She was 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 the reign of the Zhengde Emperor, young Qijie 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 Qijie with the new ruler, Jiajing. Fortunately, she did not lose her title.
After the Great Rites Controversy, Jun infiltrated the Forbidden City to free Qijie and the other concubines. Qijie 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. Qijie then told Jun to leave in peace, and Jun accepted her decision. With her hard work and patience, Qijie became the Jiajing Emperor'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 Empress Zhang once the Templars made their presence clear to her.
About four years later, on account of undisclosed conflicts between her and the Jiajing Emperor, she was stripped of her title. Zhang Qijie died sometime in the year 1537 without conceiving any imperial children.
Behind the scenes
Empress Zhang was a historical figure and character first introduced in the spin-off game, Assassin's Creed Chronicles: China, where she is voiced by Marilyn O'Brien. Her backstory with Shao Jun was explored further in the manga, Assassin's Creed: Blade of Shao Jun.
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".
- Assassin's Creed Chronicles: China (first appearance)
- Assassin's Creed: The Official Movie Novelization
- Assassin's Creed: Blade of Shao Jun (appears in flashback(s))