20 Responses to “Pingyang”

  1. Lexy

    A great princess as ever, just a question: I may be wrong but wasn’t Wu Zetian the wife of her nephew? ( I read in Shan Sa’s “Empress” that Wu’s first husband and father of her second fought his brother for the throne and was not above taking their wives and concubines for himself after killing them, and that Pingyang was his sister)

  2. Jeanette Wu

    Ooh, Princes Pingyang! I was wondering when you might do an entry on her! The design is quite awesome. Even if it’s a mishmash of styles, it still looks fine to me. The most prized type of armor at the time was actually the “Mingguang” or “Shining” armor, a sort of armor that had a lot of coverage, especially in critical areas like the chest. It was also one of the few armors around to world to feature actual boob plates. As part of the chest defenses, of course.

    One nitpick is that while her husband was employed in the palace guard, he wasn’t the head. He was simply one member of an elite guard unit (there were 16 guard units with different levels of skill and access to the Emperor and his sons). Her title was actually “zhao”, not “zhou”, and it was her posthumous title, given to a noble when they died to evaluate their lives and to distinguish them from successors. So there were other Princesses Pingyang in past and future dynasties, but only one Princess Pingyang Zhao. And given all the myriad meanings a posthumous name can have, I’d say she got it for being mighty, being renowned, or making many contributions for her country.

    Also, lovely work on the forehead decorations. It’s probably the most popular image people have of the makeup of the period, because frankly, everything else would look disgusting to current tastes.

  3. Jason Porath

    Wu’s first husband (Taizong) was Pingyang’s brother, Li Shimin. Wu then remarried Taizong’s son, Gaozong.

  4. Lexy

    OK, thanks!

  5. Jeanette Wu

    Yes, Wu Zetian was the wife of Emperor Gaozong, who was the son of Emperor Taizong, brother of Princess Pingyang. But the two women never met, because Pingyang died too early.

    As for the taking their wives thing, it wasn’t done publicly. In China, there is a thing known as punitive slavery, where, if a member of your family commits a heinous enough crime, you could be demoted to the rank of permanent slavery. The women of Taizong’s brothers’ households were taken as slaves into the palace. A good number of them were later released untouched, given lower titles than they had held previously. The only woman to actually “marry” Taizong was the wife of his younger brother Yuanji.

  6. Jeanette Wu

    Also, Wu Zetian’s “Zhao” was not the same as as that of Princess Pingyang. Princess Pingyang had “昭“, and Wu Zetian had “照”. Wu Zetian’s name meant “shining”, since she was always keen to portray herself as something celestial. Later on, her name was changed to “曌”, a character made of the sun and moon above, and the sky beneath, making the celestial body reference even more obvious.

  7. Jason Porath

    Ack! Thank you, fixing now.

  8. Lexy

    Yes, he made her a second rank wife ( another second rank wife was the last Sui emperor’s daughter; when Taizong had to pick another heir after the execution of his rebellious first born, the origins of his wives were used against their sons by the late Empress’s brother, who was the first advisor of Taizong; he then supported his sister’s son ( the future Gaozong)’s claim).

  9. Jeanette Wu

    The story about Taizong wanting Li Ke to be Crown Prince is a very strange one. Of all the advisers he could have discussed it with, he picked the brother of his late Empress, while the Empress’s youngest son was also a contender for successor. So he literally picked the worst possible person for discussion. At the time, neither of the candidates were what you would call good. One was his sole remaining legitimate son, who also happened to gentle and weak-willed. The other was his eldest concubine-born son, who was marginally smarter and more responsible than his brothers. In all likelihood, he might not have wanted Li Ke as crown prince so much as he brought up an issue which his advisers would have to look out for once he died and his legitimate son succeeded.

    Li Yuanji’s wife’s official harem title is unknown. She is called “Consort Yang” because of her position as Li Yuanji’s legitimate wife. Imperial Consorts and Princess Consorts use the same character.

  10. Lexy

    Thanks, that’s so interesting… ( in “Empress” Yang is one of the major characters and is described as a sadistic woman, who seduces young girls from the harem then beats them, accusing them of being spies from her rivals)

  11. Jeanette Wu

    Yeah, she doesn’t get much good press in fiction, while Consort Yang, daughter of the Sui Emperor, is played up as Taizong’s true wuv, because everyone likes the Romeo and Juliet cliche. Meanwhile, Princess Consort Yang is usually a villain when the author remembers she exists and doesn’t blend her character into that of Consort Yang. It probably has something to do with the fact that her first husband is portrayed in popular history as a villain, and was, in real history, a sadistic brute. (Of Li Yuan’s legitimate children, he was the only one with few achievements but a long record of bad behavior)

  12. Lexy

    That’s exactly the case in “Empress”: the Sui princess is almost not mentionned ( the only consorts of Taizong who are mentionned are Yang and a poet who is crushed by the harem’s schemings ( and Wu has a kind of worship/crush/hate on both of them, she even has fantasies about Yang’s initial rape by Taizong after he sacked her first husband’s harem and they are into a dom/sub relationship, Yang having a special pavillion with a mirror floor so she can show and curse her and her lover’s vaginas ( yes. I know) and eventually Wu tries to strangle her without having any problem following the act)

  13. Jeanette Wu

    It sounds like an interesting, though highly sensationalized take on events…Was the poet in question Imperial Concubine Xu?

    (As interesting as it might be to speculate on homosexual relationships in the sexually open somewhat gender egalitarian Tang Dynasty, I’m sadly gonna have to pour cold water on those theories. China was at its most homophobic during the Tang Dynasty. For example, when Crown Prince Chengqian took a male lover, Taizong reacted by having the lover’s head chopped off, with a bunch more people being killed because they had directly or indirectly facilitated the relationship. Only until the very end of the Tang Dynasty do you have references about men, especially monarchs, admiring the beauty of other men.)

  14. Jason Porath

    (you have no idea how happy this conversation makes me. I’m so thankful to have commenters like y’all.)

  15. Lexy

    Yeah, it was Imperial Concubine Xu; the whole book is filled with same sex relationships: Yang takes younger lovers whom she beats and offers to her female servants; after her Wu has female flings ( and she initially considers that she takes much more pleasure with them than initially with Gaozong ( they fits each other better after some time), she later has a threesome with Gaozong and her own sister; while Gaozong has medical sex with virgin boys and girls to restore his health she takes a pre teen slave girl as her lover, and her second son is madly in love with another boy. So as you say this is more fantasy than accurate

  16. Jeanette Wu

    Oh, for all the homophobia of the Tang, there was one important exception. That is, the threesome between Wu Zetian’s son Zhongzong, his cousin Wu Sansi, and his wife Empress Wei. Wu Sansi curried favor with his once political rival by handing over a certain beloved concubine, and then became the Queen’s lover. The Emperor was very okay with it, ostensibly because he loved his wife and wanted her to be happy. However, the three of them became so close that the Empress would play board games with Wu Sansi on the Emperor’s own bed, while the Emperor sat around keeping tally. Whenever Wu Sansi was sick or even just late for a visit, the Emperor would be more visibly distressed than his wife. Everyone else found them supremely embarrassing, especially since Wu Sansi used the relationship to control government and act like a crazy hedonistic dictator.

  17. Psyche Euridyce

    Since you did Pinyang, why not do the Trung sisters as well?

  18. Jason Porath

    They’re on the list! Might be a book entry.

  19. archersangel

    This is the first time I’ve made a guess as to what the next entry would be. I totally missed the significance of “tangy” in the hint the first time i read it.

  20. Anne Liu

    I think the relationship between Imperial Concubine Xu and Wu Zetian is somewhat fictional or “imaginary” by later genaration of historian and storytellers as a way of entertainment and “taint” the name of Emperor Wu. Strange as it seems. Homosexuality was considered very differently in ancient China, especially when the popluar reference of Tang dynasty today was edited or written in Ming and Qing dynasty, when Male homosexuality was normalized even
    praised. But I’m getting to far. What I meant to say is the relationship between Imperial Concubine Xu and Wu Zetian seems only visible in popluar TV shows, and it is not seem in any trusted sources.