【英文对照赏析】 The Virtuous and Selfless Empress Changsun 贤淑无私的长孙皇后
The Virtuous and Selfless Empress Changsun
"Able to lead the troupes during war time and able to give wise advice during peace time," "married to an unequaled emperor," and "a generation’s virtuous Empress" were descriptions of Empress Changsun's life (601 – 636 AD). Others have speculated that Emperor Tang Taizong’s magnificent rule was not only due to his vast cabinet of shrewd advisors and strong generals, his virtuous and kind wife, Empress Changsun, also played a key role.
Empress Changsun was born into an aristocratic family. Her father was Changsun Cheng, a general in the Sui Dynasty. Her grandfather on the mother’s side, Gao Jingde, was the governor of Yangzhou City. She was given a traditional education during childhood, and this made her the sensible, virtuous, gentle, honest and the kind person she was known for. When she was very young, a fortune-teller said that she "carried the power of creation, had boundless virtue, if she let things follow the natural way, she would be very lucky and prosperous."
Changsun married Li Shimin, Taiyuan governor Li Yuan's second son, at the age of 13. Li Shimin (Emperor Tang Taizong’s original name) was only 17. Although she was young, she already lived by a woman's ethics, devotedly served her parents-in-law, helped her husband and educated her children. She was a very good daughter-in-law.
Li Shimin was young, very talented, and proficient in strategies and military tactics. At the age of 18, he rescued his father from a heavily armed enemy camp. When he was 20 years old, he already demonstrated the demeanor of a king. He was courteous and supportive of scholars. He spared no money to hire outstanding people. At the age of 21, he and his father Li Yuan staged a military coup and captured the capital city, Chang'an. Li Yuan declared himself Emperor Gaozu and established the new Tang Dynasty. After Li Yuan declared himself Emperor, he granted Li Shimin the title King of Qin and put him in charge of the Guandong military. Within a few years, Li Shimin conquered all of the rebels and established a united China. Emperor Gaozu thus made him the Tian-Ce Commander, a position above all other kings, as Li Shimin secured the empire. Changsun was by his side all this time, taking care of his daily needs, allowing Li Shimin to dedicate himself to battle.
In Tang Gaozu Wude's ninth year (626 A.D.), Emperor Gauzu renounced his throne and Li Shimin became Emperor Tang Taizong. Changsun became the Empress. This fulfilled the prediction of her "carrying the power of creation." As Empress, Changsun was not arrogant. She remained very humble and virtuous. She respected and diligently served her father-in-law, the former emperor. Every morning and night she paid her respects to him, and frequently reminded the palace maids of how to take care of him. She was just like an ordinary daughter-in-law, showing great filial piety. Changsun was very tolerant and obliging towards the imperial concubines. Her great virtue influenced everyone in the entire palace positively. Thus Emperor Taizong was able to focus on important state matters. Although Changsun was born into a high-ranking and rich family, she remained thrifty and lived a simple life. Her clothes and daily needs were unassuming and not expensive. Her diet and way of life was not extravagant nor costly. Therefore, a simple lifestyle in the palace became the norm.
Because of Empress Changsun's grace and virtue, Emperor Taizong paid great respect to her. He often discussed with her important state affairs and details about awards and punishments. Changsun held her own opinions, but she did not wish to interfere in important national affairs. She thought that men and women were different, thus should serve different duties. When Taizong insisted that she speak her mind, Changsun would respond, but only after careful consideration, "It can only suggest that we should think about danger when living in peace, and recruit capable people who are open to different opinions. Other than that, I cannot suggest anything else." She shared the principle, because she did not want to take up her emperor husband's time with detailed suggestions. She was very confident in the ability of Li Shimin's assistants.