Ma was from Suzhou. She lost her mother in early childhood, and her father entrusted her to Guo Zixing, who adopted her as daughter. Fond of reading classics and history, she was talented and knowledgeable. In the twelfth year of Zhizheng of Emperor Shun of the Yuan Dynasty, Guo Zixing married her to Zhu Yuanzhang. In 1368, Zhu Yuanzhang founded the Ming Dynasty and set her up as empress. She bore four sons. Living a simple life herself, Empress Ma was very strict with her children. In 1382, she died of illness at the age of fifty-one. On her deathbed, she gave her last words: “I hope your majesty will seek after men of worth and ability, be accessible to advice, and see thing ends well as it begins well. I also hope that our descendants will be all worthy, and officials and common people will all get their right places.” Keeping Empress Ma in his mind, Zhu Yuanzhang never set up a new empress. When Emperor Chengzu mounted the throne, he conferred on her the respectful posthumous title of “Empress of Piety, Benevolence and Bright Dignity”.