Meet China's only female emperor
Emperor Wu, or better known in Chinese as Wu Zetian or Wu Zhao, is undeniably one of the most riveting and prominent women in the entire history of China.
Reining over a vast empire from 690 to 705AD, she was the only female in some two thousand years of China's imperial history who had ever sat on the throne as a ruler in her own right.
In November 1994, the China Pictorial put Chinese actress Liu Xiaoqing wearing her costume from the popular TV drama "Empress Wu Zetian" on its cover. [Photo: IC]
Some 1,300 years after her death, Wu's unique persona has continued to inspire a great number of plays, films, games, anime, and TV shows, including a 96-episode soap opera that unabashedly applauds her beauty, brain, and strong-mindedness.
Chinese actress Fan Bingbing (centre) played Emperor Wu from her youth till twilight years in the 2014 TV drama "The Empress of China." [Photo: IC]
Yet history has not always been kind to Wu Zetian. For centuries, she has been portrayed as an abominable anomaly: either a sophisticated, succubus-alike seductress, or a lethal, ruthless she-wolf who would murder her own children for power.
But who was the real Wu Zetian? How did she rise to power? And why did she, out of all the other powerful women in Chinese history, become the de facto monarch?
When Wu died in 705, she was buried beside her husband Li Zhi (628-683), Emperor Gaozong of the Tang dynasty. Yet unlike her husband, she left a blank monument for her tomb. Not a single word has been written no that stone and there is no contemporary portrait of her. [Photo:VCG]
To investigate the true story of Emperor Wu, our reporter Shiyu talks with Professor N. Harry Rothschild from the University of North Florida. He is the author of two books: "Wu Zhao: China's Only Woman Emperor" and "Emperor Wu Zhao and her Pantheon of Devis, Divinities, and Dynastic Mothers."
Teaching Asian history at the University of North Florida, Professor N.Harry Rothschild has written two books on Wu Zhao. The biography, "Wu Zhao: China's Only Woman Emperor," has been published in Chinese by the Social Sciences Academic Press. [Photo: Courtesy of Professor N.Harry Rothschild]
Their conversation covers (but is not limited to) the following topics:
Battle of the names: Wu Zhao or Wu Zetian;
Whether China's sole female emperor murdered her own family for power;
How Wu Zhao has become the victim of centuries of unfair obloquy;
The similarities and differences between Wu Zhao, Isabella of France, and Russia's Catherine the Great;
Wu Zhao’s impact and legacy;
And much, much, more!
For their complete conversation, you can download the podcast from iTunes, by searching the keywords: Ink&Quill.
In this extended version, you will hear Professor N.Harry Rothschild voice more on Wu Zhao's eventful life and why her story still matters to people around the globe today.