Empress Fang

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For the posthumous Qing Dynasty empress, see Lady Abahai.
Empress Fang

Empress Fang (1516-1547) was a Chinese Empress consort of the Ming Dynasty, third empress to the Jiajing Emperor.

Fang originated from the area of Nanjing. She was selected for palace service in 1531, and chosen as a concubine for the emperor. She was described as beautiful and talented. However, she refused to use bribes to improve her chances of being selected to share the bed of the emperor, and as the emperor did not wish to have sexual intercourse with women over the age of fifteen, her chance to experience a sexual life was therefore was soon past, which reportedly caused her great sorrow and emotional loss.[1]

In 28 January 1534, nine days after the deposition of Empress Zhang, Fang was nevertheless chosen by the emperor to succeed as empress consort of the imperial court. The choice was made upon her because she supported him in his feud with his officials concerning the rituals of the imperial ancestors.[2]

Empress Fang is described as the favorite spouse of the emperor, and is known for having saved his life during an assassination attempt. Emperor Jiajing, who was described as a strict and liable to violent outbursts, was known for his cruelty toward his female staff and palace women, reportedly having had 200 women of the palace staff beaten to death during his reign.[3] In October 1542, sixteen palace maids formed a conspiracy to assassinate the emperor; not for political reasons, but as retaliation for his abuse.[4] One night when the emperor was in bed with his favorite concubine, Proper Consort Cao, the sixteen maids attacked him in his bed and tried to strangle him.[5] They stuffed his mouth, jabbed at his penis, tied a silk cord around his neck and pulled until he lost consciousness.[6] At this moment, however, one of them, Golden Lotus Zhang, lost her nerve and left them to alert the empress, who rushed in, untied the knot and saved the life of the emperor.[7]

The emperor could not speak for long after the attack and was in a state of chock, and the empress therefore acted on his behalf and had all the sixteen women executed, including Proper Consort Cao.[8] When he recuperated, the emperor could not believe that Cao had been involved, and as Cao had been his favorite, however, the personal relationship to empress Fang was damaged, despite the fact that she had saved his life. Although he was grateful to her for having saved his life, and granted her official honors for this, he blamed her for the loss of Cao, and their personal relationship did not improve, which is said to have caused Fang a depression.[9]

Empress Fang died in a fire in 1547. When a eunuch asked the emperor if the trapped empress should be saved, the emperor refused to answer, and she was therefore allowed to burn to death.[10] He did nevertheless grant her all the honor after her death.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Hsieh Bao Hua: Concubinage and Servitude in Late Imperial China
  2. ^ GEISS, James. The Chia-ching reign, 1522-1566. In TWITCHETT, Denis C.; MOTE, Frederick W.. The Cambridge History of China. Volume 8, The Ming Dynasty 1368-1644, Part 2. Cambridge : Cambridge University Press, 1998. [Dále jen Geiss]. ISBN 0521243335.
  3. ^ Hsieh Bao Hua: Concubinage and Servitude in Late Imperial China
  4. ^ Hsieh Bao Hua: Concubinage and Servitude in Late Imperial China
  5. ^ Hsieh Bao Hua: Concubinage and Servitude in Late Imperial China
  6. ^ Keith McMahon: Celestial Women: Imperial Wives and Concubines in China from Song to Qing
  7. ^ Keith McMahon: Celestial Women: Imperial Wives and Concubines in China from Song to Qing
  8. ^ Keith McMahon: Celestial Women: Imperial Wives and Concubines in China from Song to Qing
  9. ^ Hsieh Bao Hua: Concubinage and Servitude in Late Imperial China
  10. ^ Keith McMahon: Celestial Women: Imperial Wives and Concubines in China from Song to Qing
Chinese royalty
Preceded by
Empress Zhang
Empress of China
1534–1547
Succeeded by
Empress Xiaoan