Historic site: the Forced-to-Death slope

The Forced-to-Death slope where Emperor Yongli of Ming Dynasty was strangulated

By Ma Tongchun, a local resident and senior English-speaking tour guide with over 30 years of professional experience.

The portrait of Yongli emperor (1623-1662)

At the middle section of Huashanxi Road or the West Street of Wuhuashan Hill near the Green Lake Hotel, there is a gentle slope called Bisipo or the Force-to-Death Slope where Yongli Emperor Zhu Youlang (1623-1662) of the South Ming Dynasty was strangulated by Wu Sangui (1612-1678) who was a general but deemed a notorious traitor of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).


The uprising led by Li Zicheng 
On March 18 1644, Li Zicheng (1606-1645) the leader of the Peasant Uprising of the late Ming Dynasty commanded the peasant army charge into Beijing and overthrew the Ming Dynasty. The Ming Emperor Chongzhen hanged himself at Coal Hill behind the Forbidden City, and that's the very end of the Great Ming Dynasty. 


Li Zicheng (1606-1645) was busy organising his new government of Dashun and getting ready to be enthroned as Yongchang Emperor, but lots of his peasant soldiers and officers lost their disciplines robbing and plundering the properties from the civilians. What is worse is that Liu Zongmin (one of Li's most important generals) took away Ms Chen Yuanyuan who was the concubine of Wu Sangui the commander of the Ming Troup of Shanhaiguan Pass. 


The transit power of Li Zicheng
Wu Sangui, at this greatest moment, changed his idea to surrender to the Manchurian instead of surrendering to Li Zicheng's power. He opened the gate of the Great Wall and led the Manchurian troops to destroy Li's peasant army and fought to Beijing. Li Zicheng enthroned himself as the Emperor of Dashun titled Yongchang on April 19 1644 in the Yingwu Palace and left Beijing next day. Li died on Jiugongshan Mountain by the attack of the local landlord troop in May 1644.


The power of the South Ming Dynasty
Other Ming royal members in the south of China organized the resistances against the Manchurian occupation but failed one after another. Guiwang Prince Zhu Youlang (1623-1662) was enthroned as Yongli Emperor at Zhaoqing of Guangdong Province on November 18 1646 after other three short-lived emperors who are respectively: 1.Fuwang Prince Zhu Yousong enthroned in Nanjing and killed by Manchurian troops one year later; 2.Tangwang Zhu Lvjian enthroned in Fuzhou and killed by the Manchurian less in 3 months after his throne; 3.Luwang Prince Zhu Yihai enthroned in Shaoxing and a few days after escaping out on the sea unknown where to.


Guiwang Prince Zhu Youlang (1623-16620 was the grandson of Wanli Emperor (1563-1620) and hereditary prince of his father's.


After his throne, his power was not so strong as expected and he was often driven and chased after by the Manchurian troops here and there. Therefore, he had to move to places one after another. He moved from Zhaoqing to Wuzhou (Guangxi), Guilin (Guangxi), Longan (Guizhou Province) and then to Kunming of Yunnan in the 16 years of disturbances. 


Emperor Yongli came to Kunming in March 1656. During his 4 years' stay in Kunming, the military forces became weak because of the internal struggle and the traitors surrender to Manchurian. Yongli Emperor and his government had to leave Kunming and withdraw to Sino-Myanmar border area and then escaped into Myanmar. The Yongli Emperor's power was almost finished at the “Incantation Water Ceremony” in Mandalay and most of his important ministers and generals were killed and the emperor was imprisoned with his family on August 12 1661.


In January 1662, the West-Pacification Prince Wu Sangui expedited into Mandalay of Myanmar and the Myanmar King handed over Yongli Emperor to Wu Sangui and Wu Sangui escorted the emperor, the queen, the prince and his party to Kunming all the way from Mandalay. 


The death of Yongli Emperor at Bisipo, Kunming
The emperor and his party were imprisoned in Jinchan Temple (Golden Cricket Temple) at Bizipo (Slope of Double-Edged Fine-Toothed Comb) which meant the slope street here used to be a comb market. Wu Sangui presented a report to Emperor Kangxi of the Qing Dynasty asking how to treat Yongli Emperor and Kangxi emperor gave Wu Sangui a wise answer, "Do at your Excellency's will." Wu Sangui was caught in a dilemma, if he killed the emperor, the Han people would curse him as a traitor or a fickle, brutal and cold-blooded mean person for ever, and if he let the emperor alive, Kangxi Emperor would think that Wu Sangui was not loyal to the Qing Dynasty. 


For the prosperity and the political status, Wu Sangui cruelly strangulated Yongli Emperor, the prince and all the officials were killed on Bizipo Street now Huashanxilu or Huashan West Street. The story said that the dark cloud and storm rain came suddenly when the emperor and the prince were killed which seemed even the heaven felt sad and mourned for the death of the emperor. The Chinese word "bizi" meaning "fine-toothed comb" pronounced very similar to the words "bisi" meaning "force to die", so the local Kunming people changed the name "bizipo" to "bisipo" to commemorate Yongli Emperor's death for his Ming Dynasty, and that means Wu Sangui forced Yongli Emperor to death (on April 14, 1662). 


Wu Sangui ordered the magistrate of Kunming to cremate the corpses of the emperor, the queen, the prince the emperor's mother and other officials and threw the ashes into Lianhuachi (the Lotus Pond), some people secretly pick the left bones and ashes and buried on the hillside of the West Hill. 


In November 1673, shilly-shally Wu Sangui hypocritically built a tomb at the west side of the Lotus Pond named "the Late Emperor Yongli's Mausoleum"), when he rebelled against the Qing Dynasty again. 


The forced-to-death slope, Kunming
Today at the backside of the Green Lake Hotel, there is a small garden at the southwest corner of which is a lonely stone tablet with the eye-catching words which reads, "THE PLACE WHERE EMPEROR YONGLI OF MING DYNASTY DIED A MARTYR OF HIS DYNASTY". The stone tablet was set up by General Cai E (1882-1916) in 1912 after the 1911 revolution.