Queen Zhuang Fanji – A Virtuous Lady of Ability

Queen Zhuang Fanji lived during the Spring and Autumn period, an era in which the states of Jin, Qin, Qi, and Chu were breaking away from the ruling Zhou dynasty and forming their own dynasties.[1] She was known to be a virtuous and capable stateswoman.[2] Many historians attributed Fanji with turning her weak kingdom of Chu into a superpower.[3] She has also remained a popular subject in Chinese literature.[4]

Zhuang Fanji was born in 625 B.C. E.[5] Her last name was Ji, and her family came from the Fan region.[6] She married King Zhuang of Chu and became his queen in 611 B.C.E.[7] Throughout her reign as queen, her husband had many concubines. However, Queen Fanji never became jealous of his concubines and always behaved in the proper manner befitting a virtuous wife.[8] She even sought additional concubines for her husband.[9] Under her guidance, the palace remained peaceful.[10]

In the early years of King Zhuang’s reign, he neglected his official duties for leisure activities such as hunting and travelling.[11] Queen Fanji constantly urged him to focus on his kingdom and to govern more efficiently.[12] However, King Zhuang appointed the inefficient Yu Qiuzi to be his prime minister.[13] Queen Fanji urged her husband to replace Yu Qiuzi with a more capable minister.[14] After much persuasion, King Zhuang replaced him with Shu Aosun.[15] Shu Aosun was known for his “morality and ability”.[16] He helped Chu become a flourishing and prominent kingdom.[17]

In 601 B.C.E., King Zhuang died. The next king was Fanji’s son, Xiong Shen. Facts about her later life are unknown.[18] Her tomb resides in Jiangling county. Queen Fanji was known to have been a wise advisor to the king. Through her guidance, she allowed Chu to become one of the top powers in the Spring and Autumn period.[19] Official Chu historians wrote that “Zhuang was able to lord it over others because Fanji made all the effort.”[20] Since then, Fanji has been featured prominently in Chinese literature. Tang prime minister, Zhang Shen, wrote a poem “To Fanji’s Tomb on Climbing Jin Li Tai”.[21] His famous line from the poem alludes to her: “Chu became the lord, Fanji did the work”.[22] Yu Jinfeng, a Qing administrator, wrote on her tomb that the queen was “A Virtuous Lady of Ability.”[23]


Eno, R. (2010).  1.7. Spring and Autumn China (771-453). Indiana University, PDF.

Duncan, John (2015). Creative Women of Korea: the Fifteenth through the Twentieth Centuries. Edited by Young-Key Kim-Renaud, Routledge.

Yunhuang, Luo (2015). Notable Women of China: Shang Dynasty to the Early Twentieth Century. Edited by Barbara Bennett Peterson, Routledge.

[1] Yunhuang p. 23; Eno, p.3

[2] Yunhuang p. 24; Duncan, p. 41

[3]Yunhuang p. 24; Duncan, p. 41

[4] Yunhuang, p. 24

[5] Yunhuang, p. 23

[6]  Yunhuang, p. 23

[7] Yunhuang, p. 23

[8] Yunhuang, p. 23

[9] Yunhuang, p. 23; Duncan, p. 40

[10]Yunhuang, p. 23

[11]Yunhuang, p. 23; Duncan, p. 40

[12] Yunhuang, pp. 23-24; Duncan, p. 40

[13]Yunhuang, p. 24; Duncan, p. 40

[14] Yunhuang, p. 24; Duncan, p. 40

[15] Yunhuang, p. 24

[16] Yunhuang, p. 24

[17]Yunhuang, p. 24

[18] Yunhuang, p. 24

[19]Yunhuang, p. 24; Duncan, p. 40

[20] Yunhuang, p.24

[21] Yunhuang, p. 24

[22]Yunhuang, p. 24

[23]Yunhuang, p. 24


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