Thursday 25 September 2014

The Unusual Abdication of the Qianlong Emperor

The Qianlong Emperor (née Hongli, Beijing, China, 25th September 1711 – Beijing, China, 7th February 1799)

The Qianlong Emperor, 1736

We are going very far afield today, far from the salons of Europe and all the way to China to learn of an Emperor who abdicated in favour of his son. Well, officially, anyway.

Qianlong, the 6th Qing Emperor of China, came to the throne in 1735 and ruled absolutely over his territories. His grandfather, the Kangxi Emperor, had enjoyed a record-breaking sixty one year rule, the longest in history and in the year he inherited the title of Emperor, Qianlong swore that he would not attempt to rule for longer than his grandfather.

In fact, as that date approached, Qianlong showed no sign of slowing down so, in autumn 1795, he officially declared that he would abdicate in 1796, just before he broke Kangxi's more than six decade record. With remarkable forward planning, he had already ensured that he had the perfect retirement property in 1776 when the Qianlong Garden was completed, held in readiness for his eventual abdication.

As he had promised, Qianlong did indeed abdicate the throne in favour of his son and prepared to move into the Palace of Tranquil Longevity within the Qianlong Garden, though in reality he never actually got around to moving after all! He passed the title of Emperor on to his son, the Jiaqing Emperor, in 1795, and took the title of Retired Emperor for himself.

However, Qianlong might have given up his title, but he did not give up his power. His abdication was in name only and he continued to rule absolutely until his death in 1799, keeping his promise to his grandfather in a most canny fashion indeed!

Life in the Georgian Court, true tales of 18th century royalty, is available at the links below.

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Drayton Bird said...

So how did he control things afterwards? I never cease to be amazed at the range of your stories.

Catherine Curzon said...

He just kept on as he had been for sixty years, the only difference was that he was no longer called Emporer. Quite a good plan!

Carol Hedges said...

That's the way to do it!

Catherine Curzon said...