The Qianlong Emperor was the fifth Emperor of the Qing dynasty and the fourth Qing emperor to rule over China proper, reigning from 1735 to 1796. Born Hongli, the fourth son of the Yongzheng Emperor, he reigned officially from 11 October 1735 to 8 February 1796. In 1796, he abdicated in favour of his son, the Jiaqing Emperor—a filial act in order not to reign longer than his grandfather, the Kangxi Emperor, who ruled for 61 years. Despite his retirement, however, he retained ultimate power as the Retired Emperor until his death in 1799. He thus was one of the longest-reigning rulers in the history of the world, and dying at the age of 87, one of the longest-lived.
As a capable and cultured ruler inheriting a thriving empire, during his long reign, the Qing Empire reached its most splendid and prosperous era, boasting a large population and economy. As a military leader, he led military campaigns expanding the dynastic territory to the largest extent by conquering and sometimes destroying Central Asian kingdoms. This turned around in his late years: the Qing empire began to decline with corruption and wastefulness in his court and a stagnating civil society.