The eldest son of emperor Zhengtong aka. Tianshun did not exactly have an easy childhood. First he was Heir Apparent, then just three years old he was imprisoned in the imperial palace; then again he became heir apparent before age 10 and finally in 1464 at the age of 18 he was enthroned as the eighth Ming emperor with a reign title of Chenghua.
He was a mild-mannered person, fond of the arts and himself a good calligrapher. But his difficult upbringing left its mark; he became rather indecisive and was prone to stuttering. He died at the age of 40 after ruling for 22 years.
The empire was however fortunate by being in capable hands in his early years. A council of 12 regents set out to amend the wounds of Chenghua's father's waging war, leaving suffering peasants to fend for themselves and, later, purging over 1.5 million alleged opponents and their families.
The council rehabilitated those that had been unjustly punished and provided ample relief to draught stricken areas. The military was completely reorganized and celebrated successful campaigns against the Mongols and the Jurchen from Manchuria.
The Great Wall in the north was rebuilt and reinforced and by 1479 it defended the empire for a length of well over 5,000 kilometers.
But all was not well back in the palace.
Chenghua never became comfortable around women. His former nurse and now principal concubine, Wan Guifei, had given birth to a son who died early. She took out her sorrow on all the other imperial concubines by arranging the death of their offspring.
Along with her favorite eunuch, Liang Fang, and aided by the evil eunuch and chief of police, Wang Zhi, Wan Guifei also sat out to plunder the empire. They amassed enormous wealth and sold titles to other officials so that they in turn could also enrich themselves at the expense of the common people.
All this took place with the emperor's silent consent. He was unable to muster the necessary authority to put an end to this ma...