Concubine Qi

From Academic Kids

Concubine Qi (戚姬, pinyin qi1ji1) (d. 194 BC), also known as Lady Qi (戚夫人), was the favoured concubine of Han Gaozu (personal name Liu Bang), the first emperor of the Chinese Han Dynasty. She was called by some as Qi the Benign (戚懿 qi1yi4).

She was born in Dingtao (定陶), Shandong. Liu Ruyi (劉如意), later entitled Prince of Zhao, was their son. Liu Bang considered the heir apparent Crown Prince Liu Ying (his eldest son) to be an unsuitable leader. He tried several times, fruitlessly, to acknowledge Liu Ruyi as the Crown Prince instead, as his desire was objected to by Liu Ying's biological mother, Queen Lü Zhi. Because of this, Lü Zhi hated Qi deeply. Nevertheless Liu Bang ordered Liu Ruyi to return to his entitled land at Handan County on his deathbed. Qi did not accompany Liu Ruyi.

Lü Zhi, now declared the empress dowager as her son became emperor after Liu Bang's death, commenced an inhumane plot against Qi and Ruyi, which was documented:

Emperor Hui (Liu Ying) resided Ruyi in the palace and checked for poison in any aliment delivered to him. Ying also brought Ruyi with him wherever he went. In one early morning in the twelfth month of the first year of Emperor Hui, the emperor had to attend a shooting ritual; this time Ruyi was left alone since he could not wake up early. Ying supposed his mother would not plot against his brother as several months had passed without incident. Nevertheless Dowager Lü had someone force venom down Ruyi's throat....She then chopped off Qi's hands and feet, blinded her by scooping out her eyes, cut out her tongue and abandoned her to live in a toilet, and insulted her as "the Human Pig" (人彘). Several days after, Empress Dowager Lü recalled Emperor Hui to have a look of "the Human Pig". After he realised who "the Human Pig" was, the weak emperor was so sick of Lü's cruelty that he virtually relinquished his authority, withdrew himself to carnal pleasures. (Paraphrased quotation from the Records of the Grand Historian, chapter 9)

Qi died in the first year of Liu Ying's reign.

Her connection to the game of Go

Qi had a maid who escaped and later married to Duan Yu from Fufeng Prefecture (West of Xian in Shaanxi Province). She described Qi as a very beautiful woman, a great singer, dancer and Go player. On the fourth day of August every year (which did not mean August 4; China was using a different calendar at the time), Qi would play a Go game with Liu Bang in the bamboo forest on the north side of the palace. The winner would make a wish that they believed to come true. Qi won every year and wished for good fortune. Obviously this graceful aspiration did not work or her life would not have been so tragic.


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