Emperor Kangxi: Longest Reigning Monarch in China

Kangxi, the second emperor of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) after the establishment of its capital in today’s Beijing, reigned over China for 61years, making him one of the longest-reigning rulers ever, not only in this country but in the world.

Emperor Kangxi Portrait

Kangxi, born Aisin Giorro Xuanye, was a prodigious child. He was extremely interested in reading all kinds of books, including geology, medicine, agronomy and the arts, such as poetry and literature.

Kangxi ascended to the throne when he was only eight years old after his father died.

At the morning reception at the imperial court on the first day of his reign, Kangxi was accompanied by the dowager and four senior ministers chosen by his father as regents. When it was time to conclude the meeting, the dowager asked the boy emperor if he had anything to say to the dozens of high-ranking officials attending the conference.

The boy looked down at the crowd from the throne and said solemnly: “My only wish is to see the country ruled in great order, my subjects to all enjoy happy lives and the whole world to live in peace.”All those present were awed by the sincere statement of an eight-year-old boy’s political ambition.

One day in 1664, when Kangxi was 10, he was presented with a rare parrot by a general, who thought the boy would like a little beautiful pet bird. But the boy asked the general if he could recall the story of an ancient king who lost his kingdom because of his indulgence in raising rare cranes.

The boy emperor then said: “If today I accept your present, then many others will follow suit. If we indulge ourselves in such pursuits, we will not be far away from the doom of our dynasty.”

Emperor Kangxi personally took over the reins of the imperial court when he reached the age of 14. Immediately, the young emperor grouped his forces and smashed the political clique organized by Aobai, one of the four regents, who had long planned a coup. This surprising act greatly consolidated Kangxi’s power in the imperial court.

As an exponent of Confucianism, Emperor Kangxi promoted Confucius’s ideas and principles all around the country.

He also adopted a series of steps to promote agricultural production, reduce taxes and levies and abolish aristocrats’ special privileges in enclosing land.

Then, Emperor Kangxi launched a series of military campaigns to crush local resistance movements and the revolt of three key feudatories, ensuring the unification of the country.

In 1683, Chinese military leader and national hero Zheng Chenggong recaptured Taiwan after 38 years of Dutch colonial rule. The next year, Emperor Kangxi established a Qing government in Taiwan.

After winning two key victories in battles against the invading Russians in the northern frontier, the Qing Dynasty and the Russian Empire signed the Sino-Russia Nerchinsk Treaty in 1689, legally designating areas south of the Heilongjiang River and in the Ussuri River valley as the territory of China.

In 1720, the Qing troops finally expelled the Dzungars, who had invaded Tibet for three years. Then Emperor Kangxi introduced a new regulation stipulating that the titles of the Dalai Lama and the Bainqen, two chief religious leaders in the Tibetan region, must be granted by the central government.

Thanks to the “good ruling” of Emperor Kangxi, the long-term stability and prosperity under his reign turned China into the largest, most populous and richest empire in the world at the time.

Also, the prosperity created by Kangxi lasted for more than 100 years, which, however, was apparently the last “heyday” in the two-millennium-long history of Chinese dynasties.

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