Chinese Qing Dynasty and Adoption

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For nearly 200 years the Qing dynasty practiced a form of adoption to secure orderly succession to the throne when the emperor was childless. It was instituted by the Yong Zheng Emperor (reigned 1723-35), who decreed that an emperor could nominate his successor from among any of his sons, or if childless, appoint an heir from elsewhere in the imperial family, and the appointed heir was then generally adopted by the emperor, both to emphasize his choice and also so that he could perform the required funerary rites and later ancestor veneration.

The practice spread to other high-ranking members of the imperial family, where childless princes would adopt in order to have successors. See also, for example, the entries Roman Empire, Pomare Dynasty, Hawai'ian Royal Families, India (Princely States) and Eliezer. Some adopted Chinese emperors and nobles:

-The Guang Xu Emperor (1872-1908, reigned 1875-1908). The Guang Xu Emperor (named Zai Tian) was adopted by his uncle, the Tong Zhi Emperor and by the notorious Dowager Empress Ci Xi. He was emperor during the Boxer Rebellion, when the Chinese tried unsuccessfully to expel the foreigners. He died soon afterwards in mysterious circumstances and was succeeded by the Pu Yi Emperor.

-The Pu Yi Emperor (1906-67, reigned 1908-11 and 1917). The Pu Yi Emperor (named Xuang Tong or Henry Pu Yi), the last emperor of China, was adopted by both the Tong Zhi Emperor and the Guang Xu Emperor. He was deposed by the republic in 1911 but was restored for a few weeks in 1917 and later installed as head of the Japanese puppet state of Manchukuo from 1932 to 1945. After World War II he was imprisoned as a war criminal until 1959, worked in the Botanical Gardens at Beijing and then was a member of the Chinese National People's Congress from 1964 to 1967.

-Prince Yi Zong (1831-89) was the fifth birth son of the Dao Guang Emperor and adopted by Prince Mian Kai, the fifth son of the Jia Jing Emperor. Yi Zong was president of the Ministry for Imperial Affairs.

-Prince Zai Yi (1855/6-1902) was the second birth son of Prince Yi Zong and was adopted by Prince Mian Hien, the fourth son of the Jai Jing Emperor. Zai Yi was leader of the Boxer Rebellion and was consequently deprived of his rights in 1901.

-Prince Zai Ying (1861-1909), was the birth son of Prince Yi Xin and adopted by his uncle, Yi Jia. His adoption was revoked in 1901.

-Prince Pu Sin (ca. 1880-?) was the eldest birth son of Prince Zai Ying (1859-?) and adopted by Prince Zai Ru. He was a painter, calligrapher and cittern player.

-Prince Pu Chun (1885-ca. 1932), also known as Pu Chi, was the birth son of Prince Zai Yi and was adopted by the Tong Zhi Emperor in 1900. He was appointed heir but the adoption was revoked in 1901 and he was exiled to Ürümqi. He was replaced as heir presumptive by the Guang Xu Emperor and was later adopted by Prince Yi Mo as his grandson.

-Prince Pu Wei (1898-1936/7) was the eldest birth son of Prince Zai Ying and adopted in 1898 by his uncle, Prince Zai Zeng.

-Princess Xianzi (1907-48), also known as Dongzhen, Jin Bihui and Yoshiko Kawashima, was the 14th daughter of the renegade and quisling Prince Zhan Ji (who had 21 sons and 17 daughters) and adopted by a Japanese, Naniwa Kawashima in 1913. Xianzi was the head of the Japanese Pacification Army in Manchukuo from 1934 to 1940. One of her birth brothers was also adopted by Kawashima.


Microsoft Encarta 98 Encyclopedia, 1993-97 Seagrave, Sterling. Dragon Lady: The Life and Legend of the Last Empress of China. (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1992) Almanach de Bruxelles: Annuaire Généologique, Princières et Ducales. (Paris: La Société d'Éditions Mansi et Cie., 1918- ). 2: Empire of China, Imperial Dynasties, Manchu Dynasty, Ming Dynasty. Also available at: