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Chinese emperor. Source:

Weird Things That Were Normal for Chinese Emperors (Video)


In the rich tapestry of Chinese imperial history, the idiosyncrasies of emperors present a captivating tableau. These divine sovereigns, reigning over China for millennia, engaged in customs that might strike us as peculiar today. Foremost among these customs was the exclusive use of the color yellow, reserved solely for emperors. Yellow symbolized their centrality to the nation, likening them to the radiant sun at the heart of the kingdom. Perhaps the most renowned of these customs was the maintenance of extensive harems, featuring primary brides and concubines. This practice, although unconventional by contemporary standards, was an integral facet of imperial life. Concubines underwent rigorous examinations by palace physicians before entering the Forbidden City, where they engaged in traditional activities.

Emperors occasionally exhibited extravagant wealth, such as Emperor Xuan, who constructed a vast pool filled with wine and an island adorned with meat skewers. Such opulence, however, often provoked discontent among their subjects. Cruelty occasionally marked their reigns. Emperor Houfei used his general for archery practice, and Emperor Jian's penchant for violence resulted in a deadly board game. Notably, throughout Chinese history, the tradition of male rule remained steadfast, with Empress Wu Zetian serving as the sole exception. These anecdotes from China's imperial past, though unconventional, provide glimpses into a world where emperors held divine authority, and their actions were accepted as the norm.

Top image: Chinese emperor. Source:

By Robbie Mitchell

Robbie Mitchell's picture


I’m a graduate of History and Literature from The University of Manchester in England and a total history geek. Since a young age, I’ve been obsessed with history. The weirder the better. I spend my days working as a freelance... Read More

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