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Persons in Chinese History - Empress Jia 賈后

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Empress Jia 賈后 (256-300), personal name Jia Nanfeng 賈南風, was the main consort of Emperor Hui 晉惠帝 (r. 290-306), the second ruler of the Jin dynasty 晉 (265-420). She was the second daughter of Jia Chong 賈充 (217-282), who hailed from Xiangling 襄陵, commandery of Pingyang 平陽 (today's Xiangfen 襄汾, Shanxi), and was a high military commander under the Sima family 司馬, which founded the Jin dynasty, and later served them as Director of the Imperial Secretariat (shangshu ling 尚書令). Empress Jia is known for her cruel and ruthless regime which initiated the Rebellion of the Eight Princes (ba wang zhi luan 八王之亂).

When Emperor Hui acceded to the throne, the government was taken over by the regent, Grand Mentor (taifu 太傅) and Area Commander-in-chief (da dudu 大都督) Yang Jun 楊駿 (d. 291). Yang, in a rather autocratic manner, nominated Sima Jun 司馬遹 (278-300), the Prince of Guangling 廣陵, heir apparent. Empress Jia therefore conspired with Sima Wei 司馬瑋 (271-291), the Prince of Chu 楚, and had Yang Jun and his whole family and partisans arrested and executed. Yang Jun's daughter Yang Zhi 楊芷 (259-292), Empress Dowager Dao 悼皇后 and widow of late Emperor Wu 晉武帝 (r. 265-290), was deprived of her title. Government affairs were taken over by Counsellor-in-chief (taizai 太宰 ) Sima Liang 司馬亮 (d. 291), the Prince of Runan 汝南, and Grand Guardian (taibao 太保) Wei Guan 衛瓘 (220-291). Empress Jia, still not satisfied with this situation, feigned an imperial order to the Prince of Chu to arrest the two ministers. In a parallel attack, she had the Prince of Chu accused of high treason for which he was executed. The power of politics from then on was carried out by the Empress.

Empress Jia's kinsmen (waiqi 外戚) like her maternal uncle Guo Zhang 郭彰 and her cousins Jia Mo 賈模 (d. 299) and Jia Mi 賈謐 (d. 300) obtained important positions. She also gave influential posts to outsiders like Zhang Hua 張華 (232-300), who was made Minister of Works (sikong 司空), Wang Rong 王戎 (234-305), who was appointed Minister of Education (situ 司徒), Pei Kai 裴楷 (237-291), Director of the Palace Secretariat (zhongshu ling 中書令) or Pei Wei (267-300) 裴頠, nominated Vice Director of the Imperial Secretariat (shangshu puye 尚書仆射). The abuse of power by these person is said to have inspired Lu Bao 魯褒 to write his parable Qianshenlun 錢神論 "The spirits of money".

Because the Jia clique was afraid that after the eventual accession of Prince Jun to the throne, the Empress and her partisans would be killed, they forced Empress Jia to declare that Prince Jun had plotted rebellion, and demote him to the status of commoner. He was detained in Xuchang 許昌 (today in Henan) and killed in 300.

This murder was the reason for the secret plot of Sima Lun 司馬倫 (240-301), Prince of Zhao 趙, to stir up rebellion in the imperial guard (suwei jinbing 宿衛禁兵). The Empress was arrested, incarcerated in the Jinyong Fortress 金鏞城 in the northwestern parts of the imperial city, and killed somewhat later, as were most of her partisans. In the first lunar month of 301, Prince Lun forced Emperor Hui to abdicate and made himself emperor. The resistance of the other princes against this usurpation was the beginning of a decade-long internecine war.

Sources: Chen Quanli 陳全力, Hou Yinxi 侯欣一, ed. (1988). Diwang cidian 帝王辭典 (Xi’an: Shaanxi jiaoyu renmin chubanshe), 59. Chen Quanli 陳全力, Hou Yinxi 侯欣一, ed. (1991). Houfei cidian 后妃辭典 (Xi’an: Shaanxi jiaoyu renmin chubanshe), 38. Huang Banghe 黃邦和, Pi Mingxiu 皮明庥, ed. (1987). Zhong-wai lishi renwu cidian 中外歷史人物詞典 (Changsha: Hunan renmin chubanshe), 360. Yang Tingfu 楊廷福 (2002) "Jia Hou 賈后", in Zhongugo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, part Zhongguo lishi 中國歷史 (Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe), Vol. 1, 429. Zhang Huizhi 張撝之, Shen Qiwei 沈起煒, Liu Dezhong 劉德重, ed. (1999). Zhongguo lidai renming da cidian 中國歷代人名大辭典 (Shanghai: Shanghai guji chubanshe), Vol. 2, 1864. Zhongguo baike da cidian bianweihui 《中國百科大辭典》編委會, ed. (1990). Zhongguo baike da cidian 中國百科大辭典 (Beijing: Huaxia chubanshe), 655.

Jul 14, 2021 © Ulrich Theobald · Mail
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