Empress Li (Later Jin)

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Empress Li (李皇后, personal name unknown) (d. October 7, 950 [1] [2] ) was a princess of the Chinese Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period state Later Tang (as a daughter of its emperor Li Siyuan) and an empress of the succeeding Later Jin (as the wife of its founding emperor Shi Jingtang).

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 mentioned as the twenty-first Shang king by the same. 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.

Later Tang Chinese dynasty

Tang, known in history as Later Tang, was a short-lived imperial dynasty that lasted from 923 to 937 during the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period in the history of China.

Li Siyuan, also known by his temple name Mingzong (明宗), was the second emperor of imperial China's short-lived Later Tang during the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period, reigning from 926 until his death. He was an ethnic Shatuo originally named, in the Shatuo language, Miaojilie (邈佶烈).


During Jin and Later Tang

It is not known when the future Empress Li was born. It is known that she was Li Siyuan's third daughter. [3] Her mother was Li Siyuan's wife Lady Cao, who would later be empress during Li Siyuan's reign. [4] It is not known exactly when she married Shi Jingtang, but as of 919, at which time her father Li Siyuan was still a general of Later Tang's predecessor state Jin and Shi was an officer under him, Shi was already referred to as a son-in-law of his, suggesting that they were married by that point. [5] In 928, by which time Li Siyuan was emperor of Later Tang, he created Lady Li the Princess Yonging. In 933 (just before Li Siyuan's death), he created her the Princess of Wei. [3] She and Shi Jingtang had at least one son, Shi Chongxin (石重信); it is not known whether any of his other five known sons or any daughter of his was born of her. [6]

Empress Cao, formally Empress Hewuxian (和武憲皇后), was an empress of the Chinese Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period state Later Tang. Her husband was Later Tang's second emperor Li Siyuan, and she was empress dowager during the subsequent reigns of his son Li Conghou and adoptive son Li Congke. Eventually, when her son-in-law Shi Jingtang rebelled against Li Congke, establishing his own Later Jin and attacked the Later Tang capital Luoyang, she died in a mass suicide with Li Congke, his family, and some officers.

Shi Jingtang Emperor Gaozu of (Later) Jin

Shi Jingtang (石敬瑭), also known by his temple name Gaozu (高祖), was the founding emperor of imperial China's short-lived Later Jin during the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period, reigning from 936 until his death.

Jin (Later Tang precursor) state of the Chinese Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period

Jin, also known as Hedong (河東) and Former Jin (前晉) in historiography, was an early state of the imperial Chinese Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period until 923 when it became the Later Tang dynasty (923–937). Its rulers were the Shatuo warlords Li Keyong and Li Cunxu. Although the Five Dynasties period began only in 907, Li Keyong's territory which centered around modern Shanxi can be referred to as Jin as early as 896, when he was officially created the Prince of Jin by the failing and powerless Tang dynasty court, or even as early as 883, when he was created the jiedushi of Hedong Circuit, which controlled more or less the same territory.

In 934, the Princess's biological half-brother Li Conghou, then emperor, was facing the rebellion by their adoptive brother (Li Siyuan's adoptive son) Li Congke the Prince of Lu, who was advancing toward the capital Luoyang from his post as military governor of Fengxiang Circuit (鳳翔, headquartered in modern Baoji, Shaanxi). Shi, initially intending to support Li Conghou, launched his own troops from Hedong Circuit (河東, headquartered in modern Taiyuan, Shanxi) toward Luoyang. By the time he reached Luoyang's vicinity, however, Li Congke's army had already entered Luoyang, and Li Conghou had fled. Instead of supporting Li Conghou when he encountered Li Conghou, Shi slaughtered Li Conghou's guards, leaving him completely vulnerable. Li Congke subsequently had Li Conghou killed and took the throne. [7]

Li Conghou (李從厚) (914–934), formally Emperor Min of Later Tang (後唐閔帝), nickname Pusanu, was an emperor of the Chinese Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period state Later Tang, ruling between 933 and 934. He was overthrown by his adopted brother Li Congke.

Li Congke, also known posthumously as Emperor Mo of Later Tang, Emperor Fei of Later Tang, Wang Congke (王從珂), or Prince of Lu, nickname Ershisan or, in short, Asan (阿三), was the last emperor of the Later Tang - the second of the Five Dynasties following the fall of the Tang Dynasty. He was an adoptive son of Li Siyuan and took the throne after overthrowing Emperor Mingzong's biological son Emperor Min of Later Tang. He was later himself overthrown by his brother-in-law Shi Jingtang, who was supported by Khitan troops. When the combined Later Jin and Khitan forces defeated Later Tang forces, Li Congke and his family members, as well as the guards most loyal to him, ascended a tower and set it on fire, dying in the fire.

Luoyang Prefecture-level city in Henan, Peoples Republic of China

Luoyang is a city located in the confluence area of Luo River and Yellow River in the west of Henan province. Governed as a prefecture-level city, it borders the provincial capital of Zhengzhou to the east, Pingdingshan to the southeast, Nanyang to the south, Sanmenxia to the west, Jiyuan to the north, and Jiaozuo to the northeast. As of the final 2010 census, Luoyang had a population of 6,549,941 inhabitants with 1,857,003 people living in the built-up area made of the city's five urban districts, all of which except the Jili District are not urbanized yet.

Shi pledged loyalty to Li Congke. However, as they had previously not liked each other while both served under Li Siyuan, Li Congke's close associates advised him to keep Shi at Luoyang and not allow him to return to Hedong. The Princess and her mother Empress Dowager Cao, however, pleaded on Shi's behalf, and Li Congke ultimately allowed him to return to Hedong. [7] (Shi would later claim that Li Congke also made a promise that he would never move Shi away from Hedong during Shi's lifetime, although it is not clear whether Li Congke actually made such a promise.) [8] In 935, Li Congke gave the Princess the greater title of Grand Princess of Jin. [3]

By 936, however, much mutual suspicion had developed between Li Congke and Shi, and Li Congke thought that Shi might rebel with the support of Later Tang's northern rival Khitan Empire. The suspicion was displayed in spring 936, when, at Li Congke's birthday, the Princess had travelled from Hedong to celebrate at Luoyang, apparently to trying to alleviate those suspicions. After she offered Li Congke wine to wish him long life, she asked to take leave of him and return to Hedong's capital Taiyuan. Li Congke was already drunk, and he made the comment, "Why do you not stay longer? You wanted to return so quickly. Is it that you are about to rebel with Master Shi?" When she returned to Taiyuan and informed Shi, Shi became even more apprehensive. Later in the year, when Li Congke tried to transfer him from Hedong to Tianping Circuit (天平, headquartered in modern Tai'an, Shandong), he thus rebelled and sought aid from Khitan's Emperor Taizong. When Later Tang forces under the command of the general Zhang Jingda then put Taiyuan under siege, Emperor Taizong came to Shi's aid and crushed Zhang's army. Emperor Taizong then declared Shi the emperor of a new Later Jin, and subsequently, after the joint Khitan/Later Jin forces accepted the surrender of the Later Tang army (after Zhang's deputy Yang Guangyuan assassinated Zhang and offered to surrender) and headed toward Luoyang, Li Congke committed suicide with his family (including the Princess's mother Empress Dowager Cao), ending Later Tang. Later Jin took over Later Tang's territory. [8]

Taian Prefecture-level city in Shandong, Peoples Republic of China

Tai'an is a prefecture-level city in western Shandong province of the People's Republic of China. Centered on Mount Tai, the city borders the provincial capital of Jinan to the north, Zibo to the east, Linyi to the southeast, Liaocheng to the extreme west and Jining to the south. To the west, Tai'an is separated from the province of Henan by the Yellow River.

Shandong Province

Shandong is a coastal province of the People's Republic of China, and is part of the East China region.

Emperor Taizong of Liao, personal name Yaogu, sinicised name Yelü Deguang, courtesy name Dejin, was the second emperor of the Khitan-led Liao dynasty.

During Later Jin

During Shi Jingtang's reign

At some point, it appeared that the Princess was created empress by Shi Jingtang — although traditional histories differ as to timing or even whether it occurred. According to the Zizhi Tongjian , her creation was immediately upon his taking the throne as the emperor of Later Jin. [8] According to the Wudai Huiyao, the creation did not occur until 941. [3] According to the New History of the Five Dynasties , no formal creation ever occurred during Shi's lifetime. [6] Her only known son Shi Chongxin (and another son of his, Shi Chong'ai (石重乂), who might or might not have been her son) were killed in 937 by the rebellious general Zhang Congbin (張從賓), whose rebellion was later suppressed. [9]

<i>Zizhi Tongjian</i> A chronicle Chinese history by Northern-Song historian Sima Guang

The Zizhi Tongjian is a pioneering reference work in Chinese historiography, published in 1084 in the form of a chronicle. In 1065 AD, Emperor Yingzong of Song ordered the great historian Sima Guang to lead with other scholars such as his chief assistants Liu Shu, Liu Ban and Fan Zuyu, the compilation of a universal history of China. The task took 19 years to be completed, and, in 1084 AD, it was presented to his successor Emperor Shenzong of Song. The Zizhi Tongjian records Chinese history from 403 BC to 959 AD, covering 16 dynasties and spanning across almost 1,400 years, and contains 294 volumes (卷) and about 3 million Chinese characters.

Empress Li did have a surviving half-brother, Li Congyi. In 939, Shi Jingtang created Li Congyi the Duke of Xun, and had him be in charge of offering sacrifices to the emperors of Later Tang and Tang Dynasty. As Li Congyi was still young, Empress Li took to raising him herself, and she honored his mother Consort Dowager Wang (Li Siyuan's favorite concubine) as if the Consort Dowager were her own mother. [10]

In 942, Shi fell ill. By that point, his only surviving son (of the seven known to history) was Shi Chongrui (石重睿). He entrusted Shi Chongrui to the senior chancellor Feng Dao, intending to have Feng support Shi Chongrui to succeed him. After he died shortly after, however, Feng and the general Jing Yanguang, believing that the state needed an older emperor, supported Shi Jingtang's adoptive son (and biological nephew, as the biological son of his older brother Shi Jingru (石敬儒)) Shi Chonggui the Prince of Qi as emperor. Shi Chonggui honored Empress Li as empress dowager, and his mother Lady An of Qin as consort dowager. [11]

During Shi Chonggui's reign

It was said that Shi Chonggui served both Empress Dowager Li and Consort Dowager An diligently, often attending to them at their meals. However, he displeased her by marrying the widow of his uncle/brother Shi Chongyin (石重胤) (Shi Jingtang's biological brother and therefore Shi Chonggui's biological uncle, but whom Shi Jingtang adopted at his own son (as he did Shi Chonggui) and therefore was an adoptive brother), Lady Feng, as his wife and empress. [11] Empress Feng became quite powerful in Shi Chonggui's administration, and Empress Dowager Li repeatedly tried to correct her, to no avail. [6]

Shi Chonggui turned against Shi Jingtang's policy of being respectful to the Khitan (whose state Emperor Taizong had renamed Liao by this point); rather, he took a confrontational stance against Liao. In 946, Emperor Taizong, after trapping the major Later Jin general Du Wei and getting Du to surrender to him, advanced on then-capital Kaifeng. Shi Chonggui surrendered, ending Later Jin. As part of the surrender petition, Shi Chonggui referred to himself as "grandson" (as Shi Jingtang had honored Emperor Taizong as father), and Empress Dowager Li referred to herself as "daughter-in-law." However, apparently to spare them further humiliation (at that point), Emperor Taizong declined a formal, public surrender ceremony; he just entered Kaifeng and took over Later Jin's territory. [12]

After Later Jin's fall

In spring 947, Emperor Taizong created Shi Chonggui the Marquess of Fuyi (i.e., "the marquess who turned away from righteousness"), and prepared to relocate him and his family deep into Liao territory, to Huanglong (黃龍, in modern Changchun, Jilin). He informed Empress Dowager Li, "I heard that Shi Chonggui did not listen to you, his mother, and therefore fell to this state. You may decide what you wish to do. You need not go with him." She responded, "Shi Chonggui served me, your servant girl, carefully. His fault was that he violated the wishes of the late Emperor and ended the two states' friendliness. Now I have received your great grace that the entire family survives. Where could a mother go but to follow her son?" [13]

Soon, Shi Chonggui, Empress Dowager Li, and the rest of the family were sent on their way, along with the key Later Jin officials Zhao Yin, Feng Yu (Empress Feng's brother), and Li Yantao (李彥韜). On the way, their train was poorly supplied, such that even Shi Chonggui and Empress Dowager Li sometimes lacked food. [13]

Emperor Taizong himself soon withdrew from Kaifeng, but died on the way back to Liao proper, and was succeeded by his nephew Emperor Shizong. [13] Around this time, Emperor Taizong's mother Grand Empress Dowager Shulü redirected Shi Chonggui's household, intending to settle them at Huaimi Prefecture (懷密州, said to be 1,500 li northwest of Huanglong). Soon thereafter, though, Grand Empress Dowager Shulü, who opposed Emperor Shizong's succession, was defeated by Emperor Shizong and removed from power herself. Emperor Shizong instead decided to resettle Shi Chonggui's household at Liaoyang (遼陽, in modern Liaoyang, Liaoning) and send them some supplies. [6]

In 948, Emperor Shizong visited Liaoyang, on the way up the mountains for the summer. Shi Chonggui and his household went to pay homage to him. Emperor Shizong comforted Shi Chonggui, but, as Emperor Shizong was leaving Liaoyang, took 15 of Shi Chonggui's eunuchs and 15 of his attending officials, as well as his adoptive son Shi Yanxu (石延煦). When Emperor Shizong's brother-in-law Xiao Channu (蕭禪奴) indicated that he wanted Shi Chonggui's daughter but Shi Chonggui did not want to surrender her, Emperor Shizong seized her and gave her to Xiao. In the fall, as Emperor Shizong was returning to his capital Linhuang (臨潢, in modern Chifeng, Inner Mongolia), Empress Dowager Li decided to intercept him before he went back to Linhuang, and requested that he resettle their household near a Han city and give them land for agriculture. Emperor Shizong agreed, and sent her back to Chaoyang with Shi Yanxu. He later resettled them at Jian Prefecture (建州, in modern Chaoyang, Liaoning). The military governor at Jian Prefecture, Zhao Yanhui (趙延暉), yielded his headquarters for them to live in. Shi Chonggui had his followers till the land and establish an agricultural settlement. [6] [14]

Empress Dowager Li fell ill in 950. There was no physician or medication available at Jian Prefecture, and her conditions grew worse. As she fell extremely ill, she held Shi Chonggui's hands and cursed Du Wei and Du's deputy Li Shouzhen, stating, "Even after I die I will not spare you!" She died shortly after. [1] Her wishes were that her body be burned and the ashes be delivered to You Prefecture (幽州, in modern Beijing) to be housed at a Buddhist temple — as You, while a Liao possession by that point, traditionally was considered Chinese soil. However, for reasons unknown, although Shi did burn her body, he buried her ashes right at Jian Prefecture and did not try to deliver them to You. [6]

Notes and references

  1. 1 2 Zizhi Tongjian , vol. 289.
  2. Academia Sinica Chinese-Western Calendar Converter.
  3. 1 2 3 4 Commentaries to the Old History of the Five Dynasties , vol. 86, citing the Wudai Huiyao (五代會要).
  4. New History of the Five Dynasties , vol. 15.
  5. Zizhi Tongjian, vol. 271.
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 6 New History of the Five Dynasties, vol. 17.
  7. 1 2 Zizhi Tongjian, vol. 279.
  8. 1 2 3 Zizhi Tongjian, vol. 280.
  9. Zizhi Tongjian, vol. 281.
  10. Zizhi Tongjian, vol. 282.
  11. 1 2 Zizhi Tongjian, vol. 283.
  12. Zizhi Tongjian, vol. 285.
  13. 1 2 3 Zizhi Tongjian, vol. 286.
  14. Zizhi Tongjian, vol. 288.
Preceded by
None (dynasty founded)
Empress of Later Jin
Succeeded by
Empress Feng
Preceded by
Empress Liu of Later Tang
Empress of China (Shanxi)
Empress of China (Central)

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