Empress Yu (Northern Wei)

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Empress Yu (于皇后, personal name unknown) (488? [1] –507) was an empress of the Chinese/Xianbei dynasty Northern Wei. She was Emperor Xuanwu's first empress.

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.

She was the daughter of Yu Jing (于勁), the younger brother of the powerful general Yu Lie (于烈). It was said that when Emperor Xuanwu first assumed imperial powers — which probably referred to his relieving his uncle Yuan Xie of authorities in 501 — Yu Lie believed that the emperor lacked sufficient consorts, and so persuaded Emperor Xuanwu's attendants to praise of her beauty and virtues. Emperor Xuanwu took her as an imperial consort, and in late 501 created her empress. She was said to be quiet, tolerant, and not jealous. She bore him one son, Yuan Chang (元昌), in 506. By that point, however, she was said to have lost his favor, as he favored his cousin Consort Gao, and their uncle Gao Zhao became exceedingly powerful. When Empress Yu suddenly died in 507, it was believed that Consort Gao poisoned her, but historians concede that there is not conclusive evidence. When her son Yuan Chang died the following year (508), it was also alleged that Gao Zhao had him poisoned.

Yuan Xie (元勰), né Tuoba Xie, courtesy name Yanhe (彥和), formally Prince Wuxuan of Pengcheng (彭城武宣王), later posthumously honored as Emperor Wenmu (文穆皇帝) with the temple name of Suzu (肅祖), was an imperial prince of the Chinese/Xianbei dynasty Northern Wei. He was a son of Emperor Xianwen, and he often assisted his brother Emperor Xiaowen both in military and governmental matters. After Emperor Xiaowen's death, he briefly served as regent for Emperor Xiaowen's son Emperor Xuanwu. Eventually, due to suspicions and jealousy of Emperor Xuanwu's uncle Gao Zhao, Emperor Xuanwu believed false reports that Yuan Xie was going to rebel, and forced him to commit suicide. He was later posthumously honored as an emperor by his son Emperor Xiaozhuang, although subsequently Emperor Jiemin retracted the honors.

Empress Gao Ying was an empress of the Chinese/Xianbei dynasty Northern Wei. She was the second empress of Emperor Xuanwu.

Gao Zhao (高肇), courtesy name Shouwen (首文), was a high-level official of the Chinese/Xianbei dynasty Northern Wei. He was a maternal uncle of Emperor Xuanwu, and he became increasingly powerful during Emperor Xuanwu's reign, drawing anger from other high-level officials not only for his powerplay and corruption, but also because he was a mere commoner before Emperor Xuanwu's reign and not from the aristocracy and might have been Korean in origin. After Emperor Xuanwu died in 515, the other officials set a trap for Gao Zhao and had him killed.

Notes

  1. Whether she was born in 488 is dependent on whether she became Emperor Xuanwu's concubine in 501 or not -- the historical accounts implied that she did, but were not conclusive. They were, however, clear that she was 13 when she became his concubine.
Chinese royalty
Preceded by
Empress Feng Run
Empress of Northern Wei
501–507
Succeeded by
Empress Gao

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