Guest Author - Caroline Baker
There are many powerful, and feared, women in China's history. Empress Dowager Lu was perhaps one of the first with her behind-the-scene control over the Imperial throne for sixteen years.
As the Qin Dynasty was crumbling around them, Lu's father met the minor official, Liu Bang. The man saw potential and arranged a marriage between Liu Bang and Lu.
Her father couldn't have been more correct. For over time, Liu Bang became the leader in a rebellion against the Qin Dynasty. And eventually, he established the Han Dynasty, a Dynasty that brought forth many great things and lasted over 400 years. From this point forward in history he would be known as Emperor Gaozu.
As his first wife, Lu rose to the position of Empress. To honor Lu's family for their help and support during this time, placed several of her family members into prominent positions. She not only held the title, but was by his side and a constant consultation to him. Together, they rid the Empire of any threats and established the foundation for what would become the Han Dynasty.
However, not everything had a fairy tale ending. After becoming Emperor, Gaozu became interested in another woman. He took in a consort by the name of Qi and poured all his affections onto his new wife. When Qi had a son, the Emperor tried to make this new son the heir to his throne instead of Lu's son.
This enraged Empress Lu. When Emperor Gaozu died not long after, Lu's son became Emperor Hui and she the Empress Dowager. She enacted her revenge on Qi and her son.
According to documentation of that time, she murdered Qi's son with poison. Then she amputated Qi, blinded her, and locked her up to die. To become the human pig. So disgusted by this display, her son relinquished himself to her governance and instead turned to drowning himself with life.
When he died, she placed his two infant sons on the throne and had their mother killed in order to assure the power remained with her. This established the precedence of the mother ruling over the court if the child was too young, a practice that would continue through the Last Emperor of China.
Her reign lasted sixteen years as she manipulated things behind the scenes. Upon her death, generals who were formally under her husband's rule and had been instrumental in his rise overthrew the government. They placed another son, fathered by Emperor Gaozu with another consort, on the throne, Emperor Wen. They removed any members of the Lu household from powers of position and rebuilt the government.