15. The Late Ming

The Ming dynasty had sixteen emperors. The first emperor was buried near Nanjing. The remains of the second emperor were never found (p. 175). For reasons to be discussed later, the seventh emperor, Zhu Qiyu, alone was buried west of Beijing. All remaining thirteen emperors found their resting place about twenty-five miles north of the capital city, in thirteen mausoleums over a belt of land that looks on a map like a huge horseshoe around a reservoir. Few visitors to Beijing fail to go out to the "Ming tombs." One of these, that of Zhu Yijun, the thirteenth emperor and generally known to Chinese and Western readers by his regal name "Wanli," was opened up by archaeologists in 1958. Millions of visitors have since then been inside his burial chamber.

When we look at the historical records, we find something quite unusual about these emperors. After Zhu Zhanji, few of them were seriously involved in the decision-making process that affected the destiny of their empire as a whole. Only the last emperor, Zhu Youjian, was an outstanding exception; but by then it was all too late. For most of them, there was little difficulty in reaching agreements with the bureaucrats on issues of peace and war. But their private lives were constant public issues. The bickering among the civil officials went up to and included the sovereign's personal and family matters, as if the

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