Kangxi Emperor of Qing China 清康熙帝

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Hiowan yei [Aisin Gioro], The Kangxi Emperor of the Qing Dynasty

Chinese: 〔清〕聖祖仁皇帝 【(愛新覺羅)】 玄燁(三), Manchu: ᡥᡳᠣᠸᠠᠨ ᠶᡝᡳ ᠠᡳᠰᡳᠨ ᡤᡳᠣᡵᠣ, The Kangxi Emperor of the Qing Dynasty
Also Known As: "Kangxi Emperor", "Kang Hsi"
Birthplace: Beijing, Beijing, China
Death: December 20, 1722 (68)
Beijing, Beijing, China
Immediate Family:

Son of Shunzhi Emperor of Qing China 清順治帝 and Tunggiya
Husband of Heseri; 孝昭仁皇后 鈕祜祿氏 and Tunggiya
Partner of 袁氏; Nara; Joogiya; 董氏; 郭絡羅氏 and 21 others
Father of 愛新覺羅氏; 萬黼; 胤禶; 和碩端靜公主(五); 固倫恪靖公主(六) and 36 others
Half brother of Lunghi Aisin Gioro; Fuciowan 福全; Cangaing 常寧 and 愛新覺羅氏

年號: 康熙(61)
諡: 合天弘運文武睿哲恭儉寬裕孝敬誠信中和功德大成仁皇帝
Managed by: Sim Tiong Ho (Paulus Simadibrata)
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Kangxi Emperor of Qing China 清康熙帝

Hsüan-yeh 玄曄 (H. 體元主人), May 4, 1654-1722, Dec. 20, second Emperor of the Ch'ing dynasty, who ruled during the years 1661-1722 under the reign-title, K'ang-hsi 康熙, was the third son of Fu-lin [q.v.]. His mother, Empress Hsiao-k'ang 孝康章皇后 (1640-1663), a consort of Fu-lin, was a daughter of T'ung T'u-lai [q.v.] and a sister of T'ung Kuo-kang [q.v.]. Hsüan-yeh was born when his father was seventeen sui and his mother fifteen sui. For a time during his childhood he lived with his nurses outside the Forbidden City in a court west of the Palaces—a place later converted into the Lama temple, known as Fu-yu ssu 福佑寺. When his father, Fu-lin, lay dying of smallpox (February 5, 1661) Hsüan-yeh, then eight sui, was designated heir-apparent and was given his Chinese name. The choice was influenced by the consideration that since he had survived an attack of smallpox he would be immune to that disease and thus would have a better prospect of long life. On February 17, twelve days after his father's death, he was proclaimed Emperor of China. After his mother's death in 1663 he was, for the most part, reared by the Dowager Empress, Hsiao-chuang [q.v.]. During his minority control of the empire was vested in four regents: Soni (see under Songgotu), Suksaha (see under Oboi), Ebilun and Oboi [qq.v.]. To these regents, or rather to Oboi, who gradually assumed the most power, the policy of the early K'ang-hsi period (1661-69) was due.

When Hsüan-yeh was fourteen sui he took over control from the regents (August 25, 1667), but found Oboi still very influential and still asserting his will at Court. In accordance with a carefully laid plan, the Emperor and Songgotu, the uncle of his Empress, had Oboi arrested and imprisoned (June 1669) and had his faction punished. The courage of the young ruler was again demonstrated in 1673 when the question arose whether the feudatories of South China under Wu San-kuei, Shang K'o-hsi, Kêng Ching-chung, and Sun Yen-ling [qq.v.] should be abolished. Against the advice of most of his high officials Hsüan-yeh—with determination and sagacity unusual in so young a ruler—decided to have the garrisons withdrawn. When these garrisons rebelled he met them with force, and finally after eight years of bitter fighting (1673-81), subdued them. Two years after this victory Taiwan was taken from the Chêng family (1683, see under Shih Lang). These important military successes stabilized the new dynasty and gave the Emperor opportunity to turn his attention to other matters.

By the middle of the seventeenth century the Russians, after conquering most of Siberia, had become alarmingly active along the Amur River (see under Sarhuda). After several years of careful preparation Hsüan-yeh undertook, in 1685, to clear them from the border by force, laying siege twice to Fort Albazin (1685, 1686, see under Sabsu). In 1689 envoys from both countries met at Nerchinsk to sign a treaty of peace (see under Songgotu)—the first treaty between China and a Western power. Trade with Russia prospered and diplomatic correspondence was cordial. During the following years several Russian embassies reached Peking, and one Chinese mission to the Turguts on the Caspian Sea was well-received by the Russian authorities in Siberia (see under Tulišen).

Hsüan-yeh was eager to cease hostilities with Russia because of the rise of the powerful Eleuth king, Galdan [q.v.], who in 1688 had invaded the Khalkas and occupied their territory, now known as Outer Mongolia. In 1690 Galdan was defeated at Ulan-butung (see under Fu-ch'üan) and retreated to the Ili valley. This victory served to convince the Khalka princes of the Emperor's power, and in 1691 they pledged allegiance to him and willingly recognized his suzerainty. Having to shelter and provide for the Khalka refugees during this period, Hsüan-yeh foresaw that there could never be peace unless the power of the Eleuths was completely crushed. Therefore, when Galdan invaded the Khalka territory again, Hsüan-yeh personally led an expedition into Outer Mongolia (1696) and defeated the Eleuths at Jao blodo (see under Fiyanggû). In 1697 he led still another expedition to Ninghsia and forced Galdan to commit suicide, thus stabilizing the borders on the north and northwest for more than eighteen years. In 1715 another war with the Eleuths broke out and continued off and on for about forty years until the Ili valley was conquered (see under Furdan and Chao-hui). An expedition into Tibet in 1720 (see under Yen-hsin) insured suzerainty over that region also. Thus during his reign Hsüan-yeh, by foresight and military skill, stabilized most of the borders of north and west China, leaving only the far northwest region to be conquered during the reign of his grandson, Hung-li [q.v.].

The rule of Hsüan-yeh was, for the most part, tolerant and conciliatory. In comparison with the emperors of the late Ming period he was frugal, practical, and conscientious in the discharge of his responsibilities. During his reign the empire increased in wealth and most of the time enjoyed peace and prosperity. He always paid much attention to conservancy work on the Yellow River and its tributaries in order to minimize its dangers and to increase the navigability of the Grand Canal (see under Chin Fu). In the course of his six tours to South China (in the years 1684, 1689, 1699, 1703, 1705, and 1707) he took pains personally to inspect conservancy projects and so spurred the officials in charge to more efficient and conscientious labors. Although he did not vigorously enforce the laws governing corrupt officials, he frequently singled out for promotion those who were reported as incorrupt (see under Lu Lung-chi and P'eng P'eng). It is true that during his reign high officials often organized themselves into factions, but he was usually able to check their activities through reports of the censors (see under Kuo Hsiu).

A hortatory edict issued by Hsüan-yeh in 1670 laid down sixteen moral maxims, each concisely written in seven characters. These maxims were amplified by Liang Yen-nien 梁延年 (H. 九如), magistrate of Fan-ch'ang, Anhwei (1673-81), with citations from history to illustrate the sixteen points. This annotated text, entitled Shêng-yü hsiang-chieh 聖諭像解, in 20 chüan, printed in 1681, is a good example of the printing art of the period. In 1724 Emperor Shih-tsung had the expositions further amplified for the use of officials in exhorting the people. This text, entitled 聖諭廣訓 Shêng-yü kuang-hsuün, was printed in 1724. Later a Salt Commissioner of Shênsi, Wang Yu-p'u 王又樸 (T. 從先, H. 介山), 1681-after 1760), paraphrased it in the colloquial style, enlivening it with homely illustrations and proverbs. This colloquial rendering, entitled Shêng-yü kuang-hsün chih-chieh (直解), gained wide circulation through compulsory public reading on the first and fifteenth of each moon. There are several English renderings of this work—a partial one by Sir George Staunton (1781-1859) in 1812, a complete one by William Milne (米憐, 1785-1822) in 1817, and others.

The K'ang-hsi period is noted for advancement in learning to which Hsüan-yeh made significant contributions. Desirous of lessening the opposition of recalcitrant Chinese scholars to the new régime, he solicited their help in the compilation of the Ming-shih (see under Ku Yen-wu and Wan Ssû-t'ung). In order to obtain capable sclholars for this project he summoned many to compete in a special examination known as the po-hsüeh hung-tz'û (see under P'eng Sun-yü). He selected learned men and good calligraphers to be his personal secretaries, their office being known as the Nan shu-fang or Imperial Study (see under Chang Ying). Many famous works on literature and art were compiled by his order, among them the: P'ei-wên chai shu-hua p'u (see under Wang Yüan-ch'i); K'ang-hsi tzu-tien (see under Chang Yu-shu); P'ei-wên yün fu (see under Ts'ao Yin); Yüan-chien lei-han (see under Wang Shih-chên); and Ch'üan T'ang shih (see under Ts'ao Yin). As a sponsor of the Sung school of philosophy and ethics he saw to the publication of the Chu-tzu ch'üan-shu (see under Li Kuang-ti).

Hsüan-yeh patronized the arts. In the palaces in Peking the hall known as Ju-i kuan 如意館, in the court called Ch'i-hsiang kung 啟祥宮 (the present T'ai-chi tien 太極殿), was set aside as a studio and repair shop where the Emperor gathered the painters, mechanics, and architects who were in his service. European missionaries worked in the Ju-i kuan, painting, engraving, or repairing clocks and other mechanical devices which they and others had brought from Europe as gifts to the Emperor. One of the Chinese court painters, Chiao Ping-chên 焦秉貞 employed in the Imperial Board of Astronomy, studied Western perspective under the Europeans who served in that Board. Chiao was the artist who executed the forty-six paintings in the 1696 edition of the 耕織圖 Keng-chih-t'u, or "Pictures on Tilling and Weaving". His pupil, Leng Mei 冷枚 (T. 吉臣), excelled in the painting of human figures. Among other painters in Hsüan-yeh's court may be mentioned Wang Yüan-ch'i [q.v.] and T'ang Tai (see under Wang) who both excelled in landscape. Hsüan-yeh encouraged fine printing (see under Ts'ao Yin) and the manufacture of porcelain (see under Lang T'ing-chi).

The Emperor took notice of scientific matters and himself became interested in mathematics during the controversy (1668-69) concerning Chinese and Western calendrical methods (see under Yang Kuang-hsien). Finding that his high officials were ignorant of the subject, he determined to learn something of it for himself. The Jesuit missionaries, having proved their calculations to be correct, were placed in charge of the Imperial Board of Astronomy and were asked to teach the Emperor Western sciences. In the last decade of his reign Hsüan-yeh arranged for a group of young Chinese and Manchus to be tutored by the Jesuits. This group brought together works on mathematics, the calendar and music-works which are known collectively as the Lu-li yuan-yüan (see under Ho Kuo-tsung).

Meanwhile the missionaries were often summoned to act as interpreters or advisers on relations with European countries. Gerbillon (see under Songgotu) was of such assistance during the Sino-Russian negotiations at Nerchinsk. With the Emperor's permission, Gerbillon also collected geographical data in various parts of China and finally persuaded the Emperor to undertake a complete survey of the empire. This project lasted about nine years (December 10, 1707-January 1, 1717) and covered the eighteen provinces, together with Manchuria and Mongolia. It was conducted by Jean-Baptiste RŽgis 雷孝思 (T. 永維, 1663-1738), Pierre Jartoux (see under Mei Ku-ch'êng), and several other missionaries, assisted by men like Ho Kuo-tung 何國棟, a brother of Ho Kuo-tsung [q.v.]. In 1718 a general map of the empire was completed and later engraved on 44 copper plates by Matteo Ripa (see under Yin-jêng). It was reproduced, with revisions, in Paris (1730-34) and at The Hague (1737), and some thirty years later a new map with the newly conquered Sungaria and Chinese Turkestan was made (see under Ho Kuo-tsung).

Early in the K'ang-hsi reign-period Catholic missionaries in the provinces were often persecuted, but in 1692, through the help of Songgotu, they obtained a decree from Hsüan-yeh legalizing and protecting missionary work in the empire. In 1693, for their service at court—especially for having cured the Emperor of malaria, with quinine—the French missionaries were given a piece of land inside the Forbidden City, with permission (1703) to erect a church there which was completed ten years later and came to be known as Pei-t'ang 北堂. Nevertheless the controversy over whether ancestor worship and other traditional native practices should be allowed to Chinese converts became acute when the Papal Legate, Charles M. de Tournon 多羅 (d. 1710), came to Peking late in 1705 to forbid the practices which the Jesuits had previously regarded as not necessarily in conflict with the Christian religion. Tournon offended Hsüan-yeh by insisting on the papal point of view governing Chinese converts, and by issuing (February 7, 1707) the decree of Nanking which condemned the practices in question as superstitious. Hsüan-yeh had Tournon sent to Macao where he died in semi-confinement, and in 1717 a decree was issued to the effect that each missionary should obtain a patent before he be permitted to preach. A second Legate came to Peking late in 1720 but achieved nothing because Hsüan-yeh was determined that his subjects should not take orders from Rome.

Hsüan-yeh tried to foster the military traditions of the Manchus by going on hunting trips regularly. At first he often visited the old hunting grounds at Nan-yüan 南苑, south of the capital. In 1677 he made a journey to Jehôl, and after 1683 went there once each year, chiefly during the summer months. Beginning in 1703 he built the summer palaces at Jehôl, which came to be known as the Pi-shu shan chuang 避暑山莊. In 1712 he selected thirty-six views of these palaces; and about each view a poem and a painting were made, which were printed under the title Pi-shu shan-chuang san-shih-liu ching shih ping t'u 三十六景詩并圖. The poems, attributed to the Emperor, were probably written by the courtiers whose names appear in the book as annotators. The paintings were made by Shên Yü 沈嶼 (T. 玉峰), a bannerman who was then controller of an Imperial Storehouse arid who was made a censor in 1728 and then a reader in the Grand Secretariat. They were engraved by Matteo Ripa, this being the first attempt to introduce the art of copper engraving to China. The whole work was reprinted in 1741 by Emperor Kao-tsung who added two chüan of his own poems.

Near Peking Hsüan-yeh restored a garden (c. 1687) which had once belonged to a nobleman of the Ming period, giving it the name Ch'ang-ch'un yüan 暢春園, and there he often spent several months in each year. It was in this garden that for several years he studied mathematics with the Jesuit missionaries to whom he granted a residence nearby. On the celebration of his sixtieth birthday (1713, see under Wang Yüan-ch'i), the royal procession started from this garden to Peking. It was also there that the Russian embassy headed by Izmailov (see under Tulišen) was several times entertained (1720-21).

To the west of the Ch'ang-ch'un yüan, Hsüan-yeh built a smaller garden for his second son, Yin-jêng, who from infancy had been designated heir-apparent. Of Hsüan-yeh's twenty sons and eight daughters who grew to maturity (others died young), only Yin-jêng was born of an Empress—the mothers of the rest being consorts of lower degree. Yin-jêng was brought up too indulgently and later displayed a violent temper, lawlessness, immoral conduct, and symptoms of mental instability. When these tendencies of the prince came to light his father at first put the blame on others (see under Songgotu and Yin-t'i 禔). When finally Yin-jêng was placed in confinement (1712) Hsüan-yeh refrained from designating any of his other sons as heir-apparent and declined to comply with the advice of the officials on the matter (see under Wang Shan). In consequence, princes and courtiers aligned themselves into factions, plotting against each other. In his last years, Hsüan-yeh showed definite signs of favoring his fourteenth son, Yin-t'i [禵, q.v.], who was sent to Sining (1718) to conduct the campaign against the Eleuths.

Late in 1722 Hsüan-yeh died in the Ch'ang-ch'un-yüan. Official accounts give the impression that he had been ill for several days, but it seems that very few expected his death to come so soon. His fourth son, Yin-chên [q.v.], supported by Lungkodo [q.v.], the commander of the Peking Gendarmerie, ascended the throne. Some writers allege that Yin-chên murdered his father in order to grasp the throne before his brothers could do so, and that he perhaps forced the issue to save his own life. However that may be, his accession was hotly contested and those who had opposed him were compelled later to endure his wrath. Of the fifteen older sons of Hsüan-yeh who might have aspired to the throne, Yin-chên became Emperor; three brothers who had favored him, namely Yin-li 胤禮 (Prince Kuo 果親王, posthumous name, I 毅 1697-1738), Yin-hsiang and Yin-lu [qq.v.]; lived prosperously; two, namely, Yin-ch'i 胤祺 (Prince Heng 恆親王, posthumous name, Yun 韞, 1680-1732), and Yin-t'ao 胤祹 (Prince Li 履親王, posthumous name, I 懿 1686-1763), were only tolerated; two, namely, Yin-yu 胤祐 (Prince Ch'un 淳親王, posthumous name, Tu 度, 1680-1730), and Yin-wu 胤 ? (Prince Yu 愉郡王 posthumous name, Ko 恪, 1693-1731), seemed indifferent to the struggle; five others, namely, Yin-t'i 禔, Yin-jêng, Yin-chih, Yin-ssž, and Yin-t'ang [qq.v.], died in prison; and two, namely, Yin-t'i ? and Yin-6 (see under Yin-t'ang), who were imprisoned until 1735, were released only after Yin-chên had died. At least two of the five who died in prison endured much suffering.

Hsüan-yeh was given by his successor the posthumous name, Jên Huang-ti 仁皇帝, and the temple-name, Shêng-tsu 聖祖. His tomb was named Ching-ling 景陵. Concerning his life and times, there are the usual Shih-lu (see under Chiang T'ing-hsi), in 303 chüan, compiled by Chang T'ing-yü [q.v.] and others, and a collection of imperial instructions, Shêng-hsun 聖訓, in 60 chüan. The following works are attributed to Hsüan-yeh but some parts of them were doubtless written by courtiers: four collections of prose, three printed in 1713, making a total of 150 chüan; the fourth printed in 1733 in 36 chüan; three collections of verse printed in 1704 by Kao Shih-ch'i and Sung Lao [qq.v.], comprising a total of 28 chüan; and poems about the Keng-chih t'u. Hsüan-yeh is also reported to have been a good calligrapher, but recent reproductions of authentic specimens of his handwriting do not exhibit unusual calligraphic skill. According to the Memoirs of Father Ripa, "The emperor supposed himself to be an excellent musician and a still better mathematician, but though he had a taste for the sciences and other acquirements in general, he knew nothing of music and scarcely understood the first elements of mathematics:.." However exaggerated may have been the accounts of Hsüan-yeh's attainments he nevertheless showed an unusual love of learning, and it is this that marks him as one of the most admirable emperors in Chinese history.

[ 1/6-8; Tung-hua lu, K'ang-hsi; Ch'ing Huang-shih Ssu-p'u (see under Fu-lung-an); Bouvet, Portrait historique de l'empereur de la Chine (1697); Pfister, Notices, passim; Memoirs of Father Ripa (London, 1844), pp. 72, 88; Mêng Sên 孟森, 清代三大疑考實 Ch'ing-tai san ta i-an k'ao shih; 故宮殿本書庫現存目 Ku-kung tien-pên shu-k'u hsien-ts'un mu; Malone, C. S., History of the Peking Summer Palaces under the Ch'ing Dynasty (1934), pp. 19-44; 庭訓格言 T'ing-hsun ko-yen, p. 86,a; Du Halde, Description de l'empire de la Chine (1736), vol. I, pp. xxxvi-lix; 康熙與羅馬使節關係文書 K'ang-hsi yü Lo-ma shih-chieh kuan-hsi Wên-shu (1932); 清畫傳輯佚三種 Ch'ing hua-chuan chi-i san-chung p. 19.]


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Kangxi Emperor of Qing China 清康熙帝's Timeline

May 4, 1654
Beijing, Beijing, China

順治十一年三月十八日生於京師紫禁城景仁宮 (5月4日)

January 4, 1670
June 6, 1674

康熙十三年五月初三已時生於紫禁城 母赫舍里氏難產而薨