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Empress Hu (胡皇后, personal name unknown; died after 581) was an empress consort and empress dowager of the Chinese dynasty Northern Qi. Her husband was Emperor Wucheng (Gao Zhan). She was the empress dowager during the reign of her son Gao Wei.
Her father was the Northern Wei official Hu Yanzhi (胡延之), and her mother was the daughter of Lu Daoyue (盧道約). She was not Gao Zhan's first wife, as Gao Zhan, then the Duke of Changguang under Eastern Wei, married a daughter of Rouran's Khan Yujiulü Anluochen, titled the Princess Linhe, in 544 as his wife. (It is not known whether he later divorced the Princess Linhe or if she died.) During the reign of Gao Zhan's brother Emperor Wenxuan, the first emperor of Northern Qi, Gao Zhan, then the Prince of Changguang, married Lady Hu as his wife. She bore him two sons, Gao Wei and Gao Yan.
Gao Zhan took the throne (as Emperor Wucheng) in 561 upon the death of another brother, Emperor Xiaozhao. He created her empress, and created her son Gao Wei crown prince. However, both Emperor Wucheng and she favored their other son, Gao Yan, more, believing him to be more intelligent and resolute.
Empress Hu was alleged to be promiscuous, even during Emperor Wucheng's reign. She was said to have initially engaged in sexual relations with her eunuchs—although, in light of their being previously castrated, the traditional historians used the term xiexia (褻狎, "immoral games") rather than "adultery" to describe her acts with them. Later, with one of his officials, He Shikai, gaining great favors with him and allowed to enter the palace at all times, she engaged in a sexual relationship with He Shikai.
In 565, Emperor Wucheng, believing in astrological signs that the imperial reign would be changed, passed the throne to Gao Wei. He took the title of Taishang Huang (retired emperor), while creating Empress Hu the title of Taishang Huanghou ("retired empress"). However, the matters of state were still decided by him, rather than the nine-year-old Gao Wei. During this period, Gao Yan was initially created the Prince of Dongping and then the Prince of Langye. Because of the retired emperor's and empress' great favor toward Gao Yan, he became exceedingly honored, and at times he would question his parents as to why his brother, who was weaker in personality than he was, was emperor. Emperor Wucheng and Empress Hu at times considered deposing Gao Wei and making Gao Yan emperor, but ultimately did not do so.
In spring 568, Emperor Wucheng became ill, but after treatment by the medically talented official Xu Zhicai (徐之才), recovered. In winter 568, however, the illness returned, and he quickly tried to summon Xu, who was then the governor of Yan Province (兗州, roughly modern Jining, Shandong), to the capital Yecheng (鄴城, in modern Handan, Hebei), but died before Xu could arrive. Thereafter, Empress Hu assumed the title of empress dowager.
Emperor Wucheng entrusted the affairs of state to He Shikai, and he remained powerful after Emperor Wucheng's death. In spring 569, other officials, including Emperor Wucheng's cousin Gao Rui (高叡) the Prince of Zhao Commandery, Emperor Wucheng's brother Gao Run (高潤) the Prince of Fengyi, Emperor Wucheng's nephew Gao Yanzong (高延宗) the Prince of Ande, Lou Dingyuan (婁定遠), and Gao Wenyao (高文遙), all suggested that He Shikai be sent out of the capital to become a provincial governor. Initially, Empress Dowager Hu felt compelled to agree, but after further consultation with He Shikai, she instead killed Gao Rui and exiled Lou, while keeping He Shikai in power. Meanwhile, her lady in waiting, Gao Wei's wet nurse Lu Lingxuan, was also becoming powerful, as she gained Empress Dowager Hu's favor by flattering Empress Dowager Hu.
In 571, Gao Yan, offended by He Shikai, who feared his power and wanted to demote him to a provincial governorship, arrested He Shikai and executed him. However, when his associates, including Empress Dowager Hu's brother-in-law Feng Zicong (馮子琮), encouraged him to further seize the reins of imperial government, he hesitated—and his troops dissipated when the powerful general Hulü Guang, the father of Gao Wei's wife Empress Hulü, refused to side with him. Empress Dowager Hu had Feng executed, but tried to preserve Gao Yan's life by keeping him with her at all times. However, at Lu's instigation, Gao Wei decided to kill Gao Yan, and did so in winter 571 by tricking Empress Dowager Hu into believing that he was only inviting Gao Yan on a hunt. Subsequently, to placate Empress Dowager Hu, Gao Wei posthumously honored Gao Yan as "Emperor Gong'ai of Chu" and honored Gao Yan's wife Princess Li as the Empress of Chu.
After He Shikai's death, Empress Dowager Hu engaged in an affair with the Buddhist monk Tanxian (曇獻), who served as the director of Buddhist affairs in the imperial government—and the affair became so well known among monks that some monks joking referred to Tanxian as Taishang Huang. The rumors reached Gao Wei, but he initially did not believe them. Once, when he was visiting Empress Dowager Hu, however, he saw two "nuns" attending her and was aroused by them, so he ordered them to have sexual relations with him—and only upon ordering so did he discover that they were, in fact, men. He thereafter investigated and discovered Empress Dowager Hu's affair with Tanxian, and he put Tanxian and three female close associates of Empress Dowager Hu to death. Also in winter 571, he put her under house arrest and refused to allow her to meet with the nobles. (The official Zu Ting subsequently suggested deposing Empress Dowager Hu and making Lu empress dowager instead, but Gao Wei never actually followed that suggestion.)
Empress Dowager Hu, embarrassed at her disgrace, tried to placate Gao Wei. She invited the daughter of her brother Hu Changren (胡長仁) to the palace to live with her, and she beautified Lady Hu greatly and intentionally showcased her to Gao Wei. Gao Wei was pleased with Lady Hu and took her as a favored concubine. After Gao Wei, fearing that Hulü Guang was about to rebel, killed him in 572, he deposed Empress Hulü. Empress Hu wanted to make Consort Hu empress, but as she did not have sufficient persuasive power over Gao Wei, had to in turn flatter Lu to try to get her to help. Lu wanted her adoptive daughter Consort Mu Sheli, who already bore Gao Wei one son, Gao Heng, to be empress, but as she saw that Gao Wei favored Consort Hu, she went along with Empress Dowager Hu's desire and recommended Consort Hu. In fall 572, Gao Wei created Consort Hu empress. However, Lu still planned to make Consort Mu empress, and in winter 572, after further persuasion by Lu, Gao Wei initially made Consort Mu empress as well—as "right empress" while Empress Hu became "left empress."
However, Lu was not satisfied, and this time she would trick Empress Dowager Hu. Around the new year 573, she falsely stated to Empress Dowager Hu that Empress Hu had told Gao Wei, "The empress dowager's behavior is immoral and should not be followed." Empress Dowager Hu was incensed, and without verifying the information, she ordered Empress Hu be expelled from the palace, and then had Gao Wei depose her. From that point on, Lu and her son Mu Tipo dominated the palace, and it was said that even Empress Dowager Hu was under their control. Little is known about Empress Dowager Hu's activities for the next several years.
In 576, Emperor Wu of Northern Zhou launched a major attack on Northern Qi, and by spring 577 reached Yecheng's vicinity. In order to try to change his fortunes, Gao Wei passed the throne to his young son Gao Heng and took the title of Taishang Huang. Empress Dowager Hu thereafter became grand empress dowager. Soon, however, with Northern Zhou forces arriving, Gao Wei took his household and tried to flee east to either gather troops or flee to Chen Dynasty. They were captured and subsequently taken to Northern Zhou's capital Chang'an. Northern Qi's territory was entirely taken by Northern Zhou.
Northern Zhou's Emperor Wu created Gao Wei the Duke of Wen. However, later in 577, feeling insecure about the Gao clan, he accused them of plotting treason with Mu Tipo, and massacred nearly all members of the Gao clan. Empress Dowager Hu was not killed, and indeed, she behaved very debauched. She died during the early part of the reign of Emperor Wen of Sui (581–600), but the exact year is not known.
| Empress of Northern Qi |
Lou Zhaojun, formally Empress Ming, was an empress dowager of the Chinese dynasty Northern Qi. She was the wife of Gao Huan, the paramount general of Northern Wei and its branch successor state Eastern Wei, and during Gao Huan's lifetime was already influential on the political scene. After Gao Huan's death, she continued to exert influence through the regency of her son Gao Cheng, and then as empress dowager after another son Gao Yang seized the throne from Emperor Xiaojing of Eastern Wei and established Northern Qi. She continued to serve as grand empress dowager through the reigns of Gao Yang's son Emperor Fei, and then again as empress dowager during the reigns of two more of her own sons, Emperor Xiaozhao and Emperor Wucheng.
Empress Li Zu'e was an empress of the Chinese dynasty Northern Qi, known at times semi-formally as Empress Zhaoxin (昭信皇后). Her husband was Emperor Wenxuan, the first emperor of Northern Qi.
Emperor Xiaozhao of Northern Qi ( 齊孝昭帝) (535–561), personal name Gao Yan (高演), courtesy name Yan'an (延安), was an emperor of Northern Qi. He was generally considered a capable ruler, but ruled for less than two years before dying from injuries suffered from falling off a horse. Northern Qi would not have another capable ruler after his death.
Empress Yuan was an empress of the Chinese dynasty Northern Qi, known at times semi-formally as Empress Shuncheng (順成皇后). Her husband was Emperor Xiaozhao.
Gao Yan (558–571), courtesy name Renwei (仁威), posthumously honored Emperor Gong'ai of Chu (楚恭哀帝), was an imperial prince of the Chinese dynasty Northern Qi. He was a son of Emperor Wucheng, and was much favored by both Emperor Wucheng and Empress Hu. In 571, during the reign of his older brother Gao Wei, he tried to seize power and killed Gao Wei's trusted official He Shikai, but his uprising subsequently collapsed when he hesitated at taking further action. Later that year, Gao Wei put him to death.
Emperor Wu of Northern Zhou ( 周武帝) (543–578), personal name Yuwen Yong (宇文邕), Xianbei name Miluotu (禰羅突), was an emperor of the Xianbei dynasty Northern Zhou. As was the case of the reigns of his brothers Emperor Xiaomin and Emperor Ming, the early part of his reign was dominated by his cousin Yuwen Hu, but in 572 he ambushed Yuwen Hu and seized power personally. He thereafter ruled ably and built up the power of his military, destroying rival Northern Qi in 577 and annexing its territory. His death the next year, however, ended his ambitions of uniting China, and under the reign of his erratic son Emperor Xuan, Northern Zhou itself soon deteriorated and was usurped by Yang Jian in 581.
Emperor Wucheng of Northern Qi ( 齊武成帝) (537–569), personal name Gao Zhan, nickname Buluoji (步落稽), was an emperor of Northern Qi. In traditional Chinese historiography, he was presented as a minimally competent ruler who devoted much of his time to feasting and pleasure-seeking, neglecting the affairs of the state. The state was governed with assistance from his adviser He Shikai and other appointed administrators. In 565, he passed the throne to his young son Gao Wei, taking the title Taishang Huang, but continued to make key decisions. He died in 569, and the Northern Qi would fall in 577.
He Shikai (和士開) (524–571), courtesy name Yantong (彥通), was an official of the Chinese dynasty Northern Qi. He was a close associate of Emperor Wucheng prior to Emperor Wucheng's accession to the throne, and he became a powerful official during Emperor Wucheng's reign. He was criticized in traditional histories as a corrupt and incompetent official. After Emperor Wucheng's death, Emperor Wucheng's son Gao Yan the Prince of Langye was displeased with the authority that He Shikai was still wielding, and killed him in a coup in 571, but subsequently was himself killed.
Gao Wei (高緯) (557–577), often known in history as Houzhu of Northern Qi ( 齊後主), courtesy name Rengang (仁綱), sometimes referred to by his later Northern Zhou-created title of Duke of Wen (溫公), was an emperor of Northern Qi. During his reign, Northern Qi's imperial administration was plunged into severe corruption and wastefulness, with the military suffering after Gao Wei killed the great general Hulü Guang in 572. Rival Emperor Wu of Northern Zhou launched a major attack in 576, and Northern Qi forces collapsed. Gao Wei, who formally passed the throne to his son Gao Heng, was captured while trying to flee to Chen Dynasty, and later that year, the Northern Zhou emperor executed him and almost all members of his clan.
Empress Hulü was an empress of the Chinese dynasty Northern Qi. She was Gao Wei's first empress, and she was a daughter of the general Hulü Guang.
Empress Hu was an empress of the Chinese dynasty Northern Qi. She was Gao Wei's second empress.
Mu Sheli (穆舍利), originally named Mu Yeli (穆邪利), nickname Huanghua (黃花), was an empress of the Chinese dynasty Northern Qi. She was Gao Wei's last empress.
Hulü Guang (斛律光) (515–572), courtesy name Mingyue (明月), was a general of the Chinese dynasty Northern Qi. During the late years of the dynasty—the reigns of Emperor Wucheng and Gao Wei, traditionally viewed as a period of corruption and debauchery when Northern Qi's once-powerful status was deteriorating—Hulü was viewed as the key pillar to the state and its army, maintaining the army's strength against rivals Northern Zhou and Chen Dynasty. The powerful officials Zu Ting and Mu Tipo, who had disagreements with him, however, falsely accused him of plotting treason, and in 572, Gao Wei believed those accusations and killed Hulü. Emperor Wu of Northern Zhou was very glad over the news and declared a general pardon, and in 578, Northern Qi fell to Northern Zhou.
Zu Ting, courtesy name Xiaozheng (孝徵), was an official of the Chinese dynasty Northern Qi (550–577). He was renowned for his literary and administrative talents.
Gao Yanzong (高延宗), often known by his princely title of Prince of Ande (安德王), was an imperial prince of the Chinese dynasty Northern Qi who briefly claimed imperial title in 577 for three days as his cousin, the emperor Gao Wei fled in the face of an attack by rival Northern Zhou. Traditional historians usually did not consider him an emperor of Northern Qi.
Gao Heng, often known in history as the Youzhu of Northern Qi ( 齊幼主), was briefly an emperor of Northern Qi. In 577, with Northern Qi under a major attack by rival Northern Zhou, Gao Heng's father Gao Wei, then emperor, wanted to try to deflect ill omens that portended a change in imperial status, and therefore passed the throne to Gao Heng. Later that year, after they fled in face of Northern Zhou forces' arrival, they were captured and taken to the Northern Zhou capital Chang'an, where, in winter 577, Emperor Wu of Northern Zhou ordered them, as well as other members of the Gao clan, to commit suicide. Northern Qi territory was seized by Northern Zhou, although for several years Gao Wei's cousin Gao Shaoyi claimed imperial title in exile under Tujue's protection.
Consort Feng Xiaolian (馮小憐) was an imperial consort of the Chinese dynasty Northern Qi. She was a concubine of the penultimate Gao Wei, and his infatuation with her caused her to be, fairly or unfairly, often stated by traditional historians as a reason for Northern Qi's downfall.
Lu Lingxuan (陸令萱) was a lady in waiting in the palace of the Chinese dynasty Northern Qi. As she served as the wet nurse to the emperor Gao Wei, she became exceedingly powerful during his reign, at times eclipsing in importance his mother Empress Dowager Hu, and was often criticized by historians for her corruption and treachery.
Mu Tipo (穆提婆), né Luo Tipo (駱提婆), was a Xianbei official of the Chinese dynasty Northern Qi. He was a close associate of the emperor Gao Wei, and during the latter part of Gao Wei's reign controlled the political scene along with his mother Lu Lingxuan, and the other favorites of Gao Wei, Han Zhangluan and Gao Anagong. In 577, in the midst of a major attack by rival Northern Zhou, Mu surrendered to Emperor Wu of Northern Zhou and was made a provincial governor, but after Northern Zhou destroyed Northern Qi and took over its territory, Emperor Wu falsely accused Mu of conspiring with Gao Wei, and killed Mu and forced Gao Wei and other members of the Gao clan to commit suicide.
Gao Anagong (高阿那肱) was a Xianbei official of the Chinese dynasty Northern Qi. He was a close associate of the emperor Gao Wei, and late in Gao Wei's reign dominated the political scene along with Mu Tipo and Han Zhangluan. While probably not as corrupt as Mu and Mu's mother and Gao Wei's wet nurse Lu Lingxuan, he was known for incompetence. In 577, with Northern Qi under major attack by rival Northern Zhou, after Gao Wei fled the capital Yecheng, Gao Anagong betrayed him and gave him false information, allowing Northern Zhou forces to capture him. In 580, with Northern Zhou in civil war between the regent Yang Jian and the general Yuchi Jiong, Gao Anagong was on Yuchi's side and, after Yuchi's defeat, was executed.