Which famous people have you outlived?

Wu Zetian

Empress regnant of the Zhou Dynasty

Died when: 81 years 302 days (981 months)
Star Sign: Aquarius


Wu Zetian

Wu Zetian (17 February 624 – 16 December 705), also known as Wu Zhao or Wu Hou, and during the later Tang dynasty as Tian Hou, was the de facto ruler of China from 665 to 705, ruling first through others and then (from 690) in her own right.

From 665 to 690, she was first empress consort of the Tang dynasty (as wife of the Emperor Gaozong) and then, after his death, empress dowager (ruling through her sons Emperors Zhongzong and Ruizong), which had occurred before in China.

Unprecedented in Chinese history, she subsequently ruled as empress regnant of the Wu Zhou dynasty of China from 690 to 705.She was the only legitimate female sovereign in the history of China.

Under her 40-year reign, China grew larger becoming one of the great powers of the world, its culture and economy were revitalized, and corruption in the court was reduced.

In early life, Wu was the concubine of Emperor Taizong.After his death, she married his ninth son and successor, Emperor Gaozong, officially becoming Gaozong's huanghou (??), or empress consort, the highest ranking of all the wives, in 655.

Even before becoming empress consort, she had considerable political power.Once announced as the empress consort, she began to control the court and after Gaozong's debilitating stroke in 660, Wu Zetian became administrator of the court, a position equal to the emperor's, until 705.

As a young woman entering Emperor Gaozong's harem, she clashed with Empress Wang and Consort Xiao to gain the emperor's affection, and eventually expelled and killed them.

After her wedding to Gaozong in 655, Empress Wu's rise to power was swift.A strong, charismatic, vengeful, ambitious and well-educated woman who enjoyed the absolute affection of her husband, Wu was the most powerful and influential woman at court during a period when the Tang Empire was at the peak of its glory.

She was more decisive and proactive than her husband, and she is considered by historians to have been the real power behind the throne during the reign of Emperor Gaozong for more than twenty years until his death.

She was partially in control of power from November 660, and totally from January 665.History records that: "She was at the helm of the country for long years, her power is no different from that of the emperor." Empress Wu presided over the court with the emperor, and even held court independently when the Emperor was unwell.

She was given charge of the Heirloom Seal of the Realm, implying that her perusal and consent were necessary before any document or order received legal validity.

Gaozong sought her views on all matters before issuing orders.Wu was granted certain honors and privileges which were not enjoyed by any Chinese empresses before or after.

After Gaozong's death, Empress Wu as empress dowager and regent held power completely and solely, used absolute power more forcefully and violently than before, and suppressed her overt and covert opponents.

Seven years later, she seized the throne and began the Zhou dynasty, becoming the only empress regnant in Chinese history.

Empress Wu is considered one of the greatest emperors in Chinese history due to her strong leadership and effective governance, which made China one of the most powerful nations in the world.

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 the occupation of former 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.

She developed a network of spies to build a strong intelligence system in the court and throughout the empire, delivering daily reports on current affairs of the empire or opposition to the central state.

She also played a key role in reforming the imperial examination system and encouraging capable officials to work in governance to maintain a peaceful and well-governed state.

Effectively, these reforms improved the bureaucracy of her vast nation by placing competence, rather than family connection, at the centre of the civil service.

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.

Besides her career as a political leader, Wu Zetian also had an active family life.Wu was a 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.

This content was extracted from Wikipedia and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License