The making of an empress in life and death

Empresses Xiaoduan’s and Xiaojing’s burial goods in the Ding Mausoleum

Authored by: Luk Yu-ping

The Ming World

Print publication date:  August  2019
Online publication date:  August  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138190986
eBook ISBN: 9780429318719
Adobe ISBN:


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In total, thirteen Ming emperors are buried at Mount Dayu, about 40 kilometers northwest of Beijing. Within this extensive imperial burial site, only the Ding Mausoleum (Dingling) has been excavated. 1 This was the resting place of the Wanli emperor (r. 1573–1620) and two empresses – Empress Xiaoduan or Wang Xijie (1564–1620) (Figure 18.1) and Empress Xiaojing (1565–1611), also née Wang (Figure 18.2). Empress Xiaoduan was the Wanli emperor’s first and only empress, whereas Empress Xiaojing was posthumously elevated to the position of empress dowager as the mother of the subsequent Taichang emperor (r. 1620) and grandmother of the Tianqi emperor (r. 1621–27).

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