First Reign of Zhengtong Emperor: The Sixth Emperor of the Ming Dynasty

Zhu Qizhen ( 29 November 1427 – 23 February 1464) was an emperor of the Ming Dynasty.

He ruled as the Zhengtong Emperor (正統 IPA: [tʂɤ̂ŋtʰʊ̀ŋ]) from 1435 to 1449, and as the Tianshun Emperor from 1457 to 1464. His first era name means "Right government" and the second one means "Obedient to Heaven".

Zhu Qizhen was the son of the Xuande Emperor Zhu Zhanji and his Empress Sun. At the beginning of Zhengtong's reign, the Ming dynasty was prosperous and at the height of its power as a result of Xuande Emperor's able administration. Zhengtong's accession at the age of eight makes him the first child emperor of the dynasty hence Zhengtong was easily influenced by others, namely his eunuch Wang Zhen. Zhengtong thoroughly relied on Zhen for advice and guidance.

At the age of 22, in 1449, he was imprisoned by the Mongols when, advised by Wang Zhen, he personally directed and lost the Battle of Tumu Fortress against the Mongols under Esen taishi (d.1455). His capture by the enemy force shook the Ming dynasty to its core and the ensuing crisis almost caused the dynasty to collapse had it not been for the capable governing of a prominent minister named Yu Qian. Although Zhengtong was a prisoner of the Mongols, he became a good friend to both Tayisung Khagan Toghtoa Bukha (1416–1453) and his grand preceptor (taishi) Esen. Meanwhile, to calm the crisis at home, his brother Zhu Qiyu was installed as the Jingtai Emperor. This reduced Zhengtong's imperial status and he was granted the title of "grand emperor".

Emperor Zhengtong is Emperor Xuande's eldest son. He was born in 2nd year of Emperor's reign (1427 AD), and died in 1464. The difference between he and the emperors before him was that he lived in the palace from his childhood.

In 14th year of his reign, Emperor Zhengtong led the military campaign against Wala Clan in Mongolia, and was defeated. He was taken captive. He lived as a prisoner on the grassland. Later, he caught apoplexy, So the head of the clan set him free. During his captivity, his brother Zhu Qiyu took the power and become Emperor Jingtai. The new emperor did not want to give the throne back to Zhengtong upon his return, so his brother Zhu Qiyu put him under house arrest. In the 8th year of Emperor Jingtai's reign, Emperor Jingtai was badly ill. Zhengtong took the chance to recapture the throne and became an emperor again.