Monday, September 22, 2008

Empress Erzhu Ying'e

Empress Erzhu Ying'e was an empress of the /Xianbei dynasty Northern Wei. She was the wife of and a daughter of the paramount general Erzhu Rong. She later became a concubine of Northern Wei and Eastern Wei's paramount general Gao Huan.


Erzhu Ying'e's father Erzhu Rong had been a hereditary chief of the Qihu tribe, a branch of the Xiongnu, located at Xiurong , and during the agrarian rebellions during 's reign had become increasingly powerful as a military general. Sometime during Emperor Xiaoming's reign, she became Emperor Xiaoming's concubine with the rank of ''Pin'' . She was described to be capable as a soldier, and she was able to use the bow well.

In 528, Emperor Xiaoming, in a dispute with his mother over her overly favoring her lover Zheng Yan and Zheng's associate Xu Ge , conspired with Erzhu Rong to have him advance south toward the capital Luoyang to force Empress Dowager Hu to remove Zheng and Xu. When Empress Dowager Hu discovered this, she poisoned Emperor Xiaoming to death. Erzhu Rong refused to recognize the young emperor Yuan Zhao that she put on the throne, instead advancing on Luoyang, capturing it and throwing Empress Dowager Hu and Yuan Zhao into the Yellow River to drown. He also slaughtered a large number of imperial officials and made Emperor Xiaoming's father 's cousin Yuan Ziyou emperor .

As empress

Erzhu Rong was in control of the military at this point, although Emperor Xiaozhuang retained substantial powers, and Erzhu Rong wanted Emperor Xiaozhuang to marry Erzhu Ying'e as empress to cement the relationship. Emperor Xiaozhuang initially hesitated, as pursuant to Confucian regulations he would be committing incest if he did. However, the official Zu Ying convinced him that the union would be advantageous, and so he agreed. Empress Erzhu was described to be jealous and did not tolerate Emperor Xiaozhuang's other consorts. Emperor Xiaozhuang once asked her father's cousin Erzhu Shilong to persuade her to be less jealous. Instead, she told Erzhu Shilong that Emperor Xiaozhuang depended on the Erzhus for his throne and that things could still change; Erzhu Shilong agreed with her.

Worried about the hold that Erzhu Rong had on the military and how he had been willing to slaughter imperial officials , Emperor Xiaozhuang, during Empress Erzhu's pregnancy in 530, tricked him into entering the palace with his close associate Yuan Tianmu the Prince of Shangdang and his son Erzhu Puti and killing them by falsely telling them that Empress Erzhu had given birth. This precipitated a war between the imperial forces and the Erzhus' forces, which lasted for two months, during which Empress Erzhu gave birth to a son. Eventually, the Erzhu forces, under the command of Empress Erzhu's cousin Erzhu Zhao, captured Luoyang and deposed Emperor Xiaozhuang, making his distant relative Yuan Ye the Prince of Changguang, and then later his cousin the Prince of Guangling emperor. Erzhu Zhao also put Emperor Xiaozhuang's and Empress Erzhu's infant son to death.

As Gao Huan's concubine

The Erzhus controlled the empire for a while, but in 531, the general Gao Huan, a former subordinate of Erzhu Rong's, rose against them, and by 532 Gao had defeated the Erzhus, becoming the paramount general for Northern Wei . Shortly after Gao's defeating of the Erzhus, she became a concubine of Gao's. She and another consort that Gao took, the Princess Ruru , were renowned for their military demonstrations, and Gao once commented that these two concubines of his were capable of defeating bandits. In 535, when Gao Huan was angry with his son Gao Cheng for having had an affair with Gao Huan's concubine Lady Zheng, he considered replacing his wife , Gao Cheng's mother, with Erzhu Ying'e, but ultimately did not do so. Erzhu Ying'e bore him two sons, Gao You in 533 and Gao Ning . In spring 545, Erzhu Ying'e's brother Erzhu Wenchang and Zheng Zhongli , the brother of Gao Huan's other favorite concubine Zheng Dache , along with Ren Zhou , conspired to assassinate Gao Huan and support Erzhu Wenchang as leader, but the conspiracy was discovered, and the conspirators were put to death, along with their families. However, because of Gao Huan's favors for Erzhu Ying'e and Zheng Dache, he spared their brothers. However, she later became a Buddhist nun, even while Gao Huan was still alive, for reasons lost to history; Gao Huan built a temple for her.

After Gao Huan's death

After Gao Huan's death in 547 and his son 's abolition of Eastern Wei and establishment of Northern Qi as its Emperor Wenxuan, Erzhu Ying'e carried the title of Princess Dowager of Pengcheng. In 556, Emperor Wenxuan, while drunk, wanted to have sexual relations with her, and she refused. He killed her by his own hand.

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