Chen Mingxia
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Chen Mingxia

Chen Mingxia Qing dynasty person CBDB = 57005

Qing dynasty person CBDB = 57005
The basics
Quick Facts
Intro Qing dynasty person CBDB = 57005
A.K.A. Shiyunju, Zhishan, Shiyunjushi, Boshi, Baishi
Countries China
Gender male
The details

Chen Mingxia (ca. 1601 – 1654), from Liyang in Jiangsu, was a Chinese official during the Shunzhi period (1644–1661) of the Qing dynasty (1644–1912). Before he surrendered to the Qing in early 1645, he had successively served the Ming dynasty (1368–1644) and the short-lived Shun regime of rebel leader Li Zicheng (1602–1645). After serving in the highest ranks of the Qing bureaucracy, he was eventually executed in the midst of factional struggles.

Ming period

A member of the reformist Restoration Society (Fushe 復社), Chen finished first in the metropolitan examination and third in the subsequent palace examination of 1643, the last such exam held by the Ming dynasty (1368–1644). Along with other graduates who showed special literary promise, he became Hanlin bachelor, and was given a concurrent post of supervising secretary in the Ministry of War. On 13 April 1644, during an audience with the Chongzhen Emperor, he advised the monarch to summon the braves of Shandong to defend Beijing against approaching rebel troops led by Li Zicheng.

When the capital fell to Li Zicheng's armies on 24 April, Chen tried to commit suicide but was saved by his family. He was eventually captured and had to submit to Li, whom he served for a few weeks until Li was defeated in early June by the allied troops of the Manchu Dorgon (Prince Regent of the Qing dynasty) and Wu Sangui (a Ming general who let the Qing army enter the North China plain through Shanhai Pass). Dorgon entered Beijing victorious on 5 June 1644.

In June 1644, Chen fled Beijing and went home. The Ming loyalist government established in Nanjing around a Ming imperial prince named Zhu Yousong considered Chen a traitor because he had submitted to Li's regime: indictments issued against him and other turncoats forced him to flee again, this time disguised as a Buddhist monk. In early 1645, after a few months of traveling, he finally decided to join the Qing government.

Qing period

Court dress was a controversial topic during the early Qing dynasty (1644–1912). Chen Mingxia was denounced by a colleague because he advocated returning to Ming court dress, an example of which is shown in this 15th-century painting. Chen's accuser claimed that restoring the characteristically wide sleeves was part of Chen's "plan to weaken our country".

Like all Qing officials, Chen had to shave his forehead and arrange his hair into a queue like the Manchus, and to adopt the Qing court dress, which featured smaller sleeves and a shorter sash than the Ming court style, as befitted the status of the Manchus as horseback-riding warriors.

Chen immediately made a good impression on regent Dorgon when he advised Dorgon to replace the young Fulin—who had just been enthroned as the Shunzhi Emperor in late 1644—as Emperor of China. Though Dorgon did not follow his suggestion, he named Chen Vice-President of the Ministry of Personnel, a position that Chen used to name fellow southerners to important government positions. He was soon accused of favoritism and became identified as the leader of the southern faction, the "northern faction" being headed by Feng Quan (馮銓; 1595–1672).

After Dorgon's death on 31 December 1650, the Shunzhi Emperor (r. 1643 – 1661) started to rule personally and announced his intention to purge corruption from officialdom. He dismissed Feng Quan from his post of grand secretary and replaced him with Chen Mingxia, who by then had become President of the Ministry of Personnel. Though later in 1651 Chen was also dismissed on charges of influence peddling, he was reinstated in his post in 1653 and soon became a close personal advisor to the sovereign. He was even allowed to draft imperial edicts just as Ming grand secretaries used to. While in his high position at court, Chen was among the many officials who tried to sway famous southern scholar Wu Weiye (1609–1671) into serving the Qing, which Wu accepted to do in 1653.

Still in 1653, the Shunzhi Emperor decided to recall the disgraced Feng Quan, but instead of balancing the influence of northern and southern Chinese officials at court as the emperor had intended, Feng Quan's return only intensified factional strife. In several controversies at court in 1653 and 1654, the southerners formed one bloc opposed to the northerners and the Manchus. In April 1654, when Chen, a southerner, spoke to northern official Ning Wanwo (寧完我; d. 1665) about restoring Ming court robes and hairstyle, Ning immediately denounced him to the emperor, claiming that Chen's plan to restore the cumbersome sleeves of Ming official dress was a plot to sap the new dynasty's military strength. Ning also accused Chen of various crimes including bribe-taking, nepotism, factionalism, and usurping imperial prerogatives. Found guilty on all counts, Chen was executed by strangulation on 27 April 1654.

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