The Hongguang Emperor (Chinese: 弘光; 1607–1646), personal name Zhu Yousong (Chinese: 朱由崧), was the first emperor of the Southern Ming Dynasty. He reigned briefly in Southern China from 1644-1645. His era name, Hongguang, means "Great light".
Born Zhu 'Yousong', Hongguang was member of Ming imperial family. He was a son of Zhu Changxun, and a grandson of the Wanli Emperor and Lady Zheng. His title was Prince of Fu before ascending the throne
Accession to the throne
The news of the Chongzhen Emperor's suicide was met with consternation when it reached Nanjing in mid May 1644. The highest officials in Nanjing soon met to deliberate about how to face the crisis. Since the fate of the official heir apparent was still unknown at the time, many thought it was too early to proclaim a new emperor, but most agreed that an imperial figure was necessary to rally loyalist support for the Ming in the south.
In early June 1644, the court decided that the caretaker government would be centered around Zhu Yousong, Prince of Fu, who was next in line for succession after the dead emperor's sons. When he arrived in the vicinity of Nanjing (he had come from his princedom in Henan), the Prince could count on the military and political support of Ma Shiying (馬士英). Many officers allied with the Donglin Movement preferred Zhu Changfang (朱常淓), Prince of Lu (潞王), to succeed. On June 5 the Prince of Fu entered the city, the next day he accepted the title of "Protector of the State" (監國, sometimes translated as "Regent"), and on June 7 he moved into the imperial palace, where he received the insignia of his new office.
Prodded by some court officials, the Prince of Fu immediately started to consider becoming Emperor. Fearing confrontation with Ma Shiying and other supporters of the Prince, Shi Kefa convinced reluctant members of the court to accept the enthronement. The Prince of Fu was officially crowned as Emperor on June 19, 1644, under the protection of Ma Shiying, who had arrived in Nanjing two days earlier with a large war fleet. It was decided that the next lunar year would be the first year of the Hongguang (弘光) reign with the capital city of Nanjing. The Hongguang court proclaimed that its goal was "to ally with the Tartars to pacify the bandits" (聯虜平寇), that is, to seek co-operation with Qing military forces in order to annihilate rebel peasant militia led by Li Zicheng and Zhang Xianzhong.
The Hongguang regime had been being plagued by political struggles from the beginning between the party which was formerly pro-Wei Zhongxian, including the influential officer Ma Shiying, and the pro-Donglin Movement party, including General Shi Kefa. Shi Kefa, who was sent to defend the area north of the Yangtze, could not have support from Ma Shiying. Even the generals in the front attacked each other for power and looted the civilians.
In 1645, The Qing army moved rapidly and captured Suzhou,. Subsequently, on 25 April of the same year, Yangzhou also fell to the Qing army. General Shi Kefa, who defended Yangzhou, attempted suicide, survived, and was captured. Prince Dodo of the Qing spared his life and even offered Shi a position. Shi, however, remained loyal to the Ming, so he refused the offer and was executed.
When the news reached Nanjing, Hongguang Emperor, Ma Shiying and a few eunuchs fled in panic to Wuhu city. On May 15, Minister Zhao Long, Wang Feng, Qian Xian surrendered to the Qing. As a result, Nanjing and a few other cities fell .Hongguang was captured on May 28.
Hongguang was captured and sent to Beijing to face the Qing court. He was then executed in 1646 at Caishikou, which ended his reign as the Southern Ming Emperor. However, resistance continued until 1662, where the last remnants of Ming resistance were finally put down.
The Peach Blossom Fan (桃花扇), a historical drama completed in 1699 by Kong Shangren, depicted the life under the Hongguang regime. The work has been adapted into various plays, including the televised 16-episode Taiwanese opera "Qinhuai Yanyu (秦淮煙雨)" in 2001.