Reign of Wanli Emperor

Reign of Wanli Emperor

Ming dynasty

Reign of Wanli Emperor
The Wanli Emperor in his middle age ©Image Attribution forthcoming. Image belongs to the respective owner(s).
1572 Jul 19 - 1620 Aug 16

Reign of Wanli Emperor

Beijing, China

The Wanli Emperor was the 14th Emperor of the Ming dynasty, reigned from 1572 to 1620. "Wanli", the era name of his reign, literally means "ten thousand calendars". He was the third son of the Longqing Emperor. His reign of 48 years (1572–1620) was the longest among all the Ming dynasty emperors and it witnessed several successes in his early and middle reign, followed by the decline of the dynasty as the emperor withdrew from his active role in government around 1600.


During the first ten years of the Wanli era, the Ming dynasty's economy and military power prospered in a way not seen since the Yongle Emperor and the Reign of Ren and Xuan from 1402 to 1435. After Zhang Juzheng's death, the Wanli Emperor decided to take complete personal control of the government. During this early part of his reign, he showed himself to be a competent and diligent emperor. Overall, the economy continued to prosper and the empire remained powerful. Unlike the last 20 years of his reign, the Wanli Emperor at this time would attend court and discuss affairs of state.


During the later years of the Wanli Emperor's reign, he became thoroughly alienated from his imperial role and, in effect, went on strike. He refused to attend morning meetings, see his ministers or act upon memoranda. He also refused to make necessary personnel appointments, and as a result the whole top echelon of the Ming administration became understaffed

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