Empress Zhang (Hongxi)
Empress Chengxiaozhao (1379–1442), of the Zhang clan, was a Chinese empress consort of the Ming dynasty. Married to Hongxi Emperor and later serving as Empress Dowager and Regent, she played a crucial role in guiding her son, the Xuande Emperor, and later her grandson, Emperor Yingzong. Hailing from Northern Shanxi, her peasant background didn’t hinder her influence. Known for her wisdom, capability, and involvement in state affairs, she successfully secured her son’s position as heir apparent against court challenges. As empress, she continued to demonstrate her astuteness and, upon her spouse’s death, became Empress Dowager, actively participating in state matters. Later, as Regent for her grandson, she effectively managed the regency council and demonstrated assertiveness, even dealing with influential figures like Wang Zhen. Her significant role persisted until her death in 1442, leaving a lasting legacy.
Spouse: Emperor Hongxi of Ming
The Hongxi Emperor (1378–1425), also known as Emperor Renzong of Ming, was the fourth emperor of the Ming dynasty, reigning for less than a year from 1424 to 1425. Eldest son of the Yongle Emperor, Zhu Gaochi ascended the throne after his father’s death. He enacted significant policy changes, discontinuing Zheng He’s overseas expeditions, ending certain diplomatic missions, and implementing reforms in governance and taxation. Deviating from his father’s militaristic approach, he embraced Confucian ideals, rehabilitating disgraced officials, and fostering a more lenient administration. Despite his plans to relocate the capital to Nanjing, he passed away in May 1425. His son, Zhu Zhanji, succeeded him, continuing the liberal policies initiated by his father.