Fun Facts about Chinese Culture and History

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Wan Zhener -- Imperial Concubine the Cradle Snatcher of the Ming Dynasty

Wan Zhener (1428 -- 1485) was a famous imperial concubine in the Ming Dynasty, because of being a cradle snatcher of her 17-year-younger emperor.

 

Her emperor husband had many young and beautiful concubines, but only truly loved her, even she was not beautiful nor talented nor kind; honestly, she could be defined as mean or cruel sometimes.

 

Wan was helpful, loyal and nice, but only to her husband. Maybe that was the reason that she was disliked by the emperor’s parents and other people surrounding her.

 

The Maid Who Went Through Thick and Thin with Prince

Wan Zhener was sold to the royal palace as a maid when she was 4 years old. After she turned 19, she was sent to take care of a 2-year-old crown prince named Zhu Jianshen.

 

Then, the crown prince’s father, the Emperor Zhu Qizhen, was captured for eight years after a big failure in war, so his crown prince’s title was abolished as well.

 

During that period, Jianshen was grounded and isolated in a very small palace and strictly monitored by his uncle emperor’s spies. Jianshen had encountered some life-and-death moments and got scared a lot, but Wan was always there for him.

 

Years later, Jianshen's father took the throne back and he became crown prince again; then he ascended to the throne when he was 17 years old. 

 

Wan Zhener as the Most Powerful Imperial Concubine 

No one knew exactly when the young emperor fell in love with Wan. When Jianshen got the throne, he wanted to nominate Wan as his queen, but his mother strongly disagreed, because of Wan’s age, maid status and ordinary appearance.

 

Jianshen's parents already chose him two noble queens who were young, beautiful, elegant and well educated.

 

The first queen was banished because of Wan, the second was terrified and always respected Wan as the real queen.

 

Jianshen's mother, the empress dowager, also selected many young and gorgeous imperial concubines for him, but he still only loved Wan.

 

Later, Wan gave birth to his first son, but the baby died very soon. 

 

A Possible Baby Killer

Afterwards, Wan didn’t allow anyone to have child of the emperor. It is widely believed that Wan tried many things to make sure all the emperor’s women could not have children, including poison and abortion.

 

During that period, there were no babies in the royal palace. 

 

Until years later, a secretly raised 6-year-old boy, soon was named Zhu Youcheng, showed up and was immediately well protected by the empress dowager, and nominated as the crown prince.

 

Wan Zhener was very angry; soon, she murdered this boy’s birth mother and many people who were involved in raising and protecting this boy. 

 

But she couldn’t assassinate this boy who was under careful protection of the empress dowager.

 

Afterwards, Wan gave up aborting other women’s babies. Since then, the emperor has had many other children.

Failed Plan to Abolish the Crown Prince

However, Wan Zhener still disliked Zhu Youcheng being the crown prince, since she murdered his mother and people who kindly took care of him before, which was almost everyone he was ever close to when he was little.

 

She worried that after this boy became the next emperor, she would be revenged.

 

So she tried several times to ask her husband, a kind person but a weak emperor, to abolish the crown prince, and she succeeded. 

 

Soon after her husband made the decision to abrogate the boy, an earthquake happened in the Mount Tai, a place with significant political meaning in Chinese culture, in where former extraordinary emperors in the history of China held sacrifice ceremonies to the heaven.

 

Emperor Zhu Jianshen was scared and took this as a warning of not abolishing this heir.

 

Therefore, Zhu Youcheng was finally stable and safe as the crown prince. Wan Zhener, eventually, gave up sabotaging this poor boy, or trying to influence politics. 

 

Leaving the World 

Wan’s emperor husband had some children with other women, but he only loved Wan in his entire life, no matter how much his mother and ministers disliked her, or what Wan did to his queens, imperial concubines and unborn children.

 

After hearing Wan’s death, he got very sad and sick, and passed away only a few months later. 

 

Wan Zhener's love for her husband was sincere and pure, but when it had involved so many killings, murders, conspiracies, she was more considered as an evil queen in the history of China.

 

No one has the right to take away other people’s babies and lives, even under the name of love.