Ming Dynasty (Early period)


Empress Xu

Empress Renxiaowen (1362–1407), of the Xu clan, was the consort to the Yongle Emperor, serving as the third empress of China’s Ming dynasty. Born Lady Xu in 1362, she married Zhu Di, Prince of Yan, in 1376, later becoming empress when Zhu Di ascended the throne as the Yongle Emperor in 1402. Known for her education, she compiled bibliographies of virtuous women, engaging in activities connected with court politics. A devout Buddhist, Empress Renxiaowen is credited as the first person to transcribe a Buddhist sutra from a dream revelation, titled “The Sutra of Great Merit of the Foremost Rarity Spoken by the Buddha,” describing a revelation received in a dream from Guanyin. This sutra conveyed Mahayana philosophies and featured mantras typical of Tibetan Buddhist practices. She passed away on August 6, 1407.

Spouse: Emperor Yongle of Ming


The Yongle Emperor (1360–1424), born Zhu Di, was the third Ming dynasty emperor, reigning from 1402 to 1424. As the fourth son of the Hongwu Emperor, Zhu Di initially served as the Prince of Yan. Capable in military affairs, he rebelled against his nephew, the Jianwen Emperor, who had executed and demoted powerful uncles. Zhu Di successfully overthrew Jianwen, proclaimed himself emperor, and adopted the era name “Yongle,” meaning “perpetual happiness.” Eager to establish legitimacy, he purged Confucian scholars, granted authority to the eunuch secret police, and launched exploratory voyages led by Zheng He. Zhu Di also moved the imperial capital to Beiping (present-day Beijing), repaired the Grand Canal, and constructed the Forbidden City. His death occurred during a military campaign against the Mongols, and he was buried in the Changling Mausoleum north of Beijing.

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