Hong Taiji

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  • Other Names: 太宗 (Taizong), Abahai

Hong Taiji was the founder of China's Qing Dynasty, and of the Manchu people.

Commander of the two yellow banners of the Jurchen Later Jin Dynasty's military, Hong Taiji defeated his brothers and cousins in the succession dispute which followed the death of his father, Nurhachi, founder of that dynasty. The eighth son of Nurhachi, he was aided in his victory by a number of Chinese advisers, and following that victory, began adopting a number of features of Chinese-style government. He organized his government based on the Six Ministries of the Ming Dynasty, and employed Chinese officials throughout the government, to whom higher-ranking Jurchen ministers frequently delegated the actual administrative business of governance. Hong Taiji also adopted a system of civil service exams based on the Chinese model, and reformed the Jurchen writing system developed by his father in order to make it more suitable for record-keeping.

As the Ming declined, a number of Ming generals and officials defected into Hong Taiji's service, many of them bringing numbers of followers with them, quickly swelling the Jurchen ranks. Many of these were those charged with the defense of neighboring areas, thus opening up those regions to Manchu conquest. Hong Taiji established a series of eight banners for Mongol portions of the Later Jin military and society in 1635, paralleling the eight Jurchen (soon to be renamed Manchu) banners. In 1637, he then established two "martial Chinese" banners, expanding this to four in 1639 and to eight in 1642. These banners were not only military divisions, but also served as a mode of family registration, accounting for women, children, and land, and served as a basis for the taxation system.

Meanwhile, in 1636, Hong Taiji abolished the name "Later Jin Dynasty," officially changing the name of the dynasty to Qing, and taking on the title of "emperor."[1] In conjunction with this change, he also declared his people to no longer be "Jurchens," but now "Manchus," a new designation and identity. Over the next two years, he led campaigns against Korea, ending in the Koreans severing their relations with the Ming in 1638 and instead beginning to pay tribute to the Qing. By this time, Manchu forces had also crossed past the Great Wall, and were raiding in Shandong province and elsewhere.

However, roughly twenty to thirty years after Nurhachi first began to expand his power, the Manchus had begun to become less tribal, less martial, and more settled. Even in the very first years after being declared "Manchus," Hong Taiji worried the group was already beginning to lose its essential character as a martial, horseriding, steppes nomadic hunter people. The siege of the Ming city of Jinzhou, begun in 1632 or 1633, took ten years, with the city finally falling in 1642.

At the time of Hong Taiji's death in 1643, the crucial Shanhaiguan pass through the Great Wall, which Nurhachi had intended to take twenty years prior, was still well-guarded by the Ming general Wu Sangui. Discussions over the succession following Hong Taiji's death resulted in his ninth son, then five years of age, being chosen as the heir, with Hong Taiji's younger brother Dorgon as regent.

Preceded by
Emperor of Qing
Succeeded by
Shunzhi Emperor


  • Jonathan Spence, The Search for Modern China, Second Edition, W.W. Norton & Co. (1999), 30-32.
  1. Pamela Kyle Crossley, Translucent Mirror, UC Press (1999), 47.