Zhang Juzheng

or Chang Chü-cheng

born 1525, Jiangling, Hubei province, China
died 1582, Beijing

Powerful Chinese minister of the Ming dynasty under the Longqing and Wanli emperors.

His benevolent rule and strong foreign and economic policies are considered to have brought the Ming dynasty to its peak. He is credited with centralizing government, limiting special privileges, and reclaiming tax-exempt land.

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▪ Chinese official
Wade-Giles romanization  Chang Chü-cheng 
born 1525, Jiangling [now in Hubei province], China
died July 1582, Beijing

      powerful Chinese minister during the years of the reign (1566/67–72) of the emperor Muzong (reign title Longqing) and the first decade of the reign (1572–1620) of the emperor Shenzong (reign title Wanli), both of the Ming dynasty (1368–1644). His benevolent rule and strong foreign and economic policies are generally considered by Chinese and Western historians to have brought the Ming dynasty to its peak.

      Zhang gained power through his position as tutor to the Muzong emperor. He worked to centralize the government, limit special privileges, and reclaim the tax-exempt lands owned by members of the imperial family and official classes. By 1580 there were some 106 million acres (43 million hectares) in the tax registers.

      Zhang's efforts to limit government spending, however, were a failure. The Shenzong emperor spent lavishly, and after Zhang's death state resources were depleted. Partisan wrangling, temporarily abandoned under Zhang's iron rule, ensued, and the dynasty rapidly declined. Although during his lifetime Zhang was showered with honours and tributes, within two years after his death the emperor had his family's land confiscated, his titles rescinded, and the record of his accomplishments blackened.

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Universalium. 2010.

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