Cover: Passage to Power: K’ang-hsi and His Heir Apparent, 1661–1722, from Harvard University PressCover: Passage to Power in E-DITION

Harvard East Asian Series 91

Passage to Power

K’ang-hsi and His Heir Apparent, 1661–1722

Product Details


$65.00 • £54.95 • €60.00

ISBN 9780674434684

Publication Date: 10/03/1979

252 pages

1 map

Harvard East Asian Series


Available from De Gruyter »

Media Requests:

Related Subjects

Harvard University Press has partnered with De Gruyter to make available for sale worldwide virtually all in-copyright HUP books that had become unavailable since their original publication. The 2,800 titles in the “e-ditions” program can be purchased individually as PDF eBooks or as hardcover reprint (“print-on-demand”) editions via the “Available from De Gruyter” link above. They are also available to institutions in ten separate subject-area packages that reflect the entire spectrum of the Press’s catalog. More about the E-ditions Program »

With admirable lucidity and scrupulous attention to detail, Silas Wu recreates the conflict and intrigue that marked the struggle for succession to the throne of China during the reign of Emperor K’ang-hsi. This crisis, as Wu portrays it, stemmed from irreconcilable familial commitments and imperial responsibilities. K’ang-hsi, frequently compared to his contemporaries Louis XIV and Peter the Great, is depicted here as a psychologically complex individual with bewildering inconsistencies in his behavior. His fears and doubts persistently confounded his ministers, impeding the effectiveness of his rule. Yin-jeng, his talented and promising son, had been hand-picked to succeed from infancy, but steadily degenerated into cruelty, immorality, and madness, becoming totally unfit to be the heir to the throne of the Chinese empire.

The story is told against the complex background of the K’ang-hsi era with specific delineations of the chief personalities concerned. This multifaceted approach enables Wu to link political events of the time to the conflicting desires and passions of father and son. His careful investigation of the cultural concept of filial piety and its profound influence on K’ang-hsi enables him to unravel the latter’s paradoxical behavior, both private and public. Even the subtle effects of contemporary social changes on the court at Peking come to light through Wu’s comprehensive analysis.

Wu has utilized nearly every document available on the subject including letters, diaries, intelligence reports, and K’ang-hsi’s secret correspondence with court officials. The result is an unusual book that unites history and psychology.

Recent News

Black lives matter. Black voices matter. A statement from HUP »

From Our Blog

Jacket: Iron and Blood: A Military History of the German-Speaking Peoples since 1500, by Peter Wilson, from Harvard University Press

A Lesson in German Military History with Peter Wilson

In his landmark book Iron and Blood: A Military History of the German-Speaking Peoples since 1500, acclaimed historian Peter H. Wilson offers a masterful reappraisal of German militarism and warfighting over the last five centuries, leading to the rise of Prussia and the world wars. Below, Wilson answers our questions about this complex history,