Xianfeng Emperor

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Xianfeng Emperor
9th Emperor of the Qing Dynasty
Reign 9 March 1850 – 22 August 1861
Coronation 9 March 1850
Predecessor Daoguang Emperor
Successor Tongzhi Emperor
Born (1831-07-17)17 July 1831
Old Summer Palace, Beijing, Qing dynasty, China
Died 22 August 1861(1861-08-22) (aged 30)
Chengde Summer Palace, Zhili, Qing dynasty, China
Burial Dingling, Eastern Qing Tombs, Zunhua, Tangshan, Hebei Province, China
Full name
Chinese: Yìzhǔ (奕詝)
Manchu: I-ju (ᡳ ᠵᡠ)
Era name and dates
Chinese: Xiánfēng (咸豐)
Manchu: ᡤᡠᠪᠴᡳ ᡝᠯᡤᡳᠶᡝᠩᡤᡝgubci elgiyengge

Mongolian: ᠲᠦᠭᠡᠮᠡᠯ ᠡᠯᠪᠡᠭᠲᠦ
Түгээмэл Элбэгт: 1851–1862
Posthumous name
Emperor Xiétiān Yìyùn Zhízhōng Chuímó Màodé Zhènwǔ Shèngxiào Yuāngōng Duānrén Kuānmǐn Zhuāngjiǎn Xiǎn (協天翊運執中垂謨懋德振武聖孝淵恭端仁寬敏莊儉顯皇帝)
Manchu: Iletu hūwangdi (ᡳᠯᡝᡨᡠ
Temple name
Chinese: Wénzōng (文宗)
Manchu: wendzung (ᠸᡝᠨᡯᡠᠩ)
House Aisin Gioro
Father Daoguang Emperor
Mother Empress Xiaoquancheng

The Xianfeng Emperor (17 July 1831 – 22 August 1861), personal name I-ju (or Yizhu), was the ninth Emperor of the Manchu-led Qing dynasty, and the seventh Qing emperor to rule over China, from 1850 to 1861.

Family and early life

Yizhu was born in 1831 at the Old Summer Palace, eight kilometres northwest of Beijing. He was from the Manchu Aisin Gioro clan, and was the fourth son of the Daoguang Emperor. His mother was the Noble Consort Quan, of the Manchu Niohuru clan, who was made Empress in 1834, and is known posthumously as Empress Xiaoquancheng. Yizhu was reputed to have an ability in literature and administration which surpassed most of his brothers, which impressed his father, who therefore decided to make him his successor.

Early reign

Yizhu succeeded the throne in 1850, at age 19, and was a relatively young emperor. He inherited a dynasty that faced not only internal but also foreign challenges. Yizhu's reign title, Xianfeng, which means "Universal Prosperity", did not reflect the situation. In 1850, the first of a series of popular rebellions began that would nearly destroy the Qing dynasty. The Taiping Rebellion began in December 1850, when Hong Xiuquan, a Hakka leader of a syncretic Christian sect, defeated local forces sent to disperse his followers. Hong then proclaimed the establishment of the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom and the rebellion spread to several provinces with amazing speed. The following year, the Nian Rebellion started in North China. Unlike the Christian-influenced Taiping rebels, the Nian movement lacked a clear political program, but they became a serious threat to the Qing capital, Beijing, with the mobility of their cavalry-based armies. The Qing imperial forces suffered repeated defeats at the hands of both rebel movements.

Rebellions and wars

In 1853, the Taiping rebels captured Nanjing and for a while it seemed that Beijing would fall next; but the Taiping northern expedition was defeated and the situation stabilized. The Xianfeng Emperor dispatched several prominent mandarins, such as Zeng Guofan and the Mongol general Sengge Rinchen, to crush the rebellions, but they only obtained limited success. The biggest revolt of the Miao people against Chinese rule in history started in 1854, and ravaged the region until finally put down in 1873. In 1856, an attempt to regain Nanjing was defeated and the Panthay Rebellion broke out in Yunnan.

Portrait of the Xianfeng Emperor in his gardens

Meanwhile, an initially minor incident on the coasts triggered the Second Opium War. Anglo-French forces, after inciting a few battles (not all victories for them) on the coast near Tianjin, attempted "negotiation" with the Qing government. The Xianfeng Emperor, under the influence of his Noble Consort Yi (later Empress Dowager Cixi), believed in Chinese superiority and would not agree to any colonial demands. He delegated Prince Gong for several negotiations but relations broke down completely when a British diplomat, Sir Harry Parkes, was arrested during negotiations on 18 September.

The Anglo-French invasion clashed with Sengge Rinchen's Mongol cavalry on 18 September near Zhangjiawan before proceeding toward the outskirts of Beijing for a decisive battle in Tongzhou District, Beijing. On 21 September, at the Battle of Eight-Mile Bridge, Sengge Rinchen's 10,000 troops, including his elite Mongol cavalry, were completely annihilated after several doomed frontal charges against the concentrated firepower of the Anglo-French forces, which entered Beijing on 6 October.

On 18 October 1860, the British and French forces went on to loot and burn the Old Summer Palace and Summer Palace. Upon learning about this news, the Xianfeng Emperor's health quickly deteriorated.

During the Xianfeng Emperor's reign, China lost part of Manchuria to the Russian Empire. In 1858, according to the Treaty of Aigun, the territory between Stanovoy Mountains and Amur River was ceded to Russia, and in 1860, according to the Treaty of Beijing, the same thing happened also to the area east of Ussuri River. After that treaty, the Russians founded the city of Vladivostok in the area they had annexed.

While negotiations with the European powers were being held, the Xianfeng Emperor and his imperial entourage fled to Jehol province in the name of conducting the annual imperial hunting expedition. As his health worsened, the emperor's ability to govern also deteriorated, and competing ideologies in court led to the formation of two distinct factions — one led by the senior official Sushun and the princes Zaiyuan and Duanhua, and the other led by Noble Consort Yi, who was supported by the general Ronglu and the Bannermen of the Yehenara clan.


Xianfeng Emperor
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese 咸豐帝
Simplified Chinese 咸丰帝
Mongolian name
Mongolian ᠲᠦᠭᠡᠮᠡᠯ ᠡᠯᠪᠡᠭᠲᠦ ᠬᠠᠭᠠᠨ
Түгээмэл элбэгт хаан
Manchu name
Manchu script ᡤᡠᠪᠴᡳ
Romanization gubci elgiyengge hūwangdi

The Xianfeng Emperor died on 22 August 1861, from a short life of overindulgence, at the Chengde Mountain Resort, 230 kilometres northeast of Beijing. His successor was his surviving six-year-old son, Zaichun. A day before his death, the Xianfeng Emperor had summoned Sushun and his supporters to his bedside and gave them an imperial edict that dictated the power structure during his son's minority. The edict appointed eight men – Zaiyuan, Duanhua, Jingshou, Sushun, Muyin, Kuangyuan, Du Han and Jiao Youying – as an eight-member regency council to aid Zaichun, who was later enthroned as the Tongzhi Emperor. By tradition, after the death of an emperor, the emperor's body was to be accompanied to the capital by the regents. Noble Consort Yi and Empress Consort Zhen, who were now known as Empress Dowagers Cixi and Ci'an travelled ahead to Beijing and planned a coup with Prince Gong that ousted the eight regents. Empress Dowager Cixi then effectively ruled China over the subsequent 47 years as a regent.

The Xianfeng Emperor was interred in the Eastern Qing Tombs, 125 kilometres/75 miles east of Beijing, in the Dingling (定陵; "Tomb of Quietude") mausoleum complex.


Yanbozhishuang Hall, where the Xianfeng Emperor died on 22 August 1861

The Qing dynasty continued to decline during the reign of the Xianfeng Emperor. Rebellions in the country, which began the first year of his reign, would not be quelled until well into the reign of the Tongzhi Emperor and resulted in millions of deaths. The Xianfeng Emperor also had to deal with the British and French and their ever-growing appetite to expand trade further into China. The Xianfeng Emperor, like his father, the Daoguang Emperor, understood very little about Europeans and their mindset. He viewed non-Chinese as inferior and regarded the repeated requests by the Europeans for the establishment of diplomatic relations as an offence. When the Europeans introduced the long-held concept of an exchanged consular relationship, the Xianfeng Emperor quickly rebuffed the idea. At the time of his death, he had not met with any foreign dignitary.

Despite his tumultuous decade of reign, the Xianfeng Emperor was commonly seen as the last Qing emperor to have held paramount authority, ruling in his own right. The reigns of his son and subsequent successors were overseen by regents, a trend present until the fall of the Qing dynasty.


The Xianfeng Emperor had a large sexual appetite. He was a lover of opera and alcohol, and often became violent with his servants. He was known to smoke opium.[1]



Title Name Born Died Parents Issue Notes
Empress Xiaode Xian
Lady Sakda
1831 24 Jan 1850 Futai, vice minister in the Imperial Ancestral Temple
Lady Aisin–Gioro (daughter of Ulgungga, Prince Shen of Zheng of the First Rank)
none 1847: primary consort
1850: Empress Xiaode
1861: Empress Xiaode Xian
Empress Xiaozhen Xian
Lady Niohuru
12 Aug 1837 8 Apr 1881 Muyang'a, third class Duke of Cheng'en
Lady Jiang
none 1852: Imperial Concubine Zhen; Noble Consort Zhen; Empress
1861: Empress Dowager Ci'an (慈安)
1881: Empress Xiaozhen Xian
Empress Xiaoqin Xian
Yehe–Nara Xingzhen
29 Nov 1835 15 Nov 1908 Huizheng, third class Duke of Cheng'en
Lady Fuca
(1856) 1. Muzong
Adopted: Princess Rongshou of the First Rank
1852: Noble Lady Lan (兰)
1854: Imperial Concubine Yi (懿)
1856: Consort Yi
1857: Noble Consort Yi
1861: Empress Dowager Cixi (慈禧)
1908: Empress Xiaoqin Xian

Imperial Noble Consorts

Title Name Born Died Parents Issue Notes
Imperial Noble Consort Zhuangjing
Lady Tatara
1837 1890 Qinghai, managerial official
(1855) 1. Princess Rong'an of the First Rank 1852: Noble Lady Li (丽)
1854: Imperial Concubine Li
1855: Consort Li
1861: Imperial Noble Consort Li
1890: Imperial Noble Consort Zhuangjing
Imperial Noble Consort Duanke
Lady Tunggiya
1844 1910 Yuxiang, imperial guard
none 1858: Imperial Concubine Qi (祺)
1861: Consort Qi
1875: Noble Consort Qi
1908: Imperial Noble Consort Qi
1910: Imperial Noble Consort Duanke

Noble Consorts

Title Name Born Died Parents Issue Notes
Noble Consort Mei
Lady Xugiya
1835 1890 Chengyi, lingcui
(1858) 2. Prince Min of the Second Rank Palace maid
1853: First Class Female Attendant Mei; Noble Lady Mei
1855: Female Attendant; First Class Female Attendant Mei; Noble Lady Mei
1858: Imperial Concubine Mei
1861: Consort Mei
1875: Noble Consort Mei
Noble Consort Wan
Lady Socoro
1835 1894 Kuizhao, yushi
none 1852: First Class Female Attendant Wan; Noble Lady Wan
1856: Imperial Concubine Wan
1861: Consort Wan
1875: Noble Consort Wan


Title Name Born Died Parents Issue Notes
Consort Lu
Lady Yehe–Nara
1841 1895 Quanwen, managerial official
none Palace maid
1856: Noble Lady Lu
1861: Imperial Concubine Lu
1875: Consort Lu
Consort Ji
Lady Wang
1846 1905 Wang Qingyuan, yuanhu
none Empress Xiaozhen Xian's maid
1858: Noble Lady Ji
1861: Imperial Concubine Ji
1875: Consort Ji
Consort Xi
Lady Cahala
1842 1877 Changshun, chuyi
none Palace maid
1859: Noble Lady Xi
1861: Imperial Concubine Xi
1875: Consort Xi
Consort Qing
Lady Zhang
1840 1885 unknown none Palace maid
1859: Noble Lady Qing
1861: Imperial Concubine Qing
1875: Consort Qing

Imperial Concubines

Title Name Born Died Parents Issue Notes
Imperial Concubine Yun
Wugiya Qiyun
unknown 1855 unknown none Ordinary consort
1852: Noble Lady Yun
1853: Imperial Concubine Yun
Imperial Concubine Rong
Lady Irgen–Gioro
1837 1869 unknown none 1853: First Class Female Attendant Rong; Noble Lady Rong
1861: Imperial Concubine Rong
Imperial Concubine Shu
Lady Yehe–Nara
1840 1874 Guixiang, yuanwailang
none 1855: Noble Lady Shu
1861: Imperial Concubine Shu
Imperial Concubine Yu
Lady Yehe–Nara
1843 5 Jan 1863 none 1853: Noble Lady Yu
1861: Imperial Concubine Yu



# Title Name Born Died Mother Notes
1 Muzong
27 Apr 1856 12 Jan 1875 Empress Xiaoqin Xian 1861: Emperor
1875: Muzong
2 Prince Min of the Second Rank
1858 1858 Noble Consort Mei Died in infancy
1861: Prince Min of the Second Rank


# Title Name Born Died Mother Spouses Issue Notes
1 Princess Rong'an of the First Rank
unknown 7 May 1855 28 Feb 1875 Imperial Noble Consort Zhuangjing 1873: Gūwalgiya Fuzhen 1870: Princess Rong'an of the First Rank

Adopted Sons

# Title Name Born Died Father Mother Notes
1 Dezong
14 Aug 1871 14 Nov 1908 Yixuan, Prince Xian of Chun of the First Rank, second son of
Yehe–Nara Wanzhen, Primary Consort
1875: Emperor
1908: Dezong

Adopted Daughters

# Title Name Born Died Father Mother Spouses Issue Notes
1 Princess Rongshou of the First Rank
unknown 28 Feb 1854 1924 Yixin, Prince Zhong of Gong of the First Rank, eldest daughter of
Lady Gūwalgiya, Primary Consort
1866: Fuca Zhiduan
1861: Princess Rongshou of the First Rank
1865: Princess Rongshou of the Second Rank
1881: Princess Rongshou of the First Rank


See also


  1. ^ 连载:正说清朝十二帝 SINA Archived June 3, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.

Sources and literature

  • Daily Life in the Forbidden City, Wan Yi, Wang Shuqing, Lu Yanzhen ISBN 0-670-81164-5".
  • Qing dynasty Wenzong’s veritable records (清文宗实录).
  • Royal archives of the Qing dynasty (清宫档案).
  • Qing imperial genealogy(清皇室四谱).
  • webpagina: http://www.royalark.net/China/manchu14.htm,[permanent dead link] gaat over de stamboom van de Aisin Gioro stam.
  • Draft history of the Qing dynasty. 《清史稿》卷二百十四.列傳一.后妃傳.

Books about Empress Dowager Cixi:

Xianfeng Emperor
Born: 17 July 1831 Died: 22 August 1861
Regnal titles
Preceded by
The Daoguang Emperor
Emperor of China
Succeeded by
The Tongzhi Emperor
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