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

November 11, 2010

As a woman Emperor, Wu Zetian ruled with an iron fist as if she were a man. However, her decisions show she was intelligent but also passionate and tender at times.

There is a collection of fifty-eight of Wu’s poems. Most of her poetry was written for temple ceremonies and some for travel.

She also wrote many books and collected art. Wu edited the Book of Agriculture, which influenced agricultural development during the Tang Dynasty.

In fact, there is evidence that Wu respected decisive men such as her Prime Minister De Renji. She often talked about Li Shimin, her first husband, with respect.

The historical record shows that she respected men who dared to speak up about issues concerning principles regardless of the risk to his life.


Mandarin with English Subtitles

After her death, her son and heir was removed as emperor due to a plot.

In 710, Wu’s grandson, Li Longji, defeated the enemy that intended to take over the dynasty and returned his father to the throne. Eventually, Longji would become Emperor Tang Xuanzong.

Under Emperor Yuanzong, the Dynasty continued to prosper.

However, when Yuanzong grew old, he neglected his duties and spent too much time with his favorite concubine. The officials became corrupt and this led to the Shi Rebellion, which his son, the next emperor, had to suppress.

Next, the eunuchs began to gain too much power. The next fourteen emperors from 756 to 907 were weak and the Tang Dynasty continued to unravel until it collapsed.

The historical evidence says Wu Zetian should have earned praise for her insights and ambition since she did a better job as Emperor than most of the men that ruled the Tang Dynasty (618 – 907).

Return to Wu Zetian, China’s Female Emperor – Part 3 or start with Part 1

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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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Wu Zetian, China’s Female Emperor – Part 3/4

November 10, 2010

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.


Mandarin with English Subtitles

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.

Return to Wu Zetian, China’s Female Emperor – Part 2 or continue to Part 4

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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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Wu Zetian, China’s Female Emperor – Part 2/4

November 9, 2010

Emperor Gaozong died in 683 AD, and Wu’s third son Lixian became the emperor.

However, a month later, she had him removed from power. Then her fourth son refused to become the emperor but eventually accepted the title and became known as Emperor Tang Ruizong.

Wu believed that her sons were weak, so she continued to control the affairs of state as Empress.

Although there are rumors and gossip that Wu had many love affairs, it is obvious from her age when Emperor Gaozong died that the stories are exaggerations encouraged by her political enemies and the imaginations of future scholars of historical textbooks.


Mandarin with English Subtitles

After eight years of ruling the empire without officially being the Emperor, Wu made a shocking decision. In 690 AD, Wu changed the Tang Dynasty into the Zhou Dynasty and declared herself as Emperor.

She was sixty-seven.

Since 655 AD, after becoming Gaozong’s Empress, she ruled the Dynasty for 29 years and after he died, she ruled for 21 more years for 50 total.

While Wu ruled the Tang Dynasty, the economy, culture, social and political affairs prospered. She was also a talented military leader who reformed the army. After the reforms, without leaving her palace, she managed military conflicts with rival states and defeated them.

Under her leadership, the empire expanded and grew stronger.

Near her death in 704 AD, Wu returned the throne to her third son Lixian, who became Emperor again.

Return to Wu Zetian, China’s Female Emperor – Part 1 or continue to Part 3

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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.

If you want to subscribe to iLook China, there is a “Subscribe” button at the top of the screen in the menu bar.


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

November 9, 2010

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.

Subscribe to iLook China, there is an E-mail “Subscribtion” in the right-top column.


Ancient Feminism in China

November 8, 2010

Britannica Concise Encyclopedia says Feminism is a social movement that seeks equal rights for women.

The dates the Britannica throws out are the Enlightenment, a European intellectual movement of the 17th and 18th centuries and the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention, which called for full legal equality with men.

Merriam-Webster’s definition is “the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes” and “organized activity on behalf of women’s rights and interests.”

In fact, for centuries, Western women had been treated as chattel—the property of men.

After watching the video and reading the entry in Britannica and the definition in Merriam-Webster, it’s obvious that feminism was alive and well in China more than a thousand years ago during the Tang Dynasty.

In fact, Emperor Wu Zetian (625 to 705 AD) was a very early feminist that ruled the Tang Dynasty as an emperor and was China’s only woman emperor.

The Tang Dynasty was a time of relative freedom for women. Women did not bind their feet (for a few more centuries) or lead submissive lives.  It was a time in which a number of exceptional women contributed in the areas of culture and politics. Source: Women in World History

Wu Zetian demanded the right of an emperor and kept male concubines. She also challenged Confucian beliefs against rule by women and started a campaign to elevate the position of women.

Learn more about Powerful Chinese Women

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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. 

If you want to subscribe to iLook China, there is a “Subscribe” button at the top of the screen in the menu bar.