Born – 1315
Died – 1369
Father – Ki Ja-oh (1266 – 1328)
Mother – Wangzai Han Khatun (dates unknown)
Spouse – Toghon Temür (1320 – 1370)
Children – Ayushiridara (1340 – 1378)
Empress Ki, also known as Empress Gi, was born to Ki Ja-oh, a low-ranking beaurocrat and his wife, Wangzai Han Khatun in Haengju (Goyang),Goryeo,. Her birth name is not known but she was born into the Yangban class.
Ki was sent as a tribute from Goryeo to the Yuan capital, Khanbaliq, also called Daidu (Beijing). The Yuan dynasty was the name given to a division of the former Mongol Empire established by Kublai Khan. Ki, was given the name Öljei Khutuk and assigned a position in the royal court.
Ki was noticed by Toghon Temür who fell in love with her.
1332 (23rd October)
Emperor Jayaatu Khan Tugh Temür, known as Mingzong, died. He was succeeded by his youngest son, Rinchinbal Khan. It was runoured that Prime Minister, El Temür had poisoned the Emperor and intended to rule through the 6 year old Rinchibal. Head of the military, Bayan of the Merkid, also had significant power.
Toghon Temür married Danashili, daughter of Prime Minister El Temür. When the new Empress learned of Toghon Temür’s infatuation with Ki she ordered that she be beaten.
Prime Minister El Temür became ill and died. Head of the military, Bayan of the Merkid, took over the role.
1333 (19th July)
Toghon Temür became Emperor of the Yuan dynasty after his younger brother and Emperor, Rinchinbal Khan, died.
Ki became an imperial concubine. Despite her rise, she continued to be harrassed and beaten by the Empress.
A son was born to Emperor Toghon Temür and Danashili but he died young.
Bayan of the Merkid was appointed commander of the Kheshig (Imperial guard).
Empress Danishili’s brother, Tangqishi, staged a coup to take power but it failed and he was killed.
1335 (22nd July)
Empress Danishili was executed by being forced to drink poison following her brother’s failed coup.
1335 (after July)
Toghon Temür tried to have Ki installed as Empress but was opposed by Bayan of the Merkid and the dowager Empress who insisted that he marry a Mongol girl. The lady chosen was Bayan Kutugh a member of the Khonigirad tribe.
Bayan was appointed Grand Chancellor, giving him greater power. He was determined to restore the Yuan dynasty to its former glory and wanted to purify the Mongolian race. He banned intermmarriage between Mongolians and the Chinese and took steps to reduce Chinese monolpoly of trade. At one point he proposed killing all Chinese with the surnames Zhang, Wang, Liu Li and Zhao.
1340 (23rd January)
A son, Ayushiridara, was born to Ki and Emperor Toghon Temür. Following the birth, Ki was named secondary empress.
The Emperor had serious concerns about the authoritarian style of government used by Bayan. Toqto, Bayan’s nephew staged a successful coup against his uncle.
The Empress Bayan Kutugh fell from favour and was exiled. Ki was given the position of Second Imperial Consort making her the highest ranking lady at court.
As Second Imperial Consort, Ki gave many positions to eunuchs born in Goryeo. Park Bul-hwa became her principal servant.
Ki was an educated woman and spent much time reading and learning. She had great influence on the Emperor who gradually left much of the business of government to her.
Ki had used her influence to ensure that her family were given high-ranking positions in Goryeo. This caused much resentment in Goryeo. Her younger brother Ki Sam-man was accused of treason and executed.
Ki’s son, Ayushiridara was named Crown Prince (heir to the throne).
King Gongmin of Goryeo was unhappy with the influence Ki’s family continued to have at the Goryeo court. He ordered a purge and members of her family were executed. In retaliation Ki ordered the Yuan military to attack Goryeo but the mission failed and Goryeo remained independent of the Yuan.
A rebel Chinese group led by Zhu Yuanzhang began taking control of former Mongol land. Yuanzhang took Nanjing and made it his capital.
There was widespread hunger and disease in the capital, Daidu, after crop failure caused a famine. Ki ordered food to be distributed to the people at her cost.
1365 (8th September)
The Empress Bayan Kutugh died. Ki was now named Empress.
Rebel leader Zhu Yuanzhang, had founded the Ming dynasty and now launched a rebellion against the Yuan dynasty. Unable to withstand the attack, Empress Ki, Emperor Toghon Temur and their son Ayushiridara left Daidu and fled north to Yingchang on Lake Taal Nor. Here they established the Northern Yuan.
1370 (30th May)
Emperor Toghon Temur died of dysentery and Ayushiridara became Khan of the Mongols.
The Ming army of Zhu Yuanzhang took control of Yingchang and Ayushiridara fled to Mongolia where he made Karakorum his capital city.
It is presumed that Empress Ki went with her son to Mongolia, but around this time she went missing. She was never found.
Published Jan 02 @ 7:10 pm – Updated –
Harvard Reference for this page:
Heather Y Wheeler. (2021). Empress Ki of the Yuan Dynasty 1315 – c1370. https://www.thetimelinegeek.com/empress-ki-of-the-yuan-dynasty-1315-c1370 Last accessed [date]