The Yì[jīng] says: “The correct place of men is outside. The correct place of female is inside. Male and Female correctly placed is the proper conduct of Heaven and Earth.”
Among the ancient wise kings, there were none who did not understand the proper system of empresses and consorts, and so obeyed the ethics of heaven and earth. So with his two consorts, Yú [Shùn] rose to great majesty. Rèn and Sì were wed to the Jī family, and so the Zhōu House prospered. Success or failure is always dependent [on women].
The Chūnqiū says that Heaven’s Son has twelve women, feudal lords have nine women. Certainly this system was not arbitrarily created. But the previous age was extravagant and wasteful, unrestrained in indulgence, until it caused men and women to become neglectful, act without care, esteem only lust, and not distinguish the virtuous [from the sinful], so that the entire system was degraded and destroyed. What a pity! Alas, those managing the state or managing the family must always reflect on this example!
In the Hàn system, the Emperor’s paternal grandmother is called Grand-Dowager-Empress, the Emperor’s mother is called Dowager-Empress, the Emperor’s principal wife is called Empress. The remaining inner [female] officials had fourteen ranks. Wèi inherited Hàn’s method. The titles of mothers and empresses were all as in the old system. From the rank Lady down, more ranks were added.
When Tàizǔ founded the state, first there was a Queen, and below that five ranks: Lady, Illustrious, Handsome, Magnificent, Beauty.
Wén-dì added Grandeur, Virtuous, Cultivated, Obedient, Respected.
Míng-dì added Warm, Manifest, Studious, and removed Obedient. During Tàihé [227-233], Ladies began to receive conferment [of fiefs]. Those above Warm were promoted. From Ladies down there were twelve noble titles: Grandeur, Ladies were after the Empress and had no equivalent [male] rank. Warm was equal to the State Chancellor and the feudal Kings. Virtuous were equal to the Censorate Secretary and the county Dukes. Illustrious were equal to county Marquis. Majestic were equal to village Marquis. Cultivated were equal to Marquis within the Passes, Handsome were equal to [officials salaried] Middle 2000, Magnificent were equal to [officials salaried] True 2000, Beauty were equal to [officials salaried] 2000, Respected were equal to [officials salaried] 1000.