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The consort kin (Chinese: 外戚; pinyin: wàiqī) is the Chinese kin of, or a group related to an empress dowager or a spouse of a Chinese dynastic ruler or a warlord. The leading figure of the clan was either a (usually male) sibling, cousin, or parent of the empress or consort.
Consort kins can be seen as a manifestation of nepotism in Chinese imperial politics. While some were competent, only relying on their female relatives for their initial audiences with the emperor and then proving their worth at their positions (e.g. Wei Qing and Huo Qubing), many turned out to be corrupt and incompetent (e.g. Yang Guozhong). Corrupt and incompetent consort kins have been linked to the downward turn of fortunes for many dynasties.
Famous leading figures
- Lü Clan - relatives of the Empress Lü Zhi, consort of Emperor Gaozu of Han
- Wei Qing - a younger brother (same father but with different mothers) of the Empress Wei Zifu, consort of Emperor Wu of Han, one of the major military leaders of wars against the Xiongnu
- Huo Qubing - a nephew of Wei Qing and Wei Zifu, also an important general in the war between Han China and Xiongnu.
- Li Guangli - brother of Lady Li (Li Furen), consort of Emperor Wu of Han. He led the invasion against Dayuan.
- Huo Guang - a younger brother of Huo Qubing (same father but with different mothers), whose granddaughter became the empress of Emperor Zhao of Han, and daughter became an empress of Emperor Xuan of Han. He played an extremely important political role in the eras of Emperor Zhao and Emperor Xuan, sometimes overshadowing the power of the emperors.
- Shangguan Jie - Paternal grandfather of Emperor Zhao's wife (Huo Guang was the maternal grandfather). He was involved in a power struggle with Huo Guang, and killed in 80 B.C. after being accused of plotting a rebellion.
- Wang Mang - nephew of Empress Dowager Wang, cousin of Emperor Cheng of Han and founder of the Xin Dynasty.
- Ma Yuan - father of Empress Ma, consort of Emperor Ming of Han, a major general of Emperor Guangwu of Han who led the expedition to Jiaozhi (today's northern Vietnam). However, Ma Yuan had passed away before Emperor Ming ascended the throne.
- Dou Xian - brother of Empress Dowager Dou and brother-in-law of Emperor Zhang of Han.
- Liang Ji - brother of Empress Dowager Liang and Empress Liang, deposed two emperors and later killed in a coup d'etat plotted by eunuchs against him.
- Dou Wu - father of Empress Dowager Dou Miao and killed in his abortive coup d'etat against eunuchs.
- He Jin - brother of Empress Dowager He and killed after his plot against eunuchs was exposed
- Dong Cheng - father of Concubine Dong of Emperor Xian of Han and known for his abortive coup d'etat with Liu Bei against Cao Cao.
- Mi Fang, a brother of Lady Mi (Mi Furen) of Liu Bei, Emperor Zhaolie of Shu Han. His betrayal of Shu Han partially led to its loss of Jing Province and the death of general Guan Yu.
Jin Dynasty (265-420)
Northern and Southern Dynasties
- Northern Zhou: Yang Jian, father of the last empress dowager. He later usurped the throne and founded the Sui Dynasty.
- Zhangsun Wuji — elder brother of Tang Taizong's empress. He was one official entrusted by Taizong to assist the young Tang Gaozong in governing the state.
- Wu Chengsi and Wu Sansi—nephews of Empress Wu
- Yang Guozhong—cousin of Yang Guifei