Empress Wu Zetian | Biography & Facts

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Highlights of Empress Wu Zetian :

Occupation Emperor of China
Born February 17, 624 Lizhou, China
Died December 16, 705 in Luoyang, China
October 16, 690 to February 22, 705
known for The only woman to be Emperor of China

Biography of Empress Wu Zetian:

Growing Up

On February 17, 624, Wu Zetian was born in Lizhou, China. She was raised in a privileged aristocratic household, and her father held a senior government ministerial position. Wu had a top-notch education, in contrast to many other young women. She received instruction in music, writing, and reading. Wu was a bright, aspirational young woman who studied everything she could about politics and governmental operations.

The Imperial Palace

Wu moved into the imperial palace when she was fourteen years old to assist the Emperor Taizong. Up until the emperor’s passing in 649, she kept pursuing her education at the palace. She was taken to a monastery to become a nun for the remainder of her life after the emperor passed away, as was customary. Wu, however, had other ideas. She developed feelings for the new emperor, Emperor Gaozong, and soon found herself back in the imperial palace serving as the emperor’s consort (akin to a second wife).

Getting the Empress

Wu started to exert influence over the emperor in the court. She was one of his preferred spouses. Empress Wang, the emperor’s primary wife, developed jealousy, and the two women grew to hate each other. Wu devised a plot against the Empress following the death of her daughter. She claimed that Empress Wang killed her daughter out of envy and notified the emperor about it. Empress Wang was detained by the emperor after he agreed with her. Wu was thereafter elevated to Empress.

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Wu had a solid reputation as a strong force behind the throne during the following few years. She eliminated opponents and cultivated powerful allies in the administration. She took to the throne when the emperor fell ill in 660.

Becoming Emperor

Emperor Gaozong passed away in 683, and Wu’s son succeeded him. While her son was still a child, Wu assumed the role of regent, or interim ruler. She held all the power, but not yet holding the title of emperor. Wu ordered her son to abdicate the throne in 690. She subsequently proclaimed the Zhou Dynasty and assumed the role of monarch. She was the country’s first and only female emperor.

Secret Police

In Ancient China, it was challenging for a woman to hold onto authority. Wu accomplished this by having people spied on by the secret police. She created a vast network of spies who assisted in identifying those who were and weren’t loyal. Wu killed her adversaries while rewarding those who were deemed to be faithful.

Ruling China

Wu’s excellent performance as empress was another factor in her ability to maintain her hold on power. She made wise choices that contributed to China’s development. By promoting people based on their skills rather than their family heritage, she surrounded herself with competent and talented people.

Empress Wu increased the size of China’s territory during her rule by seizing new kingdoms in Central Asia and Korea. By decreasing taxes, constructing more public facilities, and developing better farming methods, she also contributed to the improvement of the life of the peasants.


In 705, Empress Wu passed away. Emperor Zhongzong, her son, succeeded her as ruler and restored the Tang Dynasty.

Empress Wu Zetian Interesting Facts

Wu raised Buddhism as the official religion of China because Confucianism forbade women from holding positions of power.

At one point, three of Wu’s sons held the position of emperor.

According to some academics, Wu murdered her own daughter in order to blame the Empress Wang.

Wu Zhao was her given name at birth. She was given the moniker “Mei,” which translates to “pretty,” by Emperor Taizong.

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