Empress Erzhu (Yuan Ye's wife)

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Empress Erzhu (爾朱皇后) (personal name unknown) was briefly an empress of the Chinese/Xianbei dynasty Northern Wei. Her husband was Yuan Ye, also known as the Prince of Changguang.

History of China account of past events in the Chinese civilisation

The earliest known written records of the history of China date from as early as 1250 BC, from the Shang dynasty, during the king Wu Ding's reign, who was recorded as the twenty-first Shang king by the written records of Shang dynasty unearthed. Ancient historical texts such as the Records of the Grand Historian and the Bamboo Annals describe a Xia dynasty before the Shang, but no writing is known from the period, and Shang writings do not indicate the existence of the Xia. The Shang ruled in the Yellow River valley, which is commonly held to be the cradle of Chinese civilization. However, Neolithic civilizations originated at various cultural centers along both the Yellow River and Yangtze River. These Yellow River and Yangtze civilizations arose millennia before the Shang. With thousands of years of continuous history, China is one of the world's oldest civilizations, and is regarded as one of the cradles of civilization.

Xianbei ancient people in Manchuria and Mongolia

The Xianbei were an originally nomadic tribal confederation residing in what is today's eastern Mongolia, Inner Mongolia, and Northeast China. Along with the Xiongnu, they were one of the major nomadic groups in northern China from the Han Dynasty to the Northern and Southern dynasties. They eventually established their own northern dynasties such as the Northern Wei founded in the 4th century AD by the Tuoba clan. During the Uprising of the Five Barbarians they became categorized as one of the Five Barbarians by the Han Chinese.

Northern Wei former country (386–535)

The Northern Wei or the Northern Wei Empire, also known as the Tuoba Wei (拓跋魏), Later Wei (後魏), or Yuan Wei (元魏), was a dynasty founded by the Tuoba clan of the Xianbei, which ruled northern China from 386 to 534 AD, during the period of the Southern and Northern Dynasties. Described as "part of an era of political turbulence and intense social and cultural change", the Northern Wei Dynasty is particularly noted for unifying northern China in 439: this was also a period of introduced foreign ideas, such as Buddhism, which became firmly established.

Empress Erzhu was the daughter of Erzhu Zhao, the nephew of Northern Wei's paramount general Erzhu Rong. In 530, Emperor Xiaozhuang, suspecting Erzhu Rong of plotting a coup, ambushed and killed him, and Erzhu Rong's relatives rose in rebellion. They declared Yuan Ye the Prince of Changguang, a distant member of the imperial clan, emperor, probably because Yuan Ye's aunt was Erzhu Rong's wife the Princess Beixiang. It is not known whether Empress Erzhu was already married to Yuan Ye by this point, but in any case he created her empress. In 531, after the Erzhus had defeated and killed Emperor Xiaozhuang, they concluded that Yuan Ye was too distant from the lineage of recent emperors, being the grandson of Emperor Wencheng's brother Yuan Zhen (元禎) the Prince of Nan'an, and they deposed him and replaced him with Yuan Gong the Prince of Guangling, who took the throne as Emperor Jiemin. During the reign of Emperor Jiemin, Yuan Ye was treated with respect and created the Prince of Donghai, so Empress Erzhu presumably would have carried the title of Princess of Donghai. However, Yuan Ye was subsequently forced to commit suicide in 532 after Emperor Jiemin and the Erzhus were overthrown by a coalition led by the general Gao Huan and replaced with Emperor Xiaowu.

Erzhu Zhao (爾朱兆), courtesy name Wanren (萬仁), was a general of the Chinese/Xianbei dynasty Northern Wei. He was ethnically Xiongnu and a nephew of the paramount general Erzhu Rong. After Erzhu Rong was killed by Emperor Xiaozhuang, Erzhu Zhao came to prominence by defeating, capturing, and killing Emperor Xiaozhuang. Subsequently, however, his general Gao Huan rebelled against him, defeating him and overthrowing the Erzhu regime in 532, capturing and killing most members of the Erzhu clan. Erzhu Zhao himself tried to hold out, but was again defeated by Gao in 533 and committed suicide.

Erzhu Rong (爾朱榮), courtesy name Tianbao (天寶), formally Prince Wu of Jin (晉武王), was a general of the Chinese/Xianbei dynasty Northern Wei. He was of Xiongnu ancestry, and after Emperor Xiaoming was killed by his mother Empress Dowager Hu in 528, Erzhu overthrew her and put Emperor Xiaozhuang on the throne, but at the same time slaughtered many imperial officials and took over most of actual power either directly or through associates. He then contributed much to the rebuilding of the Northern Wei state, which had been rendered fractured by agrarian rebellions during Emperor Xiaoming's reign. However, in 530, Emperor Xiaozhuang, believing that Erzhu would eventually usurp the throne, tricked Erzhu into the palace and ambushed him. Subsequently, however, Erzhu's clan members, led by his cousin Erzhu Shilong and nephew Erzhu Zhao, defeated and killed Emperor Xiaozhuang. He was often compared by historians to the Han Dynasty general Dong Zhuo, for his ferocity in battle and for his violence and lack of tact.

Emperor Xiaozhuang of Northern Wei, personal name Yuan Ziyou, was an emperor of China of the Northern Wei, a Xianbei dynasty. He was placed on the throne by General Erzhu Rong, who refused to recognize the young emperor, Yuan Zhao, who Empress Dowager Hu had placed on the throne after she poisoned her son Emperor Xiaoming.

At a point unknown subsequent to Yuan Ye's death, the former Empress Erzhu became a concubine of Gao Huan, who became the paramount general of Northern Wei (and its branch state Eastern Wei after Northern Wei's division into Eastern Wei and Western Wei in 534). She bore him one son, Gao Jie (高湝), later created the Prince of Rencheng during Northern Qi. Soon after giving birth, however, she had an affair with Gao Huan's brother Gao Chen (高琛) the Duke of Zhao Commandery. After the affair was discovered, Gao Huan killed Gao Chen by caning, and while he did not kill Lady Erzhu, he had her relocated to Ling Province (靈州, roughly modern Yinchuan, Ningxia). At some point, probably after Gao Huan's death, she was allowed to marry Lu Jingzhang (盧景璋), of whom nothing is known in history other than his place of origin. It is not known when she died.

Eastern Wei former country

The Eastern Wei followed the disintegration of the Northern Wei, and ruled northern China from 534 to 550. As with Northern Wei, the ruling family of Eastern Wei were members of the Tuoba clan of the Xianbei.

Western Wei

The Western Wei followed the disintegration of the Northern Wei, and ruled northern China from 535 to 557. As with the Northern Wei state that preceded it, the ruling family of Western Wei were members of the Tuoba clan of the Xianbei.

Northern Qi former country

The Northern Qi was one of the Northern dynasties of Chinese history and ruled northern China from 550 to 577. The dynasty was founded by Emperor Wenxuan, and it was ended following attacks from Northern Zhou.

Chinese royalty
Preceded by
Empress Erzhu Ying'e
Empress of Northern Wei
530–531
Succeeded by
Empress Erzhu (Yuan Gong's wife)


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