Three Virtuous and Talented Empresses of Minority Groups in Chinese History

  • January 7, 2008
  • Editor: lmz
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Borte Hujin, Grand Empress of Genghis KhanThree Virtuous and Talented Empresses of Minority Groups in Chinese History

Borte Hujin, a daughter of the captain of the Mongolia Hongjila tribe, was a sedate, beautiful and talented empress of Temujin in the Yuan Dynasty. Temujin was named after a detainee captured by his father with the purpose of commemorating the victory. When he was nine years old, Temujin was brought to the Mongolia Hongjila tribe by his father and was engaged to Borte Hujin. He stayed at his fiancée's and his father returned, but unfortunately, his father was killed on the way home.

After growing up, Temujin married Borte Hujin. She gave her mother-in-law a piece of valuable sable fur clothes as a present. The couple led a fairly happy life. Temujin knew that his power was too weak to build an empire, so he went over to the captain of the Merkid tribe, Toghril Khan.  This was the strongest tribe at that time in Mongolia. To join, Temujin gave Toghril Khan the sable fur clothes, and took him as his adoptive father. Toghril Khan promised to help him reoccupy his father's former tribe. One day, the Merkid tribe assaulted Temujin's encampment and captured his wife. Temujin dispatched troops collectively with his brother Jamuqa and saved his pregnant wife. Before long, she gave birth to a boy, who was named Jochi by his father. In the following years she gave birth to another three boys.

In 1206, Temujin founded Mongol Khanate after being elected as the Great Khan of the Mongol empire and was called Genghis Khan (1162-1227) out of respect (Genghis means "the ocean" or "powerful" and Khan means "ruler" ("king"). Borte Hujin became Grand Empress and made great contributions to the unification of Mongolia. Because of this, she was regarded as the greatest empress in the Yuan Dynasty and was also an outstanding figure in Chinese history.

After Genghis Khan passed away, Borte Hujin's third son was enthroned. He eventually strengthened the force of the Mongol empire. After Borte Hujin passed away, her grandson Kublai Khan (1215-1294) founded the Yuan Dynasty and gave her the posthumous title of "Empress of Guang Xian Yi Sheng", which means the empress assisting the first founder in administrating the country. Kublai Khan spoke highly of his grandmother and called on the later generations to learn from her. Her coffin was buried with Temujin at the Genghis Khan Mausoleum.

Three Virtuous and Talented Empresses of Minority Groups in Chinese History Cha Bu, Grand Empress of Kublai Khan

Cha Bu was a daughter of an exterior relative of the court and then became the empress of Kublai Khan. As a kind and bright woman, she often assisted Kublai Khan in administrating the country. During the rule of Kublai Khan (1215-1294) for 30 years, Cha Bu led a plain life and worked hard all along. It is said that she planted a grass, which was brought from the prospering place of Genghis Khan in front of her palace, and called it "the Frugal Grass" with the purpose of warning her offspring to remain frugal. She was given a posthumous title of "Empress of Zhao Rui Shun Sheng" respectfully after death.

She made a kind of special clothes called "Bi Jia" for Kublai Khan to keep warm when fighting or hunting on the horse. The kind of clothes had no collar or sleeve and the back was twice as long as the front. It is said that the sleeveless jacket now worn by the Mongolian ethnic group evolves from the "Bi Jia" designed by Cha Bu.

Borjigit, Empress of Huang TaijiThree Virtuous and Talented Empresses of Minority Groups in Chinese History

Borjigit was the mother of Emperor Shunzhi and the grandmother of Emperor Kangxi (1662-1722) during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) in China. She wielded significant influence over the Qing court during the rule of her son and grandson.

She was born in 1613 and married Emperor Huang Taiji at the age of 13. Fu Lin, one of her four sons, ascended the throne in 1643 after Huang Taiji passed away. He was called Emperor Shunzhi (1644-1661) and thus Borjigit became the empress, called Xiaozhuang. She devoted herself to bringing up Shunzhi and maintaining his position and the great undertaking of the Qing Dynasty. However, her thoughts and opinions often collided with Shunzhi who enjoyed Han culture.

Before Shunzhi ascended the throne, Borjigit had to make concessions to Dorgon, the younger brother of Huang Taiji, because of his great power. After entering Beijing, Shunzhi began to put Han talents in a very important position and reform the former rules of the Man minority, which caused great offence from the court. Borjigit didn't agree with her son's actions either. But after ten years of her son's death, when she went to the Mausoleum of Emperor Shunzhi with her grandson Kangxi, she began to realize that Shunzhi was more forward-looking and wise on a series of important problems about the Manchu-Chinese relationship. Thus the mother and her son reconciled.

In 1661, Emperor Shunzhi passed away and the eight-year-old Kangxi replaced him. From then on, Borjigit took on the task of cultivating the second child emperor. She solved the problem of the four assistant ministers, including Aobai, collectively with Emperor Kangxi and played a vital part in some important affairs such as in the suppression of the Three Military Governors, so she was called "Empress of Prospering the Country in Two Dynasties" respectfully.

Empress Xiaozhuang died of illness at the age of 75 in 1687 and was buried at the Zhaoxi Mausoleum beside the Mausoleum of the Qing Emperor.


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