Princess Fukang – Was she abused to death?




fukang
Princess Fukang as portrayed by Ren Min in Serenade of Peaceful Joy (Screenshot/Fair Use)

Princess Fukang’s death is one of China’s most tragic and unresolved mysteries. While Princess Fukang officially died of unknown causes, Emperor Shenzong accused Princess Fukang’s husband named Li Wei of abusing her to death. While we may never know if Princess Fukang died at the hands of her husband, we do know that she suffered from an unhappy marriage. Princess Fukang is the only princess in the Song Dynasty to be demoted.[1] However, she was honoured posthumously by three Song Emperors.[2]

Princess Fukang was born in 1038 C.E. Her father was Emperor Renzong of the Northern Song Dynasty, and her mother was Honored Consort Miao. Princess Fukang was Emperor Renzong’s eldest daughter and was his favourite.[3] She was said to be very intelligent and very devoted to her father.[4] Whenever her father fell ill, she would remain at his side and care for him until he recovered.[5]

As Princess Fukang grew older, Emperor Renzong began to think of a suitable husband for her. His thoughts drifted to his maternal family.[6] Emperor Renzong did not know the identity of his birth mother until his adopted mother, Empress Dowager Liu E, passed away.[7] He felt guilty that he had never gotten to know his mother and his maternal relatives.[8] He decided to make up for his guilt by having Princess Fukang marry his maternal cousin named Li Wei.[9]

In 1057 C.E., Princess Fukang married Li Wei. Emperor Renzong gave Princess Fukang a lavish dowry which consisted of eight hundred acres of land, three estates, two servants, four cooks, and ten slaves.[10] However, Princess Fukang and Li Wei did not get along from the beginning of their marriage. They often fought and argued.[11] Princess Fukang then began to frequently return to her father’s palace in the middle of the night.[12] Princess Fukang began to receive criticism from the ministers at court. This was because Princess Fukang’s arrival to the palace at night jeopardized palace security.[13] 

Despite the unhappiness in their marriage, Princess Fukang and Li Wei managed to produce children.[14] It is unclear how many children the couple had.[15] It is known that in 1060 C.E., Princess Fukang drew criticism by using her royal influence to help get the nephew of her children’s wet nurse a job promotion.[16] Despite these criticisms and his ministers’ protestations, Emperor Renzong promoted Princess Fukang to Princess of Yan State in 1061 C.E.[17]

In 1061 C.E., Princess Fukang’s marriage finally came to an end.[18] The marriage lasted four years.[19] One day, Princess Fukang was drinking wine with a eunuch named Liang Huaji.[20] Ancient sources claim that he was her lover.[21] Princess Fukang’s mother-in-law became suspicious and spied on the two of them drinking together. When Princess Fukang caught her mother-in-law watching her drink with Liang Huaji, she was so angry that she beat up her mother-in-law.[22] The mother-in-law reported the incident to Emperor Renzong.[23] Emperor Renzong judged his daughter and the eunuch to be in the wrong.[24] He ordered Liang Huaji to leave Princess Fukang’s household.[25]

Princess Fukang was so upset that her father expelled Liang Huaji that she became hysterical.[26] She threatened to kill herself.[27] Emperor Renzong finally gave way and let Liang Huaji into her household again.[28] Princess Fukang tried to end her marriage to Li Wei. She sent servants to spy on Li Wei to find anything incriminating to report to her father.[29] When her servants failed to find any incriminating evidence, Princess Fukang began to make up false accusations about him that eventually reached her father’s ears.[30]

Emperor Renzong realized that he had no choice but to intervene.[31] He pondered on the next step. Princess Fukang’s mother, Honoured Consort Miao, believed her husband should end the marriage. However, Empress Cao reminded him to respect his late mother’s memory.[32] Emperor Renzong decided not to end the marriage but to separate the couple for some time.[33] He hoped that the distance would remedy their marriage.

Emperor Renzong confined Princess Fukang to her mansion.[34] He made Li Wei a prefect of Weizhou.[35] He expelled Princess Fukang’s mother-in-law from the princess’s mansion and forced her to live with one of her other sons.[36] He exiled Liang Huaji to guard the imperial tomb and dismissed the princess’s servants.[37] Emperor Renzong thought his decisions would rectify the situation, but it was far from the case. When Li Wei finally returned home, Princess Fukang falsely accused him of embezzling grain and begged Emperor Renzong to recall Liang Huaji from exile.[38] Emperor Renzong agreed to exile Li Wei again. He recalled Liang Huaji from exile, but he did not send him to work in the princess’s household.[39] 

Tensions came to a head when Li Wei’s brother officially petitioned for a divorce between Princess Fukang and Li Wei.[40] Emperor Renzong’s advisor, Sima Guang, asked for Li Wei to be recalled back from exile to discuss the divorce petition.[41] Sima Guang demanded that Princess Fukang be punished for the ill actions she made against her husband.[42] Emperor Renzong decided to demote Fukang to Princess of Qi State.[43] He granted the divorce between Li Wei and Princess Fukang.[44] To make up for his daughter’s actions against her husband, he compensated Li Wei with 200 taels of gold.[45] 

Emperor Renzong felt uneasy about the divorce between Princess Fukang and Li Wei.[46] He believed that he failed to show filial piety to his mother’s family.[47] Therefore, he reversed his order of divorce. He remarried Princess Fukang and Li Wei.[48] He sent Princess Fukang back to her mansion to live with Li Wei.[49] A few months after he remarried them, Emperor Renzong died on 30 April 1063 C.E.[50] He was succeeded by Emperor Yingzong. Emperor Yingzong died on 25 January 1067 C.E. He was succeeded by his eldest son, Emperor Shenzong.

On 26 February 1070 C.E., Princess Fukang died at the age of thirty-three.[51] Emperor Shenzong was so suspicious of the princess’s sudden death that he immediately paid a visit to her mansion.[52] He was shocked to learn of Princess Fukang’s poor living conditions while she was alive.[53] He learned that Li Wei did not care for his wife.[54] He did not give her any food, clothes, or medical treatment.[55] Princess Fukang’s bedding and clothes were covered with lice.[56] She did not have anyone to make her a fire to warm up her room during the winter.[57] One winter’s day, she was so cold that she tried to make a fire herself but ended up accidentally burning her face.[58] 

When Emperor Shenzong learned of the sufferings that Princess Fukang had endured, he was angry with the way Li Wei treated his wife.[59]  He believed that Li Wei had neglected and abused her.[60] The poor living conditions in her room and the fact that he did not give her any medical treatment were strong evidence that Princess Fukang died of Li Wei’s abuse.[61] He believed that Li Wei should be held accountable for Princess Fukang’s death.[62] Emperor Shenzong punished Li Wei by demoting his status.[63]

Emperor Shenzong was so moved by Princess Fukang’s death that he decided to honour her. He gave her the posthumous name of Zhangxiao.[64] This name recognized Princess Fukang’s filial devotion to her father.[65] Emperor Shenzong also promoted Fukang to Princess Supreme of Qin State.[66] Two of Emperor Shenzong’s successors also felt sorry for Princess Fukang and also promoted her status. Emperor Zhenzong made Fukang to be the Princess Supreme of Zhou State.[67] Emperor Huizong made her the Princess Supreme of Zhou and Chen States.[68] In 1114 C.E., Emperor Huizong changed her title to Supreme Imperial Princess.[69]

Princess Fukang was the favourite daughter of Emperor Renzong. However, she suffered from an unhappy marriage. Her cause of death is officially unknown.[70] Some historians believe that Princess Fukang died of depression.[71] Other historians believe that she died because she had gone mad.[72] Yet, most historians believe that Princess Fukang died of neglect and abuse from her husband.[73] What is clear is that Emperor Renzong had sacrificed his beloved daughter to try to appease his guilt. Princess Fukang had paid the price of her father’s actions through her sufferings and life.[74] It is because of the sacrifices she had made for her father that moved the hearts of later Song Emperors. Princess Fukang’s story continues to be one of China’s most tragic and compelling mysteries because it tells the story of how a princess sacrificed her personal happiness to fulfil her father’s ambitions.

Sources:

Ching-Chung, P. (2014). “Zhao, Princess Supreme of Zhou and Chen States.” 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. 612-614.

Huang, K. (2021). Illustrated Guide to 50 Masterpieces of Chinese Paintings. NY: Shanghai Press.

iNews. (n.d.). “She was Emperor Renzong’s favorite daughter, but why did she end up in a tragic end?” Retrieved August 20, 2022 from https://inf.news/en/history/e2608bb543724e3843608f7a371f9619.html.


[1] Ching-Chung, 2014

[2] Ching-Chung, 2014

[3] Huang, 2021

[4] Ching-Chung, 2014

[5] Ching-Chung, 2014

[6] Ching-Chung, 2014

[7] Ching-Chung, 2014

[8] Huang, 2021

[9] Huang, 2021

[10] Ching-Chung, 2014

[11] Ching-Chung, 2014

[12] Ching-Chung, 2014

[13] Ching-Chung, 2014

[14] Ching-Chung, 2014

[15] Ching-Chung, 2014

[16] Ching-Chung, 2014

[17] Ching-Chung, 2014

[18] Ching-Chung, 2014

[19] Ching-Chung, 2014

[20] Ching-Chung, 2014

[21] Huang, 2021

[22] Ching-Chung, 2014

[23] Ching-Chung, 2014

[24] Ching-Chung, 2014

[25] Huang, 2021

[26] Ching-Chung, 2014

[27] Ching-Chung, 2014

[28] Ching-Chung, 2014

[29] Ching-Ching, 2014

[30] Ching-Chung, 2014

[31] Ching-Chung, 2014

[32] Ching-Chung, 2014

[33] Ching-Chung, 2014

[34] Ching-Chung, 2014

[35] Ching-Chung, 2014

[36] Ching-Chung, 2014

[37] Huang, 2021

[38] Ching-Chung, 2014

[39] Ching-Chung, 2014

[40] Ching-Chung, 2014

[41] Ching-Chung, 2014

[42] Ching-Chung, 2014

[43] Ching-Chung, 2014

[44] Ching-Chung, 2014

[45] Ching-Chung, 2014

[46] iNews, n.d., “She was Emperor Renzong’s favorite daughter, but why did she end up in a tragic end?”

[47] iNews, n.d., “She was Emperor Renzong’s favorite daughter, but why did she end up in a tragic end?”

[48] iNews, n.d., “She was Emperor Renzong’s favorite daughter, but why did she end up in a tragic end?”

[49] iNews, n.d., “She was Emperor Renzong’s favorite daughter, but why did she end up in a tragic end?”

[50] iNews, n.d., “She was Emperor Renzong’s favorite daughter, but why did she end up in a tragic end?”

[51] Ching-Chung, 2014

[52] iNews, n.d., “She was Emperor Renzong’s favorite daughter, but why did she end up in a tragic end?”

[53] iNews, n.d., “She was Emperor Renzong’s favorite daughter, but why did she end up in a tragic end?”

[54] iNews, n.d., “She was Emperor Renzong’s favorite daughter, but why did she end up in a tragic end?”

[55] iNews, n.d., “She was Emperor Renzong’s favorite daughter, but why did she end up in a tragic end?”

[56] iNews, n.d., “She was Emperor Renzong’s favorite daughter, but why did she end up in a tragic end?”

[57] iNews, n.d., “She was Emperor Renzong’s favorite daughter, but why did she end up in a tragic end?”

[58] iNews, n.d., “She was Emperor Renzong’s favorite daughter, but why did she end up in a tragic end?”

[59] iNews, n.d., “She was Emperor Renzong’s favorite daughter, but why did she end up in a tragic end?”

[60] iNews, n.d., “She was Emperor Renzong’s favorite daughter, but why did she end up in a tragic end?”

[61] iNews, n.d., “She was Emperor Renzong’s favorite daughter, but why did she end up in a tragic end?”

[62] iNews, n.d., “She was Emperor Renzong’s favorite daughter, but why did she end up in a tragic end?”

[63] Huang, 2021

[64] Ching-Chung, 2014

[65] Ching-Chung, 2014

[66] Ching-Chung, 2014

[67] Ching-Chung, 2014

[68] Ching-Chung, 2014

[69] Ching-Chung, 2014

[70] Ching-Chung, 2014

[71] iNews, n.d., “She was Emperor Renzong’s favorite daughter, but why did she end up in a tragic end?”

[72] iNews, n.d., “She was Emperor Renzong’s favorite daughter, but why did she end up in a tragic end?”

[73] iNews, n.d., “She was Emperor Renzong’s favorite daughter, but why did she end up in a tragic end?”

[74] iNews, n.d., “She was Emperor Renzong’s favorite daughter, but why did she end up in a tragic end?”






About Lauralee Jacks 109 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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