Nisha Rathode

Empress Dowager Du

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Father  Du Shuang (杜爽)
Place of burial  Gongyi, China
Spouse  Zhao Hongyin

Died  Kaifeng, China
Name  Empress Du
Empress Dowager Du
Tenure  4 February 960 – 17 July 961
Issue 3 others died young  Zhao Kuangyin, son Zhao Guangyi, son Daughter (m. Mi Fude, later m. Gao Huaide) Zhao Tingmei, son (maternity disputed)
House  House of Zhao (by marriage)
Role  Emperor Taizu of Song's mother
Children  Emperor Taizu of Song, Emperor Taizong of Song
Grandchildren  Emperor Zhenzong, Zhao Yuanyan, Zhao Defang, Zhao Dezhao

Great grandchildren  Emperor Renzong of Song

Empress Dowager Du (杜太后, given name unknown) (c. 902 – 17 July 961) was an empress dowager of imperial China's Song Dynasty. She was the wife of general Zhao Hongyin and the mother of Emperor Taizu of Song, who founded the Song Dynasty.


After her death, another son Emperor Taizong succeeded Emperor Taizu, claiming legitimacy on grounds of their mother's will, alleged sealed in a golden shelf at her death. Many historians believe that this was actually a fabrication by Emperor Taizong.


The eldest of 8 children from an official family, Lady Du married general Zhao Hongyin upon reaching adulthood and bore him 7 children:

  • Zhao Kuangji (趙匡濟), 1st son, died young
  • Zhao Kuangyin (趙匡胤), 2nd son, born in 927
  • Zhao Kuangyi (趙匡乂), later called Zhao Guangyi (趙光義) and eventually Zhao Jiong (趙炅), 3rd son, born in 939
  • Zhao Kuangmei (趙匡美), later called Zhao Guangmei (趙光美) and eventually Zhao Tingmei (趙廷美), 4th son, born in 947
  • Zhao Kuangzan (趙匡贊), 5th son, died young
  • A daughter, originally married to Mi Fude (米福德), later married Gao Huaide after Mi's death
  • Another daughter who died young
  • Lady Du was a strict mother who taught the children to follow rules and traditions. Her husband Zhao Hongyin died in 956.

    Becoming the empress dowager

    In 960, her eldest surviving son Zhao Kuangyin staged a coup d'état to end the Later Zhou, forcing the 7-year-old Emperor Gong of Later Zhou to abdicate power and declaring himself the emperor of the new Song Dynasty. Upon hearing the news, Lady Du was not surprised and merely stated: "My son has always been ambitious." She was honored as the empress dowager in a grand ceremony before all ministers but did not appear happy. When asked why, she replied: "I heard it is very difficult to be a ruler. Being above all commoners, if an emperor governs according to the ethics, then he deserves all their respect. However, if he mismanages the sovereign, he can no longer be a commoner even if he begs. This is why I am worried." Emperor Taizu bowed and promised to remember that.

    Promise of the Golden Shelf

    Just a year later, Empress Dowager Du fell sick, and Emperor Taizu personally fed her medicine and attended her by her bed. When the illness worsened, minister Zhao Pu was summoned to record the will. Empress Dowager Du asked her son, "Do you know why you became an emperor?" In tears, Emperor Taizu could not answer. The mother asked again, and Emperor Taizu responded that it was all due to the blessings of her and the ancestors. "Wrong", the mother said, "It was because Emperor Shizong of (Later) Zhou made his young kid succeed him as the emperor. Had (Later) Zhou had an older emperor, how could you become one? When you pass away, remember to pass the throne to your younger brother. The country is wide, the population is large, an older emperor is the blessing of the dynasty." Emperor Taizu cried and nodded his head. Empress Dowager Du also told Zhao Pu: "You shall also remember and follow my words." This conversation was recorded by Zhao Pu with his signature at the end and sealed in a golden shelf to be kept by reliable palace attendants.


    Empress Dowager Du Wikipedia

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