Reign of Hongxi Emperor: The Fourth Emperor of the Ming Dynasty

The Hongxi Emperor (洪熙 [xʊ̌ŋɕí]; August 16, 1378–May 29, 1425) was an fourth emperor of the Ming dynasty in China.

He succeeded his father, Yongle, in 1424. His era name means "Vastly bright".

As soon as he became Emperor Hongxi in September 1424, he canceled Zheng He's maritime expeditions and abolished frontier trade of tea for horses as well as missions for gold and pearls to Yunnan and Vietnam. He restored disgraced Confucian officials and reorganized the administration to give high ranks to his close advisors. Hanlin academicians became grand secretaries, and they dismantled his father's unpopular militaristic policies to restore civil government. Hongxi improved finances by canceling requisitions for lumber, gold, and silver. Taxes were remitted so that vagrant farmers could return home, especially in the overburdened Yangtze River Delta. Hongxi appointed a commission to investigate taxes. He overruled his secretaries by ordering that grain should be sent immediately to relieve disaster areas.

Emperor Hongxi ordered that the capital be moved back to Nanjing. However he died, probably of a heart attack, a month later in May 1425. His son had been declared heir apparent and became the Xuande Emperor at age 26. Although Hongxi had a short reign, he is credited with reforms that made lasting improvements, and his liberal policies were continued by his son.

As part of his desire to expand Chinese influence, the Yongle Emperor sponsored at least seven epic sea-going expeditions between 1405 and 1433, led by the great admiral, the Muslim eunuch Zheng He (Cheng Ho; 鄭和).

During the sixth voyage, Emperor Zhu Di died in 1424 and his son Zhu Gaozhi became emperor. He canceled the voyages of the Treasure Fleets and ordered ship builders and sailors to stop their work and return home. Cheng Ho was appointed military commander of Nanjing.

The leadership of Zhu Gaozhi did not last long - he died in 1426 at the age of 26. His son and Zhu Di's grandson Zhu Zhanji took Zhu Gaozhi's place. Zhu Zhanji was much more like his grandfather than his father was and in 1430 he resumed the Treasure Fleet voyages by ordering Cheng Ho to resume his duties as admiral and make a seventh voyage in an attempt to restore peaceful relations with the kingdoms of Malacca and Siam. It took a year to gear up for the voyage which departed as a large expedition with 100 ships and 27,500 men.