Empress Yu (Northern Wei)

Empress Yu (于皇后, personal name unknown) (488?[1]–507) was an empress of the Xianbei-led Northern Wei dynasty of China. She was Emperor Xuanwu's first empress.

She was the daughter of Yu Jing (于勁), the younger brother of the powerful general Yu Lie (于烈). It was said that when Emperor Xuanwu first assumed imperial powers — which probably referred to his relieving his uncle Yuan Xie of authorities in 501 — Yu Lie believed that the emperor lacked sufficient consorts, and so persuaded Emperor Xuanwu's attendants to praise of her beauty and virtues. Emperor Xuanwu took her as an imperial consort, and in late 501 created her empress. She was said to be quiet, tolerant, and not jealous. She bore him one son, Yuan Chang (元昌), in 506. By that point, however, she was said to have lost his favor, as he favored his cousin Consort Gao, and their uncle Gao Zhao became exceedingly powerful. When Empress Yu suddenly died in 507, it was believed that Consort Gao poisoned her, but historians concede that there is not conclusive evidence. When her son Yuan Chang died the following year (508), it was also alleged that Gao Zhao had him poisoned.


  1. ^ Whether she was born in 488 is dependent on whether she became Emperor Xuanwu's concubine in 501 or not -- the historical accounts implied that she did, but were not conclusive. They were, however, clear that she was 13 when she became his concubine.
Chinese royalty
Preceded by Empress of Northern Wei
Succeeded by