Empress Dowager Wang (Xianzong)

Empress Dowager Wang (王太后, personal name unknown) (763 – April 5, 816[1]), formally Empress Zhuangxian (莊憲皇后, "the mighty and knowledgeable empress"), was an empress dowager of the Chinese Tang Dynasty. She was the mother of Emperor Xianzong.


The future Empress Dowager Wang was born in 763, during the reign of Emperor Daizong. Her family was from Langye (琅邪, in modern Linyi, Shandong). Her grandfather Wang Nande (王難得) was said to have had well-known accomplishments.[2] Her father was named Wang Yan (王顏).[3]

When she was young, she was selected to be an imperial consort with the rank of Cairen (才人). However, because she was very young, in 775, Emperor Daizong gave her to his grandson Li Song, who had not yet been given a princely title and who was 14 at the time.[3][4]

As princely consort

In 778, the future Empress Dowager Wang gave birth to Li Song's oldest son Li Chun, and in 779, when Li Song was created the Prince of Xuan, she was given the rank of Ruren (孺人) as a princely consort. When, later in the year, he was created Crown Prince (with Emperor Daizong's son and Li Song's father Emperor Dezong being emperor at that point), she was given the rank of Liangdi (良娣). It was said that she was respectful and careful, and the people in the palace praised her for her virtues.[3]

As imperial consort

In 805, Emperor Dezong died, and Li Song became emperor (as Emperor Shunzong). Just prior to Emperor Dezong's death, Emperor Shunzong himself had suffered a debilitating stroke, leaving him partially paralyzed and unable to speak.[5] It was said that Consort Wang carefully attended to his medical needs and rarely left his presence. It was also said that he wanted to create her empress, but because he was unable to speak, the creation never took place.[3]

As retired empress

Later in 805, Emperor Shunzong yielded the throne to Li Chun, who had been created Crown Prince (as Emperor Xianzong). Emperor Xianzong honored Emperor Shunzong as Taishang Huang (retired emperor), and Consort Wang as Taishang Huanghou (太上皇后, "retired empress").[5]

As empress dowager

Emperor Shunzong died in 806, and Emperor Xianzong thereafter honored Retired Empress Wang as Empress Dowager.[6] She took up residence at Xingqing Palace (興慶宮). It was said that she had a kind, peaceful, respectful, and humble disposition, and she did not allow her family members to take power. She died in 816 and was buried at the same tomb as Emperor Shunzong.[7]

Notes and references

  1. "兩千年中西曆轉換". Sinica.edu.tw. Retrieved 2009-02-03.
  2. New Book of Tang, vol. 77.
  3. 1 2 3 4 Old Book of Tang, vol. 52.
  4. Old Book of Tang, vol. 14.
  5. 1 2 Zizhi Tongjian, vol. 236.
  6. Zizhi Tongjian, vol. 237.
  7. Zizhi Tongjian, vol. 239.
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