Monday, December 16, 2013

Empress Dowager Liu

Although her full name is not known, Liu was the third and last empress of Shi Hu (Emperor Wu). Captured by his army as a child, she was first presented to him as a gift, became his consort, and after giving birth to his youngest son Shi Shi she was crowned as empress. After Shi Hu died, she became a regent empress for her young son, sharing power with Zhang Chai after having displaced Shi Hu’s older son Shi Zun

Shi Zun eventually returned to claim the throne and marched his army to seize the capital. He had Zhang Chai executed immediately and then forged a document to depose Shi Shi from the throne and turn it over to him. He granted Liu and Shi Shi the titles of Prince and Princess Dowager of Qiao. Shortly afterwards he had both Liu and her son executed*.

*Please note that information we found on Empress Liu's death was very sketchy in the details. Going off of execution methods that were popular in China at the time she died, it is likely that she was beheaded or that her head was severed and displayed after her execution.


Empress Liu is a reworked vinyl doll that stands 13" tall. Liu has been hand-painted to resemble a classic oriental doll, and her eyes have been left clear to complete the effect. She wears a long blue satin robe with floral print. Her torso band and inner sleeves are made with a gold dupioni silk. She also wears a cream-colored silk tunic under her robe. Around her neck hangs a beaded necklace with a large floral-printed pendant.

Her severed head wears its hair in a high style with beaded accents and a gold silk veil. The neck stump and above the shoulders are both neatly cut to resemble a swift sword blow, which is presumably how she met her end. Blood, spinal column bone, and muscle tissue is visible from both wounds.

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