Kangxi Emperor
Emperor of the Qing dynasty
Reign5 February 1661 – 20 December 1722
PredecessorShunzhi Emperor
SuccessorYongzheng Emperor
RegentSonin (1661–1667)
Ebilun (1661–1667)
Suksaha (1661–1667)
Oboi (1661–1669)
Born(1654-05-04)4 May 1654
(順治十一年 三月 十八日)
Jingren Palace, Forbidden City, Beijing
Died20 December 1722(1722-12-20) (aged 68)
(康熙六十一年 十一月 十三日)
Changchun Garden, Imperial Gardens, Beijing
Jing Mausoleum, Eastern Qing tombs
(m. 1665; died 1674)
(m. 1665; died 1678)
(died 1689)
(before 1722)
Aisin-Gioro Xuanye (愛新覺羅·玄燁)
Manchu: Hiowan yei (ᡥᡳᠣᠸᠠᠨ ᠶᡝᡳ)
Era dates
Kangxi (康熙): 18 February 1662 – 4 February 1723
Manchu: Elhe taifin (ᡝᠯᡥᡝ ᡨᠠᡳᡶᡳᠨ)
Mongolian: Энх амгалан (ᠡᠩᠬᠡ ᠠᠮᠤᠭᠤᠯᠠᠩ)
Posthumous name
Emperor Hetian Hongyun Wenwu Ruizhe Gongjian Kuanyu Xiaojing Chengxin Zhonghe Gongde Dacheng Ren (合天弘運文武睿哲恭儉寬裕孝敬誠信中和功德大成仁皇帝)
Manchu: Gosin hūwangdi (ᡤᠣᠰᡳᠨ
Temple name
Shengzu (聖祖)
Manchu: Šengdzu (ᡧᡝᠩᡯᡠ)
FatherShunzhi Emperor
MotherEmpress Xiaokangzhang
Kangxi Emperor
Chinese name
Literal meaningEmperor of the Era of Health and Glory
Mongolian name
Mongolian Cyrillicᠡᠩᠭᠡ ᠠᠮᠤᠭᠤᠯᠠᠩ ᠬᠠᠭᠠᠨ
Энх амгалан хаан
Manchu name
Manchu scriptᡝᠯᡥᡝ
MöllendorffElhe Taifin Hūwangdi

The Kangxi Emperor (4 May 1654 – 20 December 1722), also known by his temple name Emperor Shengzu of Qing, personal name Xuanye, was the third emperor of the Qing dynasty, and the second Qing emperor to rule over China proper. His reign of 61 years makes him the longest-reigning emperor in Chinese history and one of the longest-reigning rulers in history.[1] He is considered one of China's greatest emperors.[2]

The third son of the Shunzhi Emperor, Kangxi was enthroned at the age of seven while actual power was held for six more years by the Four Regents nominated by his father.[3] After assuming personal rule, Kangxi's attempt to revoke the fiefdoms of feudal princes sparked the Revolt of the Three Feudatories, which he suppressed. He also forced the Kingdom of Tungning in Taiwan and Mongols in the north and northwest to submit to Qing rule, and launched an expedition that incorporated Tibet into the empire. Domestically, he initially welcomed the Jesuits and the propagation of Catholicism in China, but tolerance came to an end as a result of the Chinese Rites controversy. Later in his reign, Kangxi became embroiled in a prolonged succession dispute. He died in 1722 at the age of 68 and was succeeded by his fourth son, who assumed the throne as the Yongzheng Emperor.

The Kangxi Emperor's reign brought about long-term stability and relative wealth after years of war and chaos. He initiated the period known as the High Qing era (or the "Prosperous Era of Kangxi and Qianlong"),[4] which lasted for several generations after his death. His court also accomplished such literary feats as the compilation of the Kangxi Dictionary, the Complete Tang Poems poetry anthology, and the Complete Classics Collection of Ancient China.

Early reign

Born on 4 May 1654 to the Shunzhi Emperor and Empress Xiaokangzhang in Jingren Palace, the Forbidden City, Beijing, the Kangxi Emperor was originally given the Chinese name Xuanye (Chinese: 玄燁; pinyin: Xuanye; Manchu transliteration: hiowan yei). He was enthroned at the age of seven (or eight by East Asian age reckoning), on 7 February 1661.[b] However, his era name "Kangxi", only started to be used on 18 February 1662, the first day of the following lunar year.

Sinologist Herbert Giles, drawing on contemporary sources, described the Kangxi Emperor as "fairly tall and well proportioned, he loved all manly exercises, and devoted three months annually to hunting. Large bright eyes lighted up his face, which was pitted with smallpox."[5]

Portrait of the young Kangxi Emperor in court dress

Before the Kangxi Emperor came to the throne, Grand Empress Dowager Zhaosheng (in the name of Shunzhi Emperor) had appointed the powerful men Sonin, Suksaha, Ebilun, and Oboi as regents. Sonin died after his granddaughter became Empress Xiaochengren, leaving Suksaha at odds with Oboi in politics. In a fierce power struggle, Oboi had Suksaha put to death and seized absolute power as sole regent. The Kangxi Emperor and the rest of the imperial court acquiesced to this arrangement.

In the spring of 1662, the regents ordered a Great Clearance in southern China that evacuated the entire population from the seacoast to counter a resistance movement started by Ming loyalists under the leadership of Taiwan-based Ming general Zheng Chenggong, also titled Koxinga.

In 1669, the Kangxi Emperor had Oboi arrested with the help of his grandmother Grand Empress Dowager Zhaosheng, who had raised him.[6] and began taking personal control of the empire. He listed three issues of concern: flood control of the Yellow River; repair of the Grand Canal; the Revolt of the Three Feudatories in south China. The Grand Empress Dowager influenced him greatly and he took care of her himself in the months leading up to her death in 1688.[6]

Kangxi's relatives from the Han Chinese Banner Tong 佟 clan of Fushun in Liaoning falsely claimed to be related to the Jurchen Manchu Tunggiya 佟佳 clan of Jilin, using this false claim to get themselves transferred to a Manchu banner in the reign of Kangxi emperor.[7]

Military achievements

See also: Qing dynasty in Inner Asia


The Emperor mounted on his horse and guarded by his bodyguards
Armoured Kangxi Emperor
The Kangxi Emperor in ceremonial armor, armed with bow and arrows, and surrounded by bodyguards.

The main army of the Qing Empire, the Eight Banners Army, was in decline under the Kangxi Emperor. It was smaller than it had been at its peak under Hong Taiji and in the early reign of the Shunzhi Emperor; however, it was larger than in the Yongzheng and Qianlong emperors' reigns. In addition, the Green Standard Army was still powerful with generals such as Tuhai, Fei Yanggu, Zhang Yong, Zhou Peigong, Shi Lang, Mu Zhan, Shun Shike and Wang Jingbao.[citation needed]

The main reason for this decline was a change in system between the Kangxi and Qianlong emperors' reigns. The Kangxi Emperor continued using the traditional military system implemented by his predecessors, which was more efficient and stricter. According to the system, a commander who returned from a battle alone (with all his men dead) would be put to death, and likewise for a foot soldier. This was meant to motivate both commanders and soldiers alike to fight valiantly in war because there was no benefit for the sole survivor in a battle.[citation needed]

By the Qianlong Emperor's reign, military commanders had become lax and the training of the army was deemed less important as compared to during the previous emperors' reigns.

Revolt of the Three Feudatories

Main article: Revolt of the Three Feudatories

After the Qing takeover of China in 1644, large parts of the south and west were given as fiefs to three Ming generals who aided the Qing; in 1673 the three feudatories were controlled by Wu Sangui, Geng Jingzhong, and Shang Zhixin. Going against the advice of most of his advisors, Kangxi attempted to force the feudal princes to give up their lands and retire to Manchuria, sparking a rebellion that lasted eight years. For years afterwards Kangxi ruminated on his mistakes and blamed himself in part for the loss of life during the revolt.[8]

Wu Sangui's forces overran most of southwest China and he tried to ally himself with local generals such as Wang Fuchen. The Kangxi Emperor employed generals including Zhou Peigong and Tuhai to suppress the rebellion, and also granted clemency to common people caught up in the war. He intended to personally lead the armies to crush the rebels but his subjects advised him against it. The Kangxi Emperor used mainly Han Chinese Green Standard Army soldiers to crush the rebels while the Manchu Banners took a backseat. The revolt ended with victory for Qing forces in 1681.


Main article: Qing conquest of Taiwan

In 1683, the naval forces of the Ming loyalists on Taiwan—organized under the Zheng dynasty as the Kingdom of Tungning—were defeated off Penghu by 300-odd ships under the Qing admiral Shi Lang. Koxinga's grandson Zheng Keshuang surrendered Tungning a few days later and Taiwan became part of the Qing Empire. Zheng Keshuang moved to Beijing, joined the Qing nobility as the "Duke Haicheng" (海澄公), and was inducted into the Eight Banners as a member of the Han Plain Red Banner. His soldiers—including the rattan-shield troops (藤牌營, tengpaiying)—were similarly entered into the Eight Banners, notably serving against Russian Cossacks at Albazin.

A score of Ming princes had joined the Zheng dynasty on Taiwan, including Prince Zhu Shugui of Ningjing and Prince Honghuan (朱弘桓), the son of Zhu Yihai. The Qing sent most of the 17 Ming princes still living on Taiwan back to mainland China, where they spent the rest of their lives.[9] The Prince of Ningjing and his five concubines, however, committed suicide rather than submit to capture. Their palace was used as Shi Lang's headquarters in 1683, but he memorialized the emperor to convert it into a Mazu temple as a propaganda measure in quieting remaining resistance on Taiwan. The emperor approved its dedication as the Grand Matsu Temple the next year and, honoring the goddess Mazu for her supposed assistance during the Qing invasion, promoted her to "Empress of Heaven" (天后 Tianhou) from her previous status as a "heavenly consort" (天妃 Tianfei).[10][11] Belief in Mazu remains so widespread on Taiwan that her annual celebrations can gather hundreds of thousands of people; she is sometimes even syncretized with Guanyin and the Virgin Mary.

The end of the rebel stronghold and capture of the Ming princes allowed the Kangxi Emperor to relax the Sea Ban and permit resettlement of the Fujian and Guangdong coasts. The financial and other incentives to new settlers particularly drew the Hakka, who would have continuous low-level conflict with the returning Punti people for the next few centuries.


Main article: Sino-Russian border conflicts

Kangxi Emperor at 32 (from le Comte's Nouveaux Memoires, 1696)

In the 1650s, the Qing Empire engaged the Tsardom of Russia in a series of border conflicts along the Amur River region, which concluded with the Qing gaining control of the area after the Siege of Albazin.

The Russians invaded the northern frontier again in the 1680s. A series of battles and negotiations culminated in the Treaty of Nerchinsk of 1689, by which a border was agreed between Russia and China.


The Inner Mongolian Chahar leader Ligdan Khan, a descendant of Genghis Khan, opposed and fought against the Qing until he died of smallpox in 1634. Thereafter, the Inner Mongols under his son Ejei Khan surrendered to the Qing and he was given the title of Prince (Qin Wang, 親王). The Inner Mongolian nobility now became closely tied to the Qing royal family and intermarried with them extensively. Ejei Khan died in 1661 and was succeeded by his brother Abunai. After Abunai showed disaffection with Manchu Qing rule, he was placed under house arrest in 1669 in Shenyang and the Kangxi Emperor gave his title to his son Borni.

Abunai bided his time then, with his brother Lubuzung, revolted against the Qing in 1675 during the Revolt of the Three Feudatories, with 3,000 Chahar Mongol followers joining in on the revolt. The revolt was put down within two months, the Qing defeating the rebels in battle on 20 April 1675, killing Abunai and all his followers. Their title was abolished, all Chahar Mongol royal males were executed even if they were born to Manchu Qing princesses, and all Chahar Mongol royal females were sold into slavery except the Manchu Qing princesses. The Chahar Mongols were then put under the direct control of the Qing Emperor unlike the other Inner Mongol leagues which maintained their autonomy.

Emperor Kangxi's camp on Kerulen during the campaign of 1696.

The Outer Khalkha Mongols had preserved their independence, and only paid tribute to the Qing Empire. However, a conflict between the houses of Jasagtu Khan and Tösheetü Khan led to a dispute between the Khalkha and the Dzungars over the influence of Tibetan Buddhism. In 1688, the Dzungar chief, Galdan Boshugtu Khan, attacked the Khalkha from the west and invaded their territory. The Khalkha royal families and the first Jebtsundamba Khutuktu crossed the Gobi Desert and sought help from the Qing Empire in return for submission to Qing authority. In 1690, the Dzungars and Qing forces clashed at the Battle of Ulan Butung in Inner Mongolia, in which the Qing eventually emerged as the victor.

In 1696 and 1697 the Kangxi Emperor personally led campaigns against the Dzungars in the early Dzungar–Qing War.[12] The western section of the Qing army defeated Galdan's forces at the Battle of Jao Modo and Galdan died in the following year.

Manchu Hoifan and Ula rebellion against the Qing

The Kangxi Emperor at the age of 45, painted in 1699

In 1700, some 20,000 Qiqihar Xibe were resettled in Guisui, modern Inner Mongolia, and 36,000 Songyuan Xibe were resettled in Shenyang, Liaoning. The relocation of the Xibe from Qiqihar is believed by Liliya M. Gorelova to be linked to the Qing's annihilation of the Manchu clan Hoifan (Hoifa) in 1697 and the Manchu tribe Ula in 1703 after they rebelled against the Qing; both Hoifan and Ula were wiped out.[13]


In 1701, the Kangxi Emperor ordered the reconquest of Kangding and other border towns in western Sichuan that had been taken by the Tibetans. The Manchu forces stormed Dartsedo and secured the border with Tibet and the lucrative tea-horse trade.

The Tibetan desi (regent) Sangye Gyatso concealed the death of the 5th Dalai Lama in 1682, and only informed the emperor in 1697. He moreover kept relations with Dzungar enemies of the Qing. All this evoked the great displeasure of the Kangxi Emperor. Eventually Sangye Gyatso was toppled and killed by the Khoshut ruler Lha-bzang Khan in 1705. As a reward for ridding him of his old enemy the Dalai Lama, the Kangxi Emperor appointed Lha-bzang Khan Regent of Tibet (翊法恭順汗; Yìfǎ Gōngshùn Hán; 'Buddhism Respecting', 'Deferential Khan').[14] The Dzungar Khanate, a confederation of Oirat tribes based in parts of what is now Xinjiang, continued to threaten the Qing Empire and invaded Tibet in 1717. They took control of Lhasa with a 6,000 strong army and killed Lha-bzang Khan. The Dzungars held on to the city for three years and at the Battle of the Salween River defeated a Qing army sent to the region in 1718. The Qing did not take control of Lhasa until 1720, when the Kangxi Emperor sent a larger expedition force there to defeat the Dzungars.


The Kangxi Emperor incited anti-Muslim sentiment among the Mongols of Qinghai (Kokonor) in order to gain support against the Dzungar Oirat Mongol leader Galdan. Kangxi claimed that Chinese Muslims inside China such as Turkic Muslims in Qinghai were plotting with Galdan, who he falsely claimed converted to Islam. Kangxi falsely claimed that Galdan had spurned and turned his back on Buddhism and the Dalai Lama and that he was plotting to install a Muslim as ruler of China after invading it in a conspiracy with Chinese Muslims. Kangxi also distrusted Muslims of Turfan and Hami.[15]

Chinese nobility

The Kangxi Emperor granted the title of Wujing Boshi (五經博士; Wǔjīng Bóshì) to the descendants of Shao Yong, Zhu Xi, Zhuansun Shi, Ran family (Ran Qiu, Ran Geng, Ran Yong), Bu Shang, Yan Yan (disciple of Confucius), and the Duke of Zhou's offspring.[16][17]

Economic achievements

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The Kangxi Emperor returning to Beijing after a southern inspection tour in 1689.

The contents of the national treasury during the Kangxi Emperor's reign were:

1668 (7th year of Kangxi): 14,930,000 taels
1692: 27,385,631 taels
1702–1709: approximately 50,000,000 taels with little variation during this period
1710: 45,880,000 taels
1718: 44,319,033 taels
1720: 39,317,103 taels
1721 (60th year of Kangxi, second last of his reign): 32,622,421 taels
The Kangxi Emperor's Last Will and Testament

The reasons for the declining trend in the later years of the Kangxi Emperor's reign were a huge expenditure on military campaigns and an increase in corruption. To fix the problem, the Kangxi Emperor gave Prince Yong (the future Yongzheng Emperor) advice on how to make the economy more efficient.

Cultural achievements

A vase from the early Kangxi period (Guimet Museum)

During his reign, the Kangxi Emperor ordered the compilation of a dictionary of Chinese characters, which became known as the Kangxi Dictionary. This was seen as an attempt by the emperor to gain support from the Han Chinese scholar-bureaucrats, as many of them initially refused to serve him and remained loyal to the Ming dynasty. However, by persuading the scholars to work on the dictionary without asking them to formally serve the Qing imperial court, the Kangxi Emperor led them to gradually taking on greater responsibilities until they were assuming the duties of state officials.

In 1700, on the Kangxi Emperor's order, the compilation of a vast encyclopedia known as the Complete Classics Collection of Ancient China (completed during the reign of his successor Yongzheng), and a compilation of Tang poetry, the Complete Tang Poems.

The Kangxi Emperor also was interested in Western technology and wanted to import them to China. This was done through Jesuit missionaries, such as Ferdinand Verbiest, whom the Kangxi Emperor frequently summoned for meetings, or Karel Slavíček, who made the first precise map of Beijing on the emperor's order.

From 1711 to 1723, Matteo Ripa, an Italian priest sent to China by the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, worked as a painter and copper-engraver at the Qing court. In 1723, he returned to Naples from China with four young Chinese Christians, in order to groom them to become priests and send them back to China as missionaries. This marked the beginning of the Collegio dei Cinesi, sanctioned by Pope Clement XII to help the evangelization of Christianity in China. This Chinese Institute was the first school of Sinology in Europe, which would later develop to become the Istituto Orientale and the present day Naples Eastern University.

The Kangxi Emperor was also the first Chinese emperor to play a western musical instrument. Thomas Pereira taught him how to play the harpsichord,[18] and he employed Karel Slavíček as court musician. Slavíček was playing Spinet; later the emperor would play on it himself. China's famed blue and white porcelain probably reached its zenith during the Kangxi Emperor's reign.


Main article: Chinese Rites controversy

Jesuit astronomers of the Jesuit China missions, with the Kangxi Emperor (Beauvais, 1690–1705)

In the early decades of the Kangxi Emperor's reign, Jesuits played a large role in the imperial court. With their knowledge of astronomy, they ran the imperial observatory. Jean-François Gerbillon and Thomas Pereira served as translators for the negotiations of the Treaty of Nerchinsk. The Kangxi Emperor was grateful to the Jesuits for their contributions, the many languages they could interpret, and the innovations they offered his military in gun manufacturing[19] and artillery, the latter of which enabled the Qing Empire to conquer the Kingdom of Tungning.[20]

The Kangxi Emperor was also fond of the Jesuits' respectful and unobtrusive manner; they spoke the Chinese language well, and wore the silk robes of the elite.[21] In 1692, when Pereira requested tolerance for Christianity, the Kangxi Emperor was willing to oblige, and issued the Edict of Toleration,[22] which recognized Catholicism, barred attacks on their churches, and legalized their missions and the practice of Christianity by the Chinese people.[23]

However, controversy arose over whether Chinese Christians could still take part in traditional Confucian ceremonies and ancestor worship, with the Jesuits arguing for tolerance and the Dominicans taking a hard-line against foreign "idolatry". The Dominican position won the support of Pope Clement XI, who in 1705 sent Charles-Thomas Maillard de Tournon as his representative to the Kangxi Emperor, to communicate the ban on Chinese rites.[19][24] Through de Tournon, the Pope insisted on sending his own representative to Beijing to oversee Jesuit missionaries in China. Kangxi refused, wanting to keep missionary activities in China under his final oversight, managed by one of the Jesuits who had been living in Beijing for years.[25]

On 19 March 1715, Pope Clement XI issued the papal bull Ex illa die, which officially condemned Chinese rites.[19] In response, the Kangxi Emperor officially forbade Christian missions in China, as they were "causing trouble".[26]

Succession disputes

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The Kangxi Emperor on a tour, seated prominently on the deck of a junk.
Young Kangxi
Middle-aged Kangxi

A prolonged struggle between various princes emerged during the Kangxi Emperor's reign over who should inherit the throne – the Nine Lords' War (九子奪嫡).

In 1674 the Kangxi Emperor's first spouse, Empress Xiaochengren, died while giving birth to his second surviving son Yinreng, who at the age of two was named crown prince[27] – a Han Chinese custom, to ensure stability during a time of chaos in the south. Although the Kangxi Emperor left the education of several of his sons to others, he personally oversaw the upbringing of Yinreng, grooming him to be a perfect successor. Yinreng was tutored by the mandarin Wang Shan, who remained devoted to him, and spent the later years of his life trying to persuade the Kangxi Emperor to restore Yinreng as the crown prince.

Yinreng proved to be unworthy of the succession despite his father showing favoritism towards him. He was said to have beaten and killed his subordinates, and was alleged to have had sexual relations with one of his father's concubines, which was deemed incest and a capital offence. Yinreng also purchased young children from Jiangsu to satisfy his pedophiliac pleasure. In addition, Yinreng's supporters, led by Songgotu, gradually formed a "Crown Prince Party" (太子黨), that aimed to help Yinreng get the throne as soon as possible, even if it meant using unlawful methods.

Over the years, the Kangxi Emperor kept constant watch over Yinreng and became aware of his son's many flaws, while their relationship gradually deteriorated. In 1707, the emperor decided that he could no longer tolerate Yinreng's behavior, which he partially mentioned in the imperial edict as "never obeying ancestors' virtues, never obliged to my order, only doing inhumanity and devilry, only showing maliciousness and lust",[28] and decided to strip Yinreng of his position as crown prince. The Kangxi Emperor placed his oldest surviving son, Yinzhi, in charge of overseeing Yinreng's house arrest. Yinzhi, an unfavored Shu son, knowing he had no chance of being selected, recommended the eighth prince, Yinsi, and requested his father to order Yinreng's execution. The Kangxi Emperor was enraged and stripped Yinzhi of his titles. The emperor then commanded his subjects to cease debating the succession issue, but despite this and attempts to reduce rumours and speculation as to who the new crown prince might be, the imperial court's daily activities were disrupted. Yinzhi's actions caused the Kangxi Emperor to suspect that Yinreng might have been framed, so he restored Yinreng as crown prince in 1709, with the support of the 4th and 13th princes, and on the excuse that Yinreng had previously acted under the influence of mental illness.

A turtle-based stele with the Kangxi Emperor's inscription, erected in 1699 at the Nanjing mausoleum of the Hongwu Emperor, honouring the founder of the preceding Ming dynasty as surpassing the founders of the Tang and Song dynasties.[29]

In 1712, during the Kangxi Emperor's last inspection tour of the south, Yinreng, who was put in charge of state affairs during his father's absence, tried to vie for power again with his supporters. He allowed an attempt at forcing the Kangxi Emperor to abdicate when his father returned to Beijing. However, the emperor received news of the planned coup d'etat, and was so angry that he deposed Yinreng and placed him under house arrest again. After the incident, the emperor announced that he would not appoint any of his sons as crown prince for the remainder of his reign. He stated that he would place his Imperial Valedictory Will inside a box in the Palace of Heavenly Purity, which would only be opened after his death.

Seeing that Yinreng was completely disavowed, Yinsi and some other princes turned to support the 14th prince, Yinti, while the 13th prince supported Yinzhen. They formed the so-called "Eighth Lord Party" (八爺黨) and "Fourth Lord Party" (四爺黨).

Death and succession

Following the deposition of the crown prince, the Kangxi Emperor implemented groundbreaking changes in the political landscape. The 13th prince, Yinxiang, was placed under house arrest as well for cooperating with Yinreng. The eighth prince Yinsi was stripped of all his titles and only had them restored years later. The 14th prince Yinti, whom many considered to be the most likely candidate to succeed the Kangxi Emperor, was sent on a military campaign during the political conflict. Yinsi, along with the ninth and tenth princes, Yintang and Yin'e, pledged their support to Yinti.

In the evening of 20 December 1722, just before his death, the Kangxi Emperor called seven of his sons to assemble at his bedside. They were the third, fourth, eighth, ninth, tenth, sixteenth and seventeenth princes. After the Kangxi Emperor died, Longkodo announced that the emperor had selected the fourth prince, Yinzhen, as the new emperor. Yinzhen ascended to the throne and became known as the Yongzheng Emperor. The Kangxi Emperor was entombed at the Eastern Tombs in Zunhua, Hebei.

A legend concerning the Kangxi Emperor's will states that he chose Yinti as his heir, but Yinzhen forged the will in his own favour. It has, however, long been refuted by serious historians. Yinzhen, later the Yongzheng Emperor, has attracted many rumours, and some novel-like private books claim he did not die of illness but was assassinated by a swordswoman, Lü Siniang (呂四娘), the granddaughter of Lü Liuliang, though this is never treated seriously by scholars.[30]

Personality and achievements

Portrait of the old Kangxi Emperor in court dress

The Kangxi Emperor was a great consolidator of the Qing dynasty. The transition from the Ming dynasty to the Qing was a cataclysm whose central event was the fall of the capital Beijing to the peasant rebels led by Li Zicheng, then to the Manchus in 1644, and the installation of the five-year-old Shunzhi Emperor on their throne. By 1661, when the Shunzhi Emperor died and was succeeded by the Kangxi Emperor, the Qing conquest of China proper was almost complete. Leading Manchus were already using Chinese institutions and mastering Confucian ideology, while maintaining Manchu culture among themselves. The Kangxi Emperor completed the conquest, suppressed all significant military threats and revived the central government system inherited from the Ming with important modifications.

The Kangxi Emperor was a workaholic, rising early and retiring late, reading and responding to numerous memorials every day, conferring with his councilors and giving audiences – and this was in normal times; in wartime, he might be reading memorials from the warfront until after midnight or even, as with the Dzungar conflict, away on campaign in person.[31]

The Kangxi Emperor devised a system of communication that circumvented the scholar-bureaucrats, who had a tendency to usurp the power of the emperor. This Palace Memorial System involved the transfer of secret messages between him and trusted officials in the provinces, where the messages were contained in locked boxes that only he and the official had access to. This started as a system for receiving uncensored extreme-weather reports, which the emperor regarded as divine comments on his rule. However, it soon evolved into a general-purpose secret "news channel." Out of this emerged a Grand Council, which dealt with extraordinary, especially military, events. The council was chaired by the emperor and manned by his more elevated Han Chinese and Manchu household staff. From this council, the mandarin civil servants were excluded – they were left only with routine administration.[32]

The Kangxi Emperor managed to woo the Confucian intelligentsia into co-operating with the Qing government, despite their deep reservations about Manchu rule and loyalty to the Ming. He appealed to this very sense of Confucian values, for instance, by issuing the Sacred Edict in 1670. He encouraged Confucian learning and made sure that the civil service examinations were held every three years even during times of stress. When some scholars, out of loyalty to the Ming, refused to take the exams, he hit upon the expedient of a special exam to be taken by nomination. He personally sponsored the writing of the Ming Official History, the Kangxi Dictionary, a phrase-dictionary, a vast encyclopedia and an even vaster compilation of Chinese literature. To promote his image as a "sage ruler," he appointed Manchu and Chinese tutors with whom he studied the Confucian classics and worked intensively on Chinese calligraphy.[33]

In the one military campaign in which he actively participated, against the Dzungar Mongols, the Kangxi Emperor showed himself an effective military commander. According to Finer, the emperor's own written reflections allow one to experience "how intimate and caring was his communion with the rank-and-file, how discriminating and yet masterful his relationship with his generals".[34]

As a result of the scaling down of hostilities as peace returned to China after the Manchu conquest, and also as a result of the ensuing rapid increase of population, land cultivation and therefore tax revenues based on agriculture, the Kangxi Emperor was able first to make tax remissions, then in 1712 to freeze the land tax and corvée altogether, without embarrassing the state treasury (although the dynasty eventually suffered from this fiscal policy, as this preserved tax rates in perpetuity, preventing later emperors from adjusting the fiscal system and hindering attempts at modernisation).[35][36]



Imperial Noble Consort

Noble Consort



Noble Lady



Nurhaci (1559–1626)
Hong Taiji (1592–1643)
Empress Xiaocigao (1575–1603)
Shunzhi Emperor (1638–1661)
Empress Xiaozhuangwen (1613–1688)
Boli (d. 1654)
Kangxi Emperor (1654–1722)
Yangzhen (d. 1621)
Tulai (1606–1658)
Empress Xiaokangzhang (1638–1663)
Lady Gioro

In popular culture


Film and television

The Kangxi Emperor in film and television
Year Region Title Type Kangxi Emperor actor Notes
1984 Hong Kong The Deer and the Cauldron Television Andy Lau A Hong Kong television series adapted from The Deer and the Cauldron
1995 Hong Kong The Ching Emperor(天子屠龍) Television Julian Cheung TVB series
1998 Hong Kong The Deer and the Cauldron Television Steven Ma Hong Kong television series adapted from The Deer and the Cauldron
2000 Hong Kong/Taiwan The Duke of Mount Deer (小宝与康熙) Television Patrick Tam Adapted from Louis Cha's novel The Deer and the Cauldron.
2001 Mainland China Kangxi Dynasty Television Chen Daoming Adapted from Eryue He's novel The Great Kangxi Emperor
2006 Mainland China Secret History of Kangxi (康熙秘史) Television Xia Yu The fourth instalment in a four-part Chinese television series about the early history of the Qing dynasty
1998–2007 Mainland China Records of Kangxi's Travel Incognito Television Zhang Guoli A five-season Chinese television series about the Kangxi Emperor's inspection tours to southern China. During some of his tours, the emperor disguised himself as a commoner to conceal his identity so that he can blend into society and understand commoners' daily lives better.
2008 Mainland China The Deer and the Cauldron Television Wallace Chung Chinese television series adapted from The Deer and the Cauldron
2011 Mainland China Palace Television Kent Tong Chinese television series set in the Kangxi era of the Qing dynasty. A woman from the 21st century accidentally travels back in time to the 18th century.
Hong Kong The Life and Times of a Sentinel Television Power Chan Hong Kong television series about Fuquan attempting to overthrow the Kangxi Emperor
Mainland China Scarlet Heart Television Damian Lau Chinese television series set in the Kangxi era of the Qing dynasty. A woman from the 21st century accidentally travels back in time to the 18th century.
2013 Mainland China The Palace Film Winston Chao
2014 Mainland China The Deer and the Cauldron Television Wei Qianxiang Chinese television series adapted from The Deer and the Cauldron
2014 Hong Kong Gilded Chopsticks Television Elliot Ngok Hong Kong television series about a chef who befriends Yinzhen (the future Yongzheng Emperor) and aids him in the power struggle for the succession.
2016 Mainland China Chronicle of Life Television Hawick Lau Chinese television series about a romance between the Kangxi Emperor and his childhood love.
2017 Mainland China Legend of Dragon Pearl Television Qin Junjie Chinese television series about Kangxi at the beginning of his reign.
2019 Mainland China Dreaming Back to the Qing Dynasty[40] Television Liu Jun
2022 Mainland China The Long River Television Luo Jin Chinese television series about Kangxi's efforts to recruit talented officials to manage the Yellow River.

Video games

See also


  1. ^ Chenhan (宸翰, Chénhàn) seal used for calligraphy and handwritten works.
  2. ^ Note that Xuanye was born in May 1654, and was therefore less than seven years old at the time. Both Spence 2002 and Oxnam 1975 (p. 1) nonetheless claim that he was "seven years old." Dennerline 2002 (p. 119) and Rawski 1998 (p. 99) indicate that he was "not yet seven years old." Following East Asian age reckoning, Chinese documents concerning the succession say that Xuanye was eight sui (Oxnam 1975, p. 62).
  3. ^ The Kangxi Emperor's second cousin and elder sister of Noble Consort Wenxi.
  4. ^ The Kangxi Emperor's first cousin and elder sister of Imperial Noble Consort Quehui.
  5. ^ The Kangxi Emperor's first cousin and younger sister of Empress Xiaoyiren.
  6. ^ The Kangxi Emperor's second cousin and younger sister of Empress Xiaozhaoren.
  7. ^ The Kangxi Emperor's first cousin-twice-removed.
  8. ^ The Kangxi Emperor's third cousin.


  1. ^ "Emperor Kangxi - The Emperor Who Reigned for the Longest Period in Chinese History". Cultural China. Archived from the original on 21 March 2013. Retrieved 21 March 2013.
  2. ^ Magill, Frank N.; Taylor, Larissa Juliet, eds. (2006). Great lives from history (First ed.). Pasadena, CA: Salem Press. ISBN 978-1-58765-222-6.
  3. ^ "NOVEMBER 9, 2018 BY - The Kangxi Emperor". Columbia University. 9 November 2018.
  4. ^ Rowe (2009), p. 63.
  5. ^ Giles 1912, p. 40.
  6. ^ a b Peterson, Bennet. Notable Women of China. p. 328.
  7. ^ Crossley, Pamela (June 1983). "restricted access The Tong in Two Worlds: Cultural Identities in Liaodong and Nurgan during the 13th-17th centuries". Ch'ing-shih Wen-t'i. 4 (9). Johns Hopkins University Press: 21–46.
  8. ^ Spence, Jonathan D. (1974). Emperor of China: Self-portrait of Kʻang-hsi (Vintage books ed.). New York. pp. xvi–xvii, 36–38. ISBN 0-679-72074-X. OCLC 18931977.((cite book)): CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  9. ^ Manthorpe 2008, p. 108.
  10. ^ Bergman, Karl (2009), "Tainan Grand Matsu Temple", Tainan City Guide, Tainan: Word Press.
  11. ^ "Tainan Grand Matsu Temple", Chinatownology, 2015.
  12. ^ Spence 1974, p. xv.
  13. ^ Gorelova 2002, p. 36.
  14. ^ Cordier & Pelliot 1922, p. 33.
  15. ^ Perdue, Peter C (2009). China Marches West: The Qing Conquest of Central Eurasia (reprint ed.). Harvard University Press. pp. 191, 192. ISBN 978-0674042025.
  16. ^ 不詳 (21 August 2015). 新清史. 朔雪寒. GGKEY:ZFQWEX019E4.
  17. ^ H.S. Brunnert; V.V. Hagelstrom (15 April 2013). Present Day Political Organization of China. Routledge. pp. 493–494. ISBN 978-1-135-79795-9.
  18. ^ Spence 1974, p. 73.
  19. ^ a b c Mantienne, p. 180
  20. ^ Les Missions Etrangeres, p. 83
  21. ^ Manteigne, p. 178
  22. ^ "In the Light and Shadow of an Emperor: Tomás Pereira, S.J. (1645–1708), the Kangxi Emperor and the Jesuit Mission in China", An International Symposium in Commemoration of the 3rd Centenary of the death of Tomás Pereira, S.J., Lisbon, Portugal and Macau, China, 2008, archived from the original on 22 August 2009((citation)): CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  23. ^ Neill, S. (1964). A History of Christian Missions, Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, pp. 189-190.
  24. ^ Aldridge, Alfred Owen, Masayuki Akiyama, Yiu-Nam Leung. Crosscurrents in the Literatures of Asia and the West, p. 54 [1]
  25. ^ Spence 1974, pp. xviii-xix, 76-79.
  26. ^ Li, Dan J., trans. (1969). China in Transition, 1517–1911, New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Company, p. 22
  27. ^ Spence 1974, p. 120.
  28. ^ original words:不法祖德,不遵朕训,惟肆恶虐众,暴戾淫乱
  29. ^ 明孝陵两大“碑石之谜”被破解 Archived 18 October 2012 at the Wayback Machine (Solving the two great riddles of the Ming Xiaoling's stone tablets). People's Daily, 13 June 2003. Quote regarding the Kangxi Emperor's stele text and its meaning: "清朝皇帝躬祀明朝皇帝 ... 禦書“治隆唐宋”(意思是讚揚朱元璋的功績超過了唐太宗李世民、宋高祖趙匡胤)"
  30. ^ 吕四娘刺雍正 只是个传说 Archived 21 February 2014 at archive.today
  31. ^ Finer (1997), pp. 1134–5
  32. ^ Spence, The Search for Modern China (2013), pp. 67-68
  33. ^ Spence, The Search for Modern China (2013), pp. 56-58.
  34. ^ Finer (1997), p. 1142.
  35. ^ Finer (1997), pp. 1156–7.
  36. ^ Hammond, Kenneth J. (2004). From Yao to Mao: 5000 Years of Chinese History Part III (PDF). pp. 7–8.
  37. ^ Eryue He (2018). Kangxi Emperor (in Chinese). 长江文艺出版社. ISBN 978-7535468987.
  38. ^ Cha, Louis (2018). Minford, John (ed.). The Deer and the Cauldron: 3 Volume Set. Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0190836054.
  39. ^ Liang, Yusheng (1956). Qijian Xia Tianshan (in Chinese). China: Guangdong Travel and Tourism Press. ISBN 9787805216461.
  40. ^ 网易 (23 January 2019). "《梦回大清》主演阵容新鲜出炉 众主演颜值爆表". ent.163.com. Retrieved 1 March 2019.

Bibliography and further reading

Kangxi Emperor House of Aisin-GioroBorn: 4 May 1654 Died: 20 December 1722 Regnal titles Preceded byShunzhi Emperor Emperor of the Qing dynastyEmperor of China 1661–1722 Succeeded byYongzheng Emperor