Empress Yin Lihua
64), formally Empress Guanglie
"the rebuilding and achieving empress") was an empress
. She was the second empress of her husband Emperor Guangwu
(Liu Xiu) -- even
though she married him as his wife before his first empress,
Empress Guo Shengtong
She was famed for her beauty and meekness. (Her posthumous name
started a trend for the rest
of Eastern Han Dynasty, where empresses' posthumous names were
formed not just their husbands' posthumous names (as was customary
during the preceding Western Han Dynasty) but used part of their
husbands' posthumous names along with an additional descriptive
Family background and marriage to Liu Xiu
was born and grew up in Nanyang Commandery (roughly modern Nanyang, Henan) -- the same
commandery that her eventual husband came from.
were young, he was enamored with her beauty. According to
Hou Han Shu, when Liu Xiu was
visiting the capital Chang'an, he became
impressed with the mayor of the capital (zhijinwu, 執金吾)
and, already impressed by Yin's beauty, he made the remarks: "If I
were to be an official, I want to be zhijinwu; if I were
to marry, I want to marry Yin Lihua".
Yin's father died early, when she was six, and his name is not
recorded. Her mother's family name was Deng (鄧). She had at least
four brothers -- Yin Xing (陰興), Yin Jiu (陰就), Yin Shi (陰識), and Yin
Xin (陰訢). (Yin Xing and Yin Xin were born of the same mother as
she; Yin Shi was born of her father's previous wife; it is not
clear who was the mother of Yin Jiu.) According to Hou Han Shu
, the Yins were descended from
the famed Spring and Autumn
prime minister Guan Zhong
In 23, while Liu Xiu was an official in the newly reestablished Han
government of Emperor
, he was married to Yin Lihua. Later, when he was
dispatched by Emperor Gengshi to the region north of the Yellow River, she returned home.
As imperial consort
Liu Xiu eventually broke away from Emperor Gengshi, and he
proclaimed himself emperor of Han in 25 (as Emperor Guangwu).
year, when he captured Luoyang to be his
capital, he dispatched subordinates to bring Yin to the capital and
made her an imperial consort.
At that time, however, he was
also married to Empress Guo
, the niece of the regional warlord Liu Yang (劉楊), the
Prince of Zhending, and Guo had given birth to a son, Liu Jiang
In 26, Emperor Guangwu was prepared to create an empress, and he
favored his first love, Consort Yin. However, Consort Yin had not
yet had a son by that point, and she declined the empress position
and endorsed Consort Guo. Emperor Guangwu therefore made Guo
empress and her son Prince Jiang crown prince.
In 28, Consort Yin gave birth to her first born son, Liu Yang
(劉陽, not to be confused with
Empress Guo's uncle).
In 33, Lady Deng and Yin Xin were killed by robbers. Emperor
Guangwu greatly mourned them, and he made Yin Jiu a marquess and
tried to make Yin Xing a marquess as well, but the humble Yin Xing
declined and further instructed Consort Yin to be always humble and
not seeking to honor her relatives. She took the advice to
As imperial consort, even though Consort Yin was not empress, she
continued to be favored by Emperor Guangwu as his first love. She
(like Empress Guo) bore him five sons.
By 41, Empress Guo had long lost the emperor's favor. She
continuously complained about that fact, and this angered Emperor
Guangwu. In 41, he deposed her and made Consort Yin empress
instead. Rather than imprisoning Guo (as is often the fate of
deposed empresses), however, he made her son Liu Fu (劉輔) the Prince
of Zhongshan and made her the Princess Dowager of Zhongshan. He
made her brother Guo Kuang (郭況) an important official and, perhaps
as a form of alimony, rewarded him with great wealth.
Not having the heart to depose mother and son, Emperor Guangwu
initially left Guo's son, Crown Prince Jiang, as crown prince.
Crown Prince Jiang, however, realizing that his position was
precarious, repeatedly offered to step down. In 43, Emperor Guangwu
agreed and Prince Yang, the oldest son of Empress Yin, crown prince
instead. He also changed Prince Yang's name to Zhuang (莊).
Empress Yin was not mentioned frequently in history while she was
empress -- a sign that she was not trying to exert much influence
as empress. However, her three brothers all became powerful
officials and marquesses, even though they generally were low key
and did not seek high offices on their own. She greatly favored
former Empress Guo's youngest son Liu Yan, the Prince of Zhongshan,
and after Empress Guo died in 52, she treated him as her own
Emperor Guangwu died in 57, and was succeeded by Crown Prince
Zhuang (as Emperor Ming). Empress Yin received the title of
As empress dowager
Empress Dowager Yin appeared to exert a moderate amount of
influence on her son, but far less than past empresses
In 59, a tragedy would strike Empress Dowager Yin's family. The son
of her brother Yin Jiu, the Marquess of Xinyang, Yin Feng (陰豐), had
married Liu Xiu's daughter (it is not clear whether she was also
Empress Dowager Yin's daughter) Liu Shou (劉綬), the Princess Liyi.
Princess Liyi was arrogant and jealous, and Yin Feng, in anger,
killed her and was executed. Yin Jiu and his wife then committed
suicide. (However, even after this, Yin Jiu continued to be
posthumously highly regarded, and was praised in a later edict by
Empress Dowager Yin's daughter-in-law Empress Ma
In 60, at Empress Dowager Yin's endorsement, Emperor Ming created
Consort Ma, Ma Yuan
daughter, whom Empress Dowager Yin had favored because of her
meekness and lack of jealousy -- perhaps because these traits
mirrored her own -- empress.
Also in 60, Emperor Ming and Empress Dowager Yin made a rare visit
to Emperor Guangwu and Empress Dowager Yin's home territory of
Nanyang, where they spent days in banquet with Empress Dowager
Yin's more distant Deng and Yin relations.
Empress Dowager Yin died in 64 and was buried with her husband,