The Tianqi Emperor: The 15th Emperor of the Ming Dynasty

The Tianqi Emperor (23 December 1605 – 30 September 1627) was the 15th emperor of the Ming dynasty from 1620 to 1627.

Born Zhu Youjiao, he was the Taichang Emperor's eldest son. His era name means "Heavenly opening".

Zhu Youxiao became emperor at the age of fifteen, on the death of his father who ruled less than a month. He did not pay much attention to affairs of state, and was accused of failing in his filial duties to his dead father by not continuing his father's wishes. It is possible that Zhu Youxiao suffered from a learning disability or something more. He was illiterate and showed no interest in his studies.

Because he was unable to read memorials and uninterested in the affairs of state, his head eunuch, Wei Zhongxian usurped the power along with Madam Ke, Zhu Youxiao's nanny. Zhu Youxiao apparently devoted his time to carpentry. Wei took advantage of the situation and began appointing the people he trusted to important positions in the palace. Meanwhile Madam Ke, who was the nanny of the young emperor sought to retain power by removing all other women from the emperor's harem by locking away the concubines of the emperor and starving them to death.

One Confucian moralist group, the Donglin Party, expressed distress at the conditions of the Imperial State. In response, the palace covertly ordered the execution of a number of officials associated with the Donglin. Living conditions worsened during his reign and Tianqi faced several popular uprisings.

Zhu Youxiao died in 1627 and was succeeded by his younger brother Zhu Youjian, the Chongzhen Emperor.