Wednesday, 16 November 2016
The Empress-Wu Zetian
Wu Zetian (624 – December 16, 705), also known as Wu Zhao, Wu Hou, and during the later Tang dynasty as Tian Hou, referred to in English as Empress Consort Wu or by the deprecated term"Empress Wu", was a Chinese sovereign who ruled unofficially as empress consort and empress dowager and later, officially as empress regnant (皇帝) during the brief Zhou dynasty (周, 684-705), which interrupted the Tang dynasty (618–690 & 705–907). Wu was the only Empress regnant of China in more than four millennia.
Wu was the concubine of Emperor Taizong. After his death, she married his successor—his ninth son, Emperor Gaozong, officially becoming Gaozong's huanghou (皇后, variously translated as "empress", "wife", or "empress consort") in 655, although having considerable political power prior to this. After Gaozong's debilitating stroke in 660, Wu Zetian became administrator of the court, a position equal as emperor, until 705.
The importance to history of Wu Zetian's period of political and military leadership includes the major expansion of the Chinese empire, extending it far beyond its previous territorial limits, deep into Central Asia, and engaging in a series of wars on the Korean peninsula, first allying with Silla against Goguryeo, and then against Silla over occupation of formerly Goguryeo territory. Within China, besides the more direct consequences of her struggle to gain and maintain supreme power, Wu's leadership resulted in important effects regarding social class in Chinese society and in relation to state support for Taoism, Buddhism, education, and literature. Wu Zetian also had a monumental impact upon the statuary of the Longmen Grottoes and the "Wordless Stele" at the Qianling Mausoleum, as well as the construction of some major buildings and bronze castings that no longer survive.
Despite the important aspects of her reign, together with the suggestions of modern scholarship as to the long-term effects of some of her innovations in governance, much of the attention paid to Wu Zetian has been to her gender, as the anomalous female sovereign of a unified Chinese empire officially holding the title of huangdi (皇帝). Besides her career as a political leader, Wu Zetian also had an active family life. Although family relationships sometimes became problematic, Wu Zetian was the mother of four sons, three of whom also carried the title of emperor, although one held that title only as a posthumous honor. One of her grandsons became the renowned Emperor Xuanzong of Tang.