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Queen Dugu Jialuo — Wise Empress and Devout Monogamist

In ancient Chinese history, a man could have a wife and many concubines as long as he could afford it.


Therefore, Polygamy was quite common in noble and wealthy families.


Most women followed the system in a patriarchal society, except for Queen Dugu Jialuo, who strongly opposed the Polygamy system her entire life.


Dugu Jialuo or Qieluo (544 — 602), respected as Queen Dugu or Empress Wenxian, was very intelligent and influential.


She had been quite helpful in assisting her husband, Yang Jian, in establishing the Sui Dynasty and was the love of his life.


Furthermore, renowned as a devoted monogamist and challenger of polygamy, Queen Dugu Jialuo was also known for her bouts of jealousy.

Queen Dugu Jialuo of the Sui Dynasty in History of China

Noble Girl in An Unstable Era


Dugu Jialuo was born into a noble family in the North and South Dynasties, a separate era when kingdoms kept fighting against each other. 


Her father, Dugu Xin, was a famously handsome man in history who was also an exceptional general who obtained paramount power through his military successes. 

26 Facets Official Seal of Dugu Jialuo’s Father

26 Facets Official Seal of Dugu Jialuo’s Father — Shaanxi History Museum 

Her father found his old friend’s son was quite brave and intelligent, so he chose this decent young man named Yang Jian as his beloved little daughter Dugu Jialuo’s husband. 


However, her father was forced to commit suicide after he failed in a big political struggle.


After this, her clan was largely declined and surpassed by their political enemy. 

A Beloved Couple Enduring Through Thick and Thin


When Dugu turned 14, the same year her father failed this political dispute, she and Yang Jian married.


Because of her father’s departure, Dugu and Yang Jian were demoted and suppressed when they experienced and survived many life-and-death moments together. 


But those difficulties brought them closer; they loved, supported, and promised to be each other’s only, eternal love. 

Unearthed Copper Mirror of the Sui Dynasty

Copper Mirror of Sui — Shaoxing Museum (Photo by Dongmaiying)

Fortunately, Yang Jian's father, the old friend of Dugu's late father, was an exceptional general who kept winning on the battlefield; Yang Jian's brothers also married other noble girls from powerful clans.


Their power and protection helped Yang Jian and Dugu survive through difficult times. 


Years later, Yang Jian and Dugu's first daughter's husband ascended to the throne, after which Yang Jian obtained more power through his talent and ambition.


This made the new king feel threatened and unhappy, so he commanded his queen Lihua, the daughter of Yang and Dugu, to commit suicide.


Then Dugu Jialuo came to the king by herself. After a long conversation, she changed the king's mind and saved her daughter Lihua's life.


Lihua then had a lovely daughter and granddaughter, whom she cherished deeply. In 1957, the mausoleum of Queen Dugu's great-granddaughter was discovered, yielding a trove of extremely valuable artifacts.


Unearthed Artifacts of Queen Dugu's Great Granddaughter — National Museum of China 

(Photo by Dongmaiying) 

Seizing Opportunity and the Establishment of the Sui Dynasty


Soon, this king, Dugu and Yang Jian’s son-in-law died suddenly and left the country to a 6-year-old new king. 


Then Yang Jian gained support from some powerful officials and was respected as the regent.


But at the same time, many powerful clans still refused to follow his command and tried their best to attack him. 


Encouraged by Dugu, Yang Jian snatched the throne, claimed himself as the new king, and named his new empire Sui. 


After he was enthroned as the Emperor Wen of Sui, Dugu became Queen Dugu. 

Ink Stone Unearthed from Mausoleum of Emperor Yang of Sui   — Capital Museum

Ink Stone Unearthed from Mausoleum of Emperor Yang of Sui, the Second Son of Dugu — Capital Museum (Photo by Dongmaiying)

Great Love Shared by Queen Dugu and Emperor Wen of Sui


Afterward, Dugu assisted and encouraged her husband to expand the Sui Empire and unify the nation.


Emperor Yang Jian published many innovative policies, and Dugu played an important role in constituting them. 


Dugu was considered the real soul mate of Yang Jian.


Unless her husband was required for work, they always spent their time together. She would see him off to work, welcome him back home, and assist him with complex political problems, among other things.


Their closeness and love were noted in historical documentation. 


Like ordinary civilian couples, they also lived a frugal life. Dugu barely asked for fancy clothes or jewelry, and neither did her husband.

Queen Dugu Jialuo of Sui Dynasty in History of China

Queen Dugu: The Fierce Opponent of Polygamy


Yang Jian had promised Dugu to only have children with her. As expected, they did follow this vow and raised five boys and five girls together.


Her husband trusted her entirely because she was always decent and politically appropriate.


When her brothers committed crimes, she refused to indulge her clan and pardon them; instead, she asked her husband to execute them juristically.


She also saved many innocent people from her husband’s outrageous and suspicious decisions in his later years.

Queen Dugu barely abused her power nor crossed the line. 


However, she had severe problems with those people with many women.


Some contributive generals and officials were demoted or abolished by Queen Dugu because they kept too many concubines. 


Dugu also disliked her first son, the crown prince, when she saw he didn’t love his wife but was obsessed with his beautiful concubines. 

Unearthed Glass Bottle of Sui Dynasty

Unearthed Glass Bottle of Sui Dynasty — Shaanxi History Museum (Photo by Dongmaiying)

The Change of Crown Prince


Shortly thereafter, the crown prince's wife died at a very young age, leading Queen Dugu to suspect that he and his favorite concubine were involved in her death.

Meanwhile, Queen Dugu's second son, Yang Guang, displayed exceptional talent and manners. He made significant contributions to the Sui Empire by defeating and governing the southern kingdoms.

Furthermore, Yang Guang only had affection for his wife, abstaining from keeping any concubines, and led a remarkably frugal lifestyle.


For all reasons combined, Queen Dugu favored her second son more.


Therefore, she played an essential role in changing the crown prince from her first son to the second. 


As brilliant as she was, Queen Dugu probably didn't anticipate that her favorite son, Yang Guang, would ultimately contribute to the downfall of the prosperous Sui Empire that she and her husband built together. 

Unearthed Crown of Yang Guang’s Queen in Yangzhou Museum

Unearthed Crown of Yang Guang’s Queen — Yangzhou Museum (Photo by Xin Shui Ling)

An Unfaithful Affair of the Emperor


When they were older, Yang Jian saw a beautiful young woman in the royal palace who was also the granddaughter of one of his biggest enemies. Then he slept with this gorgeous descendant of his former rival. 


Queen Dugu was quite furious and then killed this girl out of jealousy. 


In ancient Chinese culture, men could have as many concubines as they could afford, and the emperors were encouraged to have even more. 


Hence, her jealous behavior has been criticized frequently.


Her husband was upset initially and ran out of the royal palace. But soon, he returned and forgave Dugu for having taken away the innocent girl’s life. 

Unearthed Silver Lotus Glass Bottle of the Sui Dynasty

Silver Lotus Glass Bottle of the Sui Dynasty  — Dingzhou Museum (Photo by Dongmaiying)

The Departure of Queen Dugu and Her Grand Memorial Ceremonies 


A few years after this affair, Queen Dugu departed; her posthumous title was honored as Empress Wenxian, meaning intelligent and virtuous. 


The most powerful and brilliant prime minister of the Sui Dynasty, who led Sui's army to unite the nation, was sent to manage Dugu's funeral and construct her tomb.


Emperor Yang Jian, who had been quite frugal and barely wore fancy clothes in his entire life, this time, held a series of grand memorial activities and built a vast and luxurious memorial palace for her (over 600,000 square meters). 


About one year after Dugu's death, her husband also passed away and was buried with her.


Besides the influential Sui Dynasty they built together, and a series of political achievements, this splendid couple's beautiful and sincere love stories have been eulogized for over a thousand years. 


Mausoleum of Queen Dugu and Emperor Wen of Sui in Shaanxi Province — Tai Ling 

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