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Living & dying as an imperial consort

The Emperor will need female companionship in the afterlife

sunny 26 °C

They buried the concubines in pits, after the women had hung themselves from silk ropes or swallowed poison. This is what my guide to the Ming Tombs in China, John, informs me as we both stare down at the metal grate covering one of the pits in question.


Upon death and his entry to the afterlife, the Emperor would need female companionship. So he chose which concubines were to be executed by palace eunuchs or to commit suicide, and they were buried on the outskirts of the tombs.

“Sometimes they were burnt, and very rarely they were buried alive in a standing position, so they could greet the Emperor in the afterlife.”

The latter two practices were discontinued in the advancing years of the Ming dynasty after being deemed uncivilized.

The Imperial Garden was the site of concubine try-outs. Concubines would audition for entry into the Emperor’s select inner harem. Some Emperors had thousands of concubines, so making it into the elite inner circle was no small feat. Those who didn’t make the cut were given as presents to foreign dignitaries, nobles, or those the Emperor was pleased with.

Staring at those burial pits, wind through cypress needles, I shudder, snap a photo, and walk on.




Posted by DenaAllen 06:08 Archived in China Tagged culture city china forbidden living_abroad

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