Reign of Longqing Emperor: The 12th Emperor of the Ming Dynasty
The Longqing Emperor (隆慶 [lʊ̌ŋtɕʰîŋ]; March 4, 1537- July 5, 1572) was the 12th emperor of the Ming dynasty in China between 1567-1572.
His era name means "Great celebration". Born Zhu Zaihou, he was the Jiajing Emperor's son. He was created Prince Yu in 1539.
After the death of the Jiajing Emperor, Longqing inherited a country in disarray after years of mismanagement and corruption. Realizing the depth of chaos his father's long reign had caused, Longqing set about reforming the government by re-employing talented officials previously banished by his father such as Hai Rui. He also purged the government of corrupt officials namely Daoist priests whom the Jiajing Emperor had favoured in the hope of improving the situation in the empire. Furthermore, Longqing restarted trade with other empires in Europe, Africa and other parts of Asia. Territorial security was reinforced through the appointment of several generals to patrol both land and sea borders. This included the fortification of seaports along the Zhejiang and Fujian coast to deter pirates, a constant nuisance during the Jiajing emperor's reign. Longqing also repulsed the Mongol army of Altan Khan, who had penetrated the Great Wall and reached as far as Beijing. A peace treaty to trade horses for silk was signed with the Mongols shortly thereafter.
Longqing's reign, which was not unlike that of any previous Ming Emperor, saw a heavy reliance on eunuchs. One particular eunuch Meng Cong, who was introduced by Longqing's Prime Minister Gao Gong, came to dominate the inner court towards the end of Longqing's reign. Meng gained favours by introducing Nu Er Huahua, a female dancer of ethnic Turkish origin to the Emperor whose beauty was said to have captured the ruler's full attention. Despite initial hopeful beginnings, Longqing quickly abandoned his royal duties and set about pursuing personal enjoyment. The emperor also made contradictary decisions by re-employing Daoist priests that he himself had banned at the start of his reign.
Longqing died in 1572 and was only 35. Unfortunately, the country was still in decline due to corruption in the ruling class. Before Longqing died, he had instructed minister Zhang Juzheng to overlook affairs of state and become the dedicated advisor to the Wanli Emperor who was only 10.
Emperor Longqing's reign lasted a mere six years and was succeeded by his son. It was said that Longqing also suffered from speech impairment which caused him to stutter and stammer when speaking in public. He is generally considered one of the more liberal and open-minded emperors of the Ming dynasty, however Longqing lacked the talent keenly needed for rulership and he eventually became more interested in pursuing personal gratification rather than ruling itself. The emperor Longqing was buried in Zhaoling (昭陵) of the Ming Dynasty Tombs.