Emperor Yongle of the Ming Dynasty – Part 2/4

November 26, 2010

Emperor Hongwu wanted to stabilize the country and strengthen Confucian Piety in the family. To achieve this, Hongwu centralized the state’s power and used spies to watch his political rivals and supporters.

Hongwu founded the Jin Yi Wei, the secret spy agency and bodyguard of all the Ming Emperors responsible to watch public officials. Anyone caught talking about rebellion would be arrested.

The worst aspects of Chinese feudalism had Hongwu’s full support.

Before Emperor Hongwu died, he arranged for his oldest grandson to become emperor. To make sure this would happen, he had all potential enemies killed.

However, Hongwu’s grandson did not get the crown. Instead, Hongwu’s fourth son became the next emperor through drastic measures that resulted in many deaths.

Hongwu’s fourth son would become Emperor Yongle (ruled 1402 – 1424).

Mandarin with English subtitles

Emperor Yongle had been sent by his father to guard the north against the nomads and was given the title of King Yan. Due to his success at driving back the Mongols, he had the support of China’s nobility to become emperor.

As Emperor, he reversed his father’s decisions and opened China to world trade. In 1404, Yongle decided to move the capital from Nanjing to Beijing since Beijing was situated in an important strategic position between Mongolia and the plains of northern China — 20 miles from the Great Wall.

Beijing had been the capital of the Yuan and Jin (1115 – 1234) Dynasties. Though Beijing was far from the areas of China with the most population and agriculture along the Yangtze River, Emperor Yongle was still determined to move his capital north.

He wanted to move so he would have more control over China’s northern minorities such as the Mongols and the Manchu.

Before moving from Nanjing, he had Beijing rebuilt with a new palace, The Forbidden City. The materials for this construction came from all over China with most being carried on barges along the Grand Canal, which stretched more than a thousand miles from Beijing to Hangzhou in the south.

Return to Emperor Yongle of the Ming Dynasty – Part 1


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of the concubine saga, My Splendid Concubine & Our Hart. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too.

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