Zaifeng, 2nd Prince Chun

Zaifeng, 2nd Prince Chun

Infobox Person
name = Zaifeng, 2nd Prince Chun

image_size = 200px
caption =
birth_date = birth date|1883|2|12
birth_place = Beijing
death_date = death date and age|1951|2|3|1883|2|12
death_place = Beijing
nationality =
other_names =
title = 2nd Prince Chun
term =
predecessor = Yixuan
successor = none
spouse =
partner =
children =
parents = Yixuan and Lady Lingiya
The 2nd Prince Chun ( _zh. 醇親王) (February 12, 1883 - February 3, 1951) was born Zaifeng (Chinese: 載沣; Wade-Giles: Tsai-feng), of the Manchu Aisin-Gioro clan (the Qing imperial family ruling over China). He was the leader of China between 1908 and 1911, serving as the regent for his son Puyi, the Xuantong Emperor.

His courtesy name (字) was Yiyun (亦雲). His pseudonym (號), chosen in his older days, was Shupi (書癖).

Family and Childhood

He was the second oldest surviving son of the 1st prince Chun (醇賢親王) (1840-1891). His mother was the second concubine of the 1st Prince Chun, the Lady Lingiya (1866-1925), a Han Chinese maid at the mansion of the 1st prince Chun whose original Chinese family name was Liu (劉) and was changed into the Manchu clan's name Lingiya when she was made a Manchu, which was required in order to become the concubine of a Manchu prince.

He was born in Beijing while his older half-brother reigned as the Guangxu Emperor, having been chosen by Empress Dowager Cixi in 1875 to succeed the Tongzhi Emperor. His branch of the imperial family had thus obtained the highest status, and was in a close relationship with Cixi. In January 1891, although he was not yet eight years old, his father, the 1st prince Chun, died, and he was immediately made the new Prince of the First Rank Chun. In 1900, when the foreign powers entered Beijing, the fiance of Prince Chun had committed suicide to avoid the dishonor of rape.

Life in Government

At the end of February or the beginning of March 1901, he was appointed Army Inspector by the imperial court which had taken refuge in Xi'an following the Boxer Rebellion and the intervention of foreign powers. Then, in June of that same year, at the insistence of the foreign powers which favored the brother of Guangxu over the other princes of the imperial family, the only 18-year-old prince Chun was appointed ambassador extraordinary by the imperial court, in charge of conveying to the emperor of Germany the regrets of the emperor of China for the murder of the German ambassador Baron von Ketteler at the beginning of the Boxer uprising. Prince Chun set out by sea in July, met the German "Kaiser" Wilhelm II in Berlin in September of that same year, then visited several European countries and returned to China. He was one of the first members of the Chinese imperial family ever to travel abroad.

Cixi was quite pleased with the way he handled his mission in Germany (allegedly he refused to kneel in front of the "Kaiser", a custom mandatory at the Chinese imperial court and which the Germans had insisted on him following in Berlin), and so he was appointed to several important posts in Beijing in the following years. At the same time, Cixi was anguished by the favor that Prince Chun enjoyed with the foreign powers. One of the reasons why Prince Chun was appointed to so many important posts after 1901 was the fact that he was a protégé of the foreign powers which Cixi was very careful not to displease. However, she was as intent as ever on thwarting any challenge to her power, and so Prince Chun clearly posed a problem for her. Cixi saw an opportunity in 1902, on his return from Germany..--Cixi ordered Prince Chun to marry Youlan (幼蘭), the daughter of the Manchu general Rong lu (榮祿) (1836-1903), from the Guwalgiya clan, one of the leaders of the conservative faction at the court, and a staunch supporter of Cixi. Ronglu had played a leading role in the brutal ending of the Hundred Days' Reform, in 1898, and the internment of the Guangxu Emperor that followed, and so Prince Chun greatly disliked him, and agreed to marry his daughter only because it was unthinkable to oppose Cixi. The marriage, however, was an unhappy one. With the 2nd prince Chun now firmly tied to her, Cixi saw no more danger, and when Puyi was born in 1906 from the marriage, the infant became a likely heir to the throne. A second son, Pujie, was also born of this marriage.


On November 14, 1908, the Guangxu Emperor died. On the same day, an edict from Empress Dowager Cixi proclaimed Prince Chun's eldest son, Puyi, the new emperor. Prince Chun was made regent. The next day, Cixi died, ending her 47 years of almost continuous absolute power. Prince Chun was the regent of the Chinese empire for the next three years. His first concern was to punish Yuan Shikai, the leader of the Beiyang Army, who had betrayed his brother, the late emperor Guangxu, and supported Ronglu in the bloody ending of the Hundred Days' Reform in 1898. Prince Chun was prevented from carrying out his plan of having Yuan Shikai assassinated, but Yuan was dismissed from his posts and sent back to his village in Henan province under the pretense of "curing his foot disease".

For the next three years, the regent carried out the economic and political reforms that had been initiated after the Boxer Rebellion ended in 1901, but he was torn between the conservative Manchu factions at the court and the progressive Han Chinese officials in the provinces. The period saw the revolutionaries attempting several insurrections to overthrow the dynasty, and there was even one attempt to assassinate the regent in February 1910. Prince Chun did not have the maneuvering talent nor the lust for power of the late Cixi, and he proved often indecisive and probably unfit for this troubled period.

Eventually, on October 10, 1911, the Wuchang Uprising started the Xinhai Revolution, which was to overthrow the Qing dynasty. The court was forced to call Yuan Shikai back, despite the regent's deep aversion for him, as Yuan was the only one capable of defeating the revolutionaries. Yuan became prime minister on November 16. Prince Chun, now deprived of any real power, and with his worst enemy in power, stepped down on December 6, 1911, and was replaced by Empress Dowager Longyu (隆裕太后) (his sister-in-law) as regent. As he returned to his home that day, he was quoted telling his family: "Now I am back among the family, and I can finally care for the children". The three years of the regency were certainly the most painful years in his life; he never relished power the way Cixi or Yuan Shikai did, and witnesses say he was relieved when he left office.

Life after the Qing Dynasty

After he returned to private life, the 2nd prince Chun remained a respected figure, both among the republicans and later the communists, who appreciated his peaceful stepping down from power and acceptance of the republic, in sharp contrast with Yuan Shikai or other warlords. Sun Yat-sen even paid him a visit in Beijing in September 1912, on which occasion he congratulated Prince Chun, and Prince Chun formally declared he accepted the new Republic of China.

At the death of Empress Dowager Longyu in 1913, he was put in charge of the small imperial court that remained around the now non-ruling emperor Puyi, and he managed all the affairs regarding the court until 1924 when Puyi was expelled from the Forbidden City. In 1917, when Puyi was briefly restored on the throne by the warlord Zhang Xun, the 2nd prince Chun played no significant role, as the slogan of Zhang Xun was "Do not allow the relatives of the emperor to participate in the government" ("不准親貴參政").

He lived in his palace in Beijing, the Northern Residence (北府), until 1928. He spent his time away from politics, spending his days in the large library of his palace, avidly reading historical books and newly published magazines. Sometime after 1911, as unhappy with his wife as ever, he married a concubine, with whom he had several children. His principal wife, the mother of Puyi, committed suicide in 1921 by swallowing opium after being scolded at a public audience by the Duankang Dowager Concubine (端康太妃) for the misconduct of the young emperor Puyi. The Duankang Dowager Concubine was the highest ranking woman in the Forbidden City since the death of the Longyu Dowager Empress in 1913.

In 1928, he moved to Tianjin where he lived in the British and Japanese concessions. In August 1939, as Tianjin was devastated by flooding, he relocated to the Northern Residence in Beijing. He was not in favor of the idea of establishing a Manchukuo state under Japanese control, and warned his son Puyi against the project, but he was not listened to. After Puyi became emperor of Manchukuo, he paid his son three visits, but ostensibly refused to take part in Manchukuo affairs. Puyi wanted to have him live close by in Manchukuo, but he refused and used the excuse of an illness to return to Beijing. At the end of the World War II, when the Kuomintang recovered Beijing from the Japanese, a letter of sympathy was dispatched to him by the municipality of Beijing in recognition of his attitude during the Japanese occupation.

When the communists took control of mainland China in 1949, he was again honored and party members took care of him. He sold the Northern Residence to the government out of financial needs. Then, thankful for the good treatment he received from the new government, he donated his library and his art collection to Peking University. He also gave money for the relief of the victims of the terrible flooding of the Huai River (淮河) in 1950. At the start of the Korean War, he was prominent in the movement of subscription to the Chinese government Victory Bonds. He died shortly afterwards on February 3, 1951 in Beijing.

Many of his descendants reside in Beijing, including Jin Youzhi, Jin Yuzhang and Jin Yulan. Many have changed their Manchu clan name Aisin-Gioro into the Chinese family name Jin (金, meaning "Gold", a direct translation of Manchu "aisin").


Opinions vary on the second prince Chun and his regency. While some describe him as a conservative who tried to reassert Manchu grasp on power despite rapidly changing times, others insist on the reforms that he implemented while regent, reforms which might well have turned China into a liberal constitutional monarchy had the Xinhai Revolution not occurred.

External links

* [ Genealogy of Prince Chun]

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