Wanli Emperor

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Wanli Emperor
Ming Shenzong (1).jpg
Palace portrait on a hanging scroll, kept in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, Taiwan
Emperor of the Ming dynasty
Reign19 July 1572 – 18 August 1620
Enthronement19 July 1572
Predecessor Longqing Emperor
Successor Taichang Emperor
See list
Born4 September 1563
嘉靖四十二年 八月 十七日
(Jiajing 42, 17th day of the 8th month)
Shuntian Prefecture, North Zhili
Died18 August 1620(1620-08-18) (aged 56)
萬曆四十八年 七月 二十一日
(Wanli 48, 21st day of the 7th month)
Hongde Hall, Forbidden City
Zhu Yijun
Era name and dates
Wanli (萬曆): 2 February 1573 – 27 August 1620 [note 1]
Posthumous name
Emperor Fantian Hedao Zhesu Dunjian Guangwen Zhangwu Anren Zhixiao Xian
Temple name
Shénzōng [1]
House House of Zhu
Dynasty Ming dynasty
Father Longqing Emperor
Mother Empress Dowager Xiaoding
Wanli Emperor
Traditional Chinese 萬曆帝
Simplified Chinese 万历帝
Literal meaning"Ten Thousand Calendars" Emperor
The Dingling (Chinese: Ming Ding Ling ; pinyin: Ming Ding Ling) where the Wanli emperor, together with his two empresses Wang Xijie and Dowager Xiaojing, was buried. Dingling2020.jpg
The Dingling (Chinese: 明定陵; pinyin: Míng Dìng Líng) where the Wanli emperor, together with his two empresses Wang Xijie and Dowager Xiaojing, was buried.

Some scholars believe that the Wanli Emperor's reign was a significant factor contributing to the decline of the Ming dynasty. He refused to play the emperor's role in government, and delegated many responsibilities to eunuchs, who made up their own faction. The official administration was so dissatisfied that a group of scholars and political activists loyal to the thoughts of Zhu Xi and against those of Wang Yangming created the Donglin movement, a political group who believed in upright morals and tried to influence the government according to strict Neo-Confucian principles.

His reign also experienced heavy fiscal and military pressures, especially during the final years of the Wanli era when the Jurchens began to conduct raids on the northern border of the Ming Empire. Their depredations ultimately led to the fall of the Ming dynasty in 1644. The fall of the Ming dynasty was not a result of the last Ming emperor's Chongzhen Emperor's rule, but instead due to the lingering consequences of the Wanli Emperor's gross neglect of his duties as emperor.

The Wanli Emperor died in 1620 and was buried in the Dingling Mausoleum among the Ming tombs on the outskirts of Beijing. His tomb is one of the biggest in the vicinity and one of only two that are open to the public. The tomb was excavated in 1956, and remains the only imperial tomb that had been excavated since the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949. In 1966, during the Cultural Revolution, Red Guards stormed the Dingling Mausoleum, and dragged the remains of the Wanli Emperor and his two empresses to the front of the tomb, where they were posthumously denounced and burned after photographs were taken of their skulls. [17] Thousands of other artifacts were also destroyed. [18]

In 1997, China's Ministry of Public Security published a book on the history of drug abuse. It alleged that the Wanli Emperor's remains had been examined in 1958 and found to contain morphine residues at levels which indicate that he had been a heavy and habitual user of opium. [19]


Emperor Shenzong and Empress Xiaoduanxian.jpg
Emperor Shenzong and Empress Xiaoduan.jpg
Portraits of Emperor Wanli and Empress Xiaoduanxian

Consorts and Issue:


Chenghua Emperor (1447–1487)
Zhu Youyuan (1476–1519)
Empress Xiaohui (d. 1522)
Jiajing Emperor (1507–1567)
Jiang Xiao
Empress Cixiaoxian (d. 1538)
Lady Wu
Longqing Emperor (1537–1572)
Du Lin
Empress Xiaoke (d. 1554)
Wanli Emperor (1563–1620)
Li Gang
Li Yu
Li Wei (1527–1583)
Empress Dowager Xiaoding (1545–1614)
Lady Wang

See also


  1. Following the death of the emperor, the Wanli era was normally due to end on 21 January 1621. However, the Wanli Emperor's successor, the Taichang Emperor, died within a month, before 22 January 1621, which should have been the start of the Taichang era. The Tianqi Emperor, who succeeded the Taichang Emperor, decided that the Wanli era would be considered as having ended on the last day of the seventh month (equivalent to 27 August 1620), to enable the Taichang era to be applied retrospectively for the remaining five months in that year. Dates before 1582 are given in the Julian calendar, not in the proleptic Gregorian calendar. Dates after 1582 are given in the Gregorian calendar.

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Empress Dowager Xiaoding Empress dowager of the Ming dynasty

Empress Dowager Xiaoding, of the Li clan, was the mother of the Wanli Emperor. She was the nominal Regent of China during the minority of her son from 1572 to 1582. She became known in history under her posthumous name, Xiaoding.

Empress Dowager Wang (Taichang)

Empress Dowager Xiaojing, of the Wang clan, was a Ming dynasty concubine of the Wanli Emperor and the biological mother of the Taichang Emperor. She was primarily known during her lifetime as Consort Gong, but is most commonly referred to by her posthumous name.

Noble Consort Zheng (1565–1630), was a Ming dynasty concubine of the Wanli Emperor. She is known for having been his most beloved consort and, in an attempt to please her, he tried to make her son his heir apparent. This act caused over a decade of conflict and factionalism in the imperial court.

Empress Dowager Xiaochun

Empress Dowager Xiaochun (1588–1615), of the Liu clan, was a Ming dynasty concubine of the Taichang Emperor and biological mother of the Chongzhen Emperor.

Empress Xiaoyuanzhen

Empress Xiaoyuanzhen (1580–1613), of the Guo clan, was the first wife of the Taichang Emperor when he was crown prince. She died before he ascended the throne, but is more commonly known by her posthumous name.

Consort Chen, of the Wan clan, was the favorite consort of Emperor Yingzong of Ming.

Empress Xiaoyizhuang Princess of Yu

Empress Xiaoyizhuang, of the Li clan, was a Chinese empress consort of the Ming dynasty, she was the first wife of the Longqing Emperor. Her father is Li Ming (李铭).



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Wanli Emperor
Born: 4 September 1563 Died: 18 August 1620
Regnal titles
Preceded by Emperor of the Ming dynasty
Emperor of China

Succeeded by