Wu Zetian: The Only Woman being the Emperor of China

Wu Zetian was only one woman emperor of ancient Central Nation. She was born in AD 624 in Bing Zhou where was in modern-days Shanxi Province. At the age of 14, she was selected to be a Cairen which was a title of a lower concubine in the period of Tang Tai-Zong who was the second emperor. After the death of Tai-Zong, she became a Buddhist nun according to court rituals. One day Tang Gao-Zong, the son of Tai-Zong, met her in the temple and became enamored of her beauty. So he recalled Wu Zetian and let her be a Zhaoyi. This title was higher than Cairen. Wu Zetian was not only beautiful, but also intelligent. She completely possessed the heart of feeble Gao-Zong. In 655, Wu Zetian became an empress, and participated in politics. In 668, at her suggestion, Gao-Zong appointed Li Ji who was a famous general to lead the army to attack Koryu which was a country in the north of modern-days Korea Peninsula, and annexed it. In 674, with the proposal of Wu Zetian, Tang Gao-Zong established a prescript that the title of emperor was Heaven-Emperor and the titile of empress was Heaven-Empress. With the help of this wise woman, Tang Empire was more and more powerful. Of course, the ambition of Zetian was bigger and bigger. In 683, Tang Zhong-Zong Li Xian, the third son of Wu Zetian, ascended the throne. As his mother, Wu Zetian intervened publicly in the affairs of imperial government. But this son didn’t obey his mother, so in the next year Wu Zetian dethroned Zhong-Zong, and let her fourth son Li Dan ascend the throne.

In 690, Wu Zetian dethroned Li Dan, and mounted the throne. It was not easy that she was able to be a woman emperor. In order to realize her political ideal, she defeated her opponents one after another in cruel political conflicts. At last, she became an emperor that women didn’t dare to think of in a long androcentric society. She changed the name of her country to “Zhou”, because she wanted her empire long-lived as Zhou Dynasty. In order to cull excellent talents, she initiated the system of examination by the emperor. And she ordered all talented people could put themselves up. In order to keep her ruling, she appointed relentless officers to persecute many opponents and even innocent persons.

At the old age of Wu Zetian, she was nagged into the problem who can be her heir. Her daughter Taiping-Princess wanted her mother gave the throne to her, and her nephew Wu Chengsi wanted, too. But many ministers opposed. The old woman emperor had to consider the opinions of ministers. In 705, her oppositions mounted a coup and forced her to give up the throne. Tang Zhong-Zong ascended the throne again. He gave his mother an empty title. In this winter, after a lonely, plaintive and confined time, Wu Zetian, the only one woman emperor of ancient Central Nation, died.

Though Wu Zetian died, she set an example to later ambitious women. After five years, Wei-Empress, the wife of Tang Zhong-Zong, killed Zhong-Zong with poison. Like Wu Zetian, she set up a puppet emperor and intervened publicly in the affairs of imperial government with her daughter Anle-Princess. But Li Longji, the son of Li Dan, who was Tang Xuan-Zong later, mounted a coup with his aunt Taiping-Princess, and killed this ambitious woman and her samely ambitious daughter Anle-Princess. They let Li Dan be the emperor, and this emperor was Tang Rui-Zong.

In this coup, Shangguan Wan’er, the trusted assistant of Wu Zetian, who was an excellent woman with remarkable ability and talent, was killed unfortunately. She was the granddaughter of Shangguan Yi. Shangguan Yi was killed by Wu Zetian because he advised Tang Gao-Zong to depose the ambitious empress. But Shangguan Wan’er was adopted by Wu Zetian. At the age of 14, she became the secretary of Wu Zetian. Once Li’s royal clansmen instigated her to revenge her family, but at last Shangguan Wan’er abandoned revenge because of the brilliant talent and magnetic personality of Wu Zetian. In the times of Zhong-Zong, she became an officer to comment on poems of the whole country, and she advised the government to appoint more scholars. She wrote many poems and articles, but they were lost.

In the times of Tang Rui-Zong, Taiping-Princess held the power. When Li Longji ascended the throne, Taiping-Princess plotted a coup, but the plan was divulged and she was killed.

In the long androcentric society of ancient China, there were many women who participated in politics, but no the second one became an emperor as Wu Zetian. Wu Zetian was a perfect stateswoman with beauty, ability, talent and political skill. Wei-Empress and Anle-Princess didn’t have the ability to dominate political conflicts, but they only had selfish and greedy desire, so they couldn’t acquire the support of officers and people. Taiping-Princess lacked the decisive character of her mother. Accordingly, in the long ancient times, the only woman who became the emperor of China was Wu Zetian.

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