|Prince Qing of the First Rank|
Painting of Yikuang by Hubert Vos, 1898-1899.
|Prince Qing of the First Rank|
|Tenure||1850 - 1917|
|1st Prime Minister of the Imperial Cabinet|
|Tenure||8 May 1911 - 1 November 1911|
|Tenure||1903 - 1911|
|Born||16 November 1838|
|Died||28 January 1917 (aged 78)|
another four consorts
three other sons
Yikuang (Manchu: ? I-kuwang; 16 November 1838 – 28 January 1917), formally known as Prince Qing (or Prince Ch'ing), was a Manchu noble and politician of the Qing dynasty. He served as the first Prime Minister of the Imperial Cabinet, an office created in May 1911 to replace the Grand Council.
Yikuang was born in the Aisin-Gioro clan as the eldest son of Mianxing (), a lesser noble who held the title of a buru bafen fuguo gong. He was adopted by his uncle, Mianti (), who held the title of a third class zhenguo jiangjun. His grandfather was Yonglin, the 17th son of the Qianlong Emperor and the first in line in the Prince Qing peerage, one of the 12 "iron-cap" princely peerages of the Qing dynasty.
Yikuang inherited the title of a fuguo jiangjun in 1850 and was promoted to beizi in 1852. In January 1860, the Xianfeng Emperor further elevated Yikuang to the status of a beile. In October 1872, after the Tongzhi Emperor married Empress Xiaozheyi, he promoted Yikuang to a junwang (second-rank prince) and appointed him as a yuqian dachen (?; a senior minister reporting directly to the emperor).
In March 1884, during the Guangxu Emperor's reign, Yikuang was put in charge of the Zongli Yamen (the de facto foreign affairs ministry) and given the title "Prince Qing of the Second Rank" (). In September 1885, he was tasked with assisting Prince Chun in overseeing maritime and naval affairs. In February 1886, he was awarded the privilege of entering the inner imperial court to meet the emperor. In January 1889, he was given an additional appointment: you zongzheng (; Right Director of the Imperial Clan Court). After the Guangxu Emperor married Empress Xiaodingjing in 1889, he granted additional privileges to Yikuang. In 1894, when Empress Dowager Cixi celebrated her 60th birthday, she issued an edict promoting Yikuang to the status of a qinwang (first-rank prince), hence Yikuang was formally known as "Prince Qing of the First Rank".
Around October 1894, during the First Sino-Japanese War, Yikuang was appointed to the positions of high commissioner of the admiralty, the Zongli Yamen, and of war operations, with the latter becoming a quasi-general headquarters.
Yikuang was involved in the "sale" of official positions, in which a person could obtain an official post through the prince's recommendation by paying him a certain sum of money. He became a "go-to person" for backroom deals in politics.
During the Boxer Rebellion from 1899 to 1901, Yikuang was more sympathetic towards the foreigners whereas Zaiyi (Prince Duan) sided with the Boxers against the foreigners. Two factions were formed in the Qing imperial court - one comprised a number of "moderate" pro-foreign politicians, including Yikuang, while another xenophobic faction was headed by Zaiyi. However, Yikuang was discredited for his pro-foreign stance when a multi-national military force marched into Beijing during the Seymour Expedition of 1900. He was immediately replaced by the "reactionary" Zaiyi as the leader of the Zongli Yamen (the foreign affairs ministry). Qing imperial forces and Boxers, acting under Zaiyi's command, defeated Seymour's first expedition. Yikuang even wrote letters to foreigners, inviting them to take shelter in the Zongli Yamen during the Siege of the International Legations, when Zaiyi's men besieged the Beijing Legation Quarter. Another pro-foreign general, Ronglu, offered to provide escorts to the foreigners when his soldiers were supposed to be killing foreigners. Yikuang and Zaiyi's forces clashed several times. Yikuang ordered his own Bannermen to attack the Boxers and the Kansu Braves.
Yikuang was then sent by Empress Dowager Cixi, along with Li Hongzhang, to negotiate for peace with the Eight-Nation Alliance after they invaded Beijing in 1901. Yikuang and Li Hongzhang signed the Boxer Protocol on 7 September 1901. During the conference, Yikuang was seen as a representative while the actual negotiations were done by Li Hongzhang. Returning to Beijing as a senior member of the imperial court, Yikuang persisted in his old ways, and was despised by not only reformers, but also by moderate court officials.
In June 1901, the Zongli Yamen was converted to the Waiwubu (; foreign affairs ministry), with Yikuang still in charge of it. In December, Yikuang's eldest son, Zaizhen, was made a beizi. In discussions over Manchuria, Yikuang "was bolder in resisting the Russians [than Li Hongzhang], though he was in the last resort weak and unable to hold out against pressure. The Japanese regarded him as a 'nonentity' but this judgment may have been influenced by the fact that he did not often accept their advice." He was also appointed to the Grand Council in March 1903. Later that year, he was put in charge of the finance and defence ministries - in addition to his position as head of the foreign affairs ministry. However, he was also relieved of his duties as a yuqian dachen (?) and replaced by his eldest son, Zaizhen.
After the Guangxu Emperor died on 14 November 1908, Empress Dowager Cixi chose Zaifeng (Prince Chun)'s two-year-old son, Puyi, to be the new emperor. Puyi was "adopted" into the emperor's lineage, hence he was nominally no longer Zaifeng's son. Empress Dowager Cixi died on the following day.
Puyi ascended the throne as the Xuantong Emperor, with his biological father, Zaifeng (Prince Chun), serving as regent. In 1911, Zaifeng abolished the Grand Council and replaced it with an "Imperial Cabinet", after which he appointed Yikuang as the Prime Minister of the Imperial Cabinet ().
When the Wuchang Uprising broke out in October 1911, Yikuang stepped down as Prime Minister, offering his position to Yuan Shikai instead, and appointed himself as the Chief Executive of the Bideyuan (; a government body established in May 1911 which provided advice to the emperor). Yikuang and Yuan Shikai persuaded Empress Dowager Longyu (Empress Xiaodingjing) to abdicate on behalf of the Xuantong Emperor. The empress dowager heeded their advice in February 1912.
After the fall of the Qing dynasty and the establishment of the Republic of China, Yikuang and his eldest son, Zaizhen, amassed a fortune and moved from Beijing to the British concession in Tianjin. They later moved back to the Prince Qing Residence () at No. 3, Dingfu Street in Beijing's Xicheng District.
Yikuang died of illness in 1917 in his residence. Puyi awarded him the posthumous title "Prince Qingmi of the First Rank" (?). In the same year, Li Yuanhong, the President of the Republic of China, gave Zaizhen permission to inherit the Prince Qing peerage.
YikuangBorn: February 1836 Died: January 1917
| Prime Minister of the Imperial Cabinet
8 May 1911 - 1 November 1911
This article incorporates text from The Century, Volume 70, a publication from 1905, now in the public domain in the United States.