WU CHAO Biography - Royalty, Rulers & leaders

 
 

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WU CHAO

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.