24 August 2011

Los Ancianos Malos: Empress Lu of the Han Dynasty

Empress Lu, wife to the founding Emperor Liu Bang (who was of peasant stock!) of the Great Han Dynasty.

Her evil acts according to the Chinese History Forum (verbatim)

The Ruthless Empress Lü

She was the wife of the founding emperor of the Han Dynasty, Liu Bang, who became emperor Gaozu. In 202 BC, Liu Bang became emperor and Empress Lü became the first empress of the Han Dynasty.

Empress Lü was a decisive and ruthless person. She did two things the emperor wanted to do but did not have the courage – she executed two former military leaders, Han Xin and Peng Yue, who, although achieving much for the country, were seen as threats to the sovereign. Emperor Gaozu resented Han Xin's high position and influence. He demoted him from Prince of Chu to Marquis of Huaiyin, but was not brave enough to have him killed.

Once when Emperor Gaozu was out suppressing an uprising, Han Xin plotted a rebellion in Changan. Empress Lü, with the help of Xiao He, killed Han Xin. Another time, Prince of Liang Peng Yue was unwilling to join Emperor Gaozu in his attack against the conspirator Chen Xi and was banished to Sichuan. Peng Yue pleaded with Empress Lü to intervene on his behalf. Afterwards, she told Emperor Gaozu that Peng Yue must be killed, afraid that he might stir up more troubles in the future.

After Peng Yue was killed, Empress Lü had his body minced to a pulp and sent to the other princes and nobles as a warning that they should not consider rebelling. Although Empress Lü was ruthless and merciless, she succeeded in destroying the separatist movement and helped consolidate the rule of the Han Dynasty.

The son of Empress Lü, Liu Ying was weak willed and Liu Bang preferred to make Ru Yu, the son of his beloved concubine, Qi Ji, crown prince in his place. But some of his chief ministers opposed him and he was forced to abandon the idea. After Emperor Gaozu died, Liu Ying became the emperor as was known as Emperor Huidi. Emperor Huidi was weak and cowardly and it was Empress Dowager Lü who wielded power. Empress Dowager Lü was finally able to vent her jealousy and hatred of Qi Ji. She had Qi Ji imprisoned in Yongxiang palace and punished her by shaving her head bald and doing hard labour. But the Empress Dowager was still not satisfied, so she had Qi Ji's hands and feet cut off, her eyes gouged out, ears deafened and throat made mute. Then, she had her locked up in a cesspit where she was called the "human sow". Qi Ji's son was killed by the empress dowager soon after.

In order for her family to accumulate as much power as possible, Empress Dowager Lü arranged for Emperor Huidi to take her granddaughter, Zhang Yan as his empress. (Zhang Yan was the daughter of Emperor Huidi's sister, Princess Luyuan, and was therefore his niece.) Empress Zhang was childless and so Empress Dowager Lü killed one of the concubines of Emperor Huidi who had given birth and pretended that the baby was Empress Zhang's. His name was Liu Gong. After Emperor Huidi died, Empress Dowager Lü installed Liu Gong as a child emperor while she ruled as great empress dowager. Liu Gong was emperor for four years when he found out the truth about his real mother being killed by Empress Dowager Lü and came to hate her. So, Empress Dowager Lü had him killed and installed the young Liu Hong as the emperor.

Empress Dowager Lü betrayed Emperor Gaozu's dying request that "no one other than a Liu be made prince" by making many of her relatives princes and dukes, who then controlled all the important posts. Another aspect of her betrayal was that she plotted to kill or harm Emperor Gaozu's sons, Liu You and Liu Hui, so as to supplant the owner of the house of Liu.

In 180 BC, Empress Dowager Lü died of illness. She was sixty two years old. Following her death, some of Emperor Gaozu's old ministers such as Chen Ping and Zhou Bo took control of the military and then set about eradicating the Lü clan that Empress Dowager Lü had meticulously created. She led to the annihilation of the Lü family.

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