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Emperor Kangxi, the second emperor of the Qing Dynasty, is perhaps one of the most cultured emperors in Chinese history. He ruled China for more than 60 years and had a strong passion for learning throughout his life.
Emperor Kangxi was known as a diligent ruler who cared about his people. During the last years of his rule, instead of imposing heavy taxes on the peasants, he didn’t tax them at all, since there was surplus money in the imperial treasury. Under his benevolent rule, China prospered and the dynasty was stable.
NTD 2012 dance competition Male Adult Division silver medalist Cao Yongxin portrayed Emperor Kangxi in his dance routine.
[Cao Yongxin, NTD Male Adult Division Silver Medalist]: “Kangxi was the emperor who ruled for the longest in Chinese history. He ascended the throne at a very young age. When he became emperor there were several powerful officials at the Qing Court who were not satisfied with him. And because he’s so young it was hard for him to rule properly. After a lot of effort, he broke away from their influence and genuinely ruled as the emperor.”
Emperor Kangxi took the best of his three ancestral heritages. From his Mongolian grandmother, he learned practical life experiences and later, the Mongolian language from a palace attendant. His father was Manchurian and his mother was Han Chinese.
The young Kangxi learned horse riding and archery from a Manchurian master, and Confucian teachings from a Han Chinese teacher.
His courage and determination were influenced by his Manchurian culture, his wisdom and noble spirit by his Mongolian origin, while his benevolence came from his Chinese Confucian upbringing.
His openness and passion for learning were partly influenced by Western culture. All these molded him to become one of the most cultured emperors in Chinese history.
Cao explains why he chose Emperor Kangxi in his character portrayal during the dance competition.
[Cao Yongxin, NTD Male Adult Division Silver Medalist]: “I feel this historical figure is very good to perform on stage because he had the (glory of being the emperor), then the downfall (at the hands of officials), and then finally regaining the glory and honor (when he did finally rule).”
According to ancient texts, Emperor Kangxi was able to read and write at the age of five. Everyday he’d write thousands of words as constant practice. When learning the Four Books of Confucianism, the young Kangxi would memorize every character.
After ascending the throne at the age of eight, Emperor Kangxi became even more dedicated to his studies. The books he read included, The Book of Changes, Annals of Zuo, Documents of the Elder, and The Book of Odes.
Later he studied mathematics, geography, and science from the Jesuit missionaries, some of whom became his trusted advisers.
After getting rid of the officials who had thwarted him, Emperor Kangxi recruited Chinese scholars to help him transform his rule into one based on Confucian teachings. His promotion and support for Chinese culture and arts helped him to win over the scholarly elite and also the Chinese people.
Emperor Kangxi had a deep appreciation for Chinese literature and history. He loved Chinese calligraphy, wrote many books and over 1,000 poems.
He was meticulous about keeping historical records and employed Chinese scholars to compile the Kangxi Dictionary—the greatest to date. He also mapped much of China.
Emperor Kangxi conducted multiple inspection tours—one of which was immortalized in a set of 12 scrolls called, “Picture of the Southern Tour.” These tours stabilized Manchu rule throughout China.
To Chinese, the name Kangxi now represents the stability and culture of one of the greatest periods of Chinese history.