Empress Dugu (Northern Zhou)

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Empress[1] Dugu or Queen Dugu (獨孤王后, personal name unknown) (died 558), posthumously Empress Mingjing (明敬皇后), was the wife of the Emperor Ming (Yuwen Yu), the founder of the Chinese/Xianbei dynasty Northern Zhou.

She was the oldest daughter of Dugu Xin, a major general under Yuwen Tai, Yuwen Yu's father and paramount general of Western Wei. It is not known when she married Yuwen Yu and became his duchess, although historical texts imply that it was after his becoming the Duke of Ningdu in 548. In 557, after Yuwen Tai's death, his cousin Yuwen Hu, the guardian of his younger brother and Yuwen Tai's heir Yuwen Jue forced Emperor Gong of Western Wei to yield the throne to Yuwen Jue (Emperor Xiaomin), ending Western Wei and starting Northern Zhou. A month later, Duchess Dugu's father Dugu Xin, then the Duke of Wei, was implicated in a plot to kill Yuwen Hu with another high-level official, Zhao Gui (趙貴) the Duke of Chu, even though he tried to stop Zhao. Zhao was executed, while Dugu Xin was relieved of his posts and subsequently forced to commit suicide.

Later in 557, Emperor Xiaomin himself plotted against Yuwen Hu, and when Yuwen Hu discovered the plot, he deposed and killed Emperor Xiaomin and declared Yuwen Yu Heavenly King. In spring 558, Emperor Ming created Duchess Dugu "Heavenly Queen". Three months later, she died. (The historian Bo Yang, because her father died at Yuwen Hu's hands, suspected her of having been murdered by Yuwen Hu, but had no solid evidence.) She was buried with honors due an empress, and when Emperor Ming himself died in 560, he was buried with her.


  1. ^ During her husband's reign, her title was "Heavenly Queen" since he used the alternative title "Heavenly King" (Tian Wang), but he posthumously formally confer on her the title of empress in 559 after he started using imperial title.
Chinese royalty
Preceded by
Empress Yuan Humo
Empress of Northern Zhou
Succeeded by
Empress Ashina