Empress Cao Jie

Cao Jie (Chinese: 曹節; died 260), formally known as Empress Xianmu (Chinese: 獻穆皇后; literally "The Wise and Just Empress"), and after her husband's abdication, Duchess of Shanyang (Chinese: 山陽公夫人), was the last empress of the han dynasty in Chinese history. She was the second wife of Emperor Xian. She outlived the dynasty by 40 years.

Family background and marriage to Emperor Xian

Cao Jie was a daughter of the warlord Cao Cao, who by 196 had Emperor Xian under his control and issuing edicts in Emperor Xian's name to his own benefit in his campaign to reunite the empire, which had been held by regional warlords. In 213, Cao, who by that point had been created the Duke of Wei (later Prince of Wei), offered three daughters to be Emperor Xian's consorts—Jie and her older sister, Cao Xian (Chinese: 曹憲), and younger sister, Cao Hua (Chinese: 曹華). Initially, their titles were Furen (夫人), and in 197 their titles were upgraded to Guiren (貴人).

In 214, Emperor Xian's first wife Empress Fu Shou was discovered to have advocated a conspiracy against Cao Cao in 200, and although 14 years had elapsed, Cao was still so angry at her that he forcibly had her deposed and executed. In 215, Cao Jie was named Empress to replace her.

As empress and duchess

Not much is known about Empress Cao's life as empress, but it was clear that by that point her husband was thoroughly powerless, as her father held all power. In 220, her father died, and her brother Cao Pi succeeded him as the Prince of Wei. Later that year, he forced Emperor Xian to abdicate in favor of him, ending the han dynasty. It is said by traditional historians when Cao Pi sent messengers to require Empress Cao to surrender her empress seal, she refused to several times, but finally did. As her husband was created the Duke of Shanyang, she was given the title the Duchess of Shanyang. Her husband died in 234, and she died 26 years later and was buried with him with honors due an empress, using Han ceremonies.

Last update 04-04-2012

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