Because he was unable to read memorials and uninterested in the affairs of state, his head eunuch, Wei Zhongxian usurped the power along with Madam Ke, Zhu Youxiao's nanny. Zhu Youxiao apparently devoted his time to carpentry. Wei took advantage of the situation and began appointing the people he trusted to important positions in the palace. Meanwhile Madam Ke, who was the nanny of the young emperor sought to retain power by removing all other women from the emperor's harem by locking away the concubines of the emperor and starving them to death.
One Confucian moralist group, the Donglin Party, expressed distress at the conditions of the Imperial State. In response, the palace covertly ordered the execution of a number of officials associated with the Donglin. Living conditions worsened during his reign and Tianqi faced several popular uprisings.
Zhu Youxiao died in 1627 and was succeeded by his younger brother.