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The distinction between 嫡子 and 庶子 was supposedly crucial in struggles for the Chinese imperial throne. It is often repeated (example) that only sons of the Empress were considered 嫡子。

Here it is stated explicitly, that the sons of 貴妃 were not 嫡子. And yet in the Zizhitongjian, scroll 238 , the son of a highest ranking concubine (貴妃) is referred to as 嫡子。

Relevant passage:

立遂王宥為太子,更名恆。恆,郭貴妃之子也。諸姬子澧王寬,長於恆。上將立恆,命崔群為寬草讓表。群曰:「凡推己之有以與人謂之讓。遂王,嫡子也,寬何讓焉!」

Partial translation attempt:

The King of Sui, You, was installed as crown prince. His Name was changed to Heng. He was the Son of Guo Guifei. The son of an ordinary consort, King of Li, Kuan, was elder than Heng. The Emperor wanted(?) to install Heng . He instructed Cui Qun to draft an abdication for Kuan. Qun said: […] „ The King of Sui is a 嫡子! How could Kuan abdicate (i.e.: as he was not entitled to begin with)?

So, what was the precise definition of 嫡子?Was the above just a deliberate distortion of facts by Cui Qun? Or perhaps my understanding of the Ancient Chinese quote is crucially flawed?

Supplements


Dictionaries Link 嫡子 to 正妻

My Hanyu Dacidian defines 嫡子 as the son of 正妻:

正妻所生之子

This is also repeated here:

嫡子(正妻所生之子)

Who is 正妻?

If we start out from this definition (that 嫡子 are precisely the sons of 正妻) the prevalent claim seems to be that only the Empress is 正妻. This source states:

皇帝的女人虽然多,但是正妻却只有一个,那就是“皇后”。/ Although the Emperor‘s women were many, there nonetheless was but one 正妻,namely the Empress.

Here is one more article that implicitly equates 皇后 with 皇帝的正妻 (“ “后”本来是君王的称呼。后来成为帝王妻子的专用名称,既然是皇帝的正妻,于是称“皇后”“).

Here one more that makes it explicit.

I see at least three possibilities:

  1. Only the Empress is a 正妻,崔群 is not explained
  2. The first properly wed wife is 正妻
  3. Several wifes are 正妻 as it is alleged for pre-imperial China

Is the relevant maternal rank that at time of childbirth?

Based on the example of 商纣王 and brothers by the same mother here I assume mother‘s rank at birth to be relevant. Is this correct for 嫡子 in the Tang period?

Legal Situation (presumably not for royals)

Is very clearly set out in 唐律 159. After the primary wife reaches a certain age, an ordinary son (庶子)may be made 嫡子。

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    It is mentioned here but I don't have access and Ming is the subject period. It seems to be linked to 如王年三十,正妃未 有嫡子,其庶子止為郡王。待王與正妃年五十無嫡,始立庶長子為王世子 "The oldest son of the [principal wife of the] heir apparent in the di lineage is called the imperial grandson." but I don't know if the characters refer to that phrase or something else in the text. This mentions the characters in a Han era context. – gktscrk Jul 28 '20 at 9:07
  • @gktscrk thank you! How does that define Dizi though? I have read the article by Soulliere. I will do it again! – Ludi Jul 28 '20 at 9:12
  • Sorry, I don't have a clue :P. I can't read Chinese characters but I figured I would search and see what crops up to see if any of it might be useful for you. Have you read 'On the Selection of Tang Crown Princes' (and, if you have, was it useful)? The other article I linked to was 'A Study on the System of Succession...' but I didn't find a version of it online. – gktscrk Jul 28 '20 at 9:18
  • @gktscrk I have not read the „Selection“ and the title appears extremely promising! Many thanks! Let me try to access... – Ludi Jul 28 '20 at 9:19
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    @gktscrk absolutely. If you check my other questions, there are some on similar topics. I have now compiled pretty detailed statistics on Tang succession, but I had payed insufficient attention to the question of Dizi. Eventually I hope to upload some answers to this entire cluster. – Ludi Jul 28 '20 at 9:56
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Well according to Wiki the answer is as below:

Pronounced [dí zǐ]

嫡子, refers to the son born in the main room. In order: the eldest son , the second son, the third son.

When there is an ordinary wife, the son of an ordinary wife is also a "diet", but the status is slightly lower than that of the son of an ordinary wife. If the regular wife has no children, then the unborn child born to the regular wife is exactly the same as the “son born to the unborn wife”. At this time, the sons born to the regular wife are called " zhengyuan ", and the sons born to the regular wife are called " pingyuan". Dizi and " bastard " relative; "heir-apparent Female" and "Shu children" relative.

嫡子 sometimes refers only to the son who inherits the family business. If there are several children in the main room, the eldest son is called the concubine, and the sons of the same mother and concubine are called concubines. In the absence of the main room, the eldest son of the concubine will also be called the concubine, and the younger brothers are still called the concubine. wikiwand

Additional Questions and Answers. Edit 1 -

(Q) This seems self contradictory „ When there is an ordinary wife, the son of an ordinary wife is also a "diet", but the status is slightly lower than that of the son of an ordinary wife“

(Q)This I can not understand: „ the unborn child born to the regular wife is exactly the same as the “son born to the unborn wife“

(A)

In Chinese ancient society , entropy wife born child is legitimate son female ; concubine wife children born as Shu children, also known as concubines children answer to question in comments

Therefore it would appear to translate to the difference being between "legitimate son" and "illegitimate son", rather than ordinary and regular.

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    Thank you! This seems self contradictory „ When there is an ordinary wife, the son of an ordinary wife is also a "diet", but the status is slightly lower than that of the son of an ordinary wife“ – Ludi Jul 28 '20 at 9:08
  • This I can not understand: „ the unborn child born to the regular wife is exactly the same as the “son born to the unborn wife“ – Ludi Jul 28 '20 at 9:08
  • 多謝!多可惜,這個答案存在語言方面的小問題。請您看一下網頁的規則。如果他們允許您寫中文答案,我個人將會認真看看。我的漢語還存在嚴重問題,但我慢慢看就可以 :) – Ludi Jul 28 '20 at 9:37
  • 或者您可以在英文答案之下加中文版。這樣我覺得,沒有人能批評 :) – Ludi Jul 28 '20 at 9:41

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