The Great Empress of China WU ZETIAN

Chinese actrese Fan Bing Bing as Empress Wu Zetian in drama The Empress of China


Today post (translated from Bahasa edition) is about a woman who became the first and the only female King in china's feudal era during Tang Dynasty (625-705 AD). Tang Dynasty was the powerful regime in China's feudal era for 4000 years before it was became the present Republic since 1949. For 4000 years, China has 308 King which was divided into 14 dynasties. All of king was men, except a woman namely Wu Zetian. 

Wu Zhao was daughter of Wu family who was born on 624 AD. As a daughter of noble family she got best education on art, music, literature and philosophy. When she was 14 she entered the palace (Daming Palace of Tang Dynasty) to became one of the lowest King's imperial wives. She got position as Cai Ren (The fifth rank of King's Imperial wives). As happy and bright young girl, her only dream was became King's lover and never thought to be a powerful women in the King's Harem. At that time, the King have 3 Imperial Consort (The first rank of King's Imperial wives) and the Queen was passed away 3 years ago. All Consort have their own misery as King's women and everyone would became Empress if their son became Crown Prince. The King's Harem was controlled by Consort Wei who came from noble family and has strong support from Ministry and court. She didn't have any son after get miscarriage for 3 times. As powerful woman in the Palace, she could see that Wu was the newest jeopardy for Tang Dynasty.

Wu was very beautiful young girl who has great talent in art and she love to dance. Her dance make the King like her so much and made her as personal secretary who have to copy some documents about state affair from some Ministries. They were also became friends as well as lover who loves to talk about many things about lives, art, and unimportant thing in Palace daily life. Then the king gave her new name "Meiniang" mean pretty girl because he was favored her so much. Since she have to copied so many documents as her duty or for her punishment, Wu became more clever and learned about state affair compared to another women in the Harem. But then, Wu has enemy and even her sworn friend became her enemy who made Wu nearly has her death. But, since she learned many things in the palace all her enemy was killed. Everyone in the Palace waiting for the King make Wu as her new Empress. Unfortunately, the king Passed away and as King young wive who didn't have any son, she have to stayed at the temple for the rest of her life. Become a bald nun and eat small portion of food.

The illustration about Wu Meining power and beauty.

The youngest King's son became the new King and he known as King Gaozong. Since he was young he felt in love with Wu Meiniang and brought her back to the Palace and make her as his Second rank imperial wives or Jieyu. Wang Empress who don't have any child create her jealousy to evildoing for kill Wu and to take back King's favor for her. Whereas, Consort Xiao who has a son that the King favored him so much also felt worried that Wu will gave birth to a son and the King make her son as Crown Prince. After Wu gave birth to her first son, Empress Wang and Consort Xiao became alliance to got ridden Wu. But, Wu who experienced Palace life for 12 years before smell something fishy about the two another women in the Harem. She make the King kill Empress Wang and Consort Xiao and meet her way to be Empress. 

Due to King health condition, Empress Wu help him so much in state affair and leads Morning Assembly and collect some information and report from Tang ministries. But, most of ministries who came from noble family rejected her except some poor officers. They believed that if the state affairs lead by women the Tang Dynasty will collapsed, so they insisted to meet with the King. They also believed that Empress Wu fabricated King's health issue to dishonored the ministries. To help Empress Wu managed the state affair, the the King declared that the Tang Dynasty chaired by The Heavenly Emperor and The Heavenly Empress to showed the equal position between King and Queen. Commoners honored them as The Gods. 

But, the Ministries could not accepted the King order and they were provoked Crown Prince to stop Empress Wu from any politic and state affairs. Also provoked the second Prince to kill the Crown Prince and Empress Wu. As victim of Ministries incitement, the princess died. Empress Wu had a very deep broken heart both as mother of two died princess and as the women leader of the country. Then Tang Dynasty didn't have any proper prince to take the ruler position. Some years after that, the King passed away and Empress Wu take the position as The first Women Emperor in Chinese Feudal History. She governed for 15 years (October 16, 690 AD–February 22,705 AD) and abdicated when she was 70 years old.

Painting of Wu Zetian after her 50s.
Achievement of Wu Zetian
Under her govern, Wu made strategic change in government. He kill corrupt official and replaced them with poor officer who support her to take the Throne. She preferred competency and skill during selected process of government officer than the background of family and clan. Her regime were full of educated officer who came from middle class. Her policy about this make historians believed that Empress Wu's bad policy created new corrupted regime since the poor officer enjoyed their position, power and money and imitated the previous noble and corrupted officer. 

The most popular of Wu Zetian regime's achievement was developed of irrigation system which increased of harvest and make farmers better life. She also applied 'reward and punishment' system to the officer who have responsibility about a project. This policy make Tang Dynasty has better innovation on agriculture administration and gave the scientist to compiled of some text books about agriculture. She also developed the Teju Educational System that adopted from extinct Sui Dynasty. Empress Wu also giver her best attention to military sector in order to opened and guarded the Silk Road in the north area and to strengthen international relation.

As Ruler of the rich country, Wu also developed Buddhism and give the freedom to development of Buddhism in the whole country. In her regime Tang Dynasty and its people enjoyed their prosperity. After all her ward work, the Ministries begged her to abdicated and devolved the Throne to her youngest son. She know that her son didn't have any competency to be a Rurel, bu she didn't have any choice. She as so old. Some years later, her grandson as Emperor who titled as Emperor Xuanzong lead the Tang Dynasty to their Golden Age, the wealth and powerful country. 

Empress Wu died on 80 years old and buried in her husband tomb, Emperor Gaozong, and her own tomb was empty, in Qianling Mausoleum. This imperial tomb became popular as historical tourism destination in China. President of the US Bill Clinton and President of France Jacques Chirac have visited the Qianling Mausoleum and impressed with wall painting in the tomb wall which great as Terracotta. 

One of some Buddha statues that carved to  remembered Empress Wu Zetian. This statue claimed has resemblance with Wu Zetian real face.
The tomb of Emperor Gaozong and Empress Wu Zetian in Qianling Mausoleum. They were the only imperial couple that buried together in the same tomb. It's know as multi-burial. 
Movie and Drama about Wu Zetian
In China her name was not great as her achievement in history. In so many book in China, She was mentioned as one of the dangerous and bad woman in Chinese history. And there is a book titled "The True Story of China's Cleoparta" written by Jonathan Clement that i think very interesting. She described as evil woman who has some position as Consort, Politician, Manipulator, Killer and as the Goddess's descendant. Some article mentioned her similar with some Chinese evil women like Empress Dowager Cixi/Tsu Hzi and Madame Mao.  

There are also several dramas and movies about her. I know her for the firs time was from Chinese drama titled The Empress of China that I watched online on a website. After I finished the drama I tried to find more information about her and there was several movies that described her as powerful woman in Chinese history. She was beautiful, ambitious, powerful, dangerous, evil but great leader who brought prosperity to Tang Dynasty. The refused by the ministries were only because she was a woman and on that era women are not let no more just for male toys sex and family treasure. The society also didn't believed that women has equal opportunity and position as well as men. So, the Empress real mission was to changes society about differentiate role about male and female in feudal society. 

Li Lihua as Empress Wu. This movie produced by Show Brothers, Hong Kong in 1963
Alyssa Chia as Wu Zetian in serial Lady Wu: the First Empress/ The Great Empress/Empress Wu Meiniang  that produced in 2004
Carina Lau as Empress Wu Zetian in Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame, Chinese movie that also involved Andy Lau, produced in 2010.
Liu Xiaoqing as Empress Wu Zetian in serial The Secret History of Wu Zetian that produced in 2010 with budget until 60,000,000 yuan.
The newest Asian drama about Wu Zetian is "The Empress of China" acted by Chinese actress Fan Bing Bing. This drama describe Wu Zetian as beautiful young woman who talented in art, music and philosophy who gained King Taizong's favor. Also showed her way to be the first and the only women Emperor in Chinese history. All costume in this drama was stunning and beautiful even for the lowest imperial maid. They tried hard to show of about the great Tang Dynasty. This drama produced with US$ 49,53 million or 300 million Yuan (another source claimed 100 million yuan) or about 300 billion rupiah. So expensive!!

Why it so expensive? for example, in this drama the main actress Fan Bing Bing wear more than 260 sets of beautiful costumes and 300 sets for all cast. The most expensive costume was the couple imperial wardrobe that wear by Emperor and Empress or it called Dragon Robe. Look at some pictures below, and you might have a dream to wear those beautiful costume.

Some costumes that Fan Bing Bing wear as her role as Wu Meiniang.
Below is some movie and website that has good information about her:

The Empress of China
The Daming Palace of China's Tang Dynasty
Golden Age: Tang Dynasty China History & Music
Tang Dynasty
Chinese Intrumental Music - Imperial Dancing Music of Tang Dynasty
Heroes in Sui and Tang Dynasties
Young Detective Dee Rise of Sea Dragon
Detective Dee and Mystery of the Phantom Flame

A wonderful and expensive Empress wardrobe.
Depok, 12 Agustus 2015


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