Empress Dowager Xiaozhuang (孝庄文皇后,28 March 1613 – 27 January 1688)was a consort of Hong Taiji, the second ruler of the Manchu Qing dynasty. She was a descendant of the royal Mongol Borjigin lineage, the mother of the Shunzhi Emperor and grandmother of the Kangxi Emperor.

Bumbutai was a Khorchin Mongol of Borjigin lineage, the clan of Genghis Khan. Her father, Jaisang (寨桑), was a beile of the Khorchin Mongols and a descendant of Qasar, a younger brother of Genghis Khan.

Bumbutai became a concubine of Hong Taiji, the ruler of the Later Jin, in 1625 and held the rank of a side chamber consort (側室福晉). In 1636, Hong Taiji renamed the Later Jin to “Qing dynasty” and granted titles to his consorts. Bumbutai’s aunt Jerjer, who was Hong Taiji’s primary consort, became empress. Bumbutai received the title “Consort Zhuang” (莊妃) and was given Yongfu Palace (永福宫) as her residence. She bore Hong Taiji three daughters and a son between 1629 and 1638.

Hong Taiji died in 1643 and was succeeded by the six year old Fulin. Fulin was enthroned as the Shunzhi Emperor. In 1646, Bumbutai, as the mother of the reigning emperor, was honored with the title “Holy Mother, Empress Dowager” (聖母皇太后). Her aunt Jerjer, as the empress consort of the previous emperor, was similarly honored as “Mother Empress, Empress Dowager” (母后皇太后). Hong Taiji’s 14th brother, Dorgon, was appointed as Prince regent to rule on behalf of the Shunzhi Emperor until the emperor reached adulthood. After Dorgon died in 1650, the Shunzhi Emperor posthumously stripped him of his princely title and had his dead body exhumed and mutilated. It is believed – though not supported by historical evidence – that Bumbutai secretly married Dorgon after Hong Taiji’s death, since levirate marriage was common among Mongols.

Bumbutai kept a low profile during the reign of her son and had little interference in politics. The Shunzhi Emperor died in 1661 and was succeeded by his third son Xuanye, who was enthroned as the Kangxi Emperor. As the grandmother of the reigning emperor, Bumbutai was honoured as Grand Empress Dowager. Since the emperor was underage at the time, the Four Regents of the Kangxi Emperor (appointed by his father) ruled on his behalf until he reached adulthood. During this time, Bumbutai advised her grandson to learn from the regents and took charge of his upbringing after the emperor’s mother died.

When the Kangxi Emperor grew up and started personal rule in 1667, he felt threatened by the strong influence of Oboi, one of the four regents. Two years later, Bumbutai assisted her grandson in his plans to get rid of Oboi. Oboi was lured into a trap, placed under arrest, and removed from power. Throughout her life, Bumbutai disliked living in the Forbidden City, despite the luxurious conditions it offered. She also refused to hold any birthday celebrations as she felt that it would be costly.

When Bumbutai fell sick in the autumn of 1687, the Kangxi Emperor personally took care of his grandmother. She died in 1688 and was interred in what later became the Eastern Qing Tombs in Zunhua.

 

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