Monday, September 22, 2008

Empress Feng Run

Empress Feng Run , formally Empress You was an empress of the /Xianbei dynasty Northern Wei. She was the second empress of .

Feng Run was a daughter of Feng Xi the Prince of Changli, who was a brother of the powerful , the wife of and regent over his son and grandson Emperor Xiaowen. Her mother was Feng Xi's concubine Lady Chang. When she was 13, Grand Empress Dowager Feng selected her and a sister of hers to be Emperor Xiaowen's concubines. Both were favored by Emperor Xiaowen, but her sister soon died of an illness, and she herself grew ill and was sent back to her home. She subsequently became a Buddhist nun, but was said to have been sexually immoral during this timespan as well.

In 493, Feng Run's younger sister by a different mother , , became Emperor Xiaowen's empress. Subsequently, Emperor Xiaowen, perhaps through Feng Qing, found out that Feng Run had recovered from her illness, and took her back into the palace as an imperial consort, with the title ''Zhaoyi'' . She became Emperor Xiaowen's favorite again. Because Feng Run was Emperor Xiaowen's concubine earlier and was an older sister, she refused to submit to Feng Qing and tried to undermine Feng Qing's position as an empress, including accusing Feng Qing of disobeying Emperor Xiaowen's Sinicization regime. In 496, Emperor Xiaowen deposed Feng Qing, and in 497, he created Feng Run empress.

Because Emperor Xiaowen often spent his time on the frontlines battling rival Southern Qi, he was not often at the palace in the capital Luoyang. Empress Feng therefore carried on an affair with her attendant Gao Pusa . With the eunuch Shuang Meng protecting her, few knew or dared to say anything about the affair, and when her attendant Ju Peng tried to counsel her to stop the affair, she would not, and Ju died in fear and anger. At the same time, however, Empress Feng tried to force Emperor Xiaowen's sister Princess Pengcheng (who had been widowed after the death of her husband Liu Chengxu , to marry her brother Feng Su . Emperor Xiaowen approved of the marriage, Princess Pengcheng was unwilling to marry Feng Su, so she fled out of Luoyang and sought out Emperor Xiaowen on the frontline, revealing to him Empress Feng's affair with Gao. Emperor Xiaowen was initially unwilling to believe the accusation and kept it secret, but Empress Feng became nervous and, along with her mother Lady Chang, engaged witches to try to curse Emperor Xiaowen, who was already ill by this time, to death.

However, Emperor Xiaowen did not die, and after he returned to Luoyang in 499, he interrogated Gao and Shuang, and both admitted. He then summoned Empress Feng and confronted her with Gao and Shuang's testimony—at an interrogation that no one else other than himself was at. After he finished the interrogation, he then summoned his brothers Yuan Xie the Prince of Pengcheng and Yuan Xiang the Prince of Beihai, stating to them, "She used to be your sister-in-law, but treat her now as a passerby, and you need not avoid her." Emperor Xiaowen then stated, "This woman wanted to stick a knife in my ribs. Because she is a daughter of Empress Dowager Wenming's clan, I cannot depose her, but I hope that one day she will find her conscience and kill herself. Do not believe that I have any remaining feelings for her." After the two princes exited, Emperor Xiaowen gave her a final goodbye, indicating that he would not see her again. The concubines still greeted her as empress, but Emperor Xiaowen ordered his crown prince not to see her again as well. When Emperor Xiaowen sent eunuchs to give her instructions on certain matters, she rebuked the eunuchs, stating that she was an empress and would not take instructions from eunuchs. In anger, Emperor Xiaowen sent a cane to her mother Lady Chang, and Lady Chang was forced to cane Empress Feng herself as punishment.

Later that year, Emperor Xiaowen grew seriously ill, and he left instructions to Yuan Xie to force Empress Feng to commit suicide after his own death, but to bury her with imperial honors still to avoid shame to the Feng clan. He then died, and Yuan Xie sent the palace official Bai Zheng to give her poison. Empress Feng refused to drink the poison, stating, "My husband did not make such an order! It is the princess who wants to kill me." Bai seized her physically and forced poisonous peppers into her mouth, and she died. She was buried with imperial honors with her husband.

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