Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/Hsiao-chuang Wên Huang-hou

HSIAO-chuang Wên Huang-hou 孝莊文皇后, Mar. 28, 1613–1688, Jan. 27, was a secondary consort of Abahai (q.v., later canonized as Emperor T'ai-tsung) and the mother of Fu-lin [q. v.] who ruled under the reign-title, Shun-chih. She was a Mongol princess, the daughter of Jaisang 寨(宰)桑, a prince of the Korcin Mongols and descendant of a brother of Ghenghis Khan. She belonged to the distinguished clan of Borjigit 博爾濟吉特. Jaisang's sister, Empress Hsiao-tuan [q. v.], was the wife of Abahai, their marriage taking place in 1614.

When she came to Abahai in 1625 Empress Hsiao-chuang was thirteen sui and twenty years his junior. A year later (1626) Abahai ascended the throne. In the following ten years she gave birth to three of his daughters: the fourth, Yatu 雅圖 (Princess Yung-mu 雍穆, 1629–1678); the fifth, Atu 阿圖 (Princess Shu-hui 淑慧, 1632–1700); and the seventh, Princess Tuan-hsien 端獻 (1633–1648). In 1636, when Chinese customs were adopted in Abahai's Court, Hsiao-chuang was given the title of a secondary consort (Chuang Fei 莊妃) and her aunt was made Empress. In 1638 Hsiao-chuang gave birth to Abahai's ninth son, Fu-lin. Abahai died in 1643 and Fu-lin succeeded him. When the Manchu Court moved from Mukden to Peking in 1644, and Fu-lin, then aged seven (sui), became Emperor of China, Hsiao-chuang was made Empress Dowager. After her aunt's death in 1649 she assumed full control inside the Palace and was given in 1651 the title, Empress Dowager Chao-shêng (昭聖皇太后). In the same year (1651) she arranged the marriage of Fu-lin with her own niece, the daughter of her brother, Ukšan 吳克善 (d. 1665). After Fu-lin deposed his wife in 1653 Empress Hsiao-chuang arranged that he should marry her own grandniece, Empress Hsiao-hui (孝惠章皇后, 1641–1718). Possibly thereafter she and her son were not on intimate terms. The decision of Fu-lin to restore the power of the eunuchs (see under Asitan) may be explained by his desire to create a strong element inside the Palace which would offset the influence of his mother. Be that as it may, as soon as Fu-lin died Empress Hsiao-chuang cooperated with several courtiers in reducing the power of the eunuchs and executing some of their leaders.

Following the succession to the throne in 1662 of her grandson, Hsüan-yeh (q.v., who ruled under the reign-title, K'ang-hsi), Hsiao-chuang was given the title, T'ai Huang-tai-hou 太皇太后 (Superior Empress Dowager). She was very kind to the young Emperor whose own mother died in 1663. In fact she brought him up and assisted him a great deal in his education. For this she won his life-long gratitude. She responded promptly with relief from the royal stores in times of calamity, remembered the hardships of troops in time of war and sent bounties to encourage them during the San-fan Rebellion (see under Wu San-kuei). As Empress Dowager she abolished the troublesome custom of the ruling house which required the wives of the princes to come in turn to the Palace and serve the Empress. It is said that she never interfered in national affairs, but was always consulted by her grandson, Hsüan-yeh, on matters concerning the Imperial Household. She encouraged the Emperor to keep up the vigorous pastimes of his people, such as riding, archery, and the chase. In 1670 he visited with her the Imperial Tombs at Ma-lan-yü (see under Hsiao Yung-tsao) and in Mukden; and in 1683 she accompanied him to Wu-t'ai-shan in Shansi.

The Empress Dowager died at the age of seventy-five (sui) and was canonized as Hsiao-chuang Wên Huang-hou. Her tablet was placed in the Imperial Ancestral Temple, and in 1726 she was interred at Ma-lan yü in a tomb called Chao Hsi-ling 昭西陵. A rumor gained currency in south China that she had actually married her brother-in-law, Dorgon [q. v.], while he was regent during her son's minority. This rumor cannot be substantiated, and may have been confused with the act for which Dorgon was later censured, namely, taking his nephew's wive (see Haoge). Empress Hsiao-chuang's three daughters all married Mongol princes of the Borjigit clan. Yatu married her cousin, the son of Ukšan and nephew of Empress Hsiao-chuang. Atu was married twice, the first time in 1643 to a son of Enggeder [q. v.], but he died within a short time. In 1648 she married Septen 色布騰 (d. 1668), a prince of the Barin 巴林 tribe.

[1/220/4b; 1/173/1b; Ch'ing lieh-ch'ao Hou-fei chuan-kao (see under Su-shun) shang 27b; Ch'ing Huang-shih ssŭ-p'u (see under Fu-lung-an) 2/5a, 4/6a; Ch'ing-ch'u san-ta-i-an k'ao-shih (see bibl. under Fu-lin).]

M. Jean Gates

Fang Chao-ying