Wang Yuanji 王元姬, posthumous name Empress Wenming 文明, was the wife of Sima Zhao. When her husband died, their son, Sima Yan, succeeded him. Yan ended Wei and founded Jin. Wang Yuanji was made empress dowager of Jin, but died few years later.

History of Jin biography [translation]Edit

 The Civil and Understanding Empress Wang (Wénmíng Wáng huánghòu 文明王皇后), maiden name Yuanji 元姬, was from Tan county in Donghai commandery. Her father [Wang] Su 肅, served Wei as military officer and “Marquis of Lanling” (Lánlíng hóu 蘭陵侯).

 When the Empress was eight years old, she could recite [Confucius’] Shīlùn (詩論). Especially, she was good at funeral customs. She had a good memory and she could remember everything that she had read. When she was nine, her mother once fell sick. So she took care of her mother all the time without even loosing her girdle to change her clothes. She possessed the ability to adept well and performed well, so her parents allowed her to manage household chores. Her grandfather, Wang Lang, doted on her and felt that she was extraordinary. He said, “This girl will bring glory to our family. It’s just a pity that she isn’t a boy!” When Wang Yuanji was 12, her grandfather died and she cried her heart out. Her father respected her even more after that and felt that she was indeed very special.

 After reaching adulthood, the Empress married Emperor Wen [Sima Zhao], and she gave birth to Emperor Wu [Sima Yan]; [Sima] Dingguo 定國, the King Dao of Liaodong; [Sima] You 攸, the King Xian of Qi; [Sima] Zhao 兆, the King Ai of Chengyang; [Sima] Guangde 廣德, the King Shang of Guanghan – and a daughter, Princess Jingzhao 京兆. She maintained her good moral character and served her in-laws well. When her father died, her clothes didn’t even fit her body,[n 1] and she could not help crying when talking [about the subject]. At that time, Sima Zhao recognised Zhong Hui’s talent and promoted him to a higher grade. The Empress often advised the Emperor, “Zhong Hui will forsake moral principles for profits. He is likely to cause trouble if over favoured. He shouldn’t be entrusted with responsibilities of importance.” [Zhong] Hui later rebelled.

 After Emperor Wu was enthroned, she was instated as the Empress Dowager and lived in Chonghua Palace. She chose the palace officials and assigned their positions. She assigned the Minister of Ceremonies (tàicháng 太常) Zhuge Xu 諸葛緒 as Minister of the Guards (wèiwèi 衛尉); the Minister Coachman (tàipú 太僕) Liu Yuan 劉原 as [her] Minister Coachman, and the Minister of the Imperial Clan (zōng zhèng 宗正) Cao Kai 曹楷 as Minister Steward (shǎofǔ 少府). Even after becoming the empress dowager, she continued to live a humble and frugal life. She did her own weaving, and there were even no patterns or decorations in her personal items or dresses. She wore old clothes after washing them, and kept her meals simple. She managed the imperial harem well and maintained harmony among the imperial consorts. She cared for the people and the land. She always talked in good manner, and never made libelous or slanderous remarks.

 The Emperor [Sima Yan] noticed that the deceased Empress Dowager’s mother, Madame Yang 羊, had not been conferred a posthumous title, so he issued an imperial decree in the third tear of Taishi 泰始,[n 2]

“[Emperor] Wen of Han (Hàn Wéndì 漢文帝) had once conferred the posthumous titles Ling and Wen 文 [to his grandfather and mother]. Emperor Wu and Emperor Xuan [of the Han dynasty] had respectively conferred the posthumous titles Pingyuan 平原, Boping 博平. All of these were for worshipping the deceased loved ones and appreciating their parental grace. We shall praise the deceased Madame Yang, wife of the deceased Marquis of Lanling, for her benevolence and virtuous characters. She was born into the noble family and married the Marquis. She has followed the ‘three obediences’ and always behaved with propriety. However, she suffered a lot and frequently lost the titles that she deserved. She has raised many children of her own and substantially supported her family. Her maternal virtues have glorified the entire family, and her reputation should have been known by people in thousands of countries. She passed away at her young age, but she has never enjoyed the imperial favour. The empress dowager had missed her deceased loved mother so much. I will follow her instructions by recollecting her life story and mourning her loss. I hereby grant Madame Yang the title Xianjun 縣君, and the posthumous title based on her virtues during her lifetime. This decree shall be excecuted by the official in charge according to the age-old institutions (jiù diǎn 舊典).

 Then the court historian He Rong 何融 published Madame Yang’s posthumous title as ‘Madame of Pingyang County’ (Píngyáng jìngjūn 平陽靖君).

 In the fourth year of Taishi,[n 3] the Empress Dowager died at the age of 52,[n 4] and she was buried with Emperor Wen. When they are going to move their coffins, and bury them together, Emperor Wu listed the empress’ virtue by himself, and asked the historiographer to write a eulogy:

The late empress dowager with great mind, you have revitalized the fate of our great Jin. Your good reputation is obvious, when you were assisting the previous emperor. You encouraged him to implement his virtue and follow the principle, and created a great empire. Bring welfare to the single, weak, helpless and uneducated people; safeguard the empire passed from the elders. Originally, she hopes to take the long-term education and enjoy life forever. Now she died so suddenly, she left me so early! I can’t tell my sorrow, no one can foresee that the gods had planned this. Alas!
In the early days, when all nations were born, we gave grace to keep them in peace. The emperor of Heaven moved the wisdom and virtue to the late emperor. Chose and established his spouse, the illustrious name of my emperor was well known. Then he created and revitalized the nation, the good reputation spread far and wide. It’s a pity that we didn’t get long-term blessing; the disaster came from the gods.
In the early days, when all nations were born, we gave grace to keep them in peace. The emperor of the heaven moved the wisdom and virtue to the late emperor. Chose and established his spouse, the illustrious name of my emperor was well known. Then he created and revitalized the nation, the good reputation spreads far and wide. It’s a pity that we didn’t get long-term blessing; the disaster came from the god. Like the sun falls and the light floods, the queen died in the middle-age.I’m lonely and in sorrow, often feel the pain of broke enterohepatic. I miss her noble virtue, it’s really a pity. God came from the Lan sea and Tai mountain, all generations accept her blessing and kindness. The gods gave us long fortune, delivered queen with virtue, she can accept the destiny peacefully, behaved dignified and cautious, guileless, integrity, loyal and chaste, pursues the principle of being friendly. She likes reading ‘poem’ and ‘book’, thoroughly understand etiquette and legal. Never violate the virtue of ‘three obedience’, get the principle of managing the family. Learn from the elders and younger’s, advocating the virtue of industrious and humility. When she was unmarried, she devoted herself to serve the elders, after marrying into the purple; she put her effort into assisting the emperor. Peace and honest is her ethos, the empire was created from this. Inside, she made the concubines ordered, outside, she combined all the reputations. She fulfils the commitment and deal with things gently, with moral. She was diligent with on idle, assiduous with self-denial. Advocate thrift and against luxury, modest and simple. Although sits a high position, she never fully enjoyed pleasure. How can you leave me and go, who can I turn to in the future? I lamentedon my misfortune, big punishment came in succession. Emperor Wen died just three years later. I served my mother; hope there is no more disaster. No one knows the disaster still came again, is me live up to the heaven. Alas!
The hearse is going to set off in the early morning, the palace has already arranged the ceremony along the road, her car started, the past is unable to recover. The poor mother, forever lurks as the deity. Moving forward and hold the coffin, looked around the funeral processional banners, fear and sadness raised in my heart, who can I turn to? Who to tell? I wrote this eulogy with my deepest feeling to express the sadness in my heart. If you can hear me, bless me as such an orphan without father and mother. Alas!

 After that, Emperor Wu missed her much, sent an imperial edict, said again: “Yang 楊, which is the wife of the great grandmother’s late assistant Wang Lang 王朗, is the senior relative in uncle’s family, aunt Zhen 鄭 and aunt Liu 劉, are both close relatives and friends of last empress. They always miss her virtue, their closeness and harmony, even the plaint in the Huaiyang poem cannot be compared with this everlasting miss. Madam Fengyang 封楊 and aunt are the leader of town, have five hundred followers each.” In the seventh year of Taikang, emperor conferred the grandmother Xiahou 夏侯 as the leader of Rongyang town.

See alsoEdit


  1. GJCM notes: the clothes didn’t fit Wang Yuanji anymore as she became emaciated because of the deep sorrow she felt for losing her father.
  2. GJCM notes: the third year of Taishi is 267 AD.
  3. GJCM notes: the fourth year of Taishi is 268 AD.
  4. GJCM notes: by East Asian reckoning. By Western reckoning Wang Yuanji died at the age of 51.


No references. The above is a translation of Wang Yuanji's biography found in History of Jin.


  • Fang Xuanling 房玄齡 (578-648). Jin shu 晉書 “History of Jin”. Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1974.