Hong Taiji

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Hong Taiji, Emperor of Manchuria, Grand Khan of the Mongols, King of Korea(Chinese: 皇太極 hung ti j; also known as 洪太極 hng ti j or 黃台吉 hung ti j; sometimes referred to as Abahai), (1592-1643), was Emperor of Manchuria first of the Later Jin dynasty and then, after he changed its name, of the Qing dynasty, reigning from 1626 to 1643. He was responsible for consolidating the empire that his father, Nurhaci, had founded and for laying the groundwork for its eventual success in conquering Ming dynasty China, although he died before accomplishing that great achievement himself. He was responsible for changing the name of his people from Jurchen to Manchu in 1635 as well as that of the dynasty to Qing in 1636. The Qing dynasty would last all the way until 1912.

Hong Taiji was the eighth son of Nurhaci and succeeded him as the second ruler of the Later Jin dynasty in 1626. Although it was always thought as a gossip, he was said to be involved in the suicuide of Prince Dorgon's mother, Lady Abahai in order to block the succsession of his younger brother.

He continued the expansion of the state in the region later known as Manchuria, pushing deeper into Mongolia and raiding Korea and Ming China. His personal military abilities were widely praised and he effectively developed the military-civil administration known as the Eight Banners or Banner system. This system was well-suited to accept the different peoples, primarily Chinese and Mongols, who joined the Manchu state either following negotiated agreements or military defeat.

Although the historical record is unclear on the matter, it is quite possible that it was the ongoing incorporation of different peoples into the Later Jin state that encouraged Hong Taiji to change the name of both his people and the dynasty.

In 1635 Hong Taiji changed the name of his people from Jurchen to Manchu, or Manju in the Manchu language. The original meaning of Manju is not known and so the reasons for its adoption remain opaque. There are many theories as to the reason for the choice of name but two of the most commonly cited are its sounding similar to the Manchu word for "brave" and a possible connection with the Bodhisattva Manjusri, the Bodhisattva of Wisdom, of whom Nurhaci claimed to be an incarnation.

The dynastic name Later Jin was a direct reference to the Jin dynasty founded by the Jurchen people which ruled northern China from 1115 to 1234. As such the name was likely to be viewed as closely tied to the Jurchens and would perhaps evoke hostility from Chinese who viewed the Song dynasty, rival state to the Jin, as the legitimate rulers of China at that time. Hong Taiji's ambition was to conquer China proper and overthrow the Ming dynasty, and to do that required not only a powerful military force but an effective bureaucratic administration. For this he used the obvious model, that of the Ming government, and recruited Ming officials to his cause. If the name of Later Jin would prove an impediment to his goal among many Chinese, then it was not too much to change it. Whatever the precise motivation, Hong Taiji proclaimed the establishment of the Qing dynasty in 1636. The reasons for the choice of Qing as the new name are likewise unclear, although it has been speculated that the sound - Jin and Qing are pronouced similiarly in Manchu - or wuxing theory - traditional ideas held that fire, associated with the character for Ming, was overcome by water, associated with the character for Qing - may have influenced the choice.

Hong Taiji died in 1643, possibly at the hands of one of his officials, just a few months before his army would seize control of Beijing. He therefore did not live to see his ambition of conquering Ming China come about, although his son, the Shunzhi Emperor, succeeded him and became the first of the Qing dynasty emperors to govern China. That the Qing state succeeded in not only conquering China but in establishing a capable administration was due in large measure to the foresight and policies of Hong Taiji.

His posthumous name evolved to become longer and longer:

  • 1643: Yingtian-xingguo-hongde-zhangwu-kuanwen-rensheng-ruixiao Wen Emperor (應天興國弘德彰武寬溫仁聖睿孝文皇帝)
  • 1662: Yingtian-xingguo-hongde-zhangwu-kuanwen-rensheng-ruixiao-longdao-xiangong Wen Emperor (應天興國弘德彰武寬溫仁聖睿孝隆道顯功文皇帝)
    • "Prosperous Way and Manifestation of Might" was added
  • 1723: Yingtian-xingguo-hongde-zhangwu-kuanwen-rensheng-ruixiao-jingming-longdao-xiangong Wen Emperor (應天興國弘德彰武寬溫仁聖睿孝敬敏隆道顯功文皇帝)
    • "Reverence and Diliegnt" was added
  • 1735: Yingtian-xingguo-hongde-zhangwu-kuanwen-rensheng-ruixiao-jingming-zhaoding-longdao-xiangong Wen Emperor (應天興國弘德彰武寬溫仁聖睿孝敬敏昭定隆道顯功文皇帝)
    • "Illustrious stability" was added
Preceded by:
Nurhaci
Qing dynasty
Qing dynasty emperors
Succeeded by:
The Shunzhi Emperor
zh:爱新觉罗皇太极

ja:ホンタイジde:Huang Tai Ji nl:Hong Taiji

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