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Instability of the Ming Emperors

Following my posts on England and the Byzantines.

Copying from the first post: "I'll put in codes at the end of lines. P for Peace, in my opinion; p for challenges to the rule. I don't count foreign wars, or extra-familial foreign invasion. I for the succession passing as Intended, i for not. The latter probably implies a peace failure before or after. ? for ambiguity -- are plots caught by the secret police worth counting as a threat to the peace? If the crown passes to the rightful heir because the heir took it by force I count that as 'i', since no one intends to be killed or deposed."

Hongwu, founder. Chosen son died of illness. -I
Jianwen, grandson. Fought uncles, was overthrown by one. pi
Yongle, uncle. PI.
Hongxi, eldest son. Died very quickly. PI
Xuande, son. PI
Zhengtong, son. captured by Mongols, so brother took over, but he refused to abdicate on return, Zhengtong eventually over threw him. pI?
Jingtai, brother regent-usurper. p-?
Chenghua, son of Zhengtong. Concubine aborted or killed most of his children. P?I
Hongzhi, surviving son. "the sole perpetually monogamous emperor in Chinese history". PI
Zhengde, son. Died childless. PI
Jiajing, grandson of Chenghua. So cruel his concubines plotted to kill him. P?I
Longqing, son. short reign. PI
Wanli, son. Political fight over succession that undermined governance. PI
Taichang, son. died after a month. PI
Tianqi, son. Illiterate carpenter. Uprisings, sonless. pI
Chongzhen, brother. Rebellions, Manchu invasion. pi

I have to say this does seem a lot more stable than the other two. Given the number of sons from concubines, surprisingly little interfamilial fighting. Caveat: Chinese pages probably get less Anglophone attention than English ones, so it's possible there's a bunch of rebellions not mentioned in the short biographies, turning some P into p.

I didn't make many notes of these because it wasn't the point here, but cruelty and incompetence got mentioned a lot, as did emperors going on strike and refusing to do their work, or at least show up personally for meetings.

It's possible Chinese heavy civil service and other institutions add a lot to monarchic stability.

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Damien Sullivan

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