Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/Yin-jêng

YIN-jêng 胤礽, June 16, 1674–1725, Jan. 27, one-time Heir Apparent to the throne, was the second son of Emperor Shêng-tsu (see under Hsüan-yeh). His mother, Empress Hsiao-ch'êng (孝誠仁皇后, Feb. 4, 1654–1674), was a niece of Songgotu [q. v.]. She was married to the Emperor in 1665 and in 1669 gave birth to a son who died in infancy. She herself died on the day that Yin-jêng was born and her death was greatly lamented by the Emperor. Perhaps in deference to her memory, or because she was descended from a noble family, her son, Yin-jêng, was proclaimed Heir Apparent (January 26, 1676) and was brought up as such. The Emperor himself taught Yin-jêng to read, and from the age of six (sui) onward the child had for his tutors such scholarly officials as Chang Ying, Li Kuang-ti, Hsiung Tz'ŭ-li and T'ang Pin [qq. v.]. He studied both Chinese and Manchu, was an able horseman, and was skilled in the use of the bow and arrow. In the years 1696 and 1697, when the Emperor twice led the expeditionary force against the Eleuths (see under Fiyanggû), Yin-jêng was both times made regent to look after affairs in Peking. But even before the Emperor returned to the capital is 1697 he was informed that Yin-jêng was associating with men of evil character and indulging in immoral practices. When the Emperor returned, he ordered the execution of several of the officials involved.

Nevertheless the prince remained in has father's favor and was given a garden named Hsi hua-yüan 西花園, near the Emperor's own villa, Ch'ang-ch'un yüan (see under Hsüan-yeh). When Yin-jêng set out with the Emperor on a projected tour of South China in 1702, he took ill at Tê-chou, Shantung, and his granduncle, Songgotu, was summoned to look after him. The Emperor abandoned the journey and returned to Peking. Before long rumors were afloat that Songgotu was too active in promoting the interests of the Heir Apparent with the consequence that in 1703 Songgotu was imprisoned, and there died. As Yin-jêng gradually fell into disfavor, several of his brothers begin to form cliques, in the hope of taking his place. In 1708, while passing the summer in Jehol, Emperor Shêng-tsu angrily declared Yin-jêng to be a culprit, charged him with having insulted princes and high officials, with having usurped power, and with extravagance and immorality. He also affirmed that Yin-jêng had been plotting against him and had even intended to murder him--perhaps to avenge the death of Songgotu. Yin-jêng was deprived of his position as Heir Apparent and placed in confinement, but he retained the pity of his father who thought him insane. Hence when it was discovered that the eldest prince, Yin-t'i [禔 q.v.], had employed Lamas to cast evil spells on Yin-jêng, the latter was pardoned in 1709 and restored to his position as Heir Apparent. Yin-t'i was placed in confinement and the other princes were admonished to abandon their struggles for the throne. However, in the ensuing three years Yin-jêng's condition became worse and the Emperor abandoned hope of effecting a cure. Consequently in 1712 Yin-jêng was again degraded and placed in perpetual confinement.

The Emperor firmly resolved not to designate another Heir Apparent, even in defiance of the repeated requests of such high officials as Chao Shên-ch'iao [q. v.] in 1713, Wang Shan [q. v.] in 1717 and in 1721, and Chu T'ien-pao 朱天保 (T. 九如, H. 鶴田, chin-shih of 1713) in 1718. For their temerity, and because they were each suspected of promoting their own candidates, Wang was reprimanded and would have been banished, except for his advanced age; and Chu was executed. As to Yin-jêng he did not resign himself entirely to his fate, for in 1715 it was discovered that a physician who had attended Yinjeng's wife had acted as an intermediary in passing secret letters (written in invisible ink) between Yin-jêng and a member of the imperial clan. The prisoner thus hoped to learn if he might be released and whether it would be possible for him to be appointed commander of the armies in the northwest. The physician and others involved were severely punished.

When Yin-chên [q. v.] ascended the throne, late in 1722, he made Hung-hsi 弘皙, heir of Yin-jêng, a prince of the second degree with the designation Li (理郡王). Yin-jêng died in prison in 1725. He was posthumously given the rank of Li Ch'in-wang 理親王 and was canonized as 密. In 1728 Hung-hsi was raised to a prince of the first degree, but eleven years later was deprived of that rank by Emperor Kao-tsung. After the degradation of Yin-jêng succeeding Ch'ing rulers declined, except for a short time in the Kuang-hsi reign-period, to announce formally the choice of an Heir Apparent. Yin-chên established the practice, followed by later rulers, of placing the name of his chosen successor in a sealed box behind a tablet in the hall, Ch'ien-ch'ing kung 乾清宮, a tablet on which are carved the characters, Shêng-ta kuang-ming 正大光明. The name was made public only after the Emperor's death.

It is worth noting that the missionary, Matteo Ripa 馬國賢 (1682–1745), was present at a scene which took place at the Ch'ang-ch'un yüan in 1712 when the princes, and the Heir Apparent in particular, were subjected to punishment. He relates the incident in his Memoirs.


[1/226/32; Ch'ing Huang-shih ssŭ-p'u (see Fu-lung-an) 3/12b; Tung-hua lu, K'ang-hsi 42:5, 47:9, 48:1, 51:10; Memoirs of Father Ripa, London, 1855 p. 83.]

Fang Chao-ying