Han dynasty

Empress Bo and Empress Wang Zhi

Empress Dowager Bo (left, 薄太后) was an imperial concubine of Emperor Gaozu of Han (Liu Bang). She was also known as Consort Bo (薄姬) during the life of the Emperor, and more formally as either Empress Dowager Xiaowen (孝文太后) or (rarer) Empress Gao (高皇后). 

Empress Wang of Jing (right, 孝景王皇后, 180s? – 25 June 126 BC), also known by her birth name Wang Zhi (王娡) and by her title Lady Wang (王夫人)

Their Stories

Empress Bo Empress Bo, also known as Empress Dowager Bo, was the wife of Emperor Cheng of Han and the mother of Emperor Ai of Han. Her family, the Bos, were hereditary marquesses who traced their ancestry to Emperor Yao. During Emperor Cheng’s reign, she was his favorite concubine and was created empress in 18 BC.

After Emperor Cheng’s death in 7 BC, her son Liu Xin ascended the throne as Emperor Ai, and Empress Dowager Bo served as regent during his short reign. After Emperor Ai’s death in 1 BC, the throne was seized by Wang Mang, who eventually founded the Xin Dynasty.

Empress Wang Zhi Empress Wang Zhi was the wife of Emperor Wu of Han, one of the most significant emperors in Chinese history. Born into the powerful Wang clan, she was known for her beauty and wit. Empress Wang Zhi played a crucial role in the palace politics of her time.

She is known for her conflicts with Consort Wei and Consort Li, both favored by Emperor Wu. In one of the most famous instances, Empress Wang Zhi was able to manipulate Consort Li into falling out of favor with the Emperor, which solidified her position as Empress.

However, it should be noted that Empress Wang Zhi did not have any surviving sons with Emperor Wu, which caused her great distress. This resulted in Emperor Wu’s heirs coming from his other consorts, and the succession of the throne became quite complicated.

Their Spouse

Emperor Jing of Han 漢景帝 (Liu Qi (劉啟); 188 BC – 9 March 141 BC) was the sixth emperor of the Chinese Han dynasty from 157 to 141 BC. His reign saw the limiting of the power of the feudal kings/princes which resulted in the Rebellion of the Seven States in 154 BC. Emperor Jing managed to crush the revolt and princes were thereafter denied the right to appoint ministers for their fiefs. This move helped to consolidate central power which paved the way for the long reign of his son Emperor Wu of Han.

Emperor Jing had a complicated personality. He continued his father Emperor Wen’s policy of general non-interference with the people, reduced tax and other burdens, and promoted government thrift. He continued and magnified his father’s policy of reduction in criminal sentences. His light governance of the people was due to the Taoist influences of his mother, Empress Dou. Still, during his reign he arrested and imprisoned Zhou Yafu, and he was generally ungrateful to his wife Empress Bo.

He was the last emperor of Han who was the common ancestor of all subsequent emperors; all subsequent emperors of the Western Han were descendants of Emperor Wu, while all emperors of the Eastern Han were descendants of his sixth son Liu Fa, Prince Ding of Changsha.

About this Portrait

Chinese watercolor, on silk. The Chinese Empresses Collection
Painted by Xiang Li
75 x 36 inches

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