Reign of Hongzhi Emperor: The Ninth Emperor of the Ming Dynasty
The Hongzhi Emperor (弘治 IPA: [xʊ̌ŋtʂɨ̂]) (July 30, 1470 – June 8, 1505) was emperor of the Ming dynasty in China between 1487 and 1505.
Born Zhu Youtang, he was the son of the Chenghua Emperor and his reign as emperor of China is called the Hongzhi Silver Age. His era name means "Great government". He was a wise and peace-loving ruler. Hongzhi took only one empress and had no concubine. He remains the sole perpetually-monogamous emperor in Chinese history.
After Hongzhi ascended the throne in 1487, his administration was modelled after Confucian ideology and he became a hardworking and diligent emperor. He closely supervised all affairs of state, lowered taxes, reduced government spending and made wise decisions when employing ministers to government post. Individuals such as Liu Jian, Xie Qian and Wang Shu worked hand in hand with Hongzhi thus creating a seldom-witnessed atmosphere of cooperation within the government. In addition, Emperor Hongzhi also encouraged his ministers to be up front about all issues, even acknowledging criticisms directed towards the Emperor himself. This created a more transparent government and introduced fresh energy into the Ming dynasty. As a result the populace once again prospered under his rule. It was said that individual eunuchs' power was curtailed and palace intrigues, prevalent in previous reigns, was absent during his reign. Hongzhi has been compared to his predecessors Emperor Hongwu and Emperor Yongle as one of the most brilliant emperors of the Ming dynasty.
In the spring of 1488, the shipwrecked Korean crew of the Jeju-do official Choe Bu (1454–1454) were traveling up the Grand Canal of China while escorted by the Ming courier service en route back to Korea. Choe observed ferry ships passing by holding officials who were from the Ministries of War, Punishment, and Personnel. When he asked what was going on, it was explained to him that the new Emperor Hongzhi was ridding his government of corrupt and incompetent officials, and this was a final gesture of good will by the emperor by providing them with a comfortable passage back home by ship.
Unlike almost all of his predecessors who took up many concubines which bore many children to the Emperor, Hongzhi had only one Empress during his lifetime. Coupled with the fact that the Empress Zhang had only 2 sons (one of which died in infancy), Hongzhi was left with only one nominee to succeed him. After Emperor Hongzhi died in 1505 he was succeeded by his son, the Zhengde Emperor. Unfortunately, Zhengde died childless in 1521 and the throne had to be passed to a cousin, effectively ending Hongzhi's own line of succession.