Empress Chu Lingyuan

Empress Chu Lingyuan (褚靈媛) (384–436), formally Empress Gongsi (恭思皇后), was the last empress of jin dynasty (265–420). Her husband was the last emperor of the dynasty, Emperor Gong (Sima Dewen).

Chu Lingyuan was the daughter of the commandery governor Chu Shuang (褚爽), who was a grandson of the official Chu Pou (褚裒), making Chu Lingyuan a grandniece of Emperor Kang's wife Empress Chu Suanzi. It is not known exactly when she married Emperor Gong, but the marriage took place while he was the Prince of Langye, during the reign of his developmentally disabled brother Emperor An. After the regent Liu Yu killed Emperor An in 419 and made Sima Dewen emperor, she was created empress. Emperor Gong subsequently was forced to give up the throne to Liu Yu in 420, ending Jin. Liu Yu, who established Liu Song, created the former Jin emperor the Prince of Lingling, and Empress Chu received the title Princess of Lingling. During their marriage, she bore two daughters -- Sima Maoying the Princess Haiyan, and the Princess Fuyang, whose name is lost to history.

However, Liu Yu viewed the former emperor and any male progeny that he might bear as threats, and therefore had his officials (and former Empress Chu's brothers) Chu Xiuzhi (褚秀之) and Chu Danzhi (褚淡之) poison any male infants that Princess Chu or his concubines might bear. The former emperor himself feared death. He lived in the same house as his princess, and they set up a stove next to their bed, cooking their own meals (to try to prevent poisoning), and the princess herself paid for the material of the meals. The assassins that Liu Yu sent had little chance to poison him. However, in fall 421, Liu Yu sent Chu Danzhi and his brother Chu Shudu (褚叔度) to meet Princess Chu, and as they gathered in another house, assassins Liu Yu sent jumped into the prince's residence and try to force him to take poison. The former emperor refused, stating that Buddhist doctrines prohibited suicide and that those who committed suicide could not receive human bodies in the next reincarnation. The assassins therefore used a blanket to cover his head and asphyxiated him.

Little is known about Princess Chu's life after her husband's death. Liu Yu had her adopt a son, presumably another member of the imperial Sima household, to inherit the title of Prince of Lingling, but this adopted son's name and identity is otherwise unknown. After the adoption, she became known as the Princess Dowager of Lingling. Her daughter Sima Maoying married Liu Yu's crown prince Liu Yifu, and after Liu Yu died in 422, Liu Yifu became emperor (as Emperor Shao) and created Sima Maoying empress, although Liu Yifu was himself removed and killed in 424 by imperial officials dissatisfied with his abilities to govern, and Empress Sima was demoted to being Princess of Yingyang. The former Jin empress died in 436 and was buried with imperial honors with her husband Emperor Gong.

Last update 09-04-2012

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