Empress Xiaojielie, commonly known as Empress Zhou, was a Chinese empress consort of the Ming dynasty, married to the Chongzhen Emperor. Originating from Suzhou and coming from a poor background, she became empress after the Chongzhen Emperor’s succession. Admired for her frugal policies despite her humble origin, Empress Zhou had a reportedly good relationship with the emperor, who divided his attention between her and his favorite concubine, Consort Tian. A conflict arose between Empress Zhou and Consort Tian due to the latter’s haughty behavior, leading to an incident where the emperor abused the empress in a fit of rage. Empress Zhou’s hunger strike prompted the emperor’s regret and reconciliation. As rebels approached the capital in 1644, the emperor, facing defeat, ordered the suicide of Empress Zhou, who hanged herself in the Forbidden City’s Palace of Earthly Tranquility amidst the chaos.
Spouse: Emperor Chongzhen of Ming
The Chongzhen Emperor, Zhu Youjian, was the 17th and last ruler of the Ming dynasty, reigning from 1627 to 1644. He faced challenges, including peasant rebellions and the inability to defend the northern frontier against the Manchu. As rebels led by Li Zicheng approached Beijing in 1644, the emperor committed suicide, marking the end of the Ming dynasty. Following this, the Manchu established the Qing dynasty. Posthumously, Zhu Yousong, a claimant to the Southern Ming throne, conferred the temple name “Sizong” upon the Chongzhen Emperor. Although later Southern Ming rulers changed the temple name, historical texts commonly refer to him as “Sizong.” The Qing dynasty initially bestowed the temple name “Huaizong,” but it was later revoked.