Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/Chu Yü-chien

CHU Yü-chien 朱聿鍵 (childhood name 長壽) , May 25, 1602–1646, Southern Ming prince who rule in Fukien for about thirteen months during the years 1645–46, under the reign-title Lung-wu 隆武, was an eighth generation descendant of Chu Ching 朱桱 (the first Prince of T'ang 唐王, d. 1415) who in turn was the twenty-third son of the founder of the Ming dynasty, Emperor T'ai-tsu. Chu Ching took up his residence in 1408 at Nan-yang, Honan, where the family estates were located. Chu Yü-chien's grandfather, Chu Shih-huang 朱碩熿 (d. 1632), the eighth Prince of T'ang, after designating Chu Yü chien's father, Chu Ch'i-shêng 朱器墭, as heir to the estates, was influenced by a concubine in favor of the latter's own son, and in consequence found cause to put Chu Ch'i-shêng in prison. Chu Yü-chien accompanied his father to prison, but was released upon his father's death. In 1632 he succeeded his grandfather as the ninth Prince of T'ang. Two years later, when the menace from bandits (see under Li Tzŭ-ch'êng) was growing, he contributed, largely from family funds, to improve the defenses of Nan-yang, and re­quested permission of Emperor I-tsung (see under Chu Yu-chien) to increase his militia by 3,000 men. The request was denied owing to a regulation of the Ming house which forbade princes to maintain a force larger than a small personal bodyguard.

When the Manchu troops under Ajige [q. v.] threatened the capital (1636) Chu Yü-chien raised an army and set out to aid the defence. Upon reaching Yü-chou (present Fang-ch'êng), Honan, he ignored the local officials' request to desist from marching to Peking; but later, when warned by imperial edict, returned to his estates. For this sincere, though perhaps misguided, act of patriotism he was soon reduced to a commoner—the title of prince passing to his younger brother, Chu Yü-mo 朱聿鏌 (d. 1641). He was imprisoned in stocks at Fêng-yang, Anhwei, where he managed to survive until 1644 when he was freed by the short-lived government under Chu Yu-sung [q. v.] at Nanking, and ordered to take up residence at P'ing-lo, Kwangsi. When he reached Hangchow on his way to P'ing-lo, he learned of the fall of Nanking (June 8, 1645) to the Manchus. He immediately urged Chu Ch'ang-fang (see under Chu Yu-sung) to set up a court at Hangchow to carry on the Ming cause, but the latter declined and sur­rendered to the Manchus.

At Hangchow Chu Yü-chien met Chêng Hung-k'uei [q. v.] and accompanied him to Foochow where he obtained the support of Chêng Chih-lung [q. v.] and a number of Ming loyalists, including Huang Tao-chou [q. v.] and and Chang K'ên-t'ang 張肯堂 (T. 載寧, H. 鯤淵, chin-shih of 1625, d. 1651). On July 29, 1645, Chu Yü-ch'ien assumed the title "administrator of the realm" (監國) and on August 18, 1645, proclaimed himself emperor. About the same time (August 19) the Prince of Lu (see under Chu I-hai) also assumed the title "administrator of the realm" at Shaohsing, Chekiang. Chu Yü-chien sent an emissary to demand the allegiance of Chu I-hai, but the latter declined to comply. Thereafter several attempts were made by the two courts to reconcile their differences, but with only partial success. Although Chu Yü-chien did his utmost to restore the Ming regime, he soon discovered that Cheng Chih-lung's support was lukewarm and could not be relied upon.

Late in 1645 the remnant of Li Tzŭ-ch'êng's [q. v.] forces, defeated by the Manchus, fled southward into Hunan and declared their allegiance to Ho T'êng-chiao [q. v.] who was thus enabled to establish temporarily "Thirteen Military Centers" (十三鎭) in Hunan. When this news was brought to Foochow, Chu Yü-chien immediately appointed Ho T'êng-chiao a Grand Secretary with the title Earl Ting-hsing 定興伯. Encouraged by the victories in Hunan and tired of the domination of Chêng Chih-lung, Chu Yü-chien accepted Ho's invitation to move his court northwest to Changsha by way of Kan-chou, Kiangsi. Leaving Foo­chow early in 1646, he reached Yen-p'ing just as the Ch'ing forces were making sweeping advances in Kiangsi. During the summer another Ch'ing army penetrated Chekiang as far as Shaohsing, forcing the Ming prince, Chu I-hai, to take flight by sea to Chusan. Consequently Chêng Chih-lung lost interest in the Ming cause and withdrew his men, leaving the approaches to Foochow unguarded. On September 30 the Ch'ing troops under the Manchu prince, Bolo [q. v.], marched through Hsien-hsia-kuan, a strategic pass near the border of Chekiang and Fukien. A day earlier Chu Yü-chien had fled from Yen-p'ing towards T'ing-chou, on the border of Kiangsi and Fukien, in an attempt to join Ho T'êng-chiao's troops. On October 2 the Ch'ing forces took Yen-p'ing and the army was divided into two detachments—one, led by Bolo, marched against Foochow where Chêng Chih-lung surrendered; and the other, led by Li Ch'êng-tung [q. v.], pursued Chu Yü-chien who was taken captive at T'ing-chou on October 6 and later put to death. The Prince of Kuei (see under Chu Yu-lang) conferred upon him the posthumous title Emperor Ssŭ-wên 思文皇帝, which in 1657 was changed to Shao-tsung Hsiang Huang-ti 紹宗襄皇帝.

After Chu Yü-chien's capture by Ch'ing troops, his fourth younger brother, Chu Yü-yüeh 朱聿𨮁 (d. 1647), who succeeded to the title, Prince of T'ang, after Chu Yü-chien's en- thronement, escaped by sea to Canton where he established a court and was proclaimed emperor (December 11, 1646) with the reign-title, Shao-wu 紹武. His was, however, a brief and ill-fated reign for he was oppressed on the one hand by the opposing forces of Chu Yu-lang whom he defeated on January 7, 1647 at San-shui, Kwangtung, and on the other by the Ch'ing forces. The latter, led by Li Ch'êng-tung conquered Canton during the month of January. Chu Yü-yüeh, rather than be captured, committed suicide.

Chu Yü-chien is said to have been tall of stature, with a clear and loud voice. He was an able writer and composed some edicts himself. An ardent reader, he is said to have brought with him several cart-loads of books when he fled from Yen-p'ing to T'ing-chou. In the course of his brief reign he issued copper coins bearing the reign-titles, Lung-wu.


[M.1/118/7b; M.59/3; Fukien t'ung-chih (1922) 10/17a; 隆武遺事 Lung-wu i-shih, 思文大紀 Ssŭ-wên ta-chi, and 鹿樵紀聞 Lu-ch'iao chi-wên in 痛史 T'ung-shih; 明通鑑 Ming t'ung-chien 85/11b and Ming t'ung chien fu-pein (坿編) 2下/4a; Huang Tsung-hsi [q. v.], Hsing-ch'ao lu; 明季南略 Ming-chi nan-lüeh 11; 東南紀事 Tung-nan chi-shih in 邵武徐氏叢書 Shao-wu Hsü-shih ts'ung-shu 1/1a.]

George A. Kennedy