The Death of Empress Zhen

Join the Romance of the Three Kingdoms discussion with our resident Scholars. Topics relating to the novel and history are both welcome. Don't forget to check the Forum Rules before posting.
Kongming’s Archives: Romance of the Three Kingdoms
Three Kingdoms Officer Biographies
Three Kingdoms Officer Encyclopedia
Scholars of Shen Zhou Search Tool

Re: The Death of Empress Zhen

Unread postby Shen Ai » Sun Mar 22, 2015 8:39 pm

Dong Zhou wrote:Spot on Shen Ai.
For female suicides: Empress falls out of favour, gets moved to a separate palace with a pretty name, "dies of grief". I assume it is done like that to prevent issues of legitimacy or upset-in laws (not a great idea even so if in-laws are powerful) while giving Emperor chance to rid himself of political baggage or troublesome wife.

For males the general pattern is

1 Emperor gets upset but like you say, killing the other person is awkward due to PR or it not being a crime. In the case of Liang Ji, not a PR issue or lack of crime but possibly a case of might be awkward for a lot of people if Liang Ji is arrested and talks about what he knows.

2) The doomed gets a "promotion", the kind you can't refuse, looks great but essentially moves you out of powerbase. It is still a practise used today to kill the career of a political rival or to remove someone awkward into somewhere where they can do no harm.

3) A signal is given (Xun Yu had the box, Yu Jin the painting, Liang Ji the armed guards surrounding his home) that the emperor would rather like you to die if that wouldn't be too much trouble. Sometimes the rank is the signal, your marquis/position is moved to the Chinese equivalent of Siberia. I doubt there is a letter for reasons of plausible deniability

4) The death occurs. How shocking you should die just after that big promotion and in no way suspicious. Now for the Emperor to fulfil is part of the social contract

5) Assuming your not in a Liang Ji type position, the Emperor says nice things and the gentry mourn as appropriate. Your family honour is unstained, your family (for the Emperor is, of course, gutted at such a sad death) gets a marquis here, a promotion there, your reputation is given a quick boost.

In a way, the deal is that the Emperor has decided to kill you but it would be awkward. Plus due to your proud service, you will be allowed to bow it with head held high, your family will be honoured and able to advance as if you had died a natural death. Whereas if the Emperor had to kill you, it would require allegations to try and wreck your rep and your family probably has to die.


Interesting process. Thanks for the explanation, though I'd have thought Liang Ji would warrant an execution for some of his Dong Zhuo-esque behaviour?


I think you fall into the old trap of going too far the otherway in the fightback but sure, I understand that. I actually appreciate it, it has made me think and I have a lot less issue with some things (like Zhen Ji's death) then you might think.

I think there were occasions Pi was being a jerk. All warlords had at least one moment of that in their lives, I think Pi gets it partly due to the Zhen Ji/Cao Zhi factor and partly... he just doesn't charm on the page. I'm curious as the ones you think are bad


I'd say some of his worst are killing all the males of the Ding family. Killing the two Ding brothers was out of spite and revenge but killing the rest of the clan was vicious. Considering the long history the Ding and Cao families had in Pei, that was cruel.

As for some of his others, the torture Qu Hui mentioned of Huo Xing. I'm thinking that one was purely out of "Who the hell are you and how dare you speak to me like that" considering Jia Xu also advised against the Wu campaign without punishment, and that was because Jia Xu was smarter than he was and he respected him. In which case that was Cao Pi putting someone to death purely because he didn't like how they spoke to him. I could forgive dismissal or a beating, but torture and death was excessive.

Of course, it is said Cao Pi tried to rescind the order, so maybe it was spur of the moment, in the heat of emotions kind of thing.

So if I hear someone is getting married to someone in an influential family, contact their fiancée and lie when I warn them that said finance that (since the way the world works has changed) their husband/wife to be is sleeping around leading to the break up... they should suck it up and I'm the good guy?

If he goes around and gets your friends fired, depressed, and suicidal then you're kind of the good guy.
I've a brave warrior in my army. Shen Ai is his name, and he can slay this Hua Xiong.

Wei has no more famous commanders, Shen Ai takes lead of the vanguard!

Even a commoner on the street knows what Shen Ai is thinking!
User avatar
Shen Ai
Scholar of Shen Zhou
 
Posts: 1903
Joined: Sat Oct 29, 2011 11:21 pm
Location: That Place You've Been Dreaming Of

Re: The Death of Empress Zhen

Unread postby Fornadan » Tue Mar 24, 2015 11:57 am

Shen Ai wrote:
Interesting process. Thanks for the explanation, though I'd have thought Liang Ji would warrant an execution for some of his Dong Zhuo-esque behaviour?



It was not so much a question of whether Liang Ji warranted execution or not, but that it would be very politically inconvenient and potentially dangerous if the Emperor's guards actually have to storm his manor. As shown some forty years later, fighting within Luoyang is something really best avoided, and Liang Ji did have supporters inside and outside the capital who would then have a chance to react

As a general rule, quick and bloodless coups are much better than dragged-out and bloody ones
Translations from the Book of Jin: http://bookofjin.tumblr.com/index
Fornadan
Academic
 
Posts: 177
Joined: Thu Nov 07, 2013 6:38 pm

Re: The Death of Empress Zhen

Unread postby Dong Zhou » Tue Mar 24, 2015 6:00 pm

Shen Ai wrote:
Interesting process. Thanks for the explanation, though I'd have thought Liang Ji would warrant an execution for some of his Dong Zhuo-esque behaviour?


Like Fornadan said, there is the issue of storming a house in the capital. I think other potential factors are memories of Liang Ji's father and the Liang empress of Huan's, might have been a nod of respect to their memories. Or Liang Ji's knowledge of Emperor, eunuchs and gentry, might have been some awkward stuff revealed while being interrogated


So if I hear someone is getting married to someone in an influential family, contact their fiancée and lie when I warn them that said finance that (since the way the world works has changed) their husband/wife to be is sleeping around leading to the break up... they should suck it up and I'm the good guy?

If he goes around and gets your friends fired, depressed, and suicidal then you're kind of the good guy.


I would have more gone "if he then acts for his chairman/President/PM against a cabinet minister, helping force them out unfairly" then... no. That would make the other person a jerk sure.

It still doesn't mean my action good. I would still be a cad of the highest order
“You, are a rebellious son who abandoned his father. You are a cruel brigand who murdered his lord. How can Heaven and Earth put up with you for long? And unless you die soon, how can you face the sight of men?”
User avatar
Dong Zhou
A-Dou
A-Dou
 
Posts: 15559
Joined: Sun Apr 10, 2005 12:32 pm
Location: "Now we must die. May Your Majesty maintain yourself"

Re: The Death of Empress Zhen

Unread postby Shen Ai » Tue Mar 24, 2015 11:23 pm

Dong Zhou wrote:[
Like Fornadan said, there is the issue of storming a house in the capital. I think other potential factors are memories of Liang Ji's father and the Liang empress of Huan's, might have been a nod of respect to their memories. Or Liang Ji's knowledge of Emperor, eunuchs and gentry, might have been some awkward stuff revealed while being interrogated


I guess it did work out for the best in the end then.

I would have more gone "if he then acts for his chairman/President/PM against a cabinet minister, helping force them out unfairly" then... no. That would make the other person a jerk sure.

It still doesn't mean my action good. I would still be a cad of the highest order


Ding Yi also slandered Xu Yi as well, and that one didn't seem to have a reason. This was a guy who clearly had issue with a lot of skilled, honourable men. Mao Jie, Cui Yan, Xu Yi etc. Can't deny that they all have better records and better reputations than Ding Yi.

Combining his trouble making with his support of Cao Zhi and I don't think it was really unjustified. People were killed for less. Far less.
I've a brave warrior in my army. Shen Ai is his name, and he can slay this Hua Xiong.

Wei has no more famous commanders, Shen Ai takes lead of the vanguard!

Even a commoner on the street knows what Shen Ai is thinking!
User avatar
Shen Ai
Scholar of Shen Zhou
 
Posts: 1903
Joined: Sat Oct 29, 2011 11:21 pm
Location: That Place You've Been Dreaming Of

Re: The Death of Empress Zhen

Unread postby Dong Zhou » Wed Mar 25, 2015 4:46 pm

Shen Ai wrote:Ding Yi also slandered Xu Yi as well, and that one didn't seem to have a reason. This was a guy who clearly had issue with a lot of skilled, honourable men. Mao Jie, Cui Yan, Xu Yi etc. Can't deny that they all have better records and better reputations than Ding Yi.

Combining his trouble making with his support of Cao Zhi and I don't think it was really unjustified. People were killed for less. Far less.


Xu Yi snubbed Ding Yi, still makes Ding Yi's response extremely petty. Ding Yi didn't have an issue with skilled and honourable men, he had an issue with one snubbing him and the other two was seeking to please his lord (doesn't justify either but let's not exaggerate).

I'm not arguing about Cao Pi killing Ding Yi. I'm arguing Ding Yi's future sins don't provide absolution for Cao Pi being a humongous jerk before Ding Yi had done anything wrong.
“You, are a rebellious son who abandoned his father. You are a cruel brigand who murdered his lord. How can Heaven and Earth put up with you for long? And unless you die soon, how can you face the sight of men?”
User avatar
Dong Zhou
A-Dou
A-Dou
 
Posts: 15559
Joined: Sun Apr 10, 2005 12:32 pm
Location: "Now we must die. May Your Majesty maintain yourself"

Re: The Death of Empress Zhen

Unread postby Shen Ai » Wed Mar 25, 2015 7:57 pm

Dong Zhou wrote:Xu Yi snubbed Ding Yi, still makes Ding Yi's response extremely petty. Ding Yi didn't have an issue with skilled and honourable men, he had an issue with one snubbing him and the other two was seeking to please his lord (doesn't justify either but let's not exaggerate).

I'm not arguing about Cao Pi killing Ding Yi. I'm arguing Ding Yi's future sins don't provide absolution for Cao Pi being a humongous jerk before Ding Yi had done anything wrong.


Oh, just the marriage part the? Well, I guess that was rather petty of him.
I've a brave warrior in my army. Shen Ai is his name, and he can slay this Hua Xiong.

Wei has no more famous commanders, Shen Ai takes lead of the vanguard!

Even a commoner on the street knows what Shen Ai is thinking!
User avatar
Shen Ai
Scholar of Shen Zhou
 
Posts: 1903
Joined: Sat Oct 29, 2011 11:21 pm
Location: That Place You've Been Dreaming Of

Re: The Death of Empress Zhen

Unread postby Cai Mao » Sat Jan 20, 2018 1:03 am

Okay, I'm new to this site but I'm a dedicated Three Kingdoms enthusiast and I'm just going to say it.
I don't think Cao Pi had Zhenji commit suicide.
I reckon she died of illness.

Think about it. The Wei Shu states that she simply died of illness while the later histories, usually those that make no attempt to hide their disfavour for Cao Pi, claim he ordered her death.
But if that's the case...wouldn't the Wei histories have instead tried to justify his actions?
Surely, as Emperor, he was permitted to do what he liked at this time when women had little say in their own fates to say the least.
According to some later histories, there are numerous stories of Zhenji's promiscuity. Her supposed continued relationship with her old husband, stories of an affair with Cao Pi's brothers and even Cao Cao himself, and the questionable parenthood of Cao Rui.
If this factored in, why wasn't it in the Wei Shu?
If Empress Guo was just, generous and virtuous, wouldn't it have aided the Wei Shu's writers to portray Zhenji as the polar opposite? Some unfaithful succubus who fled her last husband, seduced Cao Cao's son and was ruled by her lusts? Such a portrayal for a woman killed by her husband was not unheard of at this time.
Frankly, I find the idea of her affair with Cao Zhi hard to believe as he wasn't a very pleasant chap in truth.
Being a good poet didn't make him a good man and one of his concubines is famous for being executed for bad behaviour by Cao Cao himself so its unlikely any of the parties involved would risk this level of scandal.
There are dozens of stories of the Han Empresses and those of the previous dynasties committing crimes and suffering for them? Why would Wei be an exception?
Yes, the scandal wouldn't look good for Cao Pi but, surely if there was a scandal, covering it up wouldn't really be necessary so much as justifying it.
Stop me if I'm wrong but there just seems far too many implausibilities as far as I can see with the story of Zhenji's tragic death at the hands of her own husband.
Cai Mao
Tyro
 
Posts: 6
Joined: Sat Jan 20, 2018 12:48 am

Re: The Death of Empress Zhen

Unread postby CaTigeReptile » Sat Jan 20, 2018 4:28 am

Cai Mao wrote:Okay, I'm new to this site but I'm a dedicated Three Kingdoms enthusiast and I'm just going to say it.
I don't think Cao Pi had Zhenji commit suicide.
I reckon she died of illness.

Think about it. The Wei Shu states that she simply died of illness while the later histories, usually those that make no attempt to hide their disfavour for Cao Pi, claim he ordered her death.
But if that's the case...wouldn't the Wei histories have instead tried to justify his actions?
Surely, as Emperor, he was permitted to do what he liked at this time when women had little say in their own fates to say the least.
According to some later histories, there are numerous stories of Zhenji's promiscuity. Her supposed continued relationship with her old husband, stories of an affair with Cao Pi's brothers and even Cao Cao himself, and the questionable parenthood of Cao Rui.
If this factored in, why wasn't it in the Wei Shu?
If Empress Guo was just, generous and virtuous, wouldn't it have aided the Wei Shu's writers to portray Zhenji as the polar opposite? Some unfaithful succubus who fled her last husband, seduced Cao Cao's son and was ruled by her lusts? Such a portrayal for a woman killed by her husband was not unheard of at this time.
Frankly, I find the idea of her affair with Cao Zhi hard to believe as he wasn't a very pleasant chap in truth.
Being a good poet didn't make him a good man and one of his concubines is famous for being executed for bad behaviour by Cao Cao himself so its unlikely any of the parties involved would risk this level of scandal.
There are dozens of stories of the Han Empresses and those of the previous dynasties committing crimes and suffering for them? Why would Wei be an exception?
Yes, the scandal wouldn't look good for Cao Pi but, surely if there was a scandal, covering it up wouldn't really be necessary so much as justifying it.
Stop me if I'm wrong but there just seems far too many implausibilities as far as I can see with the story of Zhenji's tragic death at the hands of her own husband.


Welcome to SoSZ!

The thread here already has some robust debate about some of the topics you're referring to and I won't repeat them, but just a quick recap -

Lady Zhen's death is mentioned as forced in the following places:

Pei Songzhi's annotations to her biography, which come from the Wei Lue (which is of course one of the official histories), mention the forced suicide.

Pei's annotation on Cao Rui's bio mentions Cao Rui desecrating Lady Guo's tomb in revenge for what happened to his mother. (Also from the Wei Lue).

Chen Shou's SGZ bio of Zhou Xuan mentions a story in which Cao Pi has a dream that Zhou Xuan interprets as meaning that soon a great woman of the state will die, and then it says that Cao Pi tried to recall an envoy with an imperial letter he had sent to Lady Zhen, but it was too late (this letter, of course, insinuated to be the orders for her to commit suicide).

I think there's more but that's all I can think of off the top of my head. Empresses and Consorts has a bit on it.

As far as we know, everything about Lady Zhen being adulterous in any way was fabricated in later times. None of the main historical sources - the SGZ, ZZTJ, or anything Pei Songzhi annotated with - mention anything of the sort.
User avatar
CaTigeReptile
Langzhong
 
Posts: 568
Joined: Sat Aug 24, 2002 8:58 pm
Location: General who Stabs Evil People

Re: The Death of Empress Zhen

Unread postby Dong Zhou » Sat Jan 20, 2018 1:20 pm

I'm a "Zhen Ji was killed" side for a few reasons. For me the alternative "they were really in love but they lived apart for a long time, wasn't made Empress alongside him immediately or anything you would expect from an Emperor in love. Oh and her family were not given favour afterwards." doesn't add up plus it contradicts other events, every major historian east and west seem to have it down as killing.

Your argument Cai Mao seems to come down to a few points but first I want to make clear to add to what CaTigeReptile said: there is no history where Zhen Ji had an affair when with Cao Pi. These are folk tales which I suspect don't mean damage to Zhen Ji but they find her a tragic heroine so they write her with figures they like (so not Cao Pi)

Being a good poet didn't make him a good man and one of his concubines is famous for being executed for bad behaviour by Cao Cao himself so its unlikely any of the parties involved would risk this level of scandal.


Lady Cui was executed for wearing an embroidered dress to be fair to her.

The two general thrusts of your argument seem to be

1) The histories. The only one that says not suicide is one annotation that was widely condemned and seems to have been about aiding a Jin faction when written vs every historian (Wei officer Yu Huan, Pei Songzhi, Xi Zuochi, Sima Guang, Fang Xuanling, Professors de Crespigny, Farmer and Cutwell), even Chen Shou strongly hints at the suicide (he couldn't outright claim it due to the circumstances he was in). These were not all anti-Cao Pi figures

2) Wei would have sought to justify it and gone for Zhen's reputation. The difference here over the Han empresses (for example) is that the Han did sort of try to hide it, they never killed themselves/got murdered but "died of grief". In this case, Cao Pi only just taking the throne and killing wife is not a great look, Wei's Emperor's marriage policy was not popular and "well I murdered a gentry lady for someone of lesser class" is not going to have helped, she was the mother of Pi's successor so badmouthing Zhen was not an option
“You, are a rebellious son who abandoned his father. You are a cruel brigand who murdered his lord. How can Heaven and Earth put up with you for long? And unless you die soon, how can you face the sight of men?”
User avatar
Dong Zhou
A-Dou
A-Dou
 
Posts: 15559
Joined: Sun Apr 10, 2005 12:32 pm
Location: "Now we must die. May Your Majesty maintain yourself"

Re: The Death of Empress Zhen

Unread postby Han » Sat Jan 20, 2018 10:59 pm

Okay, I'm new to this site but I'm a dedicated Three Kingdoms enthusiast and I'm just going to say it.
I don't think Cao Pi had Zhenji commit suicide.
I reckon she died of illness.


Welcome.

Think about it. The Wei Shu states that she simply died of illness while the later histories, usually those that make no attempt to hide their disfavour for Cao Pi, claim he ordered her death.
But if that's the case...wouldn't the Wei histories have instead tried to justify his actions?
Surely, as Emperor, he was permitted to do what he liked at this time when women had little say in their own fates to say the least.


Every major historians, East and West, Past and Current, seem to go forced suicide road. Therefore, based on that alone, the Wei Shu seemed suspicious.

This is because of different reasons.

Imperial Harem Intrigues getting out of control usually damages a Dynasties reputation. Especially a recent set up one.

Lady Zhen was at the end of the day Rui mother and Pi official wife. The Emperor in theory can do whatever he likes. That doesnt meant the Gentry Officials and Historians would agree with it.

According to some later histories, there are numerous stories of Zhenji's promiscuity. Her supposed continued relationship with her old husband, stories of an affair with Cao Pi's brothers and even Cao Cao himself, and the questionable parenthood of Cao Rui.
If this factored in, why wasn't it in the Wei Shu?


1) Wei Shu will majority of the time defend Cao Wei official figures especially in sensitive situations.

2) Most of these stories were myths and legends circulated later on.

If Empress Guo was just, generous and virtuous, wouldn't it have aided the Wei Shu's writers to portray Zhenji as the polar opposite? Some unfaithful succubus who fled her last husband, seduced Cao Cao's son and was ruled by her lusts? Such a portrayal for a woman killed by her husband was not unheard of at this time.


Just because historians want to put a person on a pedastal does not automatically means that another person will be demonized.

On Lady Zhen wikipedia: The original version of Lady Zhen's biography in the Sanguozhi did not contain the anecdotes about Zhen's excellent moral conduct, such as her care for her family members, her filial piety towards her mother-in-law Lady Bian, her tolerance of Cao Pi's other wives, etc. These accounts, which were mostly documented in the Wei Shu and the Weilüe, were later added to the Sanguozhi by Pei Songzhi. In his commentary, Pei cast doubts on the anecdotes relating to the "virtuous deeds" of Lady Zhen and other noble ladies of Wei, because it was difficult to verify whether they were true or not due to a dearth of alternative sources. The Wei Shu and the Weilüe were among the official histories of Wei, so they were likely to be biased towards Lady Zhen, hence some of those anecdotes might have been fabricated by Wei historians to promote a positive image of Lady Zhen. Pei remarked that Chen Shou had done well in omitting the questionable information when he first compiled the Sanguozhi.[27]

Pei SongZhi SanGuoZhiZhu was the source.

As you can see, historical records especially on women were kind of scarce back in antiquity with Ancient China being no different. Painting the Official Wife of an Emperor and Mother of another Emperor in a bad light would also not sit well with anyone.

Frankly, I find the idea of her affair with Cao Zhi hard to believe as he wasn't a very pleasant chap in truth.
Being a good poet didn't make him a good man and one of his concubines is famous for being executed for bad behaviour by Cao Cao himself so its unlikely any of the parties involved would risk this level of scandal.


Fair enough. But you need to understand ZhenXZhi was mostly myths and legends and not supported by any of the major histories of the 3K period.

There are dozens of stories of the Han Empresses and those of the previous dynasties committing crimes and suffering for them? Why would Wei be an exception?


Lady Zhen was never an official Empress. The situation of all these instances are too different to make a basic comparison. As far as I can tell, three of the East Han Emperors just executed Empresses and GuangWu desposed two. None of them however had an Official Wife that was not an Empress. So a proper comparison cannot be made, because most if not all Official Wives of Emperor automatically become Empress.

Yes, the scandal wouldn't look good for Cao Pi but, surely if there was a scandal, covering it up wouldn't really be necessary so much as justifying it.


You basically just answered yourself? Anyway I answered this at the beginning of this post.

Stop me if I'm wrong but there just seems far too many implausibilities as far as I can see with the story of Zhenji's tragic death at the hands of her own husband.


You are wrong? Excluding one history, all goes forced suicide.
Liu Bei did nothing wrong.
User avatar
Han
Sage
 
Posts: 311
Joined: Thu Aug 10, 2017 1:46 pm

Previous

Return to Sanguo Yanyi Symposium

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Havie and 4 guests

Copyright © 2002–2008 Kongming’s Archives. All Rights Reserved