Ming Dynasty (Middle period)


Empress Wu

Deposed Empress Wu (吳廢后) of the Ming dynasty was initially chosen as the primary consort of Zhu Jianshen, the Chenghua Emperor, in 1464, shortly after his ascension to the throne. Hailing from Beijing, her time as empress was short-lived. Soon after their wedding, she found herself in conflict with Consort Wan, a favored concubine of the emperor. After ordering a punishment for Wan, the emperor sided with his beloved concubine and dramatically demoted Empress Wu, stripping her of her titles and privileges just one month into their marriage.

Despite her demotion, the former Empress Wu maintained a certain degree of influence behind the scenes in the Forbidden City. From 1470 to 1475, she conspired with loyalists within the court to secretly shelter Consort Ji and her son, the future Hongzhi Emperor, in her chambers, thereby shielding them from the machinations of the very same Consort Wan. Upon her death in 1509, her funeral was modest, resembling that of a standard consort without the bestowal of a posthumous title. Plans initially had been to cremate her with the rites of an ordinary court lady.

Ming Dynasty (Middle period)


Empress Wang

Empress Xiaozhenchun (1440/1450 –1518), of the Wang clan, was a Chinese empress consort of the Ming dynasty, married to the Chenghua Emperor.

Empress Wang was chosen by the emperor to the position of empress after her predecessor had been deposed due to a conflict with the emperor’s favorite concubine, Consort Wan. Aware of the mistake of her predecessor, Wang was very anxious to avoid any conflict with the emperor’s favorite. Consort Wan had no son with the emperor after her first son died in infancy, and feared the competition if any other of the emperor’s consorts or concubines gave birth to a son. It was said that Empress Wang deliberately stayed childless to avoid such a conflict with Consort Wan. The efforts to avoid all conflicts with Consort Wan and to show herself submissive to her, did secure the position of Empress Wang at court.

In 1487, the Chenghua Emperor died, and Empress Wang was given the title Empress dowager. In 1510, she was further raised in rank by the then-reigning emperor, the Zhengde Emperor, who was the eldest son of the Hongzhi Emperor and the grandson of the Chenghua Emperor.

Spouse: Emperor Xianzong of Ming


The Chenghua Emperor, also known as Emperor Xianzong of Ming, ruled from 1464 to 1487, succeeding his father Emperor Yingzong. Initially appointed as crown prince during his father’s captivity, he reclaimed the position after the downfall of the Jingtai Emperor in 1457. His reign began with progressive policies such as tax cuts and state power reinforcement, but over time, corruption and influence of eunuchs like Wang Zhi and Liang Fang eroded these gains. Wan Zhen’er, a palace lady, held significant sway over the emperor, orchestrating forced abortions and poisonings to maintain her influence. Despite these challenges, the Chenghua Emperor focused on military affairs, achieving victories against Mongols and building defensive walls in Shaanxi and Shanxi, contributing to the Great Wall of China. He died in 1487 after 23 years of rule, succeeded by his son Zhu Youcheng, who became the Hongzhi Emperor.

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