Lady Zhao

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Lady Zhao
Spouse Lü Buwei (lover)
King Zhuangxiang of Qin (consort)
Lao Ai (lover)
Issue Qin Shi Huang
2 infants

Zhao Ji (Chineset, s, lit. "Concubine of Zhao";[1] c. 280-228 BC) was the wife of King Zhuangxiang of Qin and the mother of Shi Huangdi, the first emperor of China.[2] Upon her marriage, she was the Lady Zhao; after the king's death, she was the Queen Dowager Zhao. The daughter of a prominent family of Zhao, she was living as a concubine of the merchant Lü Buwei when he was forced to surrender her to his protegé, Prince Yiren of Qin. A year later, she gave birth to a son named Zheng; the historian Sima Qian, ill-disposed towards the first emperor, claimed that the pregnancy was especially long and that the child was actually Lü's. The couple were living at the time in the capital of Zhao, where Yiren served as a hostage; when Qin laid siege to the city, Lü was able to bribe the prince's way out of town but Lady Zhao and her infant son were forced to hide among her family. Thanks to Lü's intervention and diplomacy, Prince Yiren subsequently ascended the Qin throne, becoming known to history by his posthumous name King Zhuangxiang.

When King Zhuangxiang died in 247 BC, Crown Prince Zheng ascended the throne and Lady Zhao became the Queen Dowager. Sima Qian claimed she continued her affair with Lü Buwei but, facing exposure and persecution, he gave her man named Lao Ai disguised as a eunuch. The couple produced another two illegitimate children.[3] After Lao Ai was killed during an attempted coup d'état, the queen was imprisoned in her palace and the children were killed. King Zheng later unified China and became known as Shi Huangdi, the "First Emperor".


  1. ^ But note that it could possibly imply a connection to the important Ji family.
  2. ^ Lee, Lily & al. Biographical Dictionary of Chinese Women: Antiquity Through Sui, 1600 B.C.E.-618 C.E., p. 251. M.E. Sharpe, 2007. ISBN 0765617501
  3. ^ Mah, Adeline Yen. (2003). A Thousand Pieces of Gold: Growing Up Through China's Proverbs. Published by HarperCollins. ISBN 0-06-000641-2, ISBN 978-0-06-000641-9. p 32-34.

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