After the death of Emperor Taizong, Wu’s first husband, she lived in a Buddhist monastery as a nun and was a faithful follower of Buddhism.
Some scholars claim that she became a Buddhist for political reasons.
In fact, she did have many Buddhist temples built and sculptures of Buddha made. This cost a great deal.
However, as far as affairs of state were concerned, she made good decisions without hesitation.
She did not allow her Buddhist beliefs to influence her decisions.
For example, she only promoted officials who earned the right to be promoted. There is no evidence of favoritism.
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She also did not rule as a tyrant. Before making decisions, she listened to all views. Today, historians study her ruling style, and the evidence says her political decisions were wise ones.
During the fifty years that Wu ruled the Tang Dynasty, China’s borders expanded north, south and west and she did not lose any of the territory won.
Wu understood that with the people’s support, political stability was guaranteed. When there were tragedies such as floods, the dynasty offered relief so the people recovered.
Although imperial family members attempted to restore the Tang Dynasty, most of the rebellions were suppressed in two or three months.
Officials who were convicted of failing in their duties to the people were punished and often beheaded.
While Wu ruled China, the role of women in Chinese society changed drastically. Women didn’t have to worry about the clothing they wore. Women wrote poetry, rode horses, played Chinese chess, made music and practiced archery as men did.
Even after Wu was forced to retire at eighty, there were officials that called for her to return. The historical records show that the Tang emperors that followed here were not as open as she was.
Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.
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