Zhu Youlang

Zhu Youlang

Zhu Youlang (朱由榔), the Yongli Emperor, was the last serious claimant to the emperorship of the Ming Dynasty.

Youlang was born in Beijing in 1623 to the concubine Ma. His father, Zhu Changying, (朱常瀛) was the seventh son of the Wanli Emperor. In 1627, Zhu Changying was made Prince of Gui, and the entire family moved to an estate at Hengyang (in southern Huguang province). Youlang was given the title Prince of Yongming in 1636 and lived at Hengyang until it was taken over by a roving rebel army in 1643. The family then moved southwest with two other Ming princes toward Guangxi. For some months, Zhu Youlang was separated from his father and brother, being imprisoned by rebel forces at Taozhou. He managed to escape, however, and rejoined his family in the summer of 1644 at Wuzhou. Youlang's father died shortly afterwards, followed by Youlang's elder brother Zhu Youai in 1646.

Following the fall of Beijing to the Manchus in 1644, a series of Ming princes continued to claim the throne. Surrounded by loyalists and rebels, they made efforts to resist the newly established Qing Dynasty and its Chinese allies. With the death of the Hongguang Emperor, Zhu Youlang, as the eldest surviving male in the Gui princely line, became next in succession to the Ming emperorship. Youlang's honorary mother, the Lady Wang, had objected that the prince was too young, inexperienced, and delicate to assume such a responsibility. But as the dynasty's cause grew more urgent, Zhu Youlang was prevailed upon to accept the role of regent. On 12 December, the Ming prince Zhu Yuyue was enthroned in Guangzhou as the Shaowu Emperor. In response, the supporters of Zhu Youlang had him enthroned with the reign title Yongli (永曆) at Zhaoqing, Guangdong province on 24 December 1646, at the age of just twenty-three.

Conflict quickly broke out between the Yongli and Shaowu forces. When Guangzhou was suddenly overrun by Qing troops on 20 January 1647 and the Shaowu Emperor executed, Zhu Youlang and his court were forced to embark on a long odyssey into Guangxi and southern Huguang, during which time more than one son was born to the emperor's wife and concubines.

Because of a dramatic restoration of Ming fortunes in 1648, the Yongli court was able to return to Zhaoqing. The second Qing campaign on Guangdong, led by Shang Kexi and Geng Jimao, however, forced the court to flee westward again. Zhu Youlang eventually made his way through Guangxi and Guizhou, to Yunnan. Even after the fall of Kunming in 1659 to Qing troops, he continued to resist.

Zhu and his men fled into Myanmar to seek refuge in Ava, but were treated as prisoners by the Myanmar king Pyé Min. Zhu's armed followers crossed the border to rescue him. They savaged Upper Myanmar, causing devastation for the local peoples. General Wu Sangui, then still loyal to the Qing, invaded Myanmar in 1662 with a sizable army, and demanded Zhu's surrender. Although he hesitated at first, King Pyé finally decided to hand Zhu over to avoid hostility. Zhu Youlang was taken by Wu Sangui's army back to Kunming, where he was executed on 16 May 1662. (Other sources list 25 May.)

ee also

* Yongli Emperor

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