Empress Wu the Great: Tang Dynasty China

Empress Wu the Great: Tang Dynasty China

Empress Wu the Great: Tang Dynasty China

Empress Wu the Great: Tang Dynasty China

Excerpt

In Europe, the idea of “ladies first” once held sway, and there have been many sovereign queens in Europe’s history. In ancient China there was none of that. The social status of women was low. They were not allowed to do what men were doing and not allowed to interfere with what men were doing, especially politically. They were deemed at best ornaments in men’s life and as reproduction machines to bear offspring for their husbands’ families. It was their duty was to obey men and please men. Although in some particular families the husband might listen to the wife or might even be henpecked, that was hardly the prevailing trend. By tradition, a woman who did not bear any sons (daughters did not count) for the husband could be divorced for that reason alone. Actually, it was not even a “divorce.” The husband could simply return the woman, like a defective product; he could send her back to her original family. The parents could not refuse to take their daughter back. But they were not obliged to welcome her warmly

Under such circumstances, it was not easy for a woman to climb all the way up to the throne. Yet one woman did it. Eventually known as Empress Wu Zetian the Great, she became the only female sovereign to rule in her own name in Chinese history.

Women occupied a low social status long before her time, the Tang Dynasty (AD 618–AD 907); it can be seen in records from the early Zhou Dynasty (1121 BC–476 BC), which is as far back as we can really go. The Chinese government boasts that China has an even longer history, going back five thousand years, but the first dynasty they include may be legendary. No archeological evidence has ever been found; there are only references to it in . . .

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