A Good Mate of the Son of Heaven : Confucian Theories of the Empress in the Han

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Other Title
  • 天子の好逑 : 漢代の儒敎的皇后論
  • テンシ ノ コウキュウ カンダイ ノ ジュキョウテキ コウゴウロン
  • 天子の好逑 : 漢代の儒教的皇后論

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Abstract

The Han dynasty empress 皇后, as the legitimate wife 嫡妻 of the emperor, existed as one with the emperor. This fact has heretofore been taken as a given and has not received sufficient examination. This study considers when the position of the empress was established as the legitimate wife of the emperor within the imperial system and changes in the Confucian views of the empress. Actually, the Shiji 史記 makes absolutely no reference to the empress of the united Chin and this is thought to be due the fact that the individual authority of the empress had yet to be fully recognized in early Han times. The existence of the empress as a counterpart of the emperor, her authority was clearly located within the system of imperial rule, only after ranks were instituted in the Inner Palace 後宮 in second half of the reign of emperor Wu. The legitimate wives of Feudatory Princes 諸侯王 who were called Wanghou 王后 in the early Han, but in the later Han they were reduced to the status of Wangfei 王妃, and the title Hou 后 was monopolized by a single empress called Wanghou, and the Baihutong 白虎通 declared the emperor and empress in unity. Only at this point did the empress attain the position of legitimate wife of the son of heaven, who appeared in the classics as Hou 后. The trends in the establishment of the authority of the empress paralleled the formation of binary yin-yang ritual system, and when the Han emperor was placed with the binary worldview of yin-yang, sun-moon, heaven-earth, the existence of the empress as "a wife at one with" and counterpart of the emperor became indispensable. However, the establishment of the authority of the empress generated the contradiction of "a wife who was a match for the emperor who had no peer in the world." In the discourse of the Wujing Yiyi 五經異義 on the son of heaven himself going out and welcoming a wife, Xu Shen 許愼 had judged that the son of heaven should not go out and welcome a wife on the grounds of the supremacy of imperial dignity, but after emperor He 和, the birthmother and grandmother of the emperor were given additional honors (posthumously awarded the title empress) and the authority of the empress was incorporated into the trend of relativistic dualities. In these circumstances, Zheng Xuan 鄭玄 in his Mao shi zheng jian 毛詩鄭箋 made what might be termed a forced interpretation Guan Ju's 關雎 verse, attempting to elevate the conception of the empress to a higher level, not merely the legitimate wife of an individual emperor, but as an existence of one who govemed the realm of yin and as a counterpart to the emperor who embodied yang.

Journal

  • 東洋史研究

    東洋史研究 61 (2), 171-200, 2002-09-30

    東洋史研究會

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