The Ming Emperor Yongle
- PUBLISHED: February 2002
- SUBJECT LISTING: Asian Studies / China, Literary Studies
- BIBLIOGRAPHIC INFORMATION: 286 Pages, 6 x 9 in, 12 illus.
- ISBN: 9780295981246
- Publisher: University of Washington Press
The reign of Emperor Yongle, or “Perpetual Happiness,” was one of the most dramatic and significant in Chinese history. It began with civil war and a bloody coup, saw the construction of the Forbidden City, the completion of the Grand Canal, consolidation of the imperial bureaucracy, and expansion of China’s territory into Mongolia, Manchuria, and Vietnam.
Beginning with an hour-by-hour account of one day in Yongle’s court, Shih-shan Henry Tsai presents the multiple dimensions of the life of Yongle (Zhu Di, 1360-1424) in fascinating detail. Tsai examines the role of birth, education, and tradition in molding the emperor’s personality and values, and paints a rich portrait of a man characterized by stark contrasts. Synthesizing primary and secondary source materials, he has crafted a colorful biography of the most renowned of the Ming emperors.
The open access publication of this book was made possible by a grant from the James P. Geiss and Margaret Y. Hsu Foundation.
Authors & Contributors
Shih-shan Henry Tsai is professor emeritus of history and former director of Asian studies at the University of Arkansas. He is the author of several books, including Eunuchs in the Ming Dynasty.
List of Maps
A Day in the Life of Yongle's Court: February 23, 1423
The Formative Years, 1360-1382
The Years of Waiting, 1382-1398
The Years of Successional Struggle, 1398-1402
The Years of Reconstruction: Goverment and Politics, 1402-1420
The Years of Rehabilitation: Society and Economy, 1402-1421
The Emperor of Culture
Yongle and the Mongols
The Price of Glory
Appendix: The Children of Emperor Hongwu
Glossary of Chinese Characters
A skillful biography of a figure who might be called China’s Peter the Great. The son of the founder of the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) removed the capital to Beijing, built the Great Wall, finished the Grand Canal, and made the court bureaucracy even more powerful and efficient, all the while encouraging exploration abroad (and putting down rebellion at home).- Vancouver Sun
A colorful historical biography of one of the most revered emperors of China and a vivid portrait of life during the Ming dynasty. Scholar Tsai’s lively writing will infect even non-scholarly audiences with his own evident enthusiasm for his subject.- Publishers Weekly
Yongle traveled with an entourage of government officials and courtiers and logistical personnel that make American presidential trips look puny—and the Emperor always took with him 10,000 cavalry soldiers and 40,000 foot soldiers. Yongle, in short, never did anything in a small way.- Nicholas D. Kristof, New York Times
Through a judicious use of primary and secondary sources, this well-researched biographical study offers a front-row view of Yongle, perhaps the most famous of all Ming emperors, and his desires, fears, and continual search to expand and consolidate Chinese power. Tsai’s very readable work will be useful to undergraduate and graduate students and professional scholars of Chinese history.- A. Wittenborn, Choice
A very important contribution. Tsai has provided the most thorough and detailed study of a Chinese emperor available in English. He displays a firm grasp of the primary sources and of recent Chinese scholarship. Tsai has set a model for emulation that we can only hope will be widely followed.- Kenneth J. Hammond, China Review International
Tsai’s book is to be applauded for the careful research, graceful writing, and attention to details exhibited in it.- Pi-ching Su, Journal of the American Oriental Society
Perpetual Happiness offers not only a view of a usurper who ushered in a cosmopolitan era in the Ming dynasty but also a description of the empire—its government, its economy, and its relations with foreigners. Tsai’s biography yields perspective on the life and times of the most renowned of the Ming emperors, with considerable attention devoted to the country he sought to shape.- Morris Rossabi, Columbia University