Wu Zhao: China’s Only Woman Emperor

Wu Zhao: China’s Only Woman Emperor

By N. Harry Rothschild

Longman, ISBN: 978-0-321-39426-2

Wu Zhao, Woman Emperor of China is the account of the first and only female emperor in China’s history. Set in vibrant, multi-ethnic Tang China, this biography chronicles Wu Zhao’s humble beginnings as the daughter of a provincial official, following her path to the inner palace, where she improbably rose from a fifth-ranked concubine to becoming Empress. Using clever Buddhist rhetoric, grandiose architecture, elegant court rituals, and an insidious network of “cruel officials” to cow her many opponents in court, Wu Zhao inaugurated a new dynasty in 690, the Zhou. She ruled as Emperor for fifteen years, proving eminently competent in the arts of governance, deftly balancing factions in court, staving off the encroachment of Turks and Tibetans, and fostering the state’s economic growth.



Chapter 1: What’s in a Name?

Chapter 2: Historical Preconditions for the Ascent of a Female Emperor: Steppe Culture, the Silk Road and Buddhism


Chapter 3: From the Sichuan Countryside to the Inner Palace

Chapter 4: Empress Wu: A Changing of the Guard

Chapter 5: The Two Sages

Chapter 6: Celestial Empress and Grand Dowager

Chapter 7: Wu Zhao as Lover: Lady of Perfect Satisfaction

Chapter 8: Sage Mother Rising

Chapter 9: Queen of Terror

Chapter 10:  Bodhisattva of Mercy

Chapter 11:  Emperor of the Zhou Dynasty

Chapter 12:  Octogenarian in Retreat: Succession, Factionalism and Craneriding in the Final Years

Conclusion:  The Vain Quest for Wu Zhao


Please also see articles:

N. Harry Rothschild, Wu Zhao’s Remarkable AviarySoutheast Review of Asian Studies, Vol. 27 (2005)

Norman Harry Rothschild, An Inquiry into Reign Era Changes under Wu Zhao, China’s Only Female Emperor, Early Medieval China, Vol.12 (2006)

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