(5.3) Empress Guō 文德郭皇后

Father Yǒng 郭永, elder brother Fú 郭浮, younger brother Dū 郭都, younger brother Chéng 郭成, elder cousin Biǎo 郭表, elder sister’s son Mèng Wǔ 孟武, Biǎo’s son Xiáng 郭詳, Xiáng’s younger brother Xùn 郭訓, Xiáng’s younger brother Shù 郭述, Xiáng’s son Zhāo 郭釗

Wén-Dé “Civil’s Virtuous” Empress Guō was an Ānpíng Guǎngzōng woman. Her ancestors for generations were chief officials. (1) When the empress was young her father [Guō] Yǒng was impressed with her and said: “This is the king (wáng) among my daughters (nǚ).” Therefore used Nǚwáng [female king] as her appellation. She early lost her two parents, in the tragic chaos wandered, ending in the house of the Marquis of Tóngdī. When Tàizǔ became Duke of Wèi, she was able to enter the East Palace. The empress had wisdom and calculations, and time after time what she proposed was accepted. In Emperor Wén being settled as successor, the Empress had planning. When the Heir-Apparent ascended the King’s throne, the empress became a Madame (fūrén). Reaching the [Imperial] Ascension, she became a Noble Concubine (guìpín). Empress Zhēn’s death was due to the empress’s favor.

Huángchū Third Year [222], about to ascend the empress’s throne, Emperor Wén wished to enthrone her as empress. Internal Cadet Zhàn Qián sent up memorial stating: “In the past the Emperors and Kings in governing Heaven’s Under, did not only have outer assistants, but also had inner support, governance or chaos come from this, flourishing or decline follow from this. Therefore Xīlíng matched Huáng, Yīng’é descended to Guī, all due to worthy enlightenment, left fragrance in upper ages. Jiè fleeing to Náncháo, the disaster came from Mòxǐ; Zhòu used burning pillar [torture] to please Dájǐ. Therefore the sage is cautious in enthroning the foremost consort, and certainly takes a family of the former age’s generational clans, selecting their virtuous to preside the Six Palaces, reverently serve the Ancestral Temple, female teachings then cultivated. The states: “Family principles corrected and Heaven’s Under is settled.” From the inside to reach the outside, is the canon of the former kings. The Chūnqiū writes that clansman Xìnxià said that there is no ritual for a concubine to become a madame. Qí [Duke] Huán swore oath at Kuíqiū, also saying: ‘Never take concubine as wife.’ Now the favorite of the Rear Palace, is always second after the carriages. If due to affection she ascends as empress, it will cause a lowly person to suddenly be noble, I your servant fear in later generations the low will rise and the high be replaced, opening and spreading without limit, the disorder will from this arise.”

Emperor Wén did not listen, and therefore enthroned her as Imperial Empress. (2)


  • (1) Wèishū states: Father Yǒng, office reached Nánjùn Administrator, posthumous name Jìng-hóu. Mother surnamed Dǒng clan, was Tángyáng Lady, begat three sons two daughters: eldest son Fú, Gāotáng Magistrate, next daughter Yù, next was the Empress, Empress’s younger brother Dū, younger brother Chéng. The Emrpess in Hàn’s Zhōngpíng Inaugural Year Third Moon Yǐmǎo [184 April 8] was born, born and was out of the ordinary.

  〔一〕 魏書曰:父永,官至南郡太守,諡敬侯。母姓董氏,即堂陽君,生三男二女:長男浮,高唐令,次女昱,次即后,后弟都,弟成。后以漢中平元年三月乙卯生,生而有異常。

  • (2) Wèishū states: The Empress sent up memorial declining stating: “I your servant am without the integrity of Huáng and Yīng descending, and also am not equal to the level of Jiāng and Rén, truly not sufficient to falsely fill the flourishing seat of the female ruler, occupy the heavy responsibility of the household.” The empress from when she was in the East Palace, reaching to the Honored Position, though she had exceptional favor, her heart was all the more respectful and solemn, she cared for Yǒngshòu Palace [her mother-in-law Biàn], and for filial peity was heard. At the time Chái Noble Lady also had favor, the empress taught and trained and encouraged and guided her. When Rear Palace’s various noble ladies had faults, she always completely covered it, if there was censure, at once she would for the Emperor explain the beginning to end, if the Emperor had a great anger, it reached to her knocking head to plead for the crime, and therefore the Six Palaces were without complaint. By nature she was frugal, did not enjoy music, and always admired Hàn’s Míng-Dé empress Mǎ’s conduct as a person.

  〔二〕 魏書曰:后上表謝曰:「妾無皇、英釐降之節,又非姜、任思齊之倫,誠不足以假充女君之盛位,處中饋之重任。」后自在東宮,及即尊位,雖有異寵,心愈恭肅,供養永壽宮,以孝聞。是時柴貴人亦有寵,后教訓獎導之。後宮諸貴人時有過失,常彌覆之,有譴讓,輒為帝言其本末,帝或大有所怒,至為之頓首請罪,是以六宮無怨。性儉約,不好音樂,常慕漢明德馬后之為人。

The Empress early lost her brothers, had her elder cousin Biǎo continue as Yǒng’s posterity, appointed Serving Carriage Commandant. The Empress’s outer [maternal side] relative Liú Fěi with another state had marriage, the empress heard this, her orders said: “The various relatives in seeking marriage, should with their home town’s families find matches, and should not take advantage of influence, to force another region’s people into marriage.” The empress’s elder sister’s son Mèng Wǔ returned to his hometown, sought a concubine, the empress stopped him. Therefore she ordered the various families stating: “In the present age women are few, and should match with officers and soldiers. Do not take advantage to take them as concubines. It is appropriate for each to be cautious, and not be punished first.” (1)


  • (1) Wèi shū states: The empress always ordered warnings to Biǎo, Wǔ, and the rest stating: “The families of the pepper rooms of the Hàn clan had few able to preserve themselves, all because of arrogance and extravagance, can you not be cautious!”

  〔一〕 魏書曰:后常敕戒表、武等曰:「漢氏椒房之家,少能自全者,皆由驕奢,可不慎乎!」

Fifth Year [224], the Emperor went on eastern campaign, the empress remained at Xǔchāng Yǒngshǐ Tower. At the time it continuously rained for over a hundred days, of the city walls and towers many were damaged, and managers memorialized request to move location. The empress said: “In the past Chǔ King Zhāo went out on tour, Zhēnjiāng remained at Jiān tower, the Jiāng waters arrived, envoy welcomed but was without seal, she did not leave, and drowned. Now the Emperor is far away, I fortunately do not yet have dangers, but to then move location, how can it be?” Of the various ministers none dared again speak.

Sixth Year [225], the Emperor campaigned east against Wú, reached Guǎnglíng, the empress remained at Qiáo palace. At the time [Guō] Biǎo remained in the Night Guard, and wished to dam the river to catch fish. The empress said: “The river should be connected to move canals, and also there is few timber and wood, the slave guests are not at front, and you would have to privately take government bamboo and wood to build beam restraints. Now what you Serving Chariots [Commandant] lacks, how is it fish?”


When Emperor Míng ascended the throne, honored the empress as Imperial Dowager Empress, called as Yǒng’ān Palace.

Tàihé Fourth Year [230], Imperial Order enfeoffed [Guō] Biǎo as Ānyáng precinct marquis, also advanced noble rank to village marquis, increased fief adding with the previous to five hundred households, promoted to Central Rampart General. Appointed Biǎo’s son Xiáng as Cavalry Commandant. That year, the Emperor gave posthumous title on the Dowager Empress’s father [Guō] Yǒng as Ānyáng village Marquis Jìng [“respectful”], her mother Dǒng became a capital village Lady. Promoted Biǎo to Shining Virtue General, added gold [seal] and violet [ribbon], ranked Specially Advanced, Biǎo’s second son [Guō] Xùn became Cavalry Commandant. When Mèng Wǔ’s mother died, he wished to generously bury and raise a sacrificial hall, the Dowager Empress stopped him saying: “From since the tragic chaos onward, of the graves none were not dug up, all because of generous burial; Shǒuyáng líng [your father’s tomb] can be a model.”

Qīnglóng Third Year [235] Spring, the Empress died in Xǔchāng, used the Final Regulations to manage the tomb. Third Moon Gēngyín [235 April 16], buried to Shǒuyáng líng’s west. (1) The Emperor advanced [Guō] Biǎo’s noble rank to be Guànjīn Marquis, increased fief five hundred households, adding to the previous to one thousand. Promoted [Guō] Xiáng to Side Horse Commandant.

Fourth Year [236], posthumously changed enfeoffment of [Guō] Yǒng to Guànjīn Marquis Jìng, life consort Dǒng became Tángyáng Lady. Posthumously enfeoffed the empress’s elder brother [Guō] Fú as Liánglǐ precinct Marquis Dài [‘supportive’], [Guō] Dū as Wǔchéng precinct Marquis Xiào [‘filial’], [Guō] Chéng as Xīnlè precinct Marquis Dìng [‘settled’], all sending envoys to present tally, sacrificing with Grand Livestock. Biǎo died, his son Xiáng succeeded. Also divided Biǎo’s rank to enfeoff Xiáng’s younger brother Shù as a ranked marquis. Xiáng died, his son Zhāo succeeded.


  • (1) Wèi lüè states: When Emperor Míng succeeded the throne, he recalled and was pained by empress Zhēn’s death, and therefore the Dowager Empress in anxiety suddenly died. When empress Zhēn was about to die, she had the Emperor entrusted to lady Lǐ. When the Dowager Empress died, the lady then explained the disaster of the empress Zhēn meeting with slander, not obtaining great encoffining, loose hair covering face, the Emperor grieved and was resentful shedding tears, and ordered the encoffining and burial of the Dowager Empress was all to be by the precedent of empress Zhēn.
  • Hàn Jìn Chūnqiū states: Previously, empress Zhēn’s execution was due to empress Guō’s favor, reaching to the encoffining, ordered to have loose hair cover face, with husks blocking mouth, and therefore enthroned empress Guō, having her raise Emperor Míng. The Emperor knew of this, in his heart always harbored indignation, repeatedly sobbing and asking the situation of empress Zhēn’s death. Empress Guō said: “The late Emperor himself killed her, why blame and ask me? Moreover to be a son, can you posthumously hate your dead father, and for your previous mother unjustly kill your later mother?” Emperor Míng was furious, and therefore pressured and killed her, ordering the encoffining to all be by the precedent of empress Zhēn.
  • Wèi shū records the mourning tally stating: “On Qīnglóng Third Year Third Moon Rénshēn, Imperial Dowager Empress is encoffined, about to be buried at Shǒuyáng’s west tomb. I the mournful son Imperial Emperor [Cáo] Ruì personally present written tally, and then personally send libation, knocking heart and beating [chest] and stomping, wailing and looking up to complain, pained at the spirit’s departure, grieved at the carriage heading on the road, turning back with the three lights as hiding screen, reaching yellow clay and securely placed. Ah alas! In the past the two daughters were consorts of Yú, the Emperor’s way thus was manifest, the three mothers matched to Zhōu, the sagely good full of light, thus receiving such felicity, their state’s reign prolonged. Alas gentle late mother, raising the intercalary rooms, dragon flying to purple utmost, making match with the sagely Imperial, unexpectedly in middle years, suddenly suffered disaster. Pity me the little boy, alone and desolate and broken and wounded, the soul though forever gone, how can I pay mourning and evening visit? Ah alas!”

  〔一〕 魏略曰:明帝既嗣立,追痛甄后之薨,故太后以憂暴崩。甄后臨沒,以帝屬李夫人。及太后崩,夫人乃說甄后見譖之禍,不獲大斂,被髮覆面,帝哀恨流涕,命殯葬太后,皆如甄后故事。漢晉春秋曰:初,甄后之誅,由郭后之寵,及殯,令被髮覆面,以糠塞口,遂立郭后,使養明帝。帝知之,心常懷忿,數泣問甄后死狀。郭后曰:「先帝自殺,何以責問我?且汝為人子,可追讎死父,為前母枉殺後母邪?」明帝怒,遂逼殺之,敕殯者使如甄后故事。魏書載哀策曰:「維青龍三年三月壬申,皇太后梓宮啟殯,將葬于首陽之西陵。哀子皇帝叡親奉冊祖載,遂親遣奠,叩心擗踊,號咷仰訴,痛靈魂之遷幸,悲容車之向路,背三光以潛翳,就黃壚而安厝。嗚呼哀哉!昔二女妃虞,帝道以彰,三母嬪周,聖善彌光,既多受祉,享國延長。哀哀慈妣,興化閏房,龍飛紫極,作合聖皇,不虞中年,暴罹災殃。愍予小子,煢煢摧傷,魂雖永逝,定省曷望?嗚呼哀哉!」

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