A Queen

Chinese Leather Silhouette Art

When the Empress Madame Li was seriously ill, His Majesty went to see her. She covered up her face with her bed quilt, and said, "I thank Your Majesty for the honor. But I have been ill for a long time and I have been so emaciated that I am unfit to receive you. My only wish is that you take care of my brothers and the princes of my blood after my death."

"You are very ill, and I am not sure that you will be able to recover," replied the emperor. "Do let me see you and tell me what you want me to do for your brothers. Isn't this simpler?"

"But I dare not. It is not fit that I should see you in my condition with my face so ravaged by disease."

"Please let me see you. I will give you a thousand taels and give your brothers high posts," pleaded the emperor.

"That is in your power. But please do not insist," replied Madame Li.

The emperor continued to plead. The empress then turned her face toward the other side and sobbed, and she did not speak any more. The emperor was displeased and left.

When the emperor was gone, her sisters said to her, "Why didn't you let him see you just for the sake of your brothers? As if you hated him!"

"I did what I did exactly for the sake of my brothers," replied Madame Li. "You must understand men. I rose to this position because of my looks, and he still thinks of me because he has in his mind what he saw of me when I was young and beautiful. If I should let him see me now, he would be so disgusted that the chances of my brothers receiving his favors would really be impaired."

When Madame Li died, the emperor gave her a lavish funeral. Later, he made her elder brother, Li Kuangli, a general and Duke of Haishi, and made Li Yenien Vice-Commander of the Guards.

~by Pan Ku~