Princess Changping – The survivor of a royal massacre




chang ping
Screenshot trailer Princess Chang Ping (1976) (Fair use)

Princess Changping was one of the most unfortunate princesses in the Ming Dynasty. She was the daughter of the last Emperor of the Ming Dynasty and was the second to last princess who managed to survive to the early Qing dynasty. During the night of the fall of the Ming dynasty, Emperor Sizong of the Ming Dynasty (also known as the Chongzhen Emperor) was forced to make a dreadful choice of massacring his women. Princess Changping was able to survive her father’s massacre but lost an arm instead. Since then, Princess Changping never got over the deaths of her family. Princess Changping’s story tells of how a defeated Emperor was forced to make a horrible decision during the night the Ming dynasty fell.

Princess Changping was born in Beijing on 2 May 1630 C.E. Her personal name was Zhu Meichuo. Her father was Emperor Sizong, and her mother was Empress Xiaojielie. Princess Zhu Meichuo had three brothers and a sister, who was the Princess of Zhaoren. Empress Xiaojielie gave her daughter an excellent education.[1]

In 1644 C.E., Zhu Meichuo was conferred the title of Princess of Changping. She was betrothed to Zhou Xian, a military officer in the Ming Imperial Army.[2] Before the wedding could take place, Li Zicheng attacked Beijing on 24 April 1644 C.E. Emperor Sizong hid his sons with his relatives and hoped that they would escape.[3] However, he had a terrible plan for his wives and daughters. He knew that if his wives and daughters survived, they would be forced into a life of slavery and prostitution.[4] Therefore, he thought that rather than subjecting them to a harsh life, it would be better if he killed them with his own hands.[5]

Emperor Sizong ordered Empress Xiaojielie and Honoured Consort Yuan to commit suicide.[6] He quickly gathered the rest of his other consorts and his two daughters. He killed his remaining consorts.[7] Then, he turned to his daughters. Princess Changping grabbed her father’s robe, cried, and begged him to stop killing.[8] However, Emperor Sizong cried to her, “Why were you born into an Emperor’s family!”[9] Emperor Sizong aimed his sword and swung it at Princess Changping. Princess Changping avoided the blow, but Emperor Sizong still managed to sever her arm.[10] Therefore, instead of killing Princess Changping, he cut off her left arm. Princess Changping fainted immediately, and Emperor Sizong presumed her to be dead.[11]  Then, Emperor Sizong killed his five-year-old daughter, Princess Zhaoren.[12]  After he killed the women in his family, Emperor Sizong committed suicide by hanging himself on a tree that sat atop a small hill behind the Forbidden City.[13]

Five days later, on 29 April 1644 C.E., Princess Changping regained consciousness.[14] She suffered from the pain of losing her arm, but she had survived. A palace eunuch named He Xin saved her and hid her inside his residence.[15] In 1645 C.E., Princess Changping asked the Shunzhi Emperor of the new Qing Dynasty to allow her to become a nun so she could mourn the loss of her family.[16] The Shunzhi Emperor refused her request. Instead, he ordered Princess Changping to marry Zhou Xian.[17] The Shunzhi Emperor gave the married couple a mansion as well as generous amounts of land and money.[18] However, Princess Changping was still grief-stricken. She died of grief and illness on 26 September 1647 C.E.[19] She was seventeen years old, and she was five months pregnant.[20]

Princess Changping’s tragic story has moved the hearts of millions. She has since become an icon in popular culture. The most popular story of Princess Changping is the famous Chinese opera, The Flower Princess, which tells the love story between Princess Changping and her husband, Zhou Xian. Popular culture has also made Princess Changping a female warrior and a Buddhist nun in many martial arts films and television series.[21] She is also the main subject in the classic television series, Perish in the Name of Love in which she is portrayed by the famous Charmaine Sheh. Due to legends and popular culture, the tragic story of how Princess Changping lost her arm will never be forgotten.

Sources:

iMedia. (9 March 2022). “Why did Emperor Chongzhen have to kill his wife and daughter before he died?Just because they’d be worse off if they didn’t die”. Retrieved on September 2, 2022 from https://min.news/en/history/2adbbd26a5292573ae09810785d6cbda.html.

Lin, Y & Lee, L. X. H. trans. (2014). “Zhu, Princess Changping.” Biographical Dictionary of Chinese Women, Volume II: Tang Through Ming 618 – 1644. (L. X. H. Lee, Ed.; A. D. Stefanowska, Ed.; S. Wiles, Ed.). NY: Routledge. pp. 631-632.

McMahon, K. (2016). Celestial Women: Imperial Wives and Concubines in China from Song to Qing. NY: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.


[1] Lin and Lee, 2014

[2] Lin and Lee, 2014

[3] iMedia, March 9, 2022, “Why did Emperor Chongzhen have to kill his wife and daughter before he died?Just because they’d be worse off if they didn’t die”

[4] iMedia, March 9, 2022, “Why did Emperor Chongzhen have to kill his wife and daughter before he died?Just because they’d be worse off if they didn’t die”

[5] iMedia, March 9, 2022, “Why did Emperor Chongzhen have to kill his wife and daughter before he died?Just because they’d be worse off if they didn’t die”

[6] Lin and Lee, 2014

[7] iMedia, March 9, 2022, “Why did Emperor Chongzhen have to kill his wife and daughter before he died?Just because they’d be worse off if they didn’t die”

[8] Lin and Lee, 2014

[9] Lin and Lee, 2014, p. 632

[10] Lin and Lee, 2014

[11] Lin and Lee, 2014

[12] Lin and Lee, 2014

[13] Lin and Lee, 2014

[14] McMahon, 2016

[15] Lin and Lee, 2014

[16] McMahon, 2016

[17] McMahon, 2016

[18] Lin and Lee, 2014

[19] McMahon, 2016

[20] Lin and Lee, 2014

[21] Lin and Lee, 2014






About Lauralee Jacks 117 Articles
I am a third grade elementary teacher in Tennessee. I have a bachelor’s degree in Liberal and Civic Studies from St. Mary’s College of California, a master’s in Elementary Education from the University of Phoenix, and a doctorate in Educational Leadership from the College of Saint Mary. Because my family are from East Asia, I have a passion for historical Chinese and Korean television shows. I always wanted to separate fact from fiction in dramas. Writing articles from History of Royal Women gives me a chance to dig deeper and explore these royal women as they might have been in real life. Also, it gives me a chance to look at the history and culture of where my family originated. I love researching East Asian royalty because they rarely get enough attention in the West often being overshadowed by European royalty. I find these royal women to be just as fascinating and their stories deserve to be told. Thus, I am excited to write for History of Royal Women!

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