Monday, 18 November 2013

The Lesser-known Stories of the Emperors - Emperor’s Qianlong’s Death

Compiled from Secrets of the Chinese Palace
        Emperor Qianlong was one of the most famous of all China’s emperors and it is not surprising that as a result, there are many folk tales told about him. One of those which is told with the most relish concerns his death.
        According to the Qing Dynasty family history The Jade Disc, the natural mother of Qianlong was Ms Niugulu, a Yellow Banner Manchu, who was the second wife of Prince Yinzhen. After Yinzhen became Emperor Yongzhen, Ms Niugulu was given the title Xiu Guifei. After Qianlong became emperor, he made his mother the empress dowager. Qianlong showed strong filial devotion to Ms Niugulu, at one time writing a poem to commemorate the kindness showed towards his upbringing. He built a tower out of gold, putting pieces of her hair that had fallen out while combing into the tower, thereby giving it the name ‘Golden Hair Pagoda.’
        There was another popular story that Qianlong was the son of the Chen family from Haining in Zhejiang. It is said that when Yongzheng was a prince, he had some exchanges with the Chen family of Haining. On the same day one year later, both families gave birth to children. Yongzheng’s concubine gave birth to a daughter, while the Chen family gave birth to a son. Yongzheng had hoped for a son who would ascend to the throne, hence having a daughter was a great letdown for him. He ordered people to swap the Chen baby with his daughter. When the Chen family found out that their baby had been swapped, they were too afraid to pursue the matter and kept silent. This son grew up to be Emperor Qianlong. Emperor Qianlong undertook tours to Zhejiang six times, in four of which he visited the Chen family in Haining. It is said this was because he wanted to visit his real parents.
        Naturally, there was a lot of conspiracies surrounding this story. Yongzheng had 10 princes and six princesses, with Qianlong ranking fourth. In this case, there would have been no real need to swap the children and let someone else’s son become emperor. It is said that Qianlong went to Zhejiang in order to inspect the engineering work on the dykes along the Qiantang River. Although he visited the Chen family and stayed in their garden four times, it was because the Chen family garden was the most famous in Haining, making it the ideal place to stop over. It is contended that the Chen family home was several miles from the Chen garden and Qianlong did not visit any of the sons and grandsons of the Chen family.
        There is also another story that before Yongzheng became emperor, he went hunting on the Re River and shot a deer whose blood he then drank. Since deer blood was a very powerful aphrodisiac, Yongzheng grabbed the nearest palace maiden and slaked his libido upon her. This palace maiden became pregnant and just before she was due to deliver, Yongzheng’s father, Kangxi, found out about it. Fearing that it would affect the reputation of the imperial family, he ordered people to take her to a shed to give birth. The palace maiden delivered a son in the shed and that boy went on to become Emperor Qianlong.  

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