Remarkable Women in Ancient China (10)- Wen Xiu

Who is she:

  • Once concubine to the Last Emperor of China Puyi, otherwise known as Consort Shu or the Good-hearted Consort

Notable Life Events:

  • Born on 20th of December, 1909, to a Mongolian family that was part of the Manchurian Eight Flag army 
  • Entered Puyi’s Court at the age of 12 as Consort Shu (it was said that Puyi had randomly chosen her when he was asked to choose his empress- he had abdicated then but they allowed him to keep his title as emperor- but it was decided by the court that Wen Xiu did not have the good looks and family wealth fit to be an empress so she became a concubine instead) 
  • Left one day from where she was living with Puyi and the Empress to start suing for a divorce after nine years of marriage to Puyi. Most of her own family (except for her sister) frowned upon this action. This was known as the Revolution of the Knife Consort and occurred in 1931. The divorce was finalised upon the condition that she would never remarry. Later, in the same year, Puyi tried to save face by denouncing all her titles. 
  • Eventually remarried to a soldier of the Natinonalist party in 1947 until her death in 1953, when she died of a stroke 

Why is she remarkable:

  • The first woman to actively seek a divorce with an emperor (and get it)
  • The only consort of the emperor in Chinese history who had ever taken up a teaching position (it was her first job after the divorce but she had to leave the job when her identity as Puyi’s ex-concubine was exposed) 

Moonlake’s thoughts on her: 

It’s clear that Wen Xiu is a woman who has a clear mind of what she wants and can act decisively to pursue it. It was said that one of the driving factors behind the divorce was that she tried to influence Puyi to break from the Japanese who only propped him up as a figurehead to no avail. 

English reference on her:

Published by moonlakeku

intermediate Chinese fantasy writer working on her debut series

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