Princess Shouning – The Ming Dynasty Princess who was bullied by her servant




shouning

During the Ming Dynasty, it was a rule that a princess must marry a commoner. A husband from a commoner family was believed to treasure and cherish a princess more than a man of noble status and wealth.[1] In Princess Shouning’s case, this belief proved to be true. Princess Shouning was the favourite daughter of Emperor Shengzong of the Ming Dynasty. Emperor Shengzong chose a good husband for her. Her husband, Ran Xingrang, loved and cherished her.[2] However, their marriage obligated them to follow the strict rules established for a princess of the Ming dynasty.[3] The married princess was often assigned a female steward who was to supervise the princess and her husband. Often these female stewards were corrupt and abused their power.[4] Princess Shouning and Ran Xingrang were often bullied by the female steward assigned to her.[5] This led to extreme mistreatment and injustice that the couple were forced to endure.

Princess Shouning was born in 1592 C.E. Her real name was Zhu Xuanwei. She was the seventh daughter of Emperor Shenzong of the Ming dynasty (also known as the Wanli Emperor). Her mother was the infamous Zheng Guifei. She was Emperor Shenzong’s favourite daughter.[6]

In 1609 C.E., Emperor Shenzong made Zhu Xuanwei the Princess of Shouning. He also decided that it was time for Princess Shouning to get married. As was customary for the princesses of the Ming dynasty, the husband must come from a commoner family in “Beijing, Shandong, Shanxi, or Hebei.” [7] This is because it was believed that a commoner would love and cherish a Ming dynasty princess more than a man of nobility and wealth.[8] The potential husband also must be around thirteen to fifteen years of age and have a Confucian education.[9] Based on these qualifications, the imperial court selected three suitable men to be Princess Shouning’s prospective bridegroom.[10]

Emperor Shenzong inspected the three suitors to see who was the most suitable for his beloved daughter. As soon as the candidates walked into the audience chamber, Emperor Shenzong immediately noticed that two of the candidates had worn fancy clothes and behaved in a pompous manner.[11] He noticed that the third candidate had worn a humble hat and kept his eyes lowered.[12] Emperor Shenzong was impressed.[13] He chose this candidate to be Princess Shouning’s husband. His name was Ran Xingrang.

Emperor Shenzong gave Princess Shouning and Ran Xingrang a big wedding and bestowed on her a lavish dowry consisting of generous amounts of land, which was more than all the other Ming Dynasty princesses had ever received.[14] He even allowed her to visit the palace every five days.[15] The two were very happy with each other and fell deeply in love.[16] However, the two newlyweds were bound by the rules established for Ming dynasty princesses.[17] Princess Shouning was under strict supervision by her steward named Liang Yingnu.[18] One night, Princess Shouning defied protocol by summoning her husband.[19] Ran Xingrang immediately went to his wife’s quarters to visit her but was stopped by Liang Yingnu.[20] Liang Yingnu had been drinking with her eunuch husband, Zhao Jinchao, when Ran Xingrang had arrived unexpectedly at her ward’s quarters.[21] Ran Xingrang did not even bother to greet her.[22] Therefore, she hit Ran Xingrang in anger and chased him away from Princess Shouning’s quarters.[23]

Princess Shouning was deeply upset at how Liang Yingnu treated her husband.[24] She complained to her mother, Zheng Guifei, but she was too late. Zheng Guifei had already heard the story from her steward and believed that Ran Xingrang was in the wrong.[25] Princess Shouning could not do anything for her husband. Ran Xingrang decided to make a formal complaint to the Emperor.[26] 

Once Ran Xingrang arrived at the palace, he was beaten by the palace eunuchs who were acting under Zhao Jinchao’s orders.[27] Ran Xingrang was badly beaten and was covered in blood. He had no choice but to flee the palace.[28] Ran Xingrang’s absence gave the opportunity for Liang Yingnu to tell her side of the story to Emperor Shenzong. Emperor Shenzong believed that Ran Xingrang was also in the wrong.[29] He punished him by sentencing him to three months of moral training to reflect upon his actions.[30] Emperor Shenzong did reassign another steward, but he let Zhao Jinchao remain in the princess’s mansion.[31]

After the incident, very little is known about Princess Shouning.[32] She attended court audiences with her siblings until the death of her father. She did have a happy marriage with Ran Xingrang. The couple had one son.[33] On 13 August 1634 C.E., Princess Shouning died at the age of forty-two. Princess Shouning was blessed with marrying a loving husband whom her father had chosen for her. Yet, she was bound by the rules of a Ming dynasty princess. She did not have the freedom to be with her husband whenever she wished. She was under constant supervision. Princess Shouning’s story shows that it was not easy to be a princess of the Ming dynasty. It also shows how difficult it was to be the princess’s husband. Yet, the couple was able to overcome these difficulties. They were able to have a happy and satisfying marriage.[34]

Sources:

iMedia. (n. d.). “The princess of the Ming Dynasty and her husband were bullied by their subordinates and failed to jointly defend their rights. Why can’t they win the battle?”. Retrieved on 27 August 2022 from https://min.news/en/featured/75a760bdb90df3b60813f9d2318f417a.html.

iMedia. (n. d.). “The princess of the Ming Dynasty: Even though she was born in Tianhuang, she was inevitably fateful”. Retrieved on 27 August 2022 from https://min.news/en/history/d789b6687846ef6633af742b3aeded89.html.

Laitimes. (4 January 2022). “The most miserable pony in history. What to do but liang mamma agree, who is Mamma Liang?”. Retrieved on 27 August 2022 from https://www.laitimes.com/en/article/1jbrx_1mafp.html.

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


[1] McMahon, 2016

[2] Laitimes, 4 January 2022, “The most miserable pony in history. What to do but liang mamma agree, who is Mamma Liang?”

[3] iMedia, n. d., “The princess of the Ming Dynasty and her husband were bullied by their subordinates and failed to jointly defend their rights. Why can’t they win the battle?”

[4] iMedia, n. d., “The princess of the Ming Dynasty and her husband were bullied by their subordinates and failed to jointly defend their rights. Why can’t they win the battle?”

[5] iMedia, n. d., “The princess of the Ming Dynasty and her husband were bullied by their subordinates and failed to jointly defend their rights. Why can’t they win the battle?”

[6] iMedia, n. d., “The princess of the Ming Dynasty and her husband were bullied by their subordinates and failed to jointly defend their rights. Why can’t they win the battle?”

[7] iMedia, n. d., “The princess of the Ming Dynasty: Even though she was born in Tianhuang, she was inevitably fateful”, para. 2

[8] McMahon, 2016

[9] McMahon, 2016

[10] McMahon, 2016

[11] McMahon, 2016

[12] McMahon, 2016

[13] McMahon, 2016

[14] iMedia, n. d., “The princess of the Ming Dynasty: Even though she was born in Tianhuang, she was inevitably fateful”

[15] iMedia, n. d., “The princess of the Ming Dynasty: Even though she was born in Tianhuang, she was inevitably fateful”

[16] Laitimes, 4 January 2022, “The most miserable pony in history. What to do but liang mamma agree, who is Mamma Liang?”

[17] iMedia, n. d., “The princess of the Ming Dynasty and her husband were bullied by their subordinates and failed to jointly defend their rights. Why can’t they win the battle?”

[18] McMahon, 2016

[19] iMedia, n. d., “The princess of the Ming Dynasty and her husband were bullied by their subordinates and failed to jointly defend their rights. Why can’t they win the battle?”

[20] McMahon, 2016

[21] McMahon, 2016

[22] McMahon, 2016

[23] McMahon, 2016

[24] McMahon, 2016

[25] McMahon, 2016

[26] McMahon, 2016

[27] iMedia, n. d., “The princess of the Ming Dynasty and her husband were bullied by their subordinates and failed to jointly defend their rights. Why can’t they win the battle?”

[28] iMedia, n. d., “The princess of the Ming Dynasty and her husband were bullied by their subordinates and failed to jointly defend their rights. Why can’t they win the battle?”

[29] McMahon, 2016

[30] McMahon, 2016

[31] McMahon, 2016

[32] iMedia, n. d., “The princess of the Ming Dynasty and her husband were bullied by their subordinates and failed to jointly defend their rights. Why can’t they win the battle?”

[33] iMedia, n. d., “The princess of the Ming Dynasty: Even though she was born in Tianhuang, she was inevitably fateful”

[34] iMedia, n. d., “The princess of the Ming Dynasty: Even though she was born in Tianhuang, she was inevitably fateful”






About Lauralee Jacks 183 Articles
I am a former 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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