Empress Wang (Ping)
Wang Mang’s daughter, and the last empress of the Western Han Dynasty
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Empress Wang (王皇后, personal name unknown) (8 BC – 23 AD), formally Empress Xiaoping (孝平皇后), formally during her father Wang Mang’s Xin dynasty Duchess Dowager of Ding’an (定安太后) then Princess Huanghuang (黃皇室主), was an empress during the Han Dynasty and the last empress of the Western Han Dynasty.
She was the daughter of the eventual usurper Wang Mang, who established the Xin Dynasty. Her husband was Emperor Ping. She is largely viewed by historians as a tragic figure, the victim of circumstances who tried to remain loyal to her husband of only a few years, but whose faithfulness to her husband’s dynasty eventually led her to commit suicide at the end of her father’s reign.
Emperor Ping 漢平帝 (9 BC – 3 February 6 AD) was the eleventh emperor of the Chinese Han dynasty from 1 BC to AD 6. After Emperor Ai died childless, the throne was passed to his cousin Emperor Ping—then a child of eight years old. Wang Mang was appointed regent by the Grand Empress Dowager Wang Zhengjun. Dissatisfied with his father’s dictatorial regency, in AD 3, Wang’s son Wang Yu (王宇) conspired with Emperor Ping’s maternal uncles of the Wei clan against Wang, but after they were discovered, Wang had not only Wang Yu and the Weis (except Consort Wei) put to death, but also used this opportunity to accuse many actual or potential political enemies as being part of the conspiracy and to execute or exile them. From then onwards, the Han Dynasty existed only in name. Furthermore, Wang Mang also designated his daughter (Empress Wang, seen above) as the empress consort to Emperor Ping to codify his legitimacy to power. Emperor Ping was allegedly poisoned by Wang Mang after reigning for less than six years, because Wang was concerned that he would avenge his uncles, and his successor, the infant Ruzi Ying, would be chosen by none other than Wang Mang himself.
About this Portrait
Chinese watercolor, on silk. The Chinese Empresses Collection
Painted by Xiang Li
75 x 36 inches