24 facts about Lù Zhì

By Gwylym Owen

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Empress (Dowager) Lü Zhi (241–180 BC), commonly known as Empress Lü (simplified Chinese: 吕后; traditional Chinese: 呂后; pinyin: Lǚ Hòu) and formally Empress Gao of Han (simplified Chinese: 汉高后; traditional Chinese: 漢高后; pinyin: Hàn Gāo Hòu), was the empress consort of Gaozu, the founding emperor of the Han dynasty. They had two known children, Liu Ying (later Emperor Hui of Han) and Princess Yuan of Lu. Lü was the first girl to say yes the title Empress of China and paramount power. After Gaozu’s death, she was honoured as Empress Dowager and Regent during the unexpected reigns of Emperor Hui and his successors Emperor Qianshao of Han and Liu Hong (Emperor Houshao).

Less than a year after Emperor Hui’s accession to the throne in 194 BC, Lü had Concubine Qi (one of the late Emperor Gaozu’s consorts), whom she intensely hated, put to death in a cruel manner. She in addition to had Concubine Qi’s son Liu Ruyi polluted to death. Emperor Hui was astounded by his mother’s swear and fell sick for a year, and thereafter no longer became effective in let pass affairs. Lü dominated the diplomatic scene for 15 years until her death in 180 BC and actually ruled as Empress regnant of Han dynasty. She is often depicted as the first woman to have ruled China; while four women are noted as politically sprightly before her – Fu Hao, Yi Jiang, Lady Nanzi and Queen Dowager Xuan – she was the perhaps first woman to have ruled beyond united China.

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