100 Famous Women in China - Page 2

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  1. #11
    11. Empress Dou (anempress dowager through four generations)
    Empress Dou (205—135BC) was the wife of Emperor Wen of Han dynasty. She was born in acommon poor family. Her father was drowned falling into a river. Hermother died early, too, leaving behind three orphans. In her teenage,she became a palace maid. She thought that she would be a maid allher life, but she was satisfied because she lived better than before.At the time, Liu Bang was the emperor. When Liu Bang died, EmpressLuu gave each of the remaining Liu princes five maids. As her homewas close to Zhao fief, she bribed the eunuch who was in charge ofthe distribution. But the eunuch forgot and sent her to Dai fief. SoEmpress Dou was given to Prince Dai, who liked the pretty girl andmarried her. She bore two sons and a daughter for him. After thedeath of Empress Luu, Prince Dai was supported by all courtiers to bethe new emperor, Emperor Wen (202—157 BC), and his wife was madethe empress, Empress Dou, and his elder son was made the crownprince, later Emperor Jin (156—87 BC). Empress Dou never dreamedwhen she was a maid that she could be empress. But some years aftershe was the empress, misfortune befell her. She was blind.
    Then she was nolonger the favorite woman of the emperor. His new favorite woman wasconcubine Shen. But Empress Dou kept her mind peaceful and nevershowed any sign of jealousy. She was always lenient. That was why shecould live through four generations without anyone to vie for herposition.
    When her husbanddied, her elder son, Emperor Jin, succeeded the throne. She wasempress dowager. But as a matter of fact, Empress Dou liked hersecond son, Prince Liang, better. She wanted Prince Liang to be thesuccessor of his brother. Emperor Jin was a filial son and could notrefuse the request of his mother, but all the courtiers opposed itbecause it was the rule in the feudal system that the son succeededthe father. No one should break the rule. Anyway, as she was atalented woman, she helped her son to handle the national affairs.Then, after the death of her son, her grandson became the emperor,Emperor Wu. Now she was grand empress dowager, and the first grandempress dowager in the history of China.
    The grandson was anindependent young man and would not let her grandmother to interferewith his administration. She had to retire to the back palace toenjoy the rest of her life. In the reign of Emperor Wu, the Handynasty expanded its territory. The emperor adopted the works ofConfucius as the reading stuff in schools. Confucius was thus madewell-known since then.

  2. #12
    12. Wang Zhi (from acommon woman to the empress)
    Wang Zhi (?--125 BC)was the second wife of Emperor Jing (188—141 BC) of Han dynasty.She was born in a common family and married an ordinary man calledJin Wangsun, and bore a daughter for him by name of Jin Su.Presently, Wang Zhi deserted her husband and daughter, and enteredthe palace of the crown prince disguised as a virgin. Emperor Jingmade her his concubine. His first wife was Empress Bo, who had nochildren of her own. Another concubine Li Ji had three sons and theeldest son was made the crown prince. Then Wang Zhi bore for theemperor three daughters and a son. At four years old, the son got thetitle of Prince Jiaodong.
    As Empress Bo didnot give any birth, the emperor wanted to depose her from theposition of empress and make Li Ji the empress. Emperor Jing had asister Liu Piao, who had a daughter named Chen Ah Jiao. Liu Piaowanted to marry her daughter to the crown prince. The concubine LiJi did not like Ah Jiao, and so did not grant the wish of the mother.Therefore, the sister hated Li Ji. When Wang Zhi learned therelationship between Liu Piao and Li Ji, she said that she waswilling to let Ah Jiao marry here son, the future crown prince, whoturned out later to be Emperor Wu. Therefore, the sister married herdaughter to her son, Emperor Wu.
    Then the sistertold Emperor Jing that if he made Li Ji the empress, when her son,the present crown prince, succeeded the throne, and as Li Ji was acruel woman, she would certainly make Wang Zhi, his favoriteconcubine, be the second human pig. The only solution, she added, wasto decrown the present crown prince, the eldest son of Li Ji so thatshe could never be empress dowager and could never do any harm toWang Zhi. At first emperor Jing did not believe her. Once he wantedconcubine Li Ji to promise that when he died, she should treat otherconcubines well, but Li Ji did not make the promise. Therefore,Emperor Jing decided not to make Li Ji the empress, and moreover,decrowned the crown prince and made him Prince Lingjiang. Li Ji gotseriously sick and died soon.
    In 149 BC, EmperorJing made Wang Zhi the empress and her son the crown prince. In 141BC, Emperor Jing died and the crown prince became the emperor,Emperor Wu (07/14/156—03/29/87). And Wang Zhi was then empressdowager.
    When Emperor Wulearned that his mother had a daughter Jin Su with her ex-husband, hesent someone to look for her. As Jin Su knew that someone was afterher, she was afraid and escaped and hid herself somewhere. At lastshe was found and brought to the presence of the emperor, who let hergo to see the empress dowager, her mother. Empress Dowager was happyfor the reunion with her first daughter. In 126 BC, Wang Zhi died andwas buried with Emperor Jing.
    Emperor Wu was agreat emperor of Han dynasty. He conquered the minority in the northand expanded the territory of Han dynasty to the west.

  3. #13
    13. Chen Ahjiao (aquick-tempered empress)
    Chen Ahjiao (?--?)was the wife of Emperor Wu, and was made the empress. When both werechildren, the mother of the girl, who was the sister of Emperor Jing,held the young Emperor Wu on her lap. There were an array of palacemaids waiting on them. The mother asked the boy, “When you grow up, do you want to get married?” the boy said, “Sure.” then themother pointed to the maids and asked the young Emperor Wu, “Who doyou like?” The little boy said that none of them he liked. Then themother, pointing to her daughter Ahjiao and asked, “Do you like her?” The little boy answered that if he could get her, he wouldbuild a house of gold to let her live in. This story is known to allChinese people.
    When they both grewup, Emperor Wu did marry Ahjiao and made her his empress. Emperor Wuwanted to have some kind of reform, but was opposed by some powerfulcourtiers. Even the grand empress dowager Dou had different opinions.But Ahjiao supported him and her parents supported their son-in-law,which made the emperor tide over the crisis.
    Ahjiao was a girlwith a quick temper, and besides, she did not have any children forthe emperor for ten years. Gradually the emperor got tired of her.The emperor always had many girls round him. The most favorite oneamong them was Wei Zifu (?--90 BC). Out of jealousy, Ahjiao went tosee the emperor and chided him for neglecting her. The emperor blamedher not to have any children for him. That was why he should haveanother girl for the posterity's sake. He must have at least a son tosucceed the throne. Ahjiao could have nothing more to say and had toretire to her own room. She sent for a doctor after another in hopesof being pregnant, but in vain.
    Ahjiao wanted toget rid of Wei Zifu, but Wei was with the emperor everyday, and shehad no chance to have her wish fulfilled. Then she found a witch andasked her to exercise her magic power to win back the favor of theemperor, but no result for several months. The emperor heard of thisand was infuriated. He ordered the witch to be executed and confinedAhjiao in Changmen Hall after she was deposed from her position ofempress. She died in melancholy. Wei Zifu was made the empress.

  4. #14
    14. Wei Zifu (from asinger to the empress)
    Wei Zifu (?--90 BC)was the second wife of Emperor Wu. Wei Zifu was originally asing-song girl in the residence of Princess Pingyang and her husbandMarquis Pingyang. Once Emperor Wu visited the princess and saw thegirl. He liked her on the spot and took her back to the palace.
    When Wei Zifu wastaken into the palace, the empress then was Ahjiao, who hated thebeautiful new-comer and made her a maid only. And she could not seethe emperor, who seemed forgot her entirely. Once the emperor let allthe maids gather in his presence and wanted to dismiss some old ones.Wei Zifu was then among them, and she asked the emperor to let herleave the palace. The emperor saw her and refreshed his liking ofher. He gave her the title of Ladyship Wei, next to the empress. In128 BC, she bore a son for the emperor, named Liu Che, and thus wasmade the empress, since the ex-empress had already been deposed andconfined in Changmen Hall. In 122 BC, the son was declared the crownprince.
    When grown up, thecrown prince showed himself a lenient and clever man. His father, theemperor, liked him very much. But as now the empress grew old, theemperor ignored her. He always preferred new young pretty girls. Hehad later Ladyship Li, Ladyship Xing, Ladyship Yin and Ladyship Zhao.Ladyship Xing and Ladyship Yin were more jealous of each other andwherever Ladyship Xing was present, Ladyship Yin would not come, andvice verse.
    There were somewicked courtiers. The most wicked one was Jiang Chong. He oftenslandered the crown prince before the emperor. He knew clearly thatwhen the crown prince became the emperor, the new emperor wouldcertainly punish him for his evil doings. But the emperor would notlisten to him. At the time, some witches exercised black magic ofcursing the emperor for his death. It was found out and all thewitches were executed. Then the emperor let Jiang Chong investigatewho was behind all this. Jiang Chong seized the opportunity to framethe crown prince. He sent someone secretly to bury a wooden doll withthe birthday of the emperor engraved on it. This was used at the timefor curse of death of someone whose birthday was engraved on thewooden doll.
    The crown princewas a clever man and knew that Jiang Chong would do something to harmhim. He would act first. He went with his bodyguards to see theemperor intending to reveal the scheme of Jiang Chong, just whenJiang Chong led some soldiers to his residence intending to dig upthe doll and take it to the emperor so that it would be a proof thatthe crown prince was cursing the emperor for death. They met in thestreet and fought each other. At last Jiang Chong was killed.
    The emperor sent amessenger to see what was happening. The messenger came back andreported untruthfully to the emperor that the crown prince wasrebelling. So the emperor sent army to subdue the rebellion and thecrown prince was defeated, because he really did not want to rebeland had few fighters with him. The crown prince had to escape andhide himself somewhere. Afterwards he was detected and hangedhimself. When his mother, the empress, heard of it, she hangedherself, too. She held her position of empress for thirty-eightyears, a very long period of time. Finally the truth was known to theemperor, and he killed all those who joined in the pursuit of thecrown prince.
    By the way, EmpressWei Zifu had a stepbrother, Wei Qing by name. He was a famous generalin defense of the northern frontier of Han territory. He was promotedto the position was because of his stepsister, the empress. If he wasan ordinary man, he would not have the chance to be promoted to thegeneralship.

  5. #15
    Hi there, I'm enjoying this series of mini-biographies, from a country for which I'm not too familiar with the history.

    I'm noticing quite a few missing spaces between words. Are you copying directly from Microsoft Word? That can create problems like that. To avoid it, click on "Go Advanced" while making a post, and then click on this button ...

    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	Quote from Word.JPG 
Views:	2 
Size:	18.3 KB 
ID:	16334

    ... then you can copy your text into the window provided. I'd also recommend leaving a blank line between paragraphs for maximum readability.

    Keep them coming!


  6. #16
    [yes, I directly copy from my word file and post it here. Old dog can't learn new tricks. i'm going to be 80. sorry.]

    15. Zhao Feiyan (agood dancer of an empress)
    Zhao Feiyan ( 45—1BC) was the wife of Emperor Cheng (51—7 BC). She was so beautifuland a legendary woman in the Han dynasty. When she was born, herparents put her in the fields, supposed to let her die. But threedays afterwards, when the parents went to check on her, she was stillalive. So her parents took her home and brought her up. In hergirlhood, she was sent to the residence of Princess YangA to learndancing. She was so skillful a dancer and had a special style like aflying swallow. So she was later known as Zhao Faiyan (meaning flyingswallow). She was said to be so light and lean physically that shecould dance on the hand of a big man. Literary men often compared herwith the Imperial concubine Yang, who was on the chubby side. Thecomparison showed a lean beauty with a fat beauty.
    Emperor Cheng likedmerry-making and once visited Princess YangA. When he saw Feiyandancing, he immediately fell in love with her and took her to thepalace and made her a concubine. Not long after, he deposed theempress and made Feiyan the empress. She did not bear any childrenfor him. But the emperor did not live long. After his death, the sonsof other concubines vied to be the new emperor. Prince Dingtao becamethe emperor, Emperor Ai (25—1 BC), because his mother bribed ZhaoFeiyan. In return Feiyan was made the empress dowager. Only severalyears later, Emperor Ai died. The next emperor was Emperor Ping (9BC—5 AD). He was the nephew of Emperor Cheng and a cousin ofEmperor Ai. When he became the emperor, he was only nine years old. Acourtier Wang Mang seized the power. He deposed the empress dowagerFeiyan and confined her somewhere. She at last made suicide.

  7. #17
    16. Ladyship Ban ( apoetess)
    Ladyship Ban (?--?)was a concubine of Emperor Cheng (51—7 BC). She was not onlybeautiful, but also versed in poetry, with a good temper. She woulddo everything properly, to the palace etiquette. Once the emperorwanted to go out and let Ladyship Ban sit beside him on the coach,but Ban refused, saying, “Your Majesty, your humble concubine readbooks from olden time that a wise emperor let his good courtier sitbeside him. A stupid emperor let his favorite beauty sit beside him.If your humble concubine sits beside Your Majesty, does it mean thatYour Majesty is a stupid emperor?” The emperor thought that she wasright and let her go.
    When the empressdowager learned it, she really appreciated Ban. She said, “Therewas Fan Ji in Chu State (in the first warring period). She refused toeat meat because the king liked to hunt. People respected her. Nowthere is Ban in our palace. She can be compared with Fan Ji inmoral.”
    Zhao Feiyan, thegreat dancer, was not the empress yet at the time. She was jealous ofthe empress and Ban. She always slandered them both, saying that theywere cursing the emperor to death. Since the emperor now preferredher to other women, he often believed what she said. So he deposedthe empress and made Zhao Feiyan the empress. The emperor also sentfor Ban to blame her for cursing him. Ban pleaded herself, saying,“Your Majesty, your humble concubine heard that life and death,wealth and nobleness are all fated by Heaven. If there are deities,they know everything. They won't grant the wish of anyone who curseshis master. If there are no deities, what is the use to curse? So Iwon't do anything like curse,” The emperor thought that she wasright and did not punish her. On the contrary, he gave her a hundredcatties of gold as a reward.
    Ban knew that shewas in danger, and offered to live with the empress dowager and waiton her. She died there. She had written a poem “Gauze Fan”. Thefan at that time was composed of a round frame of wood or bamboo,with a piece of gauze fixed on it. The poem goes like this:
    Newly cut the gauzefrom Qi area,
    It is as white asfrost and snow.
    It is cut to make aHappy-Union* fan,
    As round as thebright moon.
    It is stored inyour sleeve,
    It gives breezeswhen waved.
    I often fear thatthe autumn comes;
    The cool wind takesaway the heat.
    The fan will bedeserted in a box,
    The love for itwill end midway.
    In this poem thepoetess meant that she was like a fan. When it was not needed, it wasjust thrown in a box and forgotten.

    *It is the name ofthe fan. The couple share the fan and feel in happy union.

  8. #18
    17. ShangguanXiaomei (the youngest empress)
    Shangguan (doublesurname) Xiaomei (89—37 BC) was the wife of Emperor Zhao (94—74BC), and the daughter of Shangguan An (126—80 BC) and the maternalgranddaughter of Great General Huo Guang (130—68 BC), who was themost powerful man at that time. Her paternal grandfather wasShangguan Ji, Left General, (140—80 BC). Left general and rightgeneral were the titles of generals, just under the great general.
    In the second moonof 87 BC, Emperor Wu died. His son succeeded to the throne, and wasEmperor Zhao, who was then only eight years of age. Therefore, allcourtiers decided that Princess Eyi should move and live in thepalace to take care of the boy emperor. Princess Eyi (117—80 BC)was the daughter of emperor Wu and big sister of the present emperor.The father and the grandfather of Xiaomei both went to the palace tobefriend Princess Eyi. When the emperor was twelve, he reached theage to have a wife. The father of Xiaomei wished his daughter to bethe empress. She was then only six. As she was so young, her maternalgrandfather, Great general Huo Guang, did not consent.
    Princess Eyi had alover called Ding Wairen (?--80 BC). When the husband of Princess Eyidied, she found him, who was an acquaintance of her son. Then thefather of Xiaomei went to see Ding and asked him to persuade PrincessEyi to let his daughter be the empress, promising that Ding would begiven an official title when his daughter became the empress. So Dingwent to see Princess Eyi and made the request. Princess Eyi agreedand in 83 BC, Xiaomei was made the empress, the youngest empress inthe history of China.
    To keep the promiseto Ding, the father and the grandfather of Xiaomei both went to seegreat general Huo Guang to ask him give Ding a title. But Huo Guangrejected. So the father and the grandfather, and also Princess Eyihad a grudge against Huo Guang. They plotted to kill him, but HuoGuang learned their scheme and sent troopers in his control andkilled the father and the grandfather and Ding. Princess Eyi madesuicide.
    EmpressXiaomei was then only eight years old. She knew nothing about thecoupd'état and so she was safe. Besides, she was the granddaughter ofHuo Guang. When she was grown up, she did not bear any children forthe emperor. When Emperor Zhao died in 74 BC, as he did not have ason, Huo Guang and courtiers decided that Prince Changyi, a grandsonof Emperor Wu, should be the new emperor, and Xiaomei be the youngestempress dowager. But Prince Changyi was a lewd man and disappointedHuo Guang and courtiers. After twenty-seven days, he was deposed.Then after serious discussion, they made Liu Xun, the great grandsonof Emperor Wu, be the emperor, Emperor Xuan (91—48 BC). Accordingto Chinese generation sequence, Xiaomei, the present empress dowager,should be the great grandmother of the new emperor. So she was nowthe grand empress dowager. She was at the time only fifteen yearsold, the youngest grand empress dowager in the history.
    The wife of greatgeneral Huo Guang poisoned the wife of Emperor Xuan, the legalempress, with the intention to marry her daughter to the emperor andto be the empress. In the third moon of 68 BC, the great general Huo Guang died. Both the grand empress dowager and the emperor attendedthe funeral, a great honor to the diseased. But in the fourth moon of67 BC, the Huo family members rebelled and were conquered. As thegrand empress dowager, though she was the granddaughter of Huo Guang,did not even know the rebellion, her position as grand empressdowager was not affected till she died at the age of fifty-two. Shewas buried with her husband, Emperor Zhao. It was the tradition inthe feudal China.

  9. #19
    18.Wang Zhaojun (the second beauty of the four beauties)
    WangZhaojun (52—19 BC) was one of the four beauties, the second beautyin the sequence of the year. She was a great beauty at the time, butwith a bitter destiny. She was clever, and could read and paint. Shecould also play lute and chess. In the spring of 36 BC, when she wasseventeen, Emperor Yuan (75—33 BC) gave the edict to selectbeautiful girls and sent to the palace. He would choose the mostbeautiful ones among them to be his concubines, and the rest of themwould be the maids. As there were so many girls, the emperor was busyand could not see every girl himself. Therefore, he ordered thepalace painter Mao Yanshou to draw a portrait of each of them andpresented them to the emperor. It meant that the emperor would choosefrom portraits.
    Almost every girlbribed the painter and asked him to draw her a bit prettier than shereally was. But Wang Zhaojun did not bribe him as she was soconfident of her beauty. So the painter drew her with a bit ofcontortion. As a result, she was not selected. She did not have anychance to see the emperor for three years.
    Han dynasty sinceestablishment was in continual war with a northern minority calledXiongnu tribe. The chieftain of the tribe, Uhaanyehe by name (58—31BC), at that time was weary of war and wanted peace for his people.Therefore, Chieftain Uhaanyehe came to the capital ChangAn city tosee the emperor. He requested to have some girl in the palace to behis wife so that the relationship between him and the emperor wouldbe close as relatives, and then there would thus have long peace forthe two peoples. The emperor liked the idea. When the emperor wasconsidering who would be chosen as the wife of the chieftain, WangZhaojun came forth, offering herself to be the one.
    At the feast heldfor the departure of the chieftain and his chosen wife, Wang Zhaojunshould surely be present, fully attired. When the emperor saw such abeauty, he did regret letting her go. But he could not go back on hiswords in the presence of the chieftain while the chieftain was sohappy to have such a beauty for his wife. After the feast, thechieftain and Wang Zhaojun left the capital for the north to thehomeland of the Xiongnu tribe. Then the emperor found out the truthwhy he missed her. It was because the painter drew her with acontortion. So he had the painter beheaded.
    The people ofXiongnu tribe welcomed Wang Zhaojun warmly and looked upon her as theguarantee of peace. But life for Zhaojun in the strange land washard. First, she was not used to such food she had never eatenbefore. Then the life style was also different to her as her formerlife style. In 31 BC, Chieftain Uhaanyehe died. He had a son whosucceeded to the position of chieftain. The son was the stepson ofWang Zhaojun. According to the tradition of Xiongnu tribe, the soncould marry his stepmother. So Wang Zhaojun became the wife of herstepson. She bore two daughters for him. In 20 BC, the stepson died.Wang Zhaojun became the widow. One year later, she died at the age ofthirty-three. She was buried in the southern suburb of the presentHohhot city, at the foot of a green mountain and by the Yellow River.Her tomb was called Green Tomb by people in later dynasties.

  10. #20
    19.Ban Zhao (a blue stocking, a female scholar)
    Ban Zhao49—120ADwasthe first female historian and a literary woman. She inherited herfamily talent. Her father, Ban Biao (3—54 AD) was a famous learnedscholar at the time. He had been the mayor of Xu town before heretired. Her eldest brother Ban Gu (32—92 AD) was a historian. BanZhao also helped her eldest brother in the writing of a history book,titled “Bookof Han.”As a matter of fact, this history book was begun to be written by herfather. When her father died, her eldest brother Ban Gu continued thework while her second brother Ban Chao (32—102 AD) joined the armyand became a famous general, fighting at the frontier.
    WhenBan Gu died, she continued the work, too, till it was finished. Itwas a great work after the “Recordsof History”by Sima Qian (145—87 BC). When Emperor He (79—105 AD) read herbook, he greatly appreciated it and sent for her into the palace. Theemperor wanted her to be the tutor of the empress and his concubines.The empress dowager Deng also liked her. At the age of fourteen, shehad married to Cao Shishu (?--?), who died early and she became awidow, and never married again.
    Ather old age, she was still writing. Another famous book of hers wasthe “FemaleCommandments.”she wrote this book with the intention to tell the female members ofher family what females should do and what they should not. At firstit was only read within the family. Then people outside the familycopied it and circulated it till the book became circulated.
    The gist of thebook was that women must obey men. Especially wife must obey husband.Thus it began the non-equality between men and women for thousands ofyears till the beginning of the republic. The topics in her book werethree obediences and four moral rules. The three obediences werethose that before marriage, women must obey parents; after marriage,women must obey their husbands; and after the death of husbands, theymust obey their sons, i.e., when they became widows and if they haddifferent opinions from their sons, they must listen to their sons.But there were exceptions for this. As many sons were taught to befilial, any of them would listen to their mothers. And a woman couldnot remarry after the death of her husband while a man could marry asmany times as he liked. It would be looked upon as a shame if a womanremarried, though many a woman did remarry in the history because ofsome reason or others, like she was too poor to keep her childrenalive or the mother of her late husband drove her away, etc.
    Four moral ruleswere that a woman must be demure, quiet, avoiding misbehavior; awoman must not gossip and must say everything fit to the situationand listeners; a woman must keep proper appearance, wearing cleansuitable dress; a Woman must be able to weave, sew and cook forfamily members and guests.

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