name 毅 ); the fourth, Princess Ho-chia (see under Fu-lung-an); the seventh, Princess Ho-ching (see under Tsereng); the ninth, Princess Ho-k'o (see under Chao-hui); and the tenth, Princess Ho-hsiao (see under Ho-shên).


[ 1/10-15; Tung-hua lu, Ch'ien-lung,Ch'ing Huang-shih Ssu-p'u (see under Fu-lung-an); Ssû-k'u ; Hu Ching 胡敬, Kuo-ch'ao yüan-hua lu 國朝院畫錄 ; Ch'ing-pai lei ch'ao 清稗類鈔清朝野史大觀 Ch'ing ch'ao yeh-shih ta-kuan ; Backhouse and Bland, Annals and Memoirs of the Court of Peking (1914) ; Kip, W. L, Historical Scenes from, the Old Jesuit Missions (1875) pp. 131, 146, 150; Sven Hedin, Jehôl (1933); Pritchard, E. H., The Crucial Years of Early Anglo-Chinese Relations, 1760-1800, pp. 312-50; Staunton, George L., An Authentic Account of the Earl of Macartney's Emhassy from the King of Great Britain to the Emperor of China, London, 1797, p. 351; Malone, C. B., History of the Peking Summer Palaces under the Ch'ing Dynasty (1928); Goodrich, L. C., Literary Inquisition of Ch'ien-lung (1935); Abel-Remusat, Nouveaux M;elanges Asiatiques (1829), Tome ü, pp. 45-60.1


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Qianlong Emperor of Qing Dynasty 清乾隆帝's Timeline

September 25, 1711
Beijing, Beijing, China


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