Clan name: Aixin-Jueluo (爱新觉罗; Aisin-Gioro)
The Xianfeng Emperor, born Yizhu, was the eighth Emperor of the Manchu Qing Dynasty, and the seventh Qing emperor to rule over China, from 1850 to 1861.
Yizhu was born in 1831 at the Imperial Summer Palace Complex, 8 kilometers northwest of the walls of Beijing, and was the fourth son of the Daoguang Emperor. His mother was the Imperial Concubine Quan, of the (Manchu) Niuhuru clan, who was made Empress in 1834, and is known posthumously as Empress Xiao Quan Cheng.
Chosen as the Crown Prince in the later years of Dao Guang's reign, Yizhu had reputed ability in literature and administration which surpassed most of his brothers. He succeeded the throne in 1850, at age 19, and was a relatively young Emperor. He was left with a crumbling dynasty that faced challenges not only internally, but also from Europeans. The situation was not reflected at all by his reign title, Xianfeng, which means "Universal Prosperity." The Taiping Rebellion began in 1851, and spread to several provinces with amazing speed. Xianfeng dispatched several prominent mandarins, like Zeng Guofan, and Imperial relatives, like the Mongol general Senggelinqin, to crush the rebellion, with limited success. Several Muslim rebellions in the southwest began in 1855.
Western Imperialism towards China
As western imperialism was cruising its way through Asia, China was not spared. The Europeans saw a crumbling regime as ripe for the enforcement of imperialistic policies on China. Western forces, led by France, after inciting a few battles on the coast near Tianjin, of which not all were decisive victories, attempted "negotiation" with the Qing Government. Xian Feng, under the influence of the Concubine Yi (later the Ci Xi Dowager Empress), believed in Chinese superiority and would not agree to any western demands. He delegated Prince Gong for several negotiations that failed to solve any significant problems. On October 18, 1860, the western forces went on to loot and burn the Imperial Summer Palaces of Q?ngy? Yuán and Yuánmíng Yuán.
While negotiations are still ongoing with western governments, Emperor Xianfeng and his Imperial entourage fled to the northern travelling palace in Jehol. Becoming more ill physically, Xian Feng's ability to govern also deteriorated, leading to competing ideologies in court that eventually formed two distinct factions - those under the rich Manchu Sushun, Princes Yi and Zheng; and those under the Concubine Yi, supported by Gen. Ronglu and Yehenala Bannermen.
Xian Feng died on August 22, 1861, at the Jehol Travelling Palace, 230 kilometers northeast of Beijing. Being succeeded by his one surviving son, Zaichun, who was barely 6 years old, Xianfeng had summoned Sushun and his group to his bedside a day before, giving them an Imperial Edict dictating the power structure during the young Emperor’s minority. The edict appointed four members of the Imperial line, namely, Zaiyuan, the Prince Yi; Duanhua, the Prince Zheng; Duke Jingshou; and Sushun, and four Ministers, Muyin, Kuangyuan, Du Han, and Jiao Youying, as the eight members of a new regency council to aid the young Emperor. By tradition, after the death of an Emperor, the body was to be accompanied to the Capital by the regents. Concubine Yi and the Empress, who were now both given titles of Empress Dowager, traveled to Beijing ahead of time, and planned a coup that ousted Sushun from the regency. The Empress Dowager Cixi (Concubine Yi) would subsequently rule China for the next 47 years.
Emperor Xianfeng was interred in the Eastern Qing Tombs, 125 kilometers/75 miles east of Beijing, in the Dingling (meaning "Tomb of quietude") mausoleum complex.