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Emperor Kangxi and the Sun King Louis XIV

Emperor Kanxi, whose given name was Xuanye, was born in 1654 and died in late 1722. The Sun King Louis XIV was born in 1638 and died in the autumn of 1715. Thus, Louis XIV was both senior to and lived longer than Kangxi. The two monarchs lived at the Eastern and Western extremes of the Eurasian landmass, both with their own splendid accomplishments during approximately the same period. Although they never did meet face to face, there were nonetheless striking similarities between them.

Firstly, both came to the throne during childhood. Louis XIV was crowned King at six, while Kangxi's reign began when he was eight. As child monarchs, Louis XIV was educated in governance by his mother, Queen Anne d'Autriche, who was then regent of France; Kangxi was, on the other hand, prepared to govern by his grandmother, the Grand Empress Dowager Xiaozhuang. Before Louis XIV was proclaimed of age to rule, Cardinal Jules Mazarin was named Chief Minister to manage affairs of state, while in the early years of Kangxi's reign the government was largely oversaw by the Manchu military commander and statesman Guwalgiya Oboi.

Louis XIV and Kangxi both received full-fledged imperial education, under the careful guidance and instruction of their mother and grandmother, respectively. They excelled in riding and archery, and were conversant in many languages. Louis XIV used highly elegant French throughout his life, and he was good at Italian, Spanish, and basic Latin. Emperor Kangxi was fluent in Manchu, Mongolian, and Mandarin, and his command of literary Chinese was solid and precise.

After taking personal control of state affairs both monarchs demonstrated extraordinary diligence and industry, and consequently their political and military achievements were resplendent. Moreover, they promoted the study of sciences, took a profound liking for the arts, and had an even greater fondness for landscape gardens. Louis XIV expanded the Château de Versailles, and constructed its remarkable Galerie des Glaces and luxurious gardens, making the palace the center of French politics and a showcase for fashion and culture. Kangxi erected the Changchunyuan (Garden of Delightful Spring), the Summer Palace, and the Mulan Hunting Ground, with the last two being particularly important as they served not only as a resort for pleasure and health, but also as a political camp for winning over the Mongolian aristocracy.

Louis XIV reigned for 72 years and Kangxi for 62 years. The former became a paradigm for monarchs in modern Europe, while the latter ushered in the golden age which still bears his name today.

Portrait de Louis XIV (New window)

Portrait de Louis XIV
Atelier de Pierre Mignard (1612-1695)
Hauteur: 129 cm; Largeur: 99 cm
Huile sur toile
MV 8539
Musée national des châteaux de Versailles et de Trianon

Anne of Austria, Marie-Thérèse and the Dauphin (New window)

Anne of Austria, Marie-Thérèse and the Dauphin
Simon Renard de Saint-André (1613-1677)
Height: 137 cm; Width: 149 cm
Oil on canvas
MV 6931
Musée National des Châteaux de Versailles et de Trianon

Veüe générale de la Ville de Château de Versailles (New window)

Veüe générale de la Ville de Château de Versailles
Burin et eau-forte; colorié
L. 34; l. 52
Inv. 91.1.4
Versailles, Musée Lambinet

Kangxi in Martial Attire (New window)

Kangxi in Martial Attire
Hanging scroll, colors on silk
Palace Museum, Beijing

Emperor Kangxi Touring the South (New window)

Emperor Kangxi Touring the South
Wang Hui and others
9th handscroll of a set, colors on silk
Palace Museum, Beijing

Yuzhi Bishu Shanzhuang Shi (bing Tu) (New window)

Yuzhi Bishu Shanzhuang Shi (bing Tu)
Imperially Produced Poems and Illustrations of the Thirty-six Views at the Summer Mountain Palace Retreat
Selected by His Majesty the Emperor Kangxi
Wuying Palace black-and-red set imprint, Qing dynasty
National Palace Museum