Image taken from An 18th-century album of portraits of 86 emperors of China, with Chinese historical notes. World History Foundation is a non-profit organization registered in Canada. How to evaluate such an unprecedented figure today? Picking through the bias to try to get to the real story is always fascinating and - in my mind - fun. However, when Li Zhi became emperor and took the name Gaozong, one of the first things he did was send for Wu and have her brought back to court as the first of his concubines, even though he had others and also a wife. After rising to power, Wu tried to remove from power the representatives of the northwestern aristocracy, who had controlled the government from the beginning of the dynasty through the medium of the imperial chancellery. When her mother was distressed about losing her to an uncertain life fraught with intrigues in the emperor's harem, she firmly reassured her: "Isn't it a fortune to attend the emperor! Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Terms of Use | All rights reserved. Empress Wu Zetian and the Spread of Buddhism (625-705 C.E.) One example of her clout was in 666 CE when she led a group of women to Mount Tai (an ancient ceremonial center), where they conducted rituals which traditionally were performed only by men. gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA). Thus Wu Zetian's experience might have caused some redefinition of gender in her time, but this direction has not translated into enduring gains in the society and political organization that she left behind. Unlike most young girls in China at this time, Wu was encouraged by her father to read and write and develop the intellectual skills which were traditionally reserved for males. Among a raft of other allegations are the suggestions that she ordered the suicides of a grandson and granddaughter who had dared to criticize her and later poisoned her husband, whovery unusually for a Chinese emperordied unobserved and alone, even though tradition held that the entire family should assemble around the imperial death bed to attest to any last words. These women were rarely chosen by their people. Empresas ICA Sociedad Controladora, S.A. de C.V. Empresa Brasileira de Aeronutica S.A. (Embraer), Emporia State University: Narrative Description, World History Foundation is a non-profit organization registered in Canada. Guisso, Richard W. Empress Wu Tse-t'ien and the Politics of Legitimation in T'ang China. World History Encyclopedia. Give me three tools to tame that wild horse. Kumarajiva's influence on Chinese Buddhist thought was crucial. Although she was not able to control the newly unified state, relations continued to be friendly during her reign. Empress Wu Zetian (Empress Consort Wu, Wu Hou, Wu Mei Niang, Mei-Niang, and Wu Zhao, l. 624-705 CE, r. 690-704 CE) was the only female emperor of Imperial China. She also reformed the department of agriculture and the system of taxation by rewarding officials who produced the greatest amount of crops and taxed their people the least. Woodbridge Bingham, The Founding of the Tang Dynasty: The Fall of Sui and Rise ofTang, a Preliminary Survey (New York: Octagon, 1975). Guisso says, that empowered informers of any social class to travel at public expense. She also maintained an efficient secret police and instituted a reign of terror among the imperial bureaucracy. ." A Japanese example: In the late 7th century, Japans Emperor Shomu and Empress Komyo both were involved in Buddhist buildings. Even if she took full advantage, however, she must have possessed not only looks but remarkable intelligence and determination to emerge, as she did two decades later, as empress. Her reign was peaceful and prosperous; she introduced the meritocratic system of entrance examinations for the imperial bureaucracy that survived into the 20th century, avoided wars and welcomed ambassadors from as far away as the Byzantine Empire. Refer to each styles convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Two years later, in 712 CE, Ruizong abdicated after he saw a comet one night and, following the interpretation suggested by Taiping, took it as a sign his rule was over. Unlike her predecessors she was fond of the Buddhist community, which led her to build at great expense the Mingtang, or Hall of Light. To entrench her biological family as the imperial house, she bestowed imperial honors to her ancestors through posthumous enthronement and constructed seven temples for imperial sacrifices. Some Rights Reserved (2009-2023) under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license unless otherwise noted. Still, this did not mean the women were not jealous of the favor the emperor showed Wu now that she had given birth to two sons in a row. Wu also took back lands which had been invaded by the Goturks under the reign of Taizong and distributed them so that they were not all held by the aristocrats. She did not ask any man's permission to lead these women to Mount Tai; she felt she knew what was best and did it. Two brothers, known as the Zhang Brothers, were her favorites and she spent most of her time in closed quarters with them. Throughout 15 dismal years in exile, her sons consort had talked him out of committing suicide and kept him ready to return to power. Her travel writing debuts in Timeless Travels Magazine. This spy system served her well in giving her early warning of any plots in the making and enabled her to take care of threats to her reign before they became actual problems. Palace ladies of the Tang dynasty, from a contemporary wall painting in an imperial tomb in Shaanxi. Traditional historians grudgingly acknowledged that she surpassed her sons, the legitimate heirs, in both vision and statecraft. The most serious charges against Wu are handily summarized in Mary Andersons collection of imperial scuttlebutt, Hidden Power, which reports that she wiped out twelve collateral branches of the Tang clan and had the heads of two rebellious princes hacked off and brought to her in her palace. Just how accurate this picture of Wu is remains a matter of debate. She whispered slander from behind her sleeves, and swayed her master with vixen flirting and insisted that she was the arch manipulator of an unprecedented series of scandals that, over two reigns and many years, cleared her path to the throne. Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography. She was the power behind the throne from Gaozong's death in 683 CE until she proclaimed herself openly in 690 CE and ruled as emperor of China until a year before her death in 705 CE, at the age of 81. Chen, Jo-shui. When she saw she would not be able to control the court as her mother did, she killed herself and Xuanzong decreed that no member of Wu's family would be allowed to hold public office because of their ruthless scheming and underhanded politics. June 2, 2022 by by Empress Wu used the intelligence she gathered to pressure some high-ranking officials who were not performing well to resign; others she simply banished or had executed. 1, Sui and T'ang, pp. At the age of fourteen, she was selected as a palace maid to Gaozong, then a Prince, and his first spouse and primary consort Xing, who had recently married. Since candidates normally tried to win favor with an examiner prior to the tests, some could use their family connections to send samples of their verse in an effort to impress the men who held the keys to government positions. From 697 onward she found it so diffi-cult to win support that she attempted to return the throne to her son Zhongzong. (He would camp out in the palace grounds, Clements notes, barbecuing sheep.) Cheng-qian was banished for attempted revolt, while a dissolute brother who had agreed to take part in the rebellionso long, Clements adds, as he was permitted sexual access to every musician and dancer in the palace, male or femalewas invited to commit suicide, and another of Taizongs sons was disgraced for his involvement in a different plot. (It was common for poor Chinese boys to voluntarily undergo emasculation in the hope of obtaining a prestigious and well-remunerated post in the imperial service). . And while Chinas imperial chronicles were too rigidly run and too highly developed for Wus name to be simply wiped from their pages, the stern disapproval of the Confucian mandarins who compiled the records can still be read 1,500 years later. Anyone she suspected of disloyalty, for any reason, was banished or executed. Wu disposed of her enemies, first the former empress and then the high-ranking officials, who had strongly opposed her rise. 31, no. Twitchett, Denis, and Howard J. Wechsler. Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Bellingham, WA: Center for Asian Studies, Western Washington University, 1978. Mark, Emily. A third problem is that the empress, who was well aware of both these biases, was not averse to tampering with the record herself; a fourth is that some other accounts of her reign were written by relatives who had good cause to loathe her. Anticipating Wu Zetian's political ambitions, 60,000 flatterersincluding Confucian officials, imperial relatives, Buddhist clergy, tribal chieftains, and commonerssupported the petition to proclaim the Zhou Dynasty with herself as the founding emperor. No-one knows what secrets it holds, for like many of the tombs of the most celebrated Chinese rulers, including that of the First Emperor himself, it has never been plundered or opened by archaeologists. In her seventies, Wu showered special favor on two smooth-cheeked brothers, the Zhang brothers, former boy singers, the nature of whose private relationship with their imperial mistress has never been precisely determined. She founded a secret police and conducted a reign of terror, justifying the mass executions on the grounds that discrimination against a womans open exercise of power forced her to use terror to defend her authority. The empress responded with both diplomacy and force, concluding a marriage alliance with the Turks and defeating the Qidan in battle. The founding emperor of a dynasty and his descendants constituted the imperial family, which through male succession produced emperors who were normally the eldest son born to the empress. Such killings were not uncommon among emperors before and after her.