Empress Zhang Yan

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Zhang Yan
Empress consort of China
Reign 192 BC – 188 BC
Predecessor Empress Lü Zhi
Successor Empress Lü
Born 202 BC
Died 163 BC (aged 38–39)
Spouse Emperor Hui of Han
Full name
Ancestral name: Zhang
Given name: Yan
Father Zhang Ao, Prince of Zhao
Mother Princess Yuan of Lu

Zhang Yan (traditional Chinese: 張嫣; simplified Chinese: 张嫣; pinyin: Zhāng Yān) (died 163 BC), known formally as Empress Xiaohui (孝惠皇后) was an empress during the Han Dynasty. She was the daughter of Princess Yuan of Lu (the only daughter of Emperor Gao (Liu Bang) and his wife Empress Lü) and her husband Zhang Ao (張敖, son of Zhang Er), the Prince of Zhao and later Marquess of Xuanping.

In 192 BC, at the insistence of then-Empress Dowager Lü, Lady Yan married her uncle Emperor Hui, the son of Emperor Gao and Empress Dowager Lü, and she was created empress. The marriage was a childless one. At Empress Dowager Lü's instruction, Empress Zhang took several male children as her own and killed their mothers. (Whether these children were Emperor Hui's is a matter of controversy, although it appears likely that they were Emperor Hui's children by his concubines.)

When Emperor Hui died in 188 BC at the age of 22, one of the children that Empress Zhang adopted, Liu Gong, became emperor (as Emperor Qianshao), but Grand Empress Dowager Lü had effective total control of the imperial government. Empress Zhang, who was then made empress dowager, did not appear to have significant influence. Nevertheless, when Liu Gong found out in 184 BC that he was not actually her child, he made a careless comment that he would take vengeance on her—at which Grand Empress Dowager Lü had him deposed and executed, and replaced him with his brother Liu Hong (as Emperor Houshao), who was also adopted by Empress Zhang. It was during Emperor Qianshao's reign that Empress Zhang's brother Zhang Yan (張偃, pinyin Zhāng Yǎn—notice difference in tone) was created the Prince of Lu.

After Grand Empress Dowager Lü died in 180 BC, and the Lü clan overthrown and slaughtered by the officials opposed to the Lüs in the Lü Clan Disturbance, Emperor Houshao was deposed and killed. Empress Dowager Zhang was not killed, but she was deposed from her position as empress dowager and henceforth referred to as Empress Hui. Her brother, the Prince of Lu, was also deposed and reduced in rank to Marquess of Nangong. After this she went to live in a palace to the north and no records exist of her later life until her death.[1] Empress Zhang died in 163 BC and was buried with her husband of merely four years.


  • Maternal great-grandfather: Liu Taigong
  • Paternal grandfather: Zhang Er, Prince Jin of Zhao
  • Maternal grandfather/father-in-law: Emperor Gaozu of Han
  • Maternal grandmother/mother-in-law: Empress Lü Zhi
  • Uncle/Husband: Emperor Hui of Han
  • Father: Zhang Ao, Prince of Zhao and Marquis of Xuanping
  • Mother: Princess Yuan of Lu
  • Brother: Zhang Yan, Prince Yuan of Lu and Marquis of Nangong
  • Brother: Zhang Shou, Marquis of Lechang
  • Adopted son: Liu Gong, Emperor Qianshao
  • Adopted son: Liu Qiang, Prince Huai of Huaiyang
  • Adopted son: Liu Buyi, Prince Ai of Hengshan
  • Adopted son: Liu Hong, Emperor Houshao
  • Adopted son: Liu Zhao, Prince of Hengshan
  • Adopted son: Liu Wu, Prince of Huaiyang
  • Adopted son: Liu Tai, Prince of Liang


Tomb of Emperess Zhang Yan in Anling (安陵), in Xianyang, Shaanxi
  • 202–192 BC: Princess Zhang Yan of Zhao
  • 192–188 BC: Empress of China
  • 188–163 BC: Empress Xiaohui


  1. ^ Lee and Stefanowska. p. 242.  Missing or empty |title= (help)


  • Lee, Lily Xiao Hong, and Stefanowska, A.D. (2007). Biographical Dictionary of Chinese women: Antiquity through Sui, 1600 B.C.E-618 C.E. M.E. Sharpe, Inc. 
Chinese royalty
Preceded by
Empress Lü Zhi
Empress of Western Han Dynasty
192 BC – 188 BC
Succeeded by
Empress Lü