Wu Zetian, China’s Female Emperor – Part 1/4

Emperor Wu Zetian was the only woman in China’s history to be crowned an emperor.

Emperor Wu ranks alongside Cleopatra—the last Pharaoh of Egypt, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Queen Isabella of Spain, Queen Elizabeth I of England, Catherine the Great and Queen Victoria.

However, In 637 AD at fourteen, Wu did not have the official status of a court concubine. She was a serving girl in the Imperial palace.

The second and third emperors of the Tang Dynasty were her husbands and seventeen of the emperors that ruled after her second husband died were her children and their children. Empress Wu gave birth to four sons and two daughters.

Mandarin with English Subtitles

After her first husband Emperor Taizong died, she became a nun in Ganye Temple where she stayed for several years before being chosen at the age of twenty-seven to be a low ranking wife of Emperor Gaozong, the second Tang emperor’s son.

Historical records say Wu was a stunning beauty and it was this that attracted Gaozong to her, but some scholars say it was her intelligence that won him over.

One year after being married to Gaozong, Wu outperformed the other wives and concubines to become the Empress.

After becoming Empress, she advised Gaozong on many political issues, which benefited the empire. Eventually, she earned the title of “Queen of Heaven”.

When Emperor Gaozong became seriously ill, he named Wu to deal with the affairs of state in his name.

After Gaozong’s death, Wu funded the carving of the 17 meter high (almost 56 feet) Lu Shena Buddha, the largest rock carved Buddha in the Longmen Grotto.

It is believed that the Buddha’s face is modeled after Emperor Wu since she funded the project.

Continue with Wu Zetian, China’s Female Emperor – Part 2 or discover Ancient Feminism in China

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of the concubine saga, My Splendid Concubine & Our Hart. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too.

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15 Responses to Wu Zetian, China’s Female Emperor – Part 1/4

  1. Hari Qhuang says:

    When I was a kid, I heard pretty much about Wu Ze Tian from the elderly folks. Most of their stories were not something one could find in books.
    There were so many “mythical” tales about this empress. I thought that they were much more interesting than the “historical facts”.

    • Did you hear the one about the empress having her own harem of men?

      • Hari Qhuang says:

        Yes, it was one of the things I heard,
        but I was more interested with her “obsession” of being an immortal. 🙂

        I guess it was just like Emperor Qin’s case. When a ruler feels like he had succeeded in building something, he wanted to live forever to enjoy or develop it further…

      • I haven’t heard the one about her obsession about wanting to be immortal. Maybe she’s still around—as a vampire. Hmmm, sounds like an interesting plot for a novel.

      • Hari Qhuang says:

        Wu Ze Tian was one of the “mortals” mentioned in some tales about The Eight Immortals.

        The most famous one was probably the one in which she tried to “invite” The Goddess He Xian Gu to her palace so that she could learn about her eternal youth and unworldly beauty secrets.

        I tried to picture her as a vampire and I guess she would look cool…
        but it should be a “western” vampire (like Rice’s Lestat) not a Chinese jumping vampire. I don’t think the Han Chinese Empress would want to be a Manchurian Undead. LOL!

      • No, I wouldn’t make her a jumping vampire but different in some way. I mean, how many vampires could have been a female emperor in their mortal life?

      • Hari Qhuang says:

        Ha ha ha
        That’s a good point and a great plot for a book!

        I wonder if there is a good fiction book about the Qing jumping corpse. I love classic TV series and films about those jumping undead. 😀

      • Maybe the empress could have this problem with suddenly losing control and she starts jumping around like a pogo stick hating it becasue she thinks she might look like a fool in front of Western vampires.

      • Hari Qhuang says:

        I think Empress orchid has more chances in turning into the jumping vampire. After all, her body was treat disrespectfully by the nationalist army who raided her tomb. She experienced enough “disturbances” to wake up from her death.

      • Maybe there could be more than one vampire empress. After all, the first one would have to wait almost 1,400 years for an equal she could convert.

      • Hari Qhuang says:

        Ha ha ha
        That’s true!

  2. Marylin says:

    so women have been struggling for centuries to be free of the oppression of men and equal and failing

    • It does seem that way—that women manage to gain some level of equality and power and then lose it again
      After all, a few centuries after Wu Zetian, during the Song (or Sung) Dynasty, the horrible and painful practice of foot binding had its start and would be around for about a thousand years.

      And Look what happens in the Middle East where the Muslims practice Sharia law. A woman can be raped and then buried up to her neck and stoned for adultery while the man goes free. The same fate can happen to a young teen who falls in love and then does what humans have been doing forever.

  3. […] of the Emperor Wu Zetian, who was a woman, was when I wrote a four part series of her starting with Wu Zetian, China’s Female Emperor – Part 1, October 9, […]

  4. […] Wu Zetian, China's Female Emperor – Part 1/4 « iLook China […]

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