Emperor Yongzheng


Emperor Yongzheng -The Enigma'The Enigma'

(b. 1678 - d. 1735)

"My ears and eyes can hear and see what is going on all over the country."



About Emperor Yongzheng

Yongzheng was not in direct line for the throne and in order to gain power, he imprisoned or executed many of his siblings. He was the fourth son of the great Emperor Kangxi and the fourth emperor of the Qing dynasty, reigning from 1722-1735. Ruling did not come naturally to him, but he accomplished much in the 12 years he was Emperor – stemming corruption, stablizing the government, and increasing state profits.

The harsh measures he took during his rule seemed to war with the private nature of the man himself. He was fascinated with Western culture, and collected curiosities such as eye glasses, clocks, and scientific instruments. His eccentric character is revealed in unconventional works of art that hint at the mystery of his true personality. Although official records claim he died peacefully, he had made many enemies, and according to legend, was murdered by the daughter of a man he had ordered executed.

Within the Forbidden City

Emperor Yongzheng had access to every part of the Forbidden City. Before his reign, his father Emperor Kangxi moved the political headquarters into the emperor's residence in the Inner Court, the Palace of Heavenly Purity. When Yongzheng took the throne, he moved the official residence to the Hall of Mental Cultivation, and had his own secret passageway built, giving him access to places that others didn't know existed.

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Related Objects

Pu Yi SealCeremonial armour and helmet
The emperor's role as head of the military required special ceremonial "armour." Worn for reviews, and to awe potential enemies, it was made more for show than active battle.



Pu Yi Summer RobeSeal
Emperor Yongzheng's motto was a three-word phrase translated as "Being Ruler is Tough," and was inscribed on this seal. At the empror's wish, copies of the seal were placed in different rooms for his use and as a reminder of his role.


Album of Emperor Yongzheng Enjoying Various Activities
This unconventional fourteen-sheet album presents images of the enigmatic Yongzheng assuming various ethnicities and characters in serene settings – always accompanied by an animal or a bird.




Emperor Yongzheng followed his father Emperor Kangxi's lead, embracing Western sciences and technology. This exquisite plate is one of a set of eight using Western production techniques, and is a precursor to the exceptional Chinese painted enamel ware that reached its peak during Yongzheng's reign.


Portrait of Emperor Yongzheng
Emperor Yongzheng enjoyed the fame of being a cultivated man, and had himself portrayed appreciating his classic study and cultured surroundings.