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He was a tough and hard-working ruler bent on effective government at minimum expense. Like his father, the Kangxi Emperor, Yongzheng used military force to preserve the dynasty's position. His reign was despotic, efficient, and vigorous, albeit much shorter than the famous reigns of both his father the Kangxi Emperor and his son the Qianlong Emperor.
Succession to the throne
Yinzhen was the fourth son of Kangxi to survive into adulthood, and the eldest son by Empress Xiaogong (孝恭皇后), a lady of the Wuya (烏雅) clan. Little is known about the prince Yinzhen because he censored the records of his accession to the throne and suppressed other writings he deemed inimical to his regime. What is clear is that Yinzhen was the recipient of imperial favour on many occasions, being intrusted with fifteen special assignments. He was made a beile (貝勒, "lord") in 1698 and then successively raised to the position of third-class prince in 1689 and first-class prince (雍親王) in 1709.
In 1712 the Kangxi Emperor removed his second son, Yinreng, as heir-apparent and refused to designate another one. By the time of the old emperor's death in December 1722, the field of contenders had been reduced down to three sons, Yinzhi , Yinti, and Yinzhen. At the time Yinti, as Border Pacification General-in-chief (撫遠大將軍), was away on the warfront in the northwest. The official record states that on December 20th, Kangxi called to his bedside seven of his sons and the General Commandant of the Peking Gendarmerie, Longkedo and declared that Yinzhen should succeed him on the imperial throne. There were suggestions, however, that the Yongzheng Emperor forged his father's will and took power in a coup d'etat at the capital. Whilst this has largely being discounted by most historians of the period as opposition propaganda, there is evidence to support the view. It is known that within a few years of ascending the throne he had also had most of his brothers arrested and charged. Yinsi, Yintang , both supporters of Yinti for the throne, languished in prison and died in 1727. Another brother, Yin'e , was expelled from the imperial clan in 1726.
After he became Emperor, Yongzheng censored the record of his accession and also suppressed other writings he deemed inimical to his regime, particuarly those with an anti-Manchu bias. Foremost among these was the case of Zeng Jing, a failed degree candidate heavily influenced by the seventeenth-century scholar Lü Liuliang. In October 1728, he attempted to incite Yue Zhongqi , Governor-general of Shaanxi-Sichuan, to rebellion. He gave a long list of accusations against Yongzheng, including the murder of the Kangxi Emperor and the killing of his brothers. Highly concerned with the implications of the case, Yongzheng had Zeng Jing brought to Beijing for trial.
He is also known for establishing his autocratic rule. He disliked corruption and punished officials severely when they were found guilty of the offence. During his reign, the Manchu Empire became a great power and a peaceful country, and he furthered strengthened the Kangqian Period of Harmony (康乾盛世). He created a sophisticated procedure for selecting successor in response to his father's tragedy.
Yongzheng was known for his trust in Mandarin Chinese officials. Li Wei and Tian Wenjing were both used to govern China's southern areas.
Military expansion in the northwest
Like his father, Yongzheng used military force to preserve the dynasty's position in Outer Mongolia, and when Tibet was torn by civil war during 1717-28, he intervened militarily, leaving a Qing resident backed up by a military garrison to pursue the dynasty's interests. It is however important to note that YongZheng revamped the tax system then so in order not to favour only the rich and imposed new land taxes on actual land owners. His private life was a sad one. He had nine children but only 3 survived. One of them was Prince Hong Li.
Emperor Yongzheng ruled the Qing Empire for only thirteen years. He died suddenly at the age of 58. Some says he was actually asassinated by Lu Si Niang, daughter of Lu Liu Liang whose entire family clan was purportedly exterminated for Literacy crimes against the Manchu Regime. More realistically, he might have died due to an overdose of medication he was consuming at the time due to his ardent belief that it will prolong his life. He was succeeded by his son, Prince Hong Li who became the fifth emperor of the Qing dynasty under the name, Emperor Qianlong.
- Father: Emperor Kangxi (of whom he was the 4th son)
- Mother: concubine from the (Manchu) Uya clan (1660-1723), who was made Empress Dowager Renshou (仁壽皇太后) when her son became emperor, and is known posthumously as Empress Xiaogong Ren (Chinese: 孝恭仁皇后; Manchu: Hiyoošungga Gungnecuke Gosin Hūwanghu)
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