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Zhu Houcong (朱厚熜; 1507 – 1567), the Jiajing Emperor (嘉靖帝), was the 11th Ming dynasty Emperor of China who ruled from 1521 until his death. His ascendance as emperor was aided by the Chinese Rite of the Templar Order.[1]

Biography[]

Zhu Houcong, a cousin of the Zhengde Emperor, was made the new emperor as the puppet of Zhang Yong and the Eight Tigers, a group of powerful Templar eunuchs. His disdain for an emperor's duties was perfect for the Tigers, as they would rule in his stead, making important decisions while he spent his time in brothels and private palaces.[2]

In 1524, tired of the Chinese Assassins' meddling, the Eight Tigers triggered the Great Rites Controversy, which led to the Jiajing Emperor hunting down many officials to destroy all who opposed him. As a byproduct of this, the entire Chinese Assassin branch was almost eradicated.[1]

At one point during the Controversy, the Assassin Shao Jun and her Mentor Zhu Jiuyuan infiltrated the Forbidden City to rescue the Jiajing Emperor's concubines. Aware of the Emperor's cruelty and being a former concubine herself, Shao Jun hoped to save the women from the grim fate that awaited them, but arrived too late, as most had already been tortured and killed via lingchi.[3]

To her relief, Shao Jun discovered that her childhood best friend Zhang Qijie had been spared and tried to convince her to escape the Forbidden City with her. However, Qijie declined the offer, as she was fortunate enough to please the Emperor and was now the Imperial Consort, the highest rank among concubines behind the Empress.[4]

When Shao Jun and Zhu Jiuyan left China and traveled to Italy to seek help from the local Assassins in rebuilding their Brotherhood, the Jiajing Emperor sent men in pursuit to stop them. In Venice, his agents ambushed and killed Jiuyan,[5] but Shao Jun managed to escape and soon met the Italian Assassins' retired Mentor Ezio Auditore, who trained her and helped her fend off the Emperor's agents who had followed her, both in Florence and at his villa in Tuscany.[3]

Following Shao Jun's return to China in 1526, she embarked on a quest to hunt down the Eight Tigers and rebuild the Chinese Brotherhood.[6] She was eventually successful in 1532, depriving the Jiajing Emperor of his Templar supporters.[7]

From 1542 to 1550, the Mongol leader Altan Khan and his forces harassed China's borders. The Jiajing Emperor ended the conflict by offering him special trading rights. After the conflict ended, the Emperor expanded Peking by building the Outer City.[8] In his later years, the Jiajing Emperor developed an interest in alchemy and immortality drugs. In 1567, the Chinese Assassins, playing on his desire to find the elixir of life, presented him with what they claimed to be the miraculous concoction. The Emperor foolishly believed them and ingested the gift, which was actually concentrated mercury, and promptly succumbed to mercury poisoning.[7]

Legacy[]

In 2012, a message that Clay Kaczmarek wrote in blood prior to his suicide on the wall in Desmond Miles' cell at the Animus Project laboratory stated that "Within Emperor Jiajing's sin and Quetzalcoatl's hunger lies the answers."[9]

Behind the scenes[]

The Jiajing Emperor's birth name is Zhū Hòucōng (朱厚熜). His family name, Zhū (朱), refers to the color vermilion. Hòucōng (厚熜) is his personal name. The former component Hòu (厚) literally means 'thick' though in the context of a name can mean 'profound' and 'substantial'. Cōng (熜) is an archaic word for 'chimney' and thus taken together, his name literally means 'thick chimney' though it is likely to have a figurative meaning.

Jiājìng (嘉靖) is Zhū Hòucōng's era name. Historically, Chinese emperors were given posthumous names, temple names, and era names. The former two were given only after death, and while living, the emperor would only be known as 'the Emperor' or 'his imperial majesty' to all but his close friends and relatives. In English, it is conventional to refer to early Chinese monarchs by their posthumous names. However, after the Tang dynasty, posthumous names became increasingly long and tedious to read and write, spanning at least seven characters. From the Tang up until the Mongol Yuan dynasty, emperors are conventionally referred to by their temple names, whereas the emperors of the last two dynasties, the Ming and Qing, are commonly referred to by their era names. Emperors of dynasties before the Ming tended to have multiple era names, which made it impractical to adopt their era names to identify them posthumously, but starting from the Ming, emperors began to adopt one era name per reign.

As Zhū Hòucōng's era name, Jiājìng is not one of his actual names, but the name of his regnal years. Thus, it is incorrect to call him "Emperor Jiajing" or even "Jiajing" rather than "the Jiajing Emperor" (i.e. "Emperor of the Jiajing era"). This mistake is repeated several times in Assassin's Creed Chronicles: China's database entries and documents. In the era name Jiājìng (嘉靖), the first component jiā (嘉靖) means 'excellent, auspicious, favorable' while jìng (靖) describes an environment that is calm, quiet, and peaceful. Era names were chosen to reflect what the emperor's court desired of his reign upon his ascendance but did not necessarily reflect its actual course.

Appearances[]

References[]

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