The Love Story of Empress Dugu Jialuo and the Emperor

Buddha statue face.

Dugu Jialuo was Empress of the Sui Dynasty, the wife of Sui Dynasty Emperor Wen, and a devout Buddhist. (Image: Helena via Pixabay)

Dugu Jialuo was Empress of the Sui Dynasty, the wife of Sui Dynasty Emperor Wen, and a devout Buddhist. She often lamented that life was hard and being a woman was even harder; therefore, the only way to be liberated was through a belief in Buddhism.   

The beautiful and gentle-natured Dugu Jialuo, at the age of 14, married 17-year-old Yang Jian, who later became Emperor Wen in Sui Dynasty. They were deeply in love; they vowed to be with each other until death and love each other till the end of time. Yang Jian promised Dugu Jialuo that he would never have children with another woman.   

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Dugu Jialuo’s parents died shortly after her marriage. Yang Jian loved and devoted himself to her even more. She followed him through thick and thin and helped him during the most difficult of times. More than 20 years passed and in A.D. 581, Yang Jian became Emperor Wen of the Sui Dynasty, and Dugu was made his Empress.    

Emperor Wen of Sui.
Emperor Wen of Sui, July 21, 541–August 13, 604. (Image: via Public Domain)

After becoming the emperor, Yang Jian did not want to live in separate quarters away from his beloved wife, which was the customary rule of the day. They lived an intimate life like a normal couple, with no concubines. She took care of him in the morning by way of feeding him, washing him, and clothing him, and then accompanied him to the imperial court. She waited near the meeting hall, met up with him after the meeting, and returned to the palace together. They were inseparable. She oversaw his daily life, from his attire to his meals.   

Empress Dugu Jialuo was studious and knowledgeable. She possessed long-term vision and acted decisively. The emperor respected her and had a lot of confidence in her; therefore, he often consulted her about important issues of state and followed her advice. It was hard to tell who came up with state policy during the initial years of the Sui Dynasty. The empress had political talents and helped the emperor govern the state in an orderly manner. The officials saw her contribution and held her in high regard. They named them “The Two Saints.”   

Empress Dugu Jialuo was influential in spreading Buddhism

Empress Dugu Jialuo was not only a central figure in Sui Dynasty politics, but she was also influential in spreading and protecting Buddhism. She played a key role in the development of Buddhism in the Sui and Tang dynasties. She believed in Buddhism since she was a child. Being ordained by the Bodhisattva, she thought that life was full of suffering and one could only be freed by chanting Buddhist mantras. She often listened to Buddhist lectures and was often seen chanting in the palace. 

Emperor Wen and Empress Dugu Jialuo ruled in the Sui Dynasty.
Administrative division of the Sui Dynasty circa A.D.
610. (Image: via Wikipedia)

The benevolent Empress Dugu Jialuo often assisted the needy by cooking porridge for them and helping them settle down. She led a simple life, but she was generous to the monasteries. She built temples for her relatives and nuns and participated in relic events with the emperor. She created more than 6,000 volumes of Tripitaka (Buddhist teachings) for distribution and as offerings to the Buddhist gods, setting a historical precedent that had a profound impact.   

Empress Dugu became ill in the autumn of A.D. 602. She later foresaw the end of her life, made the proper preparations, and passed away at the age of 59.   

According to historical records, the Empress foresaw the end of her life. She bathed in fragrant water, held prayer beads, recited Buddhist scriptures, and departed quietly. The room was filled with a fragrant scent, and heavenly music resounded in the air. 

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