Wu Zetian - The Only Female Emperor in the History of China
Wu Zetian was the only female emperor in the Chinese feudal dynasties spanning more than 4,000 years. With exceptional wisdom and great talent, she was a cruel and merciless woman, who would reach her goals by fair means or foul. Nevertheless, she made great political achievements. Even today, movies and TV plays featuring her life are drawing great attention and research interest.
At the age of 14, Wu Zetian was selected into the imperial court by Emperor Taizong of the Tang Dynasty, thanks to her engaging beauty. But she was not very much in favor with the Emperor. In the imperial harem, she got to know one of the sons of Emperor Taizong-Li Zhi. After the death of Emperor Taizong, Wu Zetian was sent to Ganye Temple to be a nun. When Li Zhi ascended the throne, he recalled her to the imperial court. As Li Zhi’s concubine, Wu Zetian was not in a high position, but she was good at gaining the emperor’s favor by using various tactics.
In the intrigue-filled imperial harem, Wu Zetian was merciless and cruel. She would use clever tricks to make the queen and other concubines out of favor with the emperor. In the end, she succeeded in the struggles and became queen. Wu Zetian began to put her political talent into full play by expressing her political views and intervening in state affairs, gaining an equal status to that of Emperor Gaozong (Li Zhi) and they were known at the time as “the Two Sages”. After the death of Emperor Gaozong, Wu Zetian appointed and annulled her sons as emperor for several times. At last, she made herself emperor and changed the title of the Dynasty to “Zhou”.
After ascending the throne, Wu Zetian adopted some liberal and advanced political systems, including selecting talent on a large scale, conducting economic development and responding positively to expostulation. The stable society and booming economy during her reign laid a foundation for “the Kaiyuan Flourishing Age” later in the Tang Dynasty.
On the other hand, Wu Zetian put cruel officials in important positions and put innocent officials under various accusations at every turn, subjecting them to cruel torture, which resulted in countless injustice cases. In order to consolidate her political position, she adopted inhumane measures to indiscriminately slaughter the innocent people. These practices were condemned by the people. Her historical contribution and mistakes, just like “the Wordless Tablet” she erected for herself, can only be commented and judged by history.
In 705 AD, Prime Minister Zhang Jianzhi reinstated Wu Zetian’s son as Emperor (Zhongzong) in a coup when she was old and sick. In the winter of the same year, Wu Zetian died at the age of 82. The great poet Li Bai of the Tang Dynasty listed Wu Zetian as one of the “Seven Sages” of the dynasty.