Empress Hu (Xuande)
Empress Hu (1402–1443), born Hu Shanxiang, was a Chinese empress consort of the Ming dynasty, married to the Xuande Emperor. Born in 1400 in Jining, Shandong Province, she became the primary consort of Zhu Zhanji in 1417 and was appointed Crown Princess in 1424. After Xuande’s ascension in 1425, she became empress but faced challenges due to her perceived weakness and inability to bear a son. Xuande favored Noble Consort Sun, leading to Empress Hu’s deposition in 1428. Despite being dismissed, she was treated with sympathy and maintained a relationship with the empress dowager. Empress Hu died in 1443 and was buried in Jinshan. In 1463, her status as empress was posthumously restored, and she was honored with the title Empress Gongrang Chengshun Kangmu Jingci Zhang.
Empress Xiaogongzhang (1399–1462), of the Sun clan, was a Chinese empress consort of the Ming dynasty, married to the Xuande Emperor. Born in Zouping, Shandong Province, she was selected as a concubine to Zhu Zhanji in 1417, later giving birth to Princess Changde in 1424. After Xuande’s ascension in 1425, she became Noble Consort Sun and eventually empress in 1428, succeeding the deposed Empress Hu. Empress Sun actively engaged in court affairs, handling personnel evaluations and budgets. After Xuande’s death in 1435, she became empress dowager but faced competition from Empress Dowager Zhang. In 1442, Yingzong, her son, took the throne, and she became high and sacred empress dowager. Following Yingzong’s capture by the Mongols, she played a key role in his release. She died in 1462, posthumously receiving the title Empress Xiaogong Yixian Ciren Zhuanglie Qitian Peisheng Zhang.
Spouse: Emperor Xuande of Ming
The Xuande Emperor (Zhu Zhanji), the fifth Ming emperor, ruled from 1425 to 1435 during a relatively peaceful period. Born on March 16, 1399, he was fond of painting and literature. The era under his reign, named “Xuande,” reflected his emphasis on virtue. The emperor implemented tax reductions to alleviate the burden on farmers and endeavored to eliminate corruption among revenue collectors. Despite unsuccessful attempts to reform the military’s meritocracy, he faced challenges, such as recognizing Vietnam’s independence due to the diversion of attention caused by the Mongol threat. The Xuande Emperor’s reign was marked by efforts at governance and reform.