Southern Song Dynasty

Li Fengxiang (Empress Ciyi)

Li Fengniang, posthumously known as Empress Ciyi, was the empress consort of Emperor Guangzong of Song and is remembered as the de facto ruler of the Song dynasty during his reign. Born to General Li Dao and predicted by a Daoist priest to be “the mother of the people”, she was married to the future Emperor Guangzong, Zhao Dun. As Crown Princess, she was known for her assertive nature, often clashing with royals and dominating her husband. When her husband ascended the throne in 1189, Empress Li effectively took control of the empire. Her ruthless reign included allegedly having the emperor’s favorite concubine killed, leading to the emperor’s ill health and her subsequent management of state affairs. She was known to manipulate her husband against his family, and her influence was so powerful that Emperor Guangzong even abstained from attending his father’s funeral due to suspicions she sowed. After Guangzong’s abdication, she retained significant influence, once even snubbing the funeral of Empress Dowager Wu.

Spouse: Emperor Guangzong of Song

Emperor Guangzong of Song (Zhao Dun), the 12th emperor of the Song dynasty and the third emperor of the Southern Song dynasty, reigned from 1194 until his death in 1224. As the third son of his predecessor, Emperor Xiaozong, Guangzong’s rule was characterized by relative peace. However, his perceived lack of filial piety led officials to replace him with his son, Emperor Ningzong. Lady Guo, Emperor Xiaozong’s first wife and Guangzong’s mother, was posthumously honored as “Empress Chengmu.”

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