Tumubu Incident and Yu Qian Safeguarded Beijing

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Yu Qian Safeguarded Beijing
Yu Qian Safeguarded Beijing

Yu Qian (1398-1457)was born in 1398 into a family from Qiantang (former name for Hangzhou) in Zhejiang Province, and from his early youth was an avid student. The young Yu Qian greatly admired the conduct of the patriotic statesman Wen Tianxiang(1238-82). After working his way up through the local and provincial imperial examinations, Yu Qian passed the national palace examination and was assigned to a succession of administrative posts in Shanxi, Jiangxi and other places where he governed. In the autumn of 1449, the Oyrats took advantage of the seizure of power by the eunuch Wang Zhen}( died 1449) resulting in political chaos and military corruption to mount a large-scale invasion. Urged on by Wang Zhen, Emperor Zhengtong (reigned 1436-49 and again rereigned 1457-64)gave orders to mount a defensive campaign despite a glaring lack of preparations, and naturally numerous battles were lost. After retreating to Tumubu, near Guanting Reservoir Beyond the Badaling Great Wall, the emperor was finally besieged by the Oyrats}(a general name used during the Ming Dynasty for the Mongolian tribes occupying the western part of China) and taken prisoner by the enemy. The defeat at Tumubu threw the Ming Dynasty into unprecedented peril and set off a general panic at the capital. At this critical juncture, Yu Qian took upon himself the task of restoring peace and safety to China. He began by instigating a purge of he government and exposing how Wang Zhen had brought disaster to the the country. Next, he took several steps to protect the capital, bringing together military units from all over the country, recruiting a people’s militia and arranging for the transport of grain to feed the army. Military material was repaired, new men were promoted to positions of leadership and defensive units were positioned in outlying regions. In addition, the common people were mobilized to resist the invaders.

On October 11,1449, the Oyrats, holding Emperor Zhengtong as hostage, advanced on Beijing. Yu Qian engaged them in a fierce battle and after several days of fighting, repulsed the invading army and saved Beijing from falling into enemy’s hand. After the victory, Yu Qian was given the honorary title of Shaobao (the supreme commander in the army) and continued to supervise military affairs as Minister of the Army . He border defenses and eliminated the threat of enemy troops marauding the outlying areas. The Oyrats suffered heavy losses on several occasions and in 1450 were forced to return the imprisoned emperor to the Ming court.

After the imprisoned emperor s release, along with Shi Heng, Xu Youzhen, Cao Jixiang and others, formed a conspiracy, and on the 17th day of the first lunar month in 1457 overthrew the Jingtai emperor (reigned 1450-56)and regained the throne. In order to eliminate all opposition, when the Zhengtong emperor entered the hall to carry out the enthronement ceremonies, his supporters issued a memorial for Yu Qians arrest. Claiming that Yu Qian had planned to enthrone the son of one of the emperor’s brothers, they accused him of being a traitor and sentenced him to death along with General Fan Guang. When Yu Qian’s property was confiscated it was discovered that his wealth consisted mainly of a large collection of books, as well as a number of gifts from Emperor Jingtai, which demonstrated his loyalty to the Ming court. Yu Qian died on February 16, 1457. It is said that when the news of his death became known, every single woman and child in the capital was moved to tears. In 1466, nine years after his death. Yu Qian was posthumously restored to his former posts by special imperial decree and the site of his old home renamed the Shrine to Loyalty and Integrity. In 1590, during the reign of Emperor Wanli (1573-1620), a statue of Yu Qian was placed inside the shrine, but this was destroyed along with the rest of the shrine in the early years of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).

The world-renowned Forbidden City, first built some 600 years ago, is the largest and most complex existing ensemble of ancient royal architecture in the world. From Beijing’s time-honoured past and the majestic Forbidden City itself, people can learn vividly the originality, greatness and profound richness of the Chinese civilization and feel for themselves the vigour, resilience and pioneering spirit of the Chinese nation.