Southern dynasty

Wang Zhenfeng 王贞风

Wang Zhenfeng, also known as Empress Gong, was an empress of the Chinese Liu Song Dynasty. Born in 436 into an aristocratic family, she married Liu Yu, who later became Emperor Ming of Song, in 448. As empress consort, she faced challenges with Emperor Ming’s impulsive and immoral behavior. Despite having two daughters, historical accounts accused Emperor Ming of impotence and unethical actions.

In 472, Emperor Ming grew seriously ill and forced Wang Zhenfeng’s brother to commit suicide, fearing his influence. After Emperor Ming’s death, their son Liu Yu ascended the throne as Emperor Houfei, with Wang Zhenfeng serving as empress dowager. However, the actual authority rested with Ming’s associates and officials.

Emperor Houfei’s rule became increasingly frivolous and violent, leading to tensions with Empress Dowager Wang. In 477, after an unsuccessful attempt to kill Xiao Daocheng, Emperor Houfei was assassinated, and Empress Dowager Wang’s younger son, Liu Zhun, was installed as Emperor Shun. The general Shen Youzhi rebelled against Xiao Daocheng, claiming Empress Dowager Wang’s approval, but there is no concrete evidence of her involvement.

In 479, Xiao Daocheng forced Empress Dowager Wang and Emperor Shun to yield imperial authority, ending Liu Song and establishing Southern Qi. Wang Zhenfeng was created Princess Dowager but later that year was subjected to imperial honors upon her death, according to Liu Song customs, and was buried with her husband.

Artist’s Note

“南朝宋。我是宋明帝刘彧的皇后王贞风。南朝刘宋一代皇后们大多数是皇帝胡来的工具。受了压迫蹂躏只能忍气吞声。有胆量施点儿皇后威风的。除宋文帝袁皇后外,只有我了。我性情柔顺贤淑,文静优雅。起初刘彧。同我还相亲相爱。称帝,后,纵欲无度。把我丢在了脑外,我也不以计较,只图安贤度日。刘′彧 体肥如猪。因为好色过度 失去了性功能。送宫人借给别人生孩子,默认为是自己的儿子、性心理变态所致,喜欢做观祼妇取乐。下令无论宫中美女还是宫外命妇,必须赤裸身子由他观赏。恣意取乐。我常常羞不忍睹,以扇遮面。不笑不言。刘彧见了觉很扫兴,斥责我。我正色答道,我家虽然寒伧伧,却不愿如此作乐!刘彧大怒,下令我滾出去。我立即站起身掩面退出。我的哥哥大赞我,在家时一向软弱,没想到此番能刚正无畏,敢于顶撞皇帝,真是难得!34岁的流氓皇帝刘彧病死。假子刘昱即位,年仅十岁。我进位皇太后。刘昱的荒唐与凶暴,也令人发指。我屡加训斥,他不但不听。反而怀恨在心。想用鸩毒害死我,幸亏左右待从力谏,才收起杀心。刘昱犯众怒,被刺死。”

Emperor Ming of Song

Emperor Ming of Liu Song, whose personal name was Liu Yu, was an emperor of the Liu Song dynasty in China. He ascended to the throne in 465 after the assassination of his violent and impulsive nephew, Liu Ziye. Initially regarded as more lenient and open-minded, Emperor Ming soon displayed cruelty and suspicion. During his reign, he ordered the slaughter of many of his nephews and brothers, weakening the Liu Song dynasty significantly. His oppressive rule contributed to the dynasty’s fall in 479, merely seven years after his death.

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