History Question: Why two reigns for that Ming Emperor?

Hello Mark,

I was browsing your site at www.romanization.com (nice work, btw) and I was wondering: What’s the story behind Zhu Qizhen being emperor twice?

That’s probably asking a lot for an answer (and I’m asking you for free, too) but I just wanted you to know that some of us are wondering

See Mark’s cool Ming Dynasty table over here:

I didn’t know anyone was looking at that yet. Yikes, I’d better get busy and add some more dynasties.

The answer to your question is interesting.

Zhu Qizhen became emperor at the age of 8. His grandmother was a good regent. But after she and some of the best advisors died, the emperor’s tutor (one of the bad, greedy eunuchs familiar to readers of Chinese history) encouraged him to lead an expedition against the Mongols.

Bad idea. An even worse idea was that the emperor (then 22) would lead the expedition himself. Something about being emperor leads some people to think they’re omnipotent. Go figure.

Hundreds of thousands of Chinese troops were wiped out, and the emperor taken prisoner. If Esen, the head of the Mongols, had decided to head for Beijing then, nothing could have stopped him. But even he hadn’t been prepared for such a victory, and fell back with what he thought would be an invaluable captive.

Back in Beijing, the ministers got together and decided that the first thing to do was figure out how to reinforce the capital’s defences. This was done. The next thing to do was get a new emperor. Zhu Qizhen’s half brother was selected, despite his many protestations that he didn’t want the post.

Having a new emperor, of course, considerable reduced Zhu Qizhen’s ransom value. Moreover, after a little while on the throne, the new emperor decided (surprise, surprise) that he liked being there and wasn’t about to give it up.

After about a year, the Mongols let Zhu go, seeing he wasn’t really worth anything to them anymore. Zhu, after being forced to promise that he wasn’t interested in getting back his throne, was allowed to return, and then promptly put under palace arrest.

But a few years later, when the emperor became ill, the old emperor’s supporters staged a successful coup d’etat. A much surprised Zhu was back on top, and, having grown more than a little paranoid during his years out of power, decided it was payback time. “Off with their heads!” was heard a lot. You get the idea.

I hope that answers your question. And thanks for checking out the website.


Cool! Thanks for the story. It sounds like a movie. In fact, if there is a version of it on video, plmk

Jia yo for your site!

your web site is excellent…how about some more stories here…best wishes…Goober