The Kangxi Emperor

The Kangxi Emperor (May 4, 1654-December 20, 1722) was the fourth emperor of the Manchu Qing dynasty and the second emperor after the capital was moved to Beijing. He ascended the throne at the age of seven. Over a span of 61 years from 1661 to 1722, he became the emperor with the longest reign in Chinese history. During his early reign, the Four Regents, appointed by his father Emperor Shunzhi, were the ones with real power. In 1669 with the help of the Dowager Empress Xiao Zhuang, the Kangxi Emperor began to gain real power and control over the empire.

After the Kangxi Emperor started to rule the empire, he immediately faced three major challenges: the flood of the Yellow River, the repairing of the Grand Canal and the Revolt of the Three Feudatories led by Wu Sangui in 1973. The Kangxi Emperor, though wanting to crush the revolt himself, left the responsibility to his capable generals Zhou Pei Gong and Tu Hai. Later he led the campaign against the Mongol Dzungars.

As for the Ming loyalists in his empire, people that remained loyal to the Ming dynasty and refused to cooperate with and served the Qing dynasty, the Kangxi Emperor commissioned them to compile the Kangxi Dictionary. It could be seen as the Kangxi emperor’s way of involving Ming scholars in an imperial project. Kangxi was also interested in learning western technology and instruments. Hence, he established good relationships with Jesuit missionaries, who brought the western influences to China.

One of the great debates during the Kangxi emperor’s reign is the one regarding his successor. After he twice abolished the succession going to the then Crown Prince, Yinreng, whom Kangxi picked as his successor is still unclear. Yongzheng, the 4th Prince, succeeded. However, many believed that Kangxi actually chose Yinti, the 14th Prince, and that the Yongzheng emperor altered the will to ascend the throne. Who was Kangxi’s intended successor is still an on-going debate.

Entry by Agnes Lin. 03/26/ 2007