The Story of the Only Empress in China
Her crowning as the first and only Empress in the history of China contradicts the traditional Chinese Confucian attitudes about women. Considered to belong at home doing housework and taking care of the family, her example has inspired diverging views throughout the Chinese history.
Wu Zetian was born in a rich and noble family. She was recruited to the palace of Emperor Taizong at the age 13 for her beauty and intelligence. Although she did not become the emperor’s favourite concubine, she had eyes for his son, the later Emperor Gaozong. When Taizong died, Wu Zetian and the other concubines were sent to a Buddhist temple. Refusing to accept the fate of spending the rest of her life as a Buddhist nun, Wu Zetian kept contact with the new Emperor Gaozong, and was brought back to the palace two years later.
She wasn’t satisfied with just being a concubine. Wu Zetian soon eliminated the empress and another favoured concubine and was made the new Empress. She progressively gained more influence over the governance through her husband, and toward the end of Emperor Gaozong’s reign, she took over most of the administrative duties of the realm.
After Gaozong died, Wu Zetian managed to move her weakest son into power so she could rule the realm through him. After years of being the puppet emperor, her son removed himself from the office. Wu Zetian cruelly crushed the opposition, finally ascending the throne to become the Empress Wu.