Consort Duan was a Ming Dynasty concubine of the Jiajing Emperor. She was one of the emperor's most beloved concubines, but was implicated in an assassination attempt and subsequently executed.[1]

Consort Duan
BornWuxi, Jiangxi
SpouseJiajing Emperor
IssueZhu Shouying, Princess Chang'an
Zhu Luzheng, Princess Ning'an
ClanCao (曹)
FatherCao Cha (曹察)


Cao was born the daughter of an official in Wuxi, modern Jiangsu Province.[2] It is unknown when she entered the Ming Palace, but she was initially titled Lady Cao (Chinese: 淑人曹氏).

In 1536, Lady Cao gave birth to the emperor's first daughter, Shouying (Chinese: 壽媖). The same year, she was promoted to Imperial Concubine Duan (Chinese: 端嬪) and her father was made a member of the Jinyiwei with authority over 1,000 households.[2] After the first month of his daughter's birth, the emperor held a lavish feast to celebrate.[3]

In 1537, Imperial Concubine Duan was promoted to Consort Duan.[3] She gave birth to the emperor's third daughter in 1539, Luzheng (Chinese: 禄媜).

Palace women uprisingEdit

In 1542, the emperor was staying in Consort Duan's quarters. A group of palace women pretended to wait on him whilst there, tied a rope around his neck and attempted to strangle him.[1] They failed to do so and, in the meantime, a palace woman named Zhang Jinlian (Chinese: 張金蓮) alerted Empress Fang. The palace eunuchs revived the emperor and arrested the palace women.[1]

After the attack, the Jiajing Emperor was incapable of speaking, so Empress Fang ordered the palace women executed. As the attack had taken place in Consort Duan's palace, the empress determined that she had conspired with the palace women and sentenced her to death by slow slicing in the marketplace.[1] Her body was then displayed, alongside those of Imperial Concubine Ning and the other palace women.[4] 10 members of the women's families were also beheaded, while a further 20 were enslaved and gifted to ministers.[4] It was later determined that Consort Duan had not been involved,[1] but she was not granted a posthumous title.


Zhaosi Hall, a national-level protected site near Shuofang in Wuxi New Area, was owned by Consort Duan's father. An archway near to it is built in the style of an imperial memorial, but has no inscription. Local people reported the presence of a grave tumulus near the arch that had been levelled and, as cedar (Chinese: ; pinyin: nán) sounds similar to the local dialect's word for daughter (Chinese: ; pinyin: nān), the archway is popularly believed to have been erected by Cao in memory of his daughter.[5]



  1. ^ a b c d e Zhang (1739)
  2. ^ a b History Office (1620s), volume 181
  3. ^ a b History Office (1620s), volume 191
  4. ^ a b History Office (1620s), volume 267
  5. ^ Gu 谷, Yuefei 岳飞 (13 July 2013). "无锡曹端妃无字牌坊穿越470年 系真实版"甄嬛传"" [Consort Duan's blank memorial in Wuxi extends back over 470 years. This is the true "Empresses in the Palace"]. China News (in Chinese). Retrieved 27 June 2017.

Works citedEdit