Empress Zhang (1504 – 1537) was the second wife of the Jiajing Emperor of China, raised in the Forbidden City alongside other concubines. The daughter of a palace guard, Zhang was the childhood best friend of Shao Jun, who became an Assassin after escaping the Imperial court.
During Emperor Zhengde's rule, young Zhang and Jun were poised to become an Imperial Consort or even Empress, but with his death, their fate became unclear. During the interregnum, Jun contacted the Assassins and left Zhang with the new ruler, Jiajing. Fortunately, she did not lose her title.
After the Great Rites Controversy, Jun infiltrated the Forbidden City to free Zhang and the other concubines. Zhang refused the offer, and told her that she wanted to stay, even if the Emperor was a cruel man – she elaborated that she was lucky to please him and did not want to hear about Templar plots. Zhang then told Jun to leave in peace, and Jun accepted her decision. With her hard work and patience, Zhang became the Jiajing's Empress.
In 1530, Zhang Yong and Qiu Ju used Empress Zhang to set a trap for Shao Jun, the two Templars forcing her co-operation by threatening her life. When Jun arrived, she was horrified to find the only person alive that she could trust had betrayed her; nevertheless, she forgave Zhang, once the Templars made their presence clear to her.
About four years later, on account of unknown conflicts between her and Emperor Jiajing, she was stripped of her title. Zhang died sometime in the year 1537 without conceiving any imperial children.
- Empress Zhang is only known by her surname, and her personal name remains unknown.
- Zhāng (張) is a common Chinese family name that means "to open up, to stretch, to extend" and is also employed as the measure word for flat objects such as paper or cloth. However, its etymology is an allusion to archery as it originally referred to "stretching a bow".