Empress Wu (Song dynasty)

Empress Wu (11 September 1115 – 12 December 1197) was a Chinese Empress consort of the Song Dynasty, married to Emperor Gaozong of Song. She played an influential part in politics of the Southern Song dynasty, having caused the abdication of three monarchs: Emperor Gaozong in 1162, Emperor Xiaozong in 1189, and Emperor Guangzong in 1194.[1]

Empress Xiansheng
Impératrice Wu.jpg
Empress of the Southern Song Dynasty
Reign18 May 1143 – 24 July 1162
PredecessorEmpress Xianjie
SuccessorEmpress Xia
Reign24 July 1162 – 9 November 1187
Empress Dowager of the Southern Song Dynasty
Reign9 November 1187 – 28 June 1194
Grand Empress Dowager of the Southern Song Dynasty
Reign28 June 1194 – 12 December 1197
Born11 September 1115
Bianjing, Henan, China
Died12 December 1197(1197-12-12) (aged 82)
Lin'an, Zhejiang, China
SpouseEmperor Gaozong
Posthumous name
Empress Xiansheng Cilie 憲聖慈烈皇后
FatherWu Jin

LifeEdit

Wu was the daughter of Wu Jin, a commoner in Kaifeng. At the age of fourteen, she was selected as a palace maid to Gaozong, then a Prince, and his first spouse and primary consort Xing, who had recently married.

Fall of KaifengEdit

In 1126, Emperor Huizong abdicated in favor of his son, Emperor Qinzong, the elder brother of Gaozong. In 1127, the capital of Kaifeng was captured by the Jurchen during the Jin–Song Wars. The Emperor Qinzong was deposed, and him, as well as his predecessor Emperor Huizong and most of the Imperial family and court, over 3000 people, was captured and exiled to Manchuria in what was called the Jingkang Incident.[2] They were first taken to the Jurchen capital, many of them dying on the way. The Imperial consorts, concubines, palace women and eunuchs who were taken captured, were distributed among the Jurchen as slaves.[3] Consort Xing, the primary spouse of Gaozong, were among those captured and taken away: nothing more is known of her except that she was coveted by her captors, that she attempted suicide to escape abuse but failed, and that she died in captivity in 1139.[4]

Southern SongEdit

Gaozong himself, as well as Wu, avoided capture because they were absent from the capital when it fell. Gaozong then organized the resistance against further Jurchen invasion, declaring himself Emperor in late 1127 and establishing the Southern Song dynasty. Knowing his primary consort Xing was still alive in captivity, he declared her to be Empress in absentia.[5] Wu followed him on his military campaigns against Jin dressed in armor, and reportedly saved his life on one occasion when they were attacked by thugs, shooting one to death with an arrow, and frightening the rest away.[6]

EmpressEdit

Having no surviving sons of his own, he adopted two boys in 1133: one of them became the foster son of Wu in 1140, and the other one (future Emperor Xiaozong) in 1142.[7] Emperor Gaozong kept the position of Empress vacant because he did not know whether Consort Xing was still alive or not: when she died in 1139, the Jurchen kept her death a secret, and it was not until his mother, Consort Wei, was released and allowed to join him, that he learned that she was dead.[8] Her remains was returned to be buried the same year. It was not until 1143 that Gaozong was persuaded by his mother and his ministers to appoint a new Empress, and he promoted Consort Wu to the position.

Empress Wu was praised by both her husband and her foster son Emperor Xiaozong for tolerating the large number of concubines and consorts Gaozong took without complaints.[9] In reality, however, she actually had a large number of them dismissed.[10]

Later lifeEdit

In 1162, Empress Wu persuaded Emperor Gaozong to abdicate in favor of Emperor Xiaozong.[11] She then became Empress Dowager Wu. In 1189, the Crown Prince asked her to persuade Emperor Xiaozong to abdicate in his favor, which she did.[12] Upon the succession of Emperor Guangzong in 1189, it was actually suggested that she would act as his regent, because of his bad health.[13] In reality, it was the Emperor's consort, Empress Li Fengniang, who ruled during the reign of Emperor Guangzong.[14] In 1194, Empress Dowager Wu was persuaded to force Emperor Guangzong to abdicate in favor of Emperor Ningzong of Song.[15]

She died in 1197.

NotesEdit

  1. ^ Lily Xiao Hong Lee, Sue Wiles: Biographical Dictionary of Chinese Women, Volume II: Tang Through Ming 618 - 1644
  2. ^ Patricia Buckley Ebrey: Emperor Huizong
  3. ^ Patricia Buckley Ebrey: Emperor Huizong
  4. ^ Lily Xiao Hong Lee, Sue Wiles: Biographical Dictionary of Chinese Women, Volume II: Tang Through Ming 618 - 1644
  5. ^ Lily Xiao Hong Lee, Sue Wiles: Biographical Dictionary of Chinese Women, Volume II: Tang Through Ming 618 - 1644
  6. ^ Lily Xiao Hong Lee, Sue Wiles: Biographical Dictionary of Chinese Women, Volume II: Tang Through Ming 618 - 1644
  7. ^ Lily Xiao Hong Lee, Sue Wiles: Biographical Dictionary of Chinese Women, Volume II: Tang Through Ming 618 - 1644
  8. ^ Lily Xiao Hong Lee, Sue Wiles: Biographical Dictionary of Chinese Women, Volume II: Tang Through Ming 618 - 1644
  9. ^ Lily Xiao Hong Lee, Sue Wiles: Biographical Dictionary of Chinese Women, Volume II: Tang Through Ming 618 - 1644
  10. ^ Lily Xiao Hong Lee, Sue Wiles: Biographical Dictionary of Chinese Women, Volume II: Tang Through Ming 618 - 1644
  11. ^ Lily Xiao Hong Lee, Sue Wiles: Biographical Dictionary of Chinese Women, Volume II: Tang Through Ming 618 - 1644
  12. ^ Lily Xiao Hong Lee, Sue Wiles: Biographical Dictionary of Chinese Women, Volume II: Tang Through Ming 618 - 1644
  13. ^ Lily Xiao Hong Lee, Sue Wiles: Biographical Dictionary of Chinese Women, Volume II: Tang Through Ming 618 - 1644
  14. ^ Lily Xiao Hong Lee, Sue Wiles: Biographical Dictionary of Chinese Women, Volume II: Tang Through Ming 618 - 1644
  15. ^ Lily Xiao Hong Lee, Sue Wiles: Biographical Dictionary of Chinese Women, Volume II: Tang Through Ming 618 - 1644
Chinese royalty
Preceded by
Empress Xing
Empress of China
1143–1162
Succeeded by
Empress Xia (Song dynasty)