Wǔ-Xuān empress Biàn was a Lángyé Kāiyáng woman, Emperor Wén’s mother. Originally she was a performer, (1) aged twenty, Tàizǔ at Qiáo accepted the empress as a concubine. Later she accompanied Tàizǔ to Luò. Whén Dǒng Zhuó made chaos, Tàizǔ in plain clothes to the east went out to feel the troubles. Yuán Shù spread report of bad fortune for Tàizǔ, at the time those of Tàizǔ’s left and right that came to Luò all wished to return, the empress stopped them saying: “Sir Cáo’s good fortune or bad fortune cannot yet be known, [if] today [we] return home, tomorrow if he is here, what face would [we] have to again face each other? Even if disaster arrives, dying together is what bitterness?” They followed the empress’s words. Tàizǔ heard and praised this.
At Jiàn’ān’s beginning, lady Dīng was deposed, and therefore the empress became the successor wife. The various sons without mothers, Tàizǔ all had the empress raise them. (2) When Emperor Wén became Heir-Apparent, the left and right chief manager congratulated the empress saying: “The General has been appointed Heir-Apparent, Under Heaven none are not joyous, the queen should pour out the stores to give endowments.” The Empress said: “The King himself because Pī is the eldest therefore used him as successor. For me to be without mistakes in teaching is already good fortune, why then again give endowments?” The chief manager returned and told this to Tàizǔ. Tàizǔ was pleased and said: “In anger to not change expression, in joy to not lose integrity, is the most difficult.”
- (1) Wèishū states: The Empress in Hàn’s Yánxī Third Year Twelfth Moon Jǐsì [159 December 30] was born in Qí prefecture Báitíng, there was a yellow aura filling the house for accumulated days. Her father Marquis Jìng was bewildered by this, asked a diviner Wáng Dàn, [Wáng] Dàn said: “This is an auspicious omen.”
- (2) Wèilüè states: Tàizǔ originally had lady Dīng, and also lady Liú begat Zǐxiū and Qīnghé elder princess. Liú early died, Dīng raised Zǐxiū. Zǐxiū died at Ráng, Dīng always said: “You killed our son, and no longer think of it!” Therefore she wept without restraint. Tàizǔ was angered at this, and sent her back to her family, wishing her thoughts to change. Later Tàizǔ went to see her, the lady was weaving, the outside people spread word: “His excellency arrives,” the lady sat at the machine as before. Tàizǔ arrived, stroked her back and said: “Look back at me and we’ll return together.” The lady did not look back, and also did not answer. Tàizǔ withdrew to leave, stood outside the door, and again said: “Is it not possible?” Therefore she did not answer. Tàizǔ said: “This is truly goodbye.” Therefore they separated, and he wished for her family to marry her off, her family did not dare. Previously, lady Dīng was the primary wife, and also had Zǐxiū, and Dīng’s regard for the empress, mother and sons, was insufficient. The empress became the successor wife, did not hold old grudges, and taking advantage of when Tàizǔ went out on travels, always in the four seasons sent people to give gifts, and also privately welcomed her, having her take the primary seat and herself below her, welcoming at the coming and seeing her off, like in the old days. Dīng apologized saying: “[I am] a deposed and abandoned person, my lady how can you always be like this?” After Dīng died, the empress requested Tàizǔ to bury her, permitted it, and so buried her at Xǔ city’s south. Later Tàizǔ was ill and destitute, himself anxious and unable to rise, and sighed and said: “My beginning to end actions and thoughts, in my heart there has never been a regret. But if the dead have awareness, and if Zǐxiū asks: ‘where is my mother,’ how can I answer?”
- Wèishū states: The empress by nature was economical and frugal, did not esteem the flowery and beautiful, was without embroidery and pearls and jade, her dishware all were black lacquer. Tàizǔ once obtained famed ornaments of several sets, and ordered the empress to herself choose a set, the empress picked a middle one, Tàizǔ asked her reason, she replied: “To take a top one is greedy, to take a low one is false, therefore I took a middle one.”
Twenty-fourth Year, appointed as Queen, the tally said: “The lady Biàn fostered the various sons, having the virtue of a mother’s ceremony. Now advance in rank to Queen, the Heir-Apparent and various lords in accompanying seat, the various ministers sending up long life wishes, reduce in the state death penalties by one degree.”
Twenty-fifth Year, Tàizǔ passed away, Emperor Wén succeeded the King’s throne, honored the empress as Queen Dowager, reaching the ascension, honored the empress as Dowager Empress, called as Yǒngshòu Palace. (1) When Emperor Míng succeeded the throne, honored the Dowager Empress as Grand Dowager Empress.
- (1) Wèishū states: The empress because the state’s supplies were not sufficient, removed and reduced tools and food, and the various gold and silver vessels she all removed them. King of Dōng’ē [Cáo] Zhí was the Dowager Empress’s youngest son, and she most loved him. Later [Cáo] Zhí violated law, was by managers reported, Emperor Wén ordered the Dowager Empress’s younger brother’s son Presenting Chariots Commandant [Biàn] Lán take the Excellencies’ and Ministers’ discussion to report to the Dowager Empress, the Dowager Empress said: “Unexpectedly this son did this, you return and tell the Emperor, that he cannot on my account ruin the state’s laws.” When she met the Emperor, she did not speak of it.
- Your Servant Sōngzhī notes: Emperor Wén dreamed of rubbing a coin, wishing to remove its markings but instead making them more clear, about this asked Zhōu Xuān. Xuān replied: “This is Your Majesty’s household affairs, though you wish for it, the Dowager Empress does not listen.” Then the Dowager Empress used her wishes, and it could not be like what this book says.
- Wèishū also states: The Dowager Empress every time accompanying the army on campaign, on seeing the aged and white headed, at once stopped the chariot and called and asked, bestowed fabric and silk, and facing them shed tears saying: “I regret my father and mothers did not reach my times.” The Dowager Empress every time seeing the [Cáo’s] in-law kin, did not adorn her appearance, always saying: “In residing at home one should attend to frugality, and should not hope for bestowed reward, and consider your own failings. The outer residences are bewildered that I treat them too meagerly, it is because I have my own standard judgments. I served Emperor Wǔ for forty to fifty years, enacted frugality for a long time, and cannot myself change to extravagance, and if there are those that violate restrictions, I yet am able to apply punishment of one degree, and none are to hope for cash and rice generous loans.” The Emperor for the Dowager-Empress’s younger brother [Biàn] Bǐng raised a mansion, the mansion was finished, the Dowager Empress visited the mansion and invited the various families of the in-laws, set up lesser cooking, without exceptional meats. The Dowager Empress’s left and right, hate vegetables and grain, without fish or meat. Her frugality was like this.
During Huángchū, Emperor Wén wished to posthumously give fief on the Dowager Empress’s father and mother, Secretariat Documenter Chén Quán memorialized saying: “Your Majesty by sagely virtue answered changes to accept the mandate, inaugurated the enterprise and reformed regulations, and should forever be an example for posterity. Citing the writings of ancient records, there is no system of a wife dividing territory for noble rank. By the ritual canons, the wife answers the husband’s noble rank. Qín violated the ancient laws, the Hàn clan followed this, it is not the canon of the ancient kings.” The Emperor said: “This commentary is correct, thus do not put it into effect. Write the Imperial Order and send it down for storage in the terrace pavilion, to forever be a model for posterity.” Reaching Tàihé Fourth Year  spring, Emperor Míng then gave posthumous name on the Dowager Empress’s father’s father [Biàn] Guǎng as Kāiyáng Gōng-hóu [‘respectful marquis’], father [Biàn] Yuǎn as Jìng-hóu [‘venerated marquis’], father’s mother Zhōu enfeoffed as Yángdū lady and Jìng-hóu’s wife were all bestowed seals and ribbons. That year Fifth Moon, the Empress passed away. Seventh Moon, buried together at Gāolíng.
Previously, the Dowager Empress’s younger brother [Biàn] Bǐng, for achievement was enfeoffed as a capital village Marquis, Huángchū Seventh Year advanced in fief to Kāiyáng Marquis, fief of one thousand two hundred households, becoming Shining Intensity General. (1) Bǐng died, his son Lán succeeded. When young he had talent and learning, (2) becoming Presenting Chariots Commandant, Traveling Strike General, added Cavalier Regular Attendant. Lán died, his son Huī succeeded. (3) Also divided Bǐng’s noble rank, enfeoffing Lán’s younger brother Lín as a ranked marquis, office reaching Infantry Colonel. Lán’s son Lóng’s daughter became the Duke of Gāoguì village’s Imperial Empress, Lóng as the empress’s father became Merit Grandee, ranked Specially Advanced, enfeoffed Suīyáng village Marquis, his wife Wáng became Xiǎnyáng village Lady. Posthumously enfeoffed Lóng’s previous wife Liú as Shùnyáng village Lady, because she was the Empress’s birth mother. Lín’s daughter also became the King of Chénliú’s Imperial Empress, at the time Lín had already died, enfeoffed Lín’s wife Liú as Guǎngyáng Lady.
- (1) Wèilüè states: Previously, Empress Biàn’s younger brother [Biàn] Bǐng, in Jiàn’ān’s time was Separate Division Major, the Empress always toward Tàizǔ complained, Tàizǔ replied saying: “But to be my wife’s younger brother, is it not a lot?” The Empress also wished Tàizǔ to give cash and silk, Tàizǔ again said: “But you steal for him, is it not enough?” Therefore to the end of Tàizǔ’s age, Bǐng’s office did not change, and his wealth also did not increase.
- (2) Wèilüè states: Lán presented rhapsody praising the Heir-Apparent’s virtue and beauty, the Heir-Apparent replied saying: “The rhapsody speaks of the attachment of category, the eulogy of the beauty of the form and appearance of flourishing virtue, and therefore the author is not empty in his words, the receiver must match its veracity. Lán in this rhapsody, how can I match it? In the past Wúqiū Shòuwáng once explained of a treasure tripod, Hé Wǔ and his sorts sang eulogies, yet received bestowment of gold and silk, Lán’s service though is not understanding, its meaning is sufficient to commend. Now bestow ox of one head.” Because of this he therefore met with closeness and veneration.
- (3) Wèilüè states: In Emperor Míng’s time, Lán observed outside there were the two troubles, but the Emperor paid attention to the palace and residences, and always because he attended in following, repeatedly had cutting remonstration. The Emperor though did not listen, yet he accepted his sincerity. Later Lán suffered alcohol wasting thirst [diabetes], at the time the Emperor believed in a witch woman who used water, and had someone carry the water to bestow on Lán. Lán did not agree to drink. Imperial Order asked his intentions. Lán said that treating illness should be in using drugs, why trust in this? The Emperor changed color, but Lán to the end would not drink. Later his thirst became extreme, so that he died. Therefore at the time people observed Lán enjoyed blunt speech, said that the Emperor to his face rejected him and Lán killed himself, but in fact it was not so.