Wang Wengxu – The mournful Empress

wang wengxu
Wang Wengxu as portrayed by Ruby Lin in Wulong Prince (Screenshot/Fair Use)

Empress Wang Wengxu’s short life showed that the tragic events were beyond her control. She was sold into the crown prince’s household. She was hardworking and very talented. However, she became a victim of political intrigue. Her story shows that she was indeed “The Mournful Empress”[1]. Yet, not all of her efforts were in vain. She would give birth to Emperor Xuan. He would honour his mother’s hardships by elevating her posthumously to the status of Empress.[2]

Empress Wang Wengxu was born around 109 B.C.E.[3] Her mother, Wang Ren, was from Zhu Commandery, and her father was Wang Naishi from Guangwang District.[4] She also had two brothers. Wang Wengxu’s family was poor and often struggled to make a living. When Wang Wengxu was nine, she was sent as a foster child to Liu Zhongqing, who was a distant imperial relative of the emperor.[5] She learned to sing and dance. She grew to be beautiful and intelligent.[6] 

When Wang Wengxu was fifteen, a merchant by the name of Jia Chang’er, came to Liu Zhongqing to buy singers and dancers.[7] Liu Zhongqing decided to choose six dancers, and one of them was Wang Wengxu.[8] When Wang Wengxu found out that she was going to be sold to Jia Chang’er, she fled home to her mother.[9] Yet, Liu Zhongqing followed her and lied to her parents that he would not sell her.[10] Her parents fell for his lies and sent her back. A few days later, Liu Zhongqing sold her to Jia Chang’er.[11] As they passed her home, she called out to her parents and told them about her situation. Her parents were heartbroken and were determined to buy her back.[12] They followed her to Lunu. Yet, they lost track of Wang Wengxu and could no longer find her.[13] They were forced to realize that their daughter would never be coming home.

Wang Wengxu arrived in Chang’an. She was sent to Liu Ju’s (the heir apparent) palace.[14] It was when she was dancing that Liu Ju’s son, Liu Jin, saw her and fell in love with her. Liu Jin was seventeen, and his mother was a concubine whose surname was Shi.[15] It was not long until they were married. She became the Consort of the Imperial Grandson.[16] In 91 B.C.E, she bore a son named Liu Bingyi (the future Emperor Xuan of Han). He quickly became known as the Imperial Great-Grandson.[17]

However, Consort Wang Wengxu’s happiness did not last long. A few months after her son was born, her father-in-law and Empress Wei Zifu were falsely accused of witchcraft.[18] Emperor Wu ordered a mass execution of Liu Ju’s household. They murdered everyone including Consort Wang Wengxu.[19] The only survivor was her son, who was saved by an official named Bing Ji.[20] Bing Ji took pity on the infant and protected him from the massacre.[21] Liu Bingyi ascended the throne in 74 B.C.E. and became Emperor Xuan. He elevated his deceased mother to the status of Empress. The title he gave her was “Mournful Empress”.[22] He also honoured Empress Wang Wengxu’s mother, who was still alive, by making her Lady Boping.[23] When Lady Boping died, she became Lady Sicheng.[24] 


Xiaowen, W. (2015). Biographical Dictionary of Chinese Women: Antiquity Through Sui, 1600 B.C.E. – 618 C.E (L. X. H. Lee, Ed.; A. D. Stefanowska, Ed.; S. Wiles, Ed.). NY: Routledge.

Fanzhong, F. (2015). Notable Women of China: Shang Dynasty to the Early Twentieth Century (B. B. Peterson, Ed.; C. Jun, Trans.). London: Routledge.

[1] Xiaowen, p. 206

[2] Xiaowen. P. 206

[3] Xiaowen, p. 205

[4] Fanzhong, p. 75; Xiaowen, p. 205

[5] Xiaowen, p. 205

[6] Fanzhong, p. 75

[7] Xiaowen, p. 205

[8] Fanzhong, p. 75

[9] Xiaowen, p. 205

[10] Xiaowen, p. 205

[11] Xiaowen, p. 205

[12] Fanzhong, p. 75

[13] Fanzhong, p. 75

[14] Xiaowen, p. 206

[15] Fanzhong, p. 76

[16] Xiaowen, p. 206

[17] Xiaowen, p. 206

[18] Xiaowen, p. 206

[19] Xiaowen, p. 206

[20] Xiaowen, p. 206

[21] Xiaowen, p. 206

[22] Xiaowen, p. 206

[23]Xiaowen, p. 206

[24] Xiaowen, p. 206

About Lauralee Jacks 84 Articles
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. I live in Tennessee where I taught first grade. 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 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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