The Humble and Honorable Empress Ma

Empress Ma told her officials that if anyone from her family tried to meddle in state affairs, tried to gain favors, or make influential connections, they should be punished in accordance with the law. (Image: via  Taste Of Life)
Empress Ma told her officials that if anyone from her family tried to meddle in state affairs, tried to gain favors, or make influential connections, they should be punished in accordance with the law. (Image: via Taste Of Life)

Empress Ma was married to Emperor Ming of the Eastern Han Dynasty. He was strict in not allowing relatives from her side of the family to gain power or to ascend to high ranking posts. When Empress Ma‘s adopted son, Liu Da, succeeded to the throne after Emperor Ming’s death, he wanted to express his gratitude by confering titles upon Empress Ma’s three brothers. She firmly refused, saying:

Empress Ma was married to Emperor Ming of the Eastern Han dynasty. (Image: Ian Kiu via wikimedia / CC BY 3.0)

Empress Ma was married to Emperor Ming of the Eastern Han Dynasty. (Image: Ian Kiu via wikimedia / CC BY 3.0)

Empress Ma told her officials that if anyone from her family tried to meddle in state affairs, tried to gain favors, or make influential connections, they should be punished in accordance with the law.

A gilded bronze oil lamp in the shape of a kneeling female servant, dated 2nd century BC, found in the tomb of Dou Wan, wife of the Han prince Liu Sheng during the Han Dynasty. (Image: Refrain via Wikimedia / CC BY 1.0 )

A gilded bronze oil lamp in the shape of a kneeling female servant from the Han Dynasty found in the tomb of Dou Wan, wife of the Han prince Liu Sheng. (Image: Refrain via wikimedia / CC BY 1.0 )

She also told her relatives that anyone who violated the law would be expelled from the clan, and would live as a peasant. Such words caused the Ma family to be careful in all of their actions and deeds. Empress Ma wrote to her three brothers when she heard that her adopted son once again tried to confer titles upon them. She wrote:

The brothers refused the titles after reading her letter. Empress Ma passed away peacefully, with her reputation firmly intact.

Translated by Cecila and edited by Kathy McWilliams.

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