(5.4) Empress Máo 明悼毛皇后

Míng’s Dào “Lamented” Empress Máo was a Hénèi woman. During Huángchū [220-226] she was selected to enter the [harem of the] Eastern Palace [of the Heir Apparent]. Míng-dì at that time was King of Píngyuán, and showed her great favor, so that they went out and came in together riding in the same carriage. When he ascended as Emperor [226], she became Noble Consort Lady. Tàihé first year [227] she was enthroned as empress. The empress’s father [Máo] Jiā was appointed Cavalry Commandant. The empress’s younger brother [Máo] Zēng became a Cadet Internal.


Previously, when Míng-dì became a King, he first wed Lady Yú of Hénèi as his consort. When he ascended as Emperor, Lady Yú did not become empress, and Grand-Dowager-Empress Biàn comforted and consoled her. Lady Yú said: “The Cáo clan has always liked enthroning the lowly, and has never been able to raise up the righteous. But the empress manages the inner affairs while the lord rules the outer government, and this was so that they would complement each other to achieve success. If he cannot begin well, then he cannot last to the end, and from this he will certainly bring about the destruction of the State Sacrifices.” Lady Yú was therefore sent away back to the Yè palace.


Jiā was promoted to Esteemed Chariot Commandant, and Zēng to Cavalry Commandant, and received greater favor. Shortly afterward, Jiā was titled Marquis of Bópíng village and promoted to Merit Grandee, and Zēng to Imperial Relative Commandant.


Jiā was originally a lowborn cart laborer, but had suddenly become wealthy and noble. Míng-dì ordered all the Court officials to his house for a feast. His demeanor and behavior were very ignorant and coarse, and he stuttered and called himself “lordly self” and the people at the time all laughed at him. (1)


  • Sūn Shèng states: The ancient rulers all sought to command the moral in order to raise themselves up to reach virtue, so that the ruler would transform like an osprey, or reach purity like the unicorn’s step. For three generations, they acted chaotically, using personal feeling to decide relationships, enthroned based on confused affection, did not distinguish between noble and base, brought up the low to replace the high. Their rise and fall was all because of this. Wèi from Wǔ-wáng to Lièzǔ raised up three empresses from the lowly, and so from the beginning esteemed the base. How could they last long? The Shī[jīng] says: “O fine, O coarse, how cold this wind.“ This is what it was saying!

〔一〕 孫盛曰:古之王者,必求令淑以對揚至德,恢王化於關雎,致淳風于麟趾。及臻三季,並亂茲緒,義以情溺,位由寵昏,貴賤無章,下陵上替,興衰隆廢,皆是物也。魏自武王,暨于烈祖,三后之升,起自幽賤,本既卑矣,何以長世?詩云:「絺兮綌兮,淒其以風。」其此之謂乎!

Later Jiā again received promotion to special advance [rank just below the Three Excellencies], and Zēng was promoted to Cavalier Attendant Cadet.


Qīnglóng third year [235], Jiā died, and was given posthumous office as Attendants Chief Officer and his fief changed to Marquis of Ānguó, increased by 500 to the previous for a total of 1000 households. His posthumous title was Jié-hóu “Disciplined Marquis.” Fourth year [236], the empress’s mother Xià received fief as Lady of Yěwáng.


The Emperor became close with the Yuán Empress Guō, and the Empress [Máo] daily lost love and favor. Jǐngchū first year [237], the Emperor was roaming the rear garden, and summoned all concubines ranked above Talents to attend a feast with music and make merry.


Yuán-hòu [Guō] said: “We should invite the empress.” Míng-dì would not agree, and so prohibited the attendants from informing [empress Máo]. The empress knew of this. The next day, the Emperor met the empress, and the empress said: “Yesterday there was a pleasant feast in the north garden. Did you enjoy it?”


The Emperor believed the attendants had revealed this and so killed over ten people, and ordered the empress’s suicide, but yet bestowed posthumous title, and buried her at Mǐnlíng “Unfortunate Tomb.” Zēng was promoted to Special Rider Regular Attendant, later transferred to Internal Cadet-General of the Tiger Strong Guard and Basic Military Standard Officer.


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