Recently in our episode 138, we talked about Justice Bao. His uprightness and grievance of the people made him a legendary figure and fictionalized in many stories. Today we will talk about a famous crime case in the royal family involved Justice Bao.
The story is called 狸猫换 太子, The Civet Cat for Crown Prince from the novel 三侠五义 The Three Heroes and Five Gallants or the The Seven Heroes and Five Gallants from the year 1879 during the Qing dynasty 清朝. The story is set in the Song dynasty 宋朝, in the 11th century and is retold hundreds years in Chinese operas.
Most of the people appeared in the story are real historical figures however the story itself is different from the real history. There are different variations of the story. Today we will talk about one version.
The story says, during the reign of Emperor Zhenzong of Song 宋真宗, the Emperor had no sons to be the next Emperor. He announced whoever gave birth to a boy first would be the queen and the kid would be the crown prince. After almost a year, Consort Li 李辰妃, an imperial concubine of Emperor Zhenzong gave birth to a boy.
Consort Liu 刘德妃, another imperial concubine of the Emperor was jealous and also wanted to be the queen herself, plotted with eunuch Guo Huai 郭槐 to secretly swap the new born prince with a skinned civet cat right after the birth. When the Emperor came to visit Consort Li and the baby, all he saw was the bloody civet cat and the rumor was out that Consort Li gave birth to a monster and she must be an evil spirit herself. She was sent to Leng Gong 冷宫, a place where the ancient Chinese Emperor sent all the consorts or children he didn’t want to see anymore. Basically a better prison.
Consort Liu herself was pregnant not long after that and gave birth to a boy. The boy became the new crown prince and the murderer Consort Liu became the queen.
Everyone likes a good ending and wanted to believe justice. That’s how most stories are popular including this one.
What happened to Consort Li’s new born prince who got swapped? Consort Liu ordered her maid Kou Zhu 寇珠 drown the baby in the river. However, just like in the Snow White story, the maid was reluctant to kill the baby and gave the baby to the chief eunuch Chen Lin 陈琳 who brought the child to the younger brother of Emperor, the Eighth Prince 八贤王. The child was adopted and raised by the family as their son.
What happened next? We will continue the story in our next episode.
The Three Heroes and Five Gallants 三侠五义