This paper investigates the reasoning behind Empress Dowager Ling’s adjudication in the case of Princess Lan Ling’s maidservant’s dismemberment. Although it could plausibly be argued that Empress Dowager Ling was motivated by a sense of gender solidarity with Princess Lan Ling, this paper argues that the weight of evidence favors an interpretation where the Empress Dowager was motivated instead by the privileged status she accorded to friends and family.
This paper presents nine cases involving women who were the same age as Empress Dowager Ling. The cases of Yuan Hsiang and Yuan Yu are instances of Empress Dowager Ling’s husband, Emperor Hsuan Wu, disregarding the law—granting preferential treatment—with respect to those who are on intimate terms with the royal family, a group including even rebels.
When Empress Dowager Ling became ruler of the Northern Wei Dynasty, she was even more inclined to give preferential treatment to friends and family, as evident in the cases of Yuan Mi, Princess Chi Nan, Yuan Yueh, Yuan Yung, Kao Tsung, Yuan Cha, and Hou Kang. We conclude that the Empress Dowager’s adjudication of the matter between Princess Lan Ling and Liu Hui reflects the same tendency.