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Daoguang Emperor
Qing Emperor of China
Reign 3 October 1820 – 25 February 1850
Predecessor Jiaqing Emperor
Successor Xianfeng Emperor
Spouse Empress Xiaomucheng
Empress Xiaoshencheng
Empress Xiaoquancheng
Empress Xiaojingcheng
Yiwei, Prince Yin
Princess Duanmin
Princess Duanshun
Princess Shou-an
Yikang, Prince Shun
Princess Shouzang
Yichi, Prince Hui
Princess Shouyen
Yichu, Xianfeng Emperor
Yicong, Prince Tun
Yixin, Prince Gong
Yixuan, Prince Chun
Princess Shouxi
Princess Shouzhuang
Yiho, Prince Zhong
Yihui, Prince Fu
Full name
Chinese: Aixin-Jueluo Mianning 愛新覺羅綿寧, later Minning
Manchu: Aisin-Gioro hala i Min-Ning
Posthumous name
Emperor Xiàotiān Fúyùn Lìzhōng Tǐzhèng Zhìwén Shèngwǔ Zhìyǒng Réncí Jiǎnqín Xiàomǐn Kuāndìng Chéng
Temple name
Qing Xuānzōng
Father Jiaqing Emperor
Mother Empress Xiaoshurui
Born (1782-09-16)16 September 1782
Forbidden City, Beijing
Died 25 February 1850(1850-02-25) (aged 67)
Old Summer Palace, Beijing
Burial Western Qing Tombs

The Daoguang Emperor (Tao-kuang Emperor; Chinese: 道光; pinyin: Dàoguāng Dì; Wade–Giles: Tao4-kuang1 Ti4; Manchu: ᡩᠣᡵᠣ ᡝᠯᡩᡝᠩᡤᡝ, Doro Eldengge Hūwangdi; 16 September 1782 – 25 February 1850) was the eighth emperor of the Manchu Qing dynasty and the sixth Qing emperor to rule over China, from 1820 to 1850. His reign was marked by "external disaster and internal rebellion," that is, by the First Opium War, and the beginning of the Taiping Rebellion which nearly brought down the dynasty. The historian Jonathan Spence characterizes Daoguang as a “well meaning but ineffective man," who promoted officials who "presented a purist view even if they had nothing to say about the domestic and foreign problems surrounding the dynasty." [1]

Early years

He was born in the Forbidden City, Beijing, and was given the name Mianning (Mien-ning; Chinese: 綿寧). It was later changed into Minning (Min-ning; Chinese: 旻寧; Manchu: ᠮᡳᠨ ᠨᡳᠩ Min ning) when he became emperor: the first character of his private name was changed from Mian (Mien; 綿) to Min (旻) so as to avoid the relatively common character 'Mian'. This novelty was introduced by his grandfather the Qianlong Emperor who thought it inappropriate to use a common character in the emperor's private name due to the long-standing practice of naming taboo.

He was the second son of Yongyan (永琰), who became the Jiaqing Emperor in 1796. His mother, the principal wife of Yongyan, was Lady Hitara of the (Manchu) Hitara clan, who became empress when Jiaqing ascended the throne in 1796. She is known posthumously as Empress Xiaoshurui (孝淑睿皇后).

Mianning was well liked by his grandfather the Qianlong Emperor and frequently accompanied the elderly emperor on hunting trips. On one such trip at the age of nine he successfully hunted a deer which greatly amused Qianlong. In 1813, while a prince, Mianning also played a vital role in repelling and killing White Lotus invaders who stormed the Forbidden City. This action earned Mianning important merits in securing his claim for the throne.

Reign as emperor and the opium trade

In September 1820, at the age of 38, Mianning inherited the throne after his father the Jiaqing Emperor suddenly died of unknown causes. Now known as the Daoguang Emperor, he inherited a declining empire with Westerners encroaching upon the borders of China. During his reign, China experienced major problems with opium, which was imported into China by British merchants. Opium had started to trickle into China during the reign of his great grandfather Emperor Yongzheng but was limited to approximately 200 chests annually. By the time of Emperor Qianlong's reign, this amount had increased to 1000 chests, 4000 chests by Jiaqing's era and more than 30,000 chests during Daoguang's reign.

He issued many edicts against opium in the 1820s and 1830s, which were carried out by Commissioner Lin Zexu. Lin Zexu's effort to halt the spread of opium in China led directly to the First Opium War. With the development of the Opium War, Lin was made a scapegoat and the Daoguang emperor removed Lin's authority and banished him to Yili. Meanwhile in the Himalayas, the Sikh Empire attempted an occupation of Tibet but was defeated in the Sino-Sikh war (1841–1842). On the coasts, technologically and militarily inferior to the European powers, China lost the war and surrendered Hong Kong by way of the Treaty of Nanking in August 1842.


In 1811 a clause sentencing Europeans to death for spreading Catholicism had been added to the statute called "Prohibitions Concerning Sorcerers and Sorceresses" (禁止師巫邪術) in the Great Qing Code.[2] Protestants hoped that the Chinese government would discriminate between Protestantism and Catholicism, since the law mentioned the latter by name, but after Protestant missionaries gave Christian books to Chinese in 1835 and 1836, the Daoguang Emperor demanded to know who were the "traitorous natives" in Canton who had supplied them with books. [2]



  • Empress Xiaomucheng (孝穆成皇后) (?–1808) of the Niohuru clan.
  • Empress Xiaoshencheng (孝慎成皇后) (?–1833) of the Tunggiya clan.
  • Empress Xiaoquancheng (孝全成皇后) (1808–1840) of the Niohuru clan.
  • Empress Xiaojingcheng (孝靜成皇后) (1812–1855) of the Borjigit clan.
  • Imperial Noble Consort Zhuangshun (莊順皇貴妃) (?–1867) of the Uya clan, she was the natural birth mother of the First Prince Chun.
  • Noble Consort Tóng (彤貴妃) (?–1877) of the Sumuru clan.
  • Noble Consort Jia (佳貴妃) (?–1890) of the Gogiya clan.
  • Noble Consort Cheng (成貴妃) (?–1888) of the Niohuru clan.
  • Consort He (和妃) (?–1836) of the Nara clan.
  • Consort Xiang (祥妃) (?–1861) of the Niohuru clan.
  • Consort Chang (常妃) (?–1860) of the Heseri clan. She died during the burning of the Yuan Ming Yuan summer palace.
  • Imperial Concubine Zhen (珍嬪) (?) of the Heseri clan. She was not interred in the Muling mausoleum for imperial concubines.
  • Imperial Concubine Tian (恬嬪) (?-1845) of the Fuca clan.
  • Imperial Concubine Yu (豫嬪) (1816–1898) of the Shanggiya clan.
  • Imperial Concubine Shun (順嬪) (?-1868) of the Shiqi clan.
  • Imperial Concubine Heng (恆嬪) (?-1876) of the Càigiya clan.
  • Worthy Lady Ping (平貴人)(?-1823) née Zhao.
  • Worthy Lady Ting (定貴人)(?-1842) née Sun.
  • Worthy Lady Li (李貴人)(?-1872).
  • Worthy Lady Na (那貴人)(?-1865).



  1. First son: Prince Yiwei (奕緯) (16 May 1808 – 23 May 1831), son of Consort He of the Nara clan.
  2. Second son: Yikang (奕綱) (22 November 1826 – 5 March 1827), son of Empress Xiaojingcheng
  3. Third son: Yichi (奕繼) (2 December 1829 – 22 January 1830), son of Empress Xiaojingcheng
  4. Fourth son: Yichu (1831–1861), future Xianfeng Emperor, son of Empress Xiaoquancheng
  5. Fifth son: (奕誴) Yicong (23 July 1831 – 18 February 1889), the second Prince Tun, great-grandfather of Prince Yuyan and son of Imperial Consort Xiang (祥妃) of the Niohuru clan.
  6. Sixth son: (奕訢) Yixin (11 January 1833 – 29 May 1898), the Prince Gong. Son of Empress Xiaojingcheng.
  7. Seventh son: Yixuan, the First (16 October 1840 – 1 January 1891) Prince Chun. Father of Zaitian the Guangxu Emperor.
  8. Eight son: Yiho (奕詥) (21 February 1844 – 17 December 1868), son of the Imperial Noble Consort Zhuangshun.
  9. Ninth son: Yihui(奕譓) (1845–1877) son of the Imperial Noble Consort Zhuangshun.


  1. First daughter: State Princess Duanmin (端憫固倫公主) (1813–1819), daughter of Empress Xiaoshencheng.
  2. Second daughter: (1825), daughter of Consort Xiang.
  3. Third daughter: State Princess Duanshun (端順固倫公主) (1825–1835), daughter of Empress Xiaoquancheng.
  4. Fourth daughter: State Princess Shou-An (壽安固倫公主) (1826–1860), daughter of Empress Xiaoquancheng.
  5. Fifth daughter: Princess of the second rank Shou-Zang (壽臧和碩公主) (1829–1856), daughter of Consort Xiang.
  6. Sixth daughter: State Princess Shou-En (壽恩固倫公主) (1830–1859), daughter of Empress Xiaojingcheng.
  7. Seventh daughter: (1840–1844), daughter of Noble Consort Tun.
  8. Eight daughter: Princess of the second rank Shou-Xi (壽禧和碩公主) (1841–1866), daughter of Noble Consort Tun.
  9. Ninth daughter: State Princess Shou-Zhuang (壽莊固倫公主) (1842–1884), daughter of Imperial Noble Consort Zhuangshun.
  10. Tenth daughter: (1844–1845), daughter of Noble Consort Tun.

Death and legacy

Daoguang died on 25 February 1850, at the Old Summer Palace (圓明園), 8 km/5 miles northwest of the walls of Beijing. He was succeeded by his eldest surviving son. Daoguang failed to understand the intention or determination of the Europeans, or the basic economics of a war on drugs. Although the Europeans were outnumbered, outgunned and were thousands of miles away from home, they could bring far superior firepower to bear at any point of contact along Chinese coast. The Manchu court was highly dependent on the continued flow of tax/levy payment from southern China via the Grand Canal, which was easily cut off by the British expeditionary force at Zhenjiang (Chenkiang/Chinkiang). He had a poor understanding of the British and the industrial revolution that Britain had undergone, preferring to turn a blind eye to the rest of the world. It was said that Daoguang did not even know where Britain was located in the world. His thirty-year reign introduced the initial onslaught by western imperialism and foreign invasions that would plague China, in one form or another, for the next one hundred years.

He was interred in the Muling (慕陵 – meaning "Tomb of longing", or "Tomb of admiration") mausoleum, which is part of the Western Qing Tombs (清西陵), 120 kilometers/75 miles southwest of Beijing.


  • Jane Kate Leonard. Controlling from Afar: The Daoguang Emperor's Management of the Grand Canal Crisis, 1824-1826. Michigan Monographs in Chinese Studies. Ann Arbor: Center for Chinese Studies, University of Michigan, 1996. ISBN 0892641142. Shows the Daoguang Emperor in a competent and effective mode when dealing with a crisis early in his reign.
  • Pierre-Etienne Will, "Views of the Realm in Crisis: Testimonies on Imperial Audiences in the Nineteenth Century." Late Imperial China 29, no. 1S (2008): 125-59. JSTOR Link. Uses transcripts of imperial audiences to present Daoguang as more a victim of circumstances than the bumbling administrator in many accounts.
  • Karl Gutzlaff, . The only biography of the Daoguang Emperor; written by a missionary and contemporary.
  • Evelyn S. Rawski, The Last Emperors: A Social History of Qing Imperial Institutions (Berkeley: University of Californian Press, 2001) ISBN 0-520-22837-5.
  • Daily life in the Forbidden City, Wan Yi, Wang Shuqing, Lu Yanzhen. ISBN 0-670-81164-5.
  • 《清史稿》 (Qingshi Kao) Draft history of the Qing dynasty.



Daoguang Emperor
Born: 16 September 1782 Died: 25 February 1850
Regnal titles
Preceded by
The Jiaqing Emperor
Emperor of China
Succeeded by
The Xianfeng Emperor
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