Empress Dowager Gong

Empress Dowager Gong (龔太后, personal name unknown) (died 562), formally Empress Dowager Yuan (元太后, literally "the discerning empress dowager") was a (disputed) empress dowager of the Chinese dynasty Liang Dynasty. As her son Emperor Xuan of Western Liang (Xiao Cha) controlled little territory and relied heavily on military support by Western Wei and Western Wei's successor state Northern Zhou, many traditional historians did not regard him and his successors as true emperors of Liang, and therefore did not regard Empress Dowager Gong as a true Liang empress dowager.

Lady Gong was a concubine of Xiao Tong, the first crown prince of Liang's founder Emperor Wu. Her rank was the second rank for a concubine of the crown prince, Baolin (保林). She gave birth to Xiao Cha in 519. (It is not known whether any of Xiao Tong's other four known sons were her sons as well, although his oldest son Xiao Huan (蕭歡) was not, as he was the son of Xiao Tong's wife Crown Princess Cai.) Little is known about her background, including her birth family, and Xiao Cha himself appeared to be closer to Crown Princess Cai's nephew Cai Dabao (蔡大寶) than he was with any cousins he might have had through his mother.

Historical references to Lady Gong were not numerous. In 549, while Liang was in a state of disarray after the fall of the capital Jiankang to the rebel general Hou Jing and the imperial princes were battling each other, Xiao Cha, then the Prince of Yueyang, was leading an army against his uncle Xiao Yi the Prince of Xiangdong to try to save his brother Xiao Yu (蕭譽) the Prince of Hedong (whom Xiao Yi's forces were besieging), when he left his headquarters Xiangyang in the hands of Cai Dabao and Lady Gong (who was at that time still referred to as Baolin, not as princess dowager), and they defended the city against a surprise attack by the general Du An (杜岸), who served under Xiao Cha but had defected to Xiao Yi. Subsequently, in order to fend of Xiao Yi's attacks, Xiao Cha became a Western Wei vassal and was created the Prince of Liang.

In 555, after Western Wei forces had defeated and killed Xiao Yi, Western Wei created Xiao Cha the emperor of Liang (as Emperor Xuan). While Emperor Xuan posthumously honored Xiao Tong as an emperor and Xiao Tong's wife Crown Princess Cai as an empress, he honored his mother as an empress dowager. After he died in 562 and was succeeded by his son Xiao Kui (as Emperor Ming), Emperor Ming honored her as grand empress dowager. She died about three months after her son.


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