The Kangxi Emperor (May 4, 1654 – December 20, 1722) was the third emperor of the Manchu Qing dynasty, and the second Qing emperor to rule over China, from 1661 to 1722. He is known as one of the greatest Chinese emperors in history.
Beginning of the Reign
Technically, the Kangxi Emperor inherited his father Fulin's throne at the age of seven. Since Kangxi certainly would not have been able to rule as the emperor, the Shunzhi Emperor left Sonin, Suksaha, Ebilun, and Oboi as assistant ministers. As a result of a fierce power struggle, Oboi seized absolute power. In 1669 the Emperor arrested Oboi with help from the Grand Empress Dowager Xiao Zhuang and began to take the reins by himself.
In the spring of 1662, Kangxi ordered the Great Clearance in southern China, in order to fight the anti-Qing movement, began by Ming Dynasty loyalists to regain Beijing.
He listed three major issues: the flood control of the Yellow River, the repairing of the Grand Canal and the Three Feudatories in South China. The Revolt of the Three Feudatories was raised in 1673 and Burni of the Chakhar Mongols also started a rebellion in 1675.
The revolt of the three feudatories proved to be hard to clear. Wu Sangui's emerging forces had overran most of southern China and began allying himself with local generals. A prominent general of this kind was Wang Fuchen.
He crushed the latter within two months and incorporated the Chakhar into the Eight Banners. After the surrender of the Zheng family, the Qing Dynasty annexed Taiwan in 1684. Soon afterwards, the coastal regions were ordered to be repopulated, and to encourage settlers, the Qing government gave a pecuniary incentive to each settling family.
Russia and the Mongols
At the same time, the Emperor was faced with the Russian advance from the north. The Qing Dynasty and the Russian Empire went into battle on the Sahaliyan ula in 1650s, which ended up with the Manchu victory. The Russians invaded the northern frontier again in 1680s. After series of battles and negotiations, the two empires signed the Treaty of Nerchinsk in 1689.
The Khalkha Mongols preserved their independence while they paid tribute to the Manchu Empire. A conflict between the Houses of Jasaghtu Khan and Tösheetü Khan led another dispute between the Khalkha and the Dzungar (Jüün Ghar) about Tibetan Buddhism. In 1688 Galdan, Dzungar chief, invaded and occupied Khalkha. The Khalkha royal families and the first Jebtsundamba Khutughtu crossed the Gobi Desert, sought help from the Qing Dynasty and, as a result, came under the empire. In 1690, the Dzungar and the Manchu Empire clashed in Ulaan Butun, Inner Mongolia, where the Qing army were severely damaged by Galdan. In 1696, the Kangxi Emperor himself led the campaign against the Dzungar. The West Branch of the Qing army crushed Galdan's army in the Battle of Juun Modu and Galdan died in the next year.
He commanded the most complete dictionary of Chinese characters ever put together at the time, The Kangxi Dictionary.
Race for successor
After Kangxi's first Empress gave birth to his second son Yinreng, who was immediately named Crown Prince of the Great Qing Emprire, many rivalries had began to eventually isolate Yinreng. Those in slight favor towards him, the Fourth Imperial Prince Yinzhen and the Thirteenth Imperial Prince Yinxiang had managed to keep his status afloat. Even though Kangxi liked Yinreng and had always wanted the best out of him, Yinreng did not cooperate. Forty some years into Kangxi's reign he had developed a tempor and was known to put his personal pleasures above important matters of the Empire.
Kangxi's continual watch over Yinreng had introduced him to Yinreng's fatal problems that would permanently damage the Qing empire if Yinreng was to succeed. But Kangxi himself also knew that a huge battle for crown Prince would thus start if he is to abolish the Crown Prince position. Forty-six years into Kangxi's reign (Kangxi-46, see Chinese Calendar), he could take no more of Yinreng's increasingly absurd actions, and decided to abolish Yinreng's position as Crown Prince.
Soon after this action a sea of discussion started regarding who should be the new Crown Prince. The Eighth Imperial Prince, Yinsi, seemed to have the most support among feudal officials within the court, but Kangxi disapproved anyone being Crown Prince.
Despite Kangxi's attempts to quiet rumours and speculations of who the new Crown Prince is, the court's daily businesses were strongly affected by the abolition of the Crown Prince. In the Third Month of Kangxi-48, with the support of the Fourth and Thirteenth Imperial Princes, Kangxi brought Yinreng back as Crown Prince to avoid further fabrications, rumours and disruption of the imperial court.
During Kangxi's last visit southward to the Yangtze region, Yinreng grew hungry for supreme power as he ruled as regent in Beijing; he had decided with bad influence from many of his supporters to give a try at forcing Kangxi to abdicate when he returns to Beijing. However this failed after Kangxi heard of the news.
When Kangxi returned to Beijing he once again abolished the Crown Prince post once and for all. Yinreng was sent to prison.
From this emerged a huge political battle, but Kangxi stated that he would not leave a Crown Prince post in his reign, and that he would place his Imperial Will inside a box only to be opened after his death, thus no one knew Kangxi's real intentions.
On the political side of things, Thirteenth Imperial Prince Yinxiang was also placed under house arrest for "cooperating" with Yinreng; soon thereafter emerged two powerful forces, one being that of Yinsi, whom most imperial officials supported, and Yinzhen, who was hard on corrupt officials (which is almost all of them and therefore did not receive much support). A third emerging force, Fourteenth Imperial Prince Yinti, who after his increasing apprehensions among his trusted brother Yinsi, was away from the scene in Beijing because he was fighting a war in the Xinjiang region.
At what was believed to be minutes after midnight of the thirteenth day of the Eleventh Month in Kangxi-61 (1722 A.D.), Kangxi assembled all of his Imperial Princes in Beijing at the time for a word with him, thereafter allowing his trusted official Zhang Tingyu to announce the heir to the throne. But once the box containing Kangxi's will arrived, Kangxi himself had died. Therefore never confirming that the decision for Yinzhen to be Emperor was Kangxi's will.
He was entombed at the Eastern Tombs (东陵) in Zunhua County (遵化县), Hebei.
- Father: Shunzhi Emperor of China (3rd son)
- Mother: concubine of Han Chinese origin (1640-1663) who was made Manchu in order to become a concubine of Shunzhi and had her Chinese family name Tong (佟) changed into the Manchu clan name Tunggiya, inaugurating this practice for future generations. She was made Empress Dowager Cihe (慈和皇太后) in 1661 when Kangxi became emperor. She is known posthumously as Empress Xiaokang Zhang (Chinese: 孝康章皇后; Manchu: Hiyoošungga Nesuken Eldembuhe Hūwanghu).
- Empress Xiao Cheng (Hiyoošungga Unenggi Gosin Hūwanghu) (d. 1674) from the Heseri clan
- Empress Xiao Zhao (Hiyoošungga Genggiyen Gosin Hūwanghu)
- Empress Xiao Yi (Hiyoošungga Fujurangga Gosin Hūwanghu)
- Empress Xiao Gong (Hiyoošungga Gungnecuke Gosin Hūwanghu)
- 36 sons (20 reached adulthood)
- 20 daughters (8 survived)