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Fate of Empress Xiao of Sui Dynasty


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#1 snowybeagle

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Posted 17 November 2006 - 01:54 AM

What was the actual fate of the empress of Emperor Yang of Sui, Empress Xiao?

Some records only mentioned that she escaped and found refuge with her sister-in-law, Princess YiCheng, who was married to the Tujue.

Other accounts, like the fictional Sui Tang Yan Yi, had it that she was forced to be concubine of Yuwen Huaji, then Dou Jiande, before she arrived at the Tujue.

#2 Yun

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Posted 17 November 2006 - 03:52 AM

The Sui Shu states that she passed through the hands of Yuwen Huaji and Dou Jiande, but the Kaghan of the Turks (on the urging of Princess Yicheng, who was actually not the daughter of either Sui Wendi or Sui Yangdi, just the daughter of another member of the imperial clan) sent an envoy to ask for Empress Xiao to be brought to the Turk court for protection. Dou Jiande, out of fear of the Turks, released her.

In 630, when the Tang inflicted a major defeat on the Eastern Turks, they also captured Empress Xiao and brought her to Chang'an, where she was treated very cordially. The reason probably was that one of Tang Taizong's concubines was a daughter of Sui Yangdi and had already borne two sons to Taizong (Li Ke and Li Yin), and hence Empress Xiao was a mother-in-law to Taizong and a grandmother to two of his sons.

However, some 'unofficial' histories claim that Empress Xiao herself became one of Taizong's concubines. I see no credibility in this claim.
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#3 snowybeagle

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Posted 17 November 2006 - 03:58 AM

However, some 'unofficial' histories claim that Empress Xiao herself became one of Taizong's concubines. I see no credibility in this claim.

She'd be rather old by then ... wouldn't she?

Not that I got anything against autumn romance ... but I agree it was not likely.

Still, but for her husband, she'd been one of the most respected and revered empress in Chinese history ... pity.

#4 Rong Qin Wang

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Posted 23 November 2006 - 01:55 AM

She'd be rather old by then ... wouldn't she?

Not that I got anything against autumn romance ... but I agree it was not likely.

Still, but for her husband, she'd been one of the most respected and revered empress in Chinese history ... pity.


Zunjing de Snowybeagle Xian Sheng,

Hmm, I have never really paid much attention to Empress Xiao of Sui Yangdi since I did not find her character to be quite interesting nor did she actually play a significant role in history.

The story concerning her as later becoming Tang Taizong’s concubine was rather funny because of her old age. I would assume that this was a fictitious story to make a particular TV Series more appealing.

In ancient China , a woman’s fame and her position depended tremendously on her husband. For example, both Empress Zhangsun and Empress Ma were probably equally virtuous. However, Empress Zhangsun’s husband, Tang Taizong, was much more beloved by the civilians than Empress Ma’s husband, Ming Taizu. Therefore, Empress Zhangsun was generally viewed as a better Empress than Empress Ma.

With this in mind, how could Empress Xiao be one of the most respected and revered Empresses in Chinese History with her husband’s horrible reputation? Or was she respectable because of her faithful attitude toward her husband despite the fact that he was a tyrannical ruler?

Xie Xie,

#5 snowybeagle

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Posted 23 November 2006 - 03:22 AM

Empress Xiao, despite of noble parentage, was essentially abandoned as an infant and raised in humbling circumstances. It was recorded that she was virtuous and tried to persuade her husband against his excesses. Her hubby apparently had affection for her, but refused to heed her words.

When Emperor Sui was stranded in the south, and the situation worsening daily, he confided in her, and once, looking at the mirror, asked in her presence, "What a nice head, I wonder who will be the one to take it away."

That she was treated with utmost courtesy even by Li Shimin, though he was indirectly related to her, spoke something about her character.

#6 Rong Qin Wang

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Posted 28 November 2006 - 12:22 PM

Empress Xiao, despite of noble parentage, was essentially abandoned as an infant and raised in humbling circumstances. It was recorded that she was virtuous and tried to persuade her husband against his excesses. Her hubby apparently had affection for her, but refused to heed her words.

When Emperor Sui was stranded in the south, and the situation worsening daily, he confided in her, and once, looking at the mirror, asked in her presence, "What a nice head, I wonder who will be the one to take it away."

That she was treated with utmost courtesy even by Li Shimin, though he was indirectly related to her, spoke something about her character.


Zunjing de Snowybeagle Xian Sheng,

Hmm, I suspected that Empress Xiao came from a noble background, but had no idea that she was abandoned at a young age; hence, she grew up in a rather humble environment. Well, if Sui Yangdi did not have some affection for her, then he probably would not have kept her as the Empress since he was a womanizer. I highly doubt Sui Yangdi would heed the words of anyone giving advices against his excesses since he was a tyrant.

Well, it was also to Li Shimin’s best interest to speak good things of Empress Xiao, so I am not really certain about the reliability of this.

I agree that Empress Xiao was virtuous, and perhaps one of the most tragic Empresses in Chinese History; however, I am having trouble seeing how she would be regarded as one of the most respected and revered Empresses in Chinese History like you have previously stated above.

Are there any particular reasons for that statement of yours?

Xie Xie,

#7 Yun

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Posted 28 November 2006 - 12:48 PM

Hmm, I suspected that Empress Xiao came from a noble background, but had no idea that she was abandoned at a young age; hence, she grew up in a rather humble environment.



Empress Xiao was a daughter of Xiao Kui (reigned 562-585), the second emperor of the Later Liang dynasty, which was a small puppet state under the Western Wei, followed by the Northern Zhou, and lastly the Sui. The first ruler of Later Liang, Xiao Cha, was a grandson of Liang Wudi (Xiao Yan, reigned 502-549) who was placed on the Liang throne by Western Wei in 555 after the Western Wei army captured the Liang capital at Jiangling in 554, killing the Liang emperor Xiao Yi (reigned 552-554). [To complicate matters further, the Northern Qi dynasty and the Liang general Chen Baxian tried at the same time to replace the dead Xiao Yi with their own puppet emperors at the former Liang capital city of Jiankang. Northern Qi supported Xiao Yuanming, while Chen Baxian supported Xiao Fangzhi; Chen won the battle against Northern Qi, only to depose Xiao Fangzhi in 557 and found his own Chen dynasty.]

As Xiao Kui's daughter, she could have been raised as a princess, but because she was born in the second lunar month, and there was a Jiangnan taboo against raising children born in that month, she was handed over to Xiao Kui's younger brother Xiao Ji. Xiao Ji and his wife died soon after, and she was passed on to her maternal uncle Zhang Ke, who was very poor. Empress Xiao thus grew up in poverty.

When Sui Wendi was looking for a bride for Yang Guang, he decided to get a princess from Later Liang, but the divination results for all the eligible Liang princesses were inauspicious. Xiao Kui then brought this unwanted daughter over from Zhang Ke's home and asked the Sui envoy to do divination for her. The result was auspicious, and she then became Yang Guang's wife.
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#8 Rong Qin Wang

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Posted 29 November 2006 - 03:23 AM

Empress Xiao was a daughter of Xiao Kui (reigned 562-585), the second emperor of the Later Liang dynasty, which was a small puppet state under the Western Wei, followed by the Northern Zhou, and lastly the Sui. The first ruler of Later Liang, Xiao Cha, was a grandson of Liang Wudi (Xiao Yan, reigned 502-549) who was placed on the Liang throne by Western Wei in 555 after the Western Wei army captured the Liang capital at Jiangling in 554, killing the Liang emperor Xiao Yi (reigned 552-554). [To complicate matters further, the Northern Qi dynasty and the Liang general Chen Baxian tried at the same time to replace the dead Xiao Yi with their own puppet emperors at the former Liang capital city of Jiankang. Northern Qi supported Xiao Yuanming, while Chen Baxian supported Xiao Fangzhi; Chen won the battle against Northern Qi, only to depose Xiao Fangzhi in 557 and found his own Chen dynasty.]

As Xiao Kui's daughter, she could have been raised as a princess, but because she was born in the second lunar month, and there was a Jiangnan taboo against raising children born in that month, she was handed over to Xiao Kui's younger brother Xiao Ji. Xiao Ji and his wife died soon after, and she was passed on to her maternal uncle Zhang Ke, who was very poor. Empress Xiao thus grew up in poverty.

When Sui Wendi was looking for a bride for Yang Guang, he decided to get a princess from Later Liang, but the divination results for all the eligible Liang princesses were inauspicious. Xiao Kui then brought this unwanted daughter over from Zhang Ke's home and asked the Sui envoy to do divination for her. The resilt was auspiciousm, and she then became Yang Guang's wife.


Zunjing de Yun the Sage-King,

Thank you very much for the background information and the interesting story regarding Empress Xiao’s background. I am sure that I would not be able to find good information like this anywhere else on the Internet. Hehehe!

The Age of Fragmentation is certainly a confusing time period for future historians to study.

It is so interesting and ironic that Empress Xiao was born a princess, yet grew up in poverty. Compared to a lot of other Empresses, Empress Xiao definitely had a much more appealing background. She was quite fortunately to be born into the Imperial family; however, the timing of her birth was extremely horrible, which resulted in her father abandoning her.

Since Sui Yangdi ascended to the throne at approximately the age of 35, I suspected that Empress Xiao was chosen by Sui Wendi to be his daughter-in-law.

Did Empress Xiao have any children? Do you agree with Brother Snowybeagle that Empress Xiao was one of the most revered Empresses in Chinese History? If you do agree, then can you please share with us some of her good qualities?

Xie Xie,

#9 Yun

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Posted 29 November 2006 - 10:36 AM

Empress Xiao bore Yang Guang two sons - his Crown Prince Yang Zhao, who died young in 606, and Yang Jian who was killed with Yang Guang at Jiangdu in 618. A third son was borne by a concubine with the same surname Xiao.

Yang Guang has a reputation as a big lecher with a huge sexual appetite, but strangely he had only these three sons.

The records say Empress Xiao was well-educated, intelligent, and had a nice and humble personality. She was also skilled in divination, which is rather fitting since it was due to divination that she became Yang Guang's wife.
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#10 snowybeagle

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Posted 29 November 2006 - 09:05 PM

Yang Guang has a reputation as a big lecher with a huge sexual appetite, but strangely he had only these three sons.

Perhaps not so strange if we take the possibility that Yang Guang might not have wanted more children ...

From what I read, there are physicians or eunuchs in the harem skilled in the arts of preventing pregnancies in concubines after they serviced the monarchs. After each session, an attending eunuch, who was also responsible for recording the date and time of the coupling (that was considered the time of conception, used to check for legitimacy of births, as well as horoscope divinations) would ask the emperor whether he wanted to "keep" or "discard".

#11 Centaur

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Posted 29 November 2006 - 09:20 PM

Perhaps not so strange if we take the possibility that Yang Guang might not have wanted more children ...

From what I read, there are physicians or eunuchs in the harem skilled in the arts of preventing pregnancies in concubines after they serviced the monarchs. After each session, an attending eunuch, who was also responsible for recording the date and time of the coupling (that was considered the time of conception, used to check for legitimacy of births, as well as horoscope divinations) would ask the emperor whether he wanted to "keep" or "discard".


:g: I thought this was more a practice during the Qing Dynasty and not during Sui or Tang - I mean the 'keep or discard' and the 'recording' protocol?

#12 snowybeagle

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Posted 29 November 2006 - 10:13 PM

:g: I thought this was more a practice during the Qing Dynasty and not during Sui or Tang - I mean the 'keep or discard' and the 'recording' protocol?

Perhaps, I might have been wrong.

#13 Rong Qin Wang

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Posted 30 November 2006 - 03:29 AM

Empress Xiao bore Yang Guang two sons - his Crown Prince Yang Zhao, who died young in 606, and Yang Jian who was killed with Yang Guang at Jiangdu in 618. A third son was borne by a concubine with the same surname Xiao.

Yang Guang has a reputation as a big lecher with a huge sexual appetite, but strangely he had only these three sons.

The records say Empress Xiao was well-educated, intelligent, and had a nice and humble personality. She was also skilled in divination, which is rather fitting since it was due to divination that she became Yang Guang's wife.


Zunjing de Yun the Sage-King,

Hmm, it seems like Empress Xiao had fulfilled her duty as a good wife by giving birth to two sons. Sui Yangdi probably still had afftection toward her; that is why he created their eldest son as the Crown Prince. Since Sui Yangdi was the second son of the previous Emperor, and he had to usurp the throne, it did not seem like he would pay much attention to primogeniture.

Of course, Sui Yangdi was infamous for being licentious. Hence, are you sure that he only had these three sons? In that case, did he have a lot of daughters? Hey, I assumed that he would have had at least half of the amount Emperor Kang Xi had, 28 children.

Yup, it is really sad that Empress Xiao had to meet her tragic fate! It is quite interesting to find an Empress skilled in divination. Hehehe!

Xie Xie,

#14 Sima Yan

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Posted 02 December 2006 - 11:57 PM

:g: I thought this was more a practice during the Qing Dynasty and not during Sui or Tang - I mean the 'keep or discard' and the 'recording' protocol?


You are correct. It was recorded during 清文宗 's (Qing WenZong) reign.(or better known as 咸丰(XianFeng))That was how the eunuch 安德海 (An DeHai) could wield so much power as he was in charge of all these affairs and thus could influence the emperor whether to keep the pregnancy or not. (though I personally doubt how effective it is..the modern birth control control companies would go bust if this method is truely that effective)

#15 Rong Qin Wang

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Posted 04 December 2006 - 05:33 AM

Perhaps not so strange if we take the possibility that Yang Guang might not have wanted more children ...

From what I read, there are physicians or eunuchs in the harem skilled in the arts of preventing pregnancies in concubines after they serviced the monarchs. After each session, an attending eunuch, who was also responsible for recording the date and time of the coupling (that was considered the time of conception, used to check for legitimacy of births, as well as horoscope divinations) would ask the emperor whether he wanted to "keep" or "discard".


Zunjing de Snowybeagle Xian Sheng,

May I ask why you think that Sui Yangdi might not have wanted to have more children? Normally, Emperors would want to have as many children as possible to ensure that there will be more than an adequate amount of offspring to pass on the family bloodline.

I cannot believe that there were physicians skilled in the art of preventing pregnancies! Well, I guess it is not really that surprising if you look at this as one of the earlier forms of birth control. Hmm, now I am wondering how effective these treatments were? Or were people just way too superstitious back then?

Hmm, I am really confused regarding the “keep” or “discard” issue! I mean it is quite easy to understand that the Emperor would most likely want to keep the baby. However, what if the Emperor chose to “discard” this pregnancy? Would the concubine or Empress be forced to have an abortion?

I believe that this protocol was much more famous in the Qing Dynasty compare to other dynasties; however, a similar procedure was mandatory to assure that all babies were sired by the Emperor himself. This would be the case for any dynasties.

Xie Xie,




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