An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Li Xuanshi 李選侍

Nov 22, 2015 © Ulrich Theobald

Li Xuanshi 李選侍 (d. 1624) "Chosen Attendant Li", also called Imperial Concubine Li Kangfei 李康妃, a secondary consort of Emperor Guangzong 明光宗 (r. 1620, the Taichang Emperor 泰昌) of the Ming dynasty 明 (1368-1644). There were two third-rank concubines with the family name Li in the imperial palace, called the "Eastern Li" (Dong Li 東李) and the "Western Li" (Xi Li 西李). The latter would eventually be part of the retinue of Honoured Consort Zheng 鄭貴妃, who nursed the ailing Emperor Shenzong 明神宗 (r. 1572-1619, the Wanli Emperor 萬曆). When the latter died, Consort Zheng remained in the Qianqing Palace 乾清宮, although it was reserved for the emperor and his empress. There the continued to care for Emperor Guangzong, and was allowed to be supported by eight court ladies. The "Western Li" had so the chance to take over tending of the princes Zhu Youjiao 朱由校 (the future Emperor Xizong 明熹宗, r. 1620-1627, i.e. the Tianqi Emperor 天啓), and Zhu Youjian 朱由檢 (the future Emperor Sizong 明思宗, r. 1627-1644, i.e. the Chongzhen Emperor 崇禎). She also gained the Emperor's favour. When Guangzong, just mounted to the throne, fell seriously ill, he ordered to elevate the "Western Li" to the status of "honoured consort" (huang guifei 皇貴妃). Her plea to make her empress (hou 后) was rejected, and Consort Zheng was forced to move to the Cining Palace 慈寧宮. Guangzong died only 36 days after his enthronement. Consort Li repeated the game of Consort Zheng and refused to leave the Qianqing Palace, keeping the young boy as a hostage. For fear that she might assume control over him for a longer period of time, the Director of Ceremonial (sili taijian 司禮太監, one of the chief eunuchs) Wang An 王安 blamed Lady Li of trying to attempt to take over regency for the young boy (tingzheng 聽政). An also said to have found out that she had personally insulted the emperor when he was still a prince. A fierce debate erupted at the court about the issue of her abode. Grand Academician (daxueshi 大學士) Liu Yijing 劉一燝, Minister of Rites (libu shangshu 吏部尚書) Zhou Jiamo 周嘉謨, supervising censor of military affairs (bingke jishizhong 兵科给事中) Yang Lian 楊漣 and Censor (yushi 御史) Zuo Guangdou 左光斗 suggested transferring her to the Renshou Hall 仁壽殿. Lady Li was also accused of having the emperor's mother seriously humiliated. She finally let the heir apparent go and was banned to the Huiluan Palace 噦鸞宮.
When Wei Zhongxian 魏忠賢, the mighty eunuch, dominated the court, she was given the title "Vigorous Concubine" (Kangfei 康妃, in 1624). Yang Lian and Zuo Guangdou were incriminated of treason and executed. Lady Li died shortly thereafter.

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