was the reigning name of Hsuan-Yeh, the second emperor
of the Qing dynasty
. To the Chinese empire he added parts of Russia
and Outer Mongolia
and extended control over Tibet
. He opened four ports to foreign trade
and encouraged the introduction of Western education
and arts and of Roman Catholicism
In 1661, his father died suddenly from smallpox at the age of 23, and the seven-year old was raised to the throne, and given the name Kangxi, meaning Peaceful Harmony. His government was first administered by four conservative Manchu courtiers from the preceding reign. One of the first political acts of the four Imperial advisers was to purge the imperial court of any eunuchs holding actual power.
When he was 15, he wrested all power from the now dictatorial advisors with a clever coup, showing he was the real emperor of China. Once in power, Kangxi promptly moved to subdue five seperate rebel factions in China, first the Southern renegade warlords in Canton, the rebels in Taiwan, the Russian invaders in the Black Dragon River Valley, the Mogolian aggressors, then finally the Dzungars in Tibet.
Kangxi was an accomplished military leader who was endowed with exceptional physical strength and with skill in archery; he poured his inexhaustible energy into his daily administrative duties. Under the traditional Imperial system of China, nothing in the empire was too small to come under the personal scrutiny of the Emperor. Kangxi read all the reports and memorandums presented to him, meticulously correcting even the smallest scribal errors, and he often boasted that he routinely took care of all the documents, even in wartime, when 300-400 arrived daily.
The Huang He (Yellow River) was one of the subjects that commanded Kangxi's attention. Long neglected, the river repeatedly flooded the land near where it joined the Huai Ho, causing great damage to northern Kiangsu. By 1863, the annual floods have been mostly controlled. In addition to this, he repaired the Grand Canal, the vital North-South waterway that links central China.
After the conquest of Taiwan, Kangxi lifted restrictions on coastal trade and opened four ports, including Canton, to foreign ships. Western trade stimulated immense industrial growth in Southern China. Kangxi was very fond of learning. His avidity for study steadily increased with his age, to a degree that even when ill from overwork he did not stop reading books. In 1677 he opened a small study hall called the Nan shufang in the Forbidden City, where he engaged himself in lively discussions on philosophical and historical topics with the leading scholars of his time. His inclination toward the scholar Chu Hsi's philosophy and arduous emulation of its Confucianist ideals were a most effective means for the Manchu Qing to gain the confidence of the Chinese majority. Always eager to absorb new knowledge and technologies from Europe, Kangxi employed many Jesuit missionaries. He learned geometry, and the Jesuits helped with the production of Chinese cannons that proved effective against the three rebellious kings and the Dzungars. Kangxi also learned mathematics and geography, and acquired a taste for Western art.
At the Chinese New Year of 1722, K'ang-hsi celebrated his long and prosperous reign by inviting many elders to a great banquet at the court. That winter he fell ill while staying at the Summer Palace, and he died in December. The next year he was buried at Ma lan yü, to the northeast of Peking, in a mausoleum called the Ching Ling. Kangxi is counted among the ablest monarchs ever to govern the vast Chinese empire. He reigned for 61 years and laid the foundation for a long period of political stability and economic prosperity in China.