Empress Dan's father Dan Zheng (單徵) was a Di chieftain, who submitted to Han Zhao in 308. It is not known when she married Liu Yuan, but he made her his wife and empress in early 310, while also creating his son Liu He, by his first wife Empress Huyan crown prince. (However, Empress Dan's son Liu Ai (劉乂), while described as young in 310, was already capable of independent thinking, implying that he was probably born before 300.) Liu Yuan died later that year and was succeeded by Liu He, who was however overthrown and killed by Liu Cong after only a week as emperor. Liu Cong initially offered the throne to Liu Ai, but Liu Ai declined, and Liu Cong took the throne himself. He honored Empress Dan as empress dowager and created her son Liu Ai crown prince.
Empress Dowager Dan was described as still young and beautiful at this point, and she carried on an affair with Liu Cong, which was considered incest in traditional Chinese tradition. Crown Prince Ai became aware of the affair and tried to persuade her to end it. Knowing that her son knew about the affair, she died late in 310, being described of having died "of her shame," implying the possibility that she might have committed suicide.
Empress Huyan (Liu Yuan's wife)
|Empress of Han Zhao
Empress Huyan (Liu Cong's wife)