Emperor Kangxi (1661-1722)

Born on 4 May 1654 to the Shunzhi Emperor and Empress Xiaokangzhang in Jingren Palace, the Forbidden City, Beijing, the Kangxi Emperor was originally given the personal name Xuanye (Chinese: 玄燁; pinyin: Xuanye; Manchu transliteration: hiowan yei). He was enthroned at the age of seven (or eight by East Asian age reckoning), on 7 February 1661. However, his era name “Kangxi”, only started to be used on 18 February 1662, the first day of the following lunar year.

Kangxi Emperor - Wikipedia
Portrait of the young Kangxi Emperor in court dress

Sinologist Herbert Giles, drawing on contemporary sources, described the Kangxi Emperor as “fairly tall and well proportioned, he loved all manly exercises, and devoted three months annually to hunting. Large bright eyes lighted up his face, which was pitted with smallpox”

Before the Kangxi Emperor came to the throne, Grand Empress Dowager Xiaozhuang (in the name of Shunzhi Emperor) had appointed the powerful men Sonin, Suksaha, Ebilun, and Oboi as regents. Sonin died after his granddaughter became Empress Xiaochengren, leaving Suksaha at odds with Oboi in politics. In a fierce power struggle, Oboi had Suksaha put to death and seized absolute power as sole regent. The Kangxi Emperor and the rest of the imperial court acquiesced to this arrangement.

In the spring of 1662, the regents ordered a Great Clearance in southern China that evacuated the entire population from the seacoast to counter a resistance movement started by Ming loyalists under the leadership of Taiwan-based Ming general Zheng Chenggong, also titled Koxinga.

In 1669, the Kangxi Emperor had Oboi arrested with the help of his grandmother Grand Dowager Empress Xiaozhuang, who had raised him. and began taking personal control of the empire. He listed three issues of concern: flood control of the Yellow River; repair of the Grand Canal; the Revolt of the Three Feudatories in south China. The Grand Empress Dowager influenced him greatly and he took care of her himself in the months leading up to her death in 1688.

Kangxi’s relatives from the Han Chinese Banner Tong 佟 clan of Fushun in Liaoning falsely claimed to be related to the Jurchen Manchu Tunggiya 佟佳 clan of Jilin, using this false claim to get themselves transferred to a Manchu banner in the reign of Kangxi emperor.


Kangxi Porcelain
© Christies.com

Kangxi blue and white porcelain was produced in China during the reign of the Emperor Kangxi. The fourth Emperor of the Qing dynasty and the longest-reigning emperor in Chinese history, he ruled China from 1662 to 1722. The finest examples of Kangxi blue and white porcelain rival any other Chinese blue and white porcelain produced during earlier periods. Kangxi blue and white porcelain may not have the simple vigour of Yongle porcelain (1403-1424) or the stateliness of Chenghua blue and white porcelain (1465-1487) but it features charming and sophisticated designs, inspired by all the periods that went before. These designs are combined with great technical expertise to produce porcelain with a brilliant under-glaze sapphire blue for the painting and a fine white slightly bluish silky glaze applied to a very white body.Due to huge demand from Europe and the home market, even very poor quality products were popular during this period. A large number of kilns in Jingdezhen, the largest centre of production of Chinese porcelain, produced hundreds of thousands of pieces of blue and white porcelain throughout the period, which can sometimes lead to Kangxi porcelain having a reputation for variable quality.

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