Empress Wang (Dezong)

Empress Wang (王皇后, personal name unknown) (died December 6, 786[1]), formally Empress Zhaode (昭德皇后, "the accomplished and virtuous empress"), was an empress of the Chinese dynasty Tang Dynasty for three days before her death. She was the wife of Emperor Dezong (Li Kuo) and the mother of Emperor Shunzong (Li Song).


Not much is known about the future Empress Wang’s family, other than that her father Wang Yu (王遇) had once served as the director of the archival bureau (秘書監, MIshu Jian). She had at least one brother, Wang Guo (王果).[2]

As princely and imperial consort

The future Empress Wang became a consort, but not wife, to Li Kuo while he was the Prince of Fengjie under his great-grandfather Emperor Xuanzong or grandfather Emperor Suzong.[3] She gave birth to his oldest son, Li Song in 761 and thereafter was particularly favored. After Li Kuo became emperor in 779 (as Emperor Dezong), she was created Shufei (淑妃), the second highest rank for imperial consorts under empress.[4] He awarded her father Wang Yu posthumous honors while making her brother Wang Guo a prefectural military advisor. He also gave some 20 of her family members official positions.[2] When he was briefly forced to flee the capital Chang'an in 783 during the midst of a mutiny at Chang'an by soldiers from Jingyuan Circuit (涇原, headquartered in modern Pingliang, Gansu), she might have carried the imperial seal with her for him as they fled to Fengtian (奉天, in modern Xianyang, Shaanxi).[5][6]

Creation as empress and death

Consort Wang grew ill in 786 and, on December 3, Emperor Dezong created her empress. She died three days later, on December 6.[1][7] She was initially buried at a tomb separate from what would eventually become Emperor Dezong’s tomb, but after his death in 805, she was moved to his tomb. She would become the last living Tang empress for over a century, until Empress He, the empress of Emperor Zhaozong, near the end of the dynasty (although several emperors' mothers would be honored as empresses dowager while they were living and posthumously honored as empresses after their deaths).[2]

Notes and references

  1. 1 2 "中 曆 日 序".
  2. 1 2 3 Old Book of Tang, vol. 52.
  3. Both Empress Wang’s biographies in the Old Book of Tang and the New Book of Tang indicated that she became a consort to Li Kuo while he was the Prince of Lu. See Old Book of Tang, vol. 52 and New Book of Tang, vol. 77. However, as Li Kuo was only briefly the Prince of Lu, in 762, this would be incompatible for her having given birth to Li Song in 761. See Zizhi Tongjian, vol. 222.
  4. Old Book of Tang, vol. 51.
  5. Zizhi Tongjian, vol. 228.
  6. As the modern Chinese historian Bo Yang noted, there was a discrepancy between her rank here and the rank of the consort carrying the imperial seal, as her rank was Shufei and the consort carrying the imperial seal was described to be a Consort Wang but said to carry the greater rank of Guifei (貴妃). See Bo Yang Edition of the Zizhi Tongjian, vol. 56 [786].
  7. Zizhi Tongjian, vol. 232.
Chinese royalty
Preceded by
Empress Zhang
Empress of China (Guanzhong region)
Succeeded by
Empress Cao of Qi
Empress of Tang Dynasty
Succeeded by
Empress He
Empress of China (most regions)
Preceded by
Empress Xin of Yan
Empress of China (Northern/Central)
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