Birthday: May 4, 1654
Emperors & Kings
Died At Age: 68
Sun Sign: Taurus
Also Known As: Aisin Gioro Xuanye
Born Country: China
Born in: Forbidden City, Beijing, China
Famous as: Emperor
Spouse/Ex-: Cheng Kangxi Emperor, Chun Yu Qin, Consort Ding, Dun Yi, Empress Xiaogongren, huệ phi khang hy, Imperial Concubine Tong, Imperial Noble Consort Quehui, Lady Gao, nghi phi quách lạc la thị, Shun Yi Mi, tuyên phi khang hy, vinh phi, Consort Liang (?-1711), Duanpin Dong (?-1702), Empress Xiaochengren (1665- 1674), Empress Xiaoyiren (?-1689), Empress Xiaozhaoren (1665-1678), Honored Lady Bu (?-1717), Honored Lady Yuan (?-1719), Jing Min (?-1699), Ping Kangxi Emperor (?-1696), tuệ phi (?-1670), Wen Xi (?-1694)
father: Shunzhi Emperor
mother: Empress Xiaokangzhang
siblings: Changning, Fuquan; Prince Yu, Longxi, Niuniu, Prince Rong, Qishou, Yonggan
Died on: December 20, 1722
place of death: Beijing, China
The Kangxi Emperor was a Chinese monarch and the third ruler of the Qing dynasty. He ruled over China for 61 years, which made him the longest ruling Chinese king in the country’s five thousand years’ history. A fearless warrior and clever strategist, Kangxi not only quelled interior rebellions, but also extended China’s border by annexing Taiwan, subjugating the Mongols and restricting the Russians at Amur River. He was an equally effective administrator, who took adequate measures to control the flood-prone Yellow River, repair the Grand Canal and open Chinese ports to foreign ships, thus bringing in relative prosperity and peace to the region after years of strife. Passionate about learning, he not only promoted ancient Chinese literature, but also welcomed Western technology. Although initially he issued an edict to protect the Christians, he banned their missions when the missionaries began to condemn Chinese rites. He died at the age of 68 in Qingxi Shuwu, Garden of Eternal Spring.
Childhood & Early Life
The Kangxi Emperor was born on 5 May 1654 in Jingren Palace, located inside the Forbidden City of Beijing. He belonged to the Qing dynasty, which ruled over China from 1644 to 1912. At birth, he was given the name of Aisin Gioro Xuanye.
His father, the Shunzhi Emperor, was the third ruler of the Qing dynasty. His mother, Empress Xiaokangzhang, was the daughter of a famous Qing general from the prominent Tong clan. Although he was his parents’ only child, he had several half siblings. He was his father’s third son.
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Early Reign Under Regents
On 5 February 1661, the Shunzhi Emperor died. A day before that, he had named his seven years old son, Xuanye, as his successor, possibly because his mother Empress Xiaokangzhang was from a powerful family. In addition to that, he appointed four Manchu noblemen, Oboi, Sonin, Suksaha, and Ebilun, as his regents.
On 7 February 1661, Xuanye ascended the throne as the Kangxi Emperor, the fourth emperor of the Qing dynasty. Six years later, at the age of 13, he began to attend the state affairs. However, he was just a rubberstamp king, as his regents continued to rule in his name.
In 1967, Sonin, one of the king’s regents died and Oboi seized power with the help of Ebilun. He forced the Kangxi Emperor to execute Suksaha, thus becoming practically the sole regent. Very soon, he began to function autocratically, reasserting Manchu power over the Han Chinese.
In 1969, the Kangxi Emperor took control of the affairs of the state with the help of the Grand Empress Dowager and his tutor. To marginalize his regents, he hid a few young wrestlers behind his throne in the audience room. When Oboi entered the room, they pinned him down.
After Oboi was arrested, he was charged with 30 offences, for which he was sentenced to death. It was later reduced to life imprisonment and eventually to pardon. The emperor also charged Ebilun with 21 offences and sentenced him to death. However, it was also commuted later.
Once in power, the Kangxi Emperor began to rule his kingdom with the help of his grandmother. During this period, he faced three main challenges, including the flood of the Yellow River. However, more worrisome for him were the three vassal kings from south China.
The three vassal kings, Wu Sangui of Yunnan, Shang Kexi of Guangdong, and Geng Jimao of Fujian, were very powerful with vast armies and a large collection of firearms. The Kangxi Emperor realized that the kings needed to be tackled first as they could create problem for him very soon.
The emperor’s chance came in 1673 when Shang Kexi gave up the command of his army and retired to his native place. Geng Jimao was also made to follow him. But Wu Sangui decided to resist, organizing a rebellion, known in history as the ‘Revolt of the Three Feudatories’.
Initially, the imperial force suffered a setback. But in the end, Kangxi’s genius in military strategy as well as his youthful energy triumphed and in November 1681, his army entered Yunnan, heralding the end of the war. By then, his main contender Wu Sangui had died of an illness.
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After subduing the revolt, Kangxi turned his attention to Taiwan, sending a fleet of 300 ships to take on the Kingdom of Tungning, which was ruled by the Zheng family at that time. After an intense battle at Penghu in 1683, Zheng Keshuang was defeated and inducted in the Qing army.
After securing Taiwan, the Kangxi Emperor decided to tackle the Russians, who had by then reached the Amur River valley and were building numerous fortresses in the areas around Albazin and Nerchinsk. In 1685, Kangxi’s troops captured Albazin, which was later recaptured by the Russians.
In 1786, the Qing army set up a long seize around Albazin, which led to the Treaty of Nerchinsk with Tsar Peter I. It determined the Sino-Russian borderline, leaving the Amur valley and Manchuria in the hands of the Qing Empire.
After signing the treaty with Russia, the Kangxi Emperor turned his attention to Mongolia, personally leading his troops across the Gobi Desert in 1696. Eventually, he conquered Outer Mongolia, which became a part of the Qing Empire. Later in 1720, he also incorporated Tibet into the empire.
Apart from being a great warrior, the Kangxi Emperor was also an effective administrator. He not only read all the reports and documents presented to him, but also made corrections wherever necessary. Moreover, he never raised taxes. Instead, on several occasions, he exempted his people from paying them.
In 1667, he started a great river project, dredging the Yellow River in order to stabilize its flow and building embankment along its course. He also repaired the Grand Canal that connected the Huang He with the lower Yangtze River. He travelled south six times to personally inspect the work.
He opened four ports and lifted restrictions on coastal trade with foreign ships, which encouraged trade and commerce. It resulted in peace and prosperity in the region, which in turn encouraged industrialization. He also had western technology imported to China through Jesuit missionaries.
The Kangxi Emperor was not only a great warrior and administrator, but also equally conscious about his country’s cultural heritage. ‘Kangxi Dictionary’, which was published in 1716 and used as the standard Chinese dictionary for the next two centuries, is one of his greatest contributions in this field.
Family & Personal Life
The Kangxi Emperor had several consorts as well as concubines. Chief among his consorts were Empress Xiaochengren, granddaughter of his regent Sonin; Empress Xiaozhaoren, daughter of his regent Ebilun; Empress Xiaoyiren, granddaughter of Tulai, a first rank military official and Empress Xiaogongren, daughter of Weiwu, a third rank military official.
His many consorts and concubines bore him 35 sons, the eldest among them being Chenghu, who died prematurely. Therefore, he nominated his second son, Yunreng, as his successor. However, his choice was not accepted by many and eventually, his fourth surviving son, Yinzhen, succeeded him as the Emperor Yongzheng.
In the winter of 1722, the Kangxi Emperor fell ill, passing away on December 20 in his villa at Changchunyuan, located in the northwestern outskirts of Beijing. He was buried at Malanyu, in a mausoleum called the Jingling.