WU HOU Biography - Royalty, Rulers & leaders


Biography » royalty rulers leaders » wu hou


Name: Wu Hou or Wu Zetian or Wu Chao                                                     
Born: 625                                                                               
Death: December 16, 705                                                                 
Wu Zetian (625 - December 16, 705), personal name Wu Zhao , often referred               
to as Heavenly Empress  during Tang Dynasty and Empress Wu in later                     
times, was the only woman in the history of China to assume the title of Emperor.       
Ruling China first through her husband and her sons from 665 to 690, not                 
unprecedented in Chinese history, she then broke all precedents when she founded         
her own dynasty in 690, the Zhou  (interrupting the Tang Dynasty), and ruled             
personally under the name Emperor Shengshen  and variations thereof from                 
690 to 705. Her rise and reign has been criticized harshly by Confucian                 
historians but has been viewed under a different light after the 1950s.                 
Wu Zetian's time in the Tang palace started when she was 13 and made a concubine         
of Emperor Tang. Despite her beauty, however, she did not become a favorite of           
Emperor Taizong's, and after Emperor Taizong's death in 649, she might have             
otherwise have been expected to spend the rest of her life as a Buddhist nun as         
was the case of Emperor Taizong's other childless concubines. However, through           
an unlikely fortuity -- that Empress Wang, the wife and empress of Emperor               
Taizong's son and successor Emperor Gaozong, wanted another beautiful concubine         
to divert Emperor Gaozong's favors from Consort Xiao, with whom Empress Wang was         
having a desperate struggle. Having been returned to the palace, Consort Wu             
proceeded to defeat both Empress Wang and Consort Xiao in the struggle for               
Emperor Gaozong's affection, and subsequently, both Empress Wang and Consort             
Xiao were killed, and she was made empress. She progressively gained more and           
more influence over the governance of the empire throughout Emperor Gaozong's           
reign, and toward the end of Emperor Gaozong's reign, she was effectively making         
most of the major decisions. She was regarded as ruthless in her endeavors to           
grab power, and was believed by traditional historians to have even killed her           
own daughter to frame Empress Wang, and her own oldest son Li Hong in a power           
struggle. She subsequently had another son, Li Xian, deposed and exiled.                 
After Emperor Gaozong's death in 683, Empress Wu became empress dowager and             
proceeded to depose yet a third son, Emperor Zhongzong, for displaying                   
independence. She then had her youngest son Emperor Ruizong made emperor, but           
was ruler not only in substance but in appearance as well, as she presided over         
imperial gatherings and prevented Emperor Ruizong from taking an active role in         
governance. In 690, she had Emperor Ruizong yield the throne to her and                 
established Zhou Dynasty. The early part of her reign was characterized by               
secret police terror, which moderated as the years went by. She was, on the             
other hand, recognized as a capable and attentive ruler even by traditional             
historians who despised her, and her ability at selecting capable men to serve           
as officials was admired throughout the rest of Tang Dynasty as well as                 
subsequent dynasties.In 705, she was overthrown in a coup, and Emperor                   
Zhongzong was returned to the throne. She continued to carry the title of "emperor"     
until her death later in the year.                                                       
In 706, Wu Zetian's son Emperor Zhongzong had Wu Zetian interred in a joint             
burial with his father Emperor Gaozong at the Qianling Mausoleum, located near           
the Tang capital on Mount Liang. Qianling is also the burial place of Emperor           
Zhongzong's brother Li Xi├ín, son Li Chongrun, and daughter Li Xianhui  the             
Lady Yongtai (posthumously honored as the Princess Yongtai)  victims of Wu               
Zetian's wrath.