Culture

The man who tried to bring his lover back from the dead

Sep 24, 2018

When he lost his great love to illness, one powerful leader tried to bring her back. With necromancy.

Emperor Wu is considered one of China’s greatest rulers, presiding over the expansive Han dynasty for the 54 years between 141 and 87 BC.

He’s known for establishing his central government and vastly increasing the Han dynasty’s territories with his military prowess.

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Photo: Emperor Wu/Wikimedia Commons

The emperor is also known for his love for his favorite consort, Lady Li. After she passed away around 100 BC, the emperor got a necromancer to summon her spirit to him.

It’s said he was convinced he was speaking to her, separated by just a curtain.

He was so moved, he wrote a poem:

Is it she? is it not? I stand gazing from afar;

timid steps, soft and slow, how long she is in coming!

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Photo: Lady Li/Wikimedia Commons

The medium who performed the rite, Shaoweng, impressed the emperor so much that he was showered with gifts, and even given the rank of honorary general.

But he fell out of favor soon enough. Later, he faked a ritual involving an ox “delivering” a fortune (that he had pre-written on a piece of paper, and fed to the ox). The emperor recognized his handwriting, and realized he was duped.

Shaoweng was ordered to be executed.