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(October 26, 1491 - April 20, 1521) China


Ming emperor


Emperor Wuzong of the Ming Dynasty, Zhu Houzhao (1491-1521), was a son of Emperor Xiaozong Zhu Youtang and the tenth emperor of the Ming Dynasty. His reign was from 1505 AD to 1521 AD under the era name of Zhengde.

Emperor Wuzong was a controversial emperor in history. Some argued that he was incontinent, violent, weird, shameless and fatuous, but some others believed, on the basis of historical research in recent years, that he was an emperor with strong personality who pursued individual liberation, freedom and equality.

Devoting himself entirely to pleasure-seeking, he relied on his eunuchs for information on the government. Corruption became rampant, public offices were bought and sold, and excessive taxes were levied on the people. Because the eunuchs who dominated the government were for the most part northerners, the southern provinces were without representation, and their situation was particularly bad.

Rebellions were frequent there, and large numbers of people turned to banditry. Finally, in 1510, the Zhengde emperor became aware of the corruption and ordered the execution of the chief eunuch, Liu Jin, whose house was found to be piled with rare jewels, gold, and silver.

But eunuchs still retained influential positions within the government, for the emperor refused to devote himself to statecraft. Instead, he delighted in traveling incognito throughout the country - on one occasion he was nearly captured in a Mongol raid - and spending his time learning exotic languages. He mastered Tibetan, Mongol, and Juchen and gave himself titles in these languages. Hundreds of officials who criticized his eccentric behaviour were tortured, killed, or demoted.

The young emperor drowned when his pleasure boat capsized and was buried in Kangling, one of the Mausoleums of 13 Emperors of the Ming Dynasty.


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