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Empress Wu Zetian of China

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Wu Zetian (武則天 in pinyin: wu3 ze2 tian1) (625-705), reigning name Empress Wu (武后 wu3 hou4), self-named Wu Zhao (武曌 wu3 zhao4), from Wenshui (now Wenshui County (文水縣), Shanxi), is the only reigning female in Chinese history (of the Zhou Dynasty (690 AD - 705 AD) in between the Tang Dynasty).

She began as a member of the harem[?] of Emperor Tang Taizong of China and was given the name Wu Mei (武媚 wu3 mei4). After his death in 649, she became the favorite of his son, Gaozong[?]. She succeeded in discrediting Gaozong's wife, Queen Wang, by framing her for the the killing of her baby (Wu Zetian herself had done the deed) and became empress herself.

After Gaozong suffered a stroke, she began to govern China from behind the scenes though him and subsequent puppet emperors, only assuming power herself in 690. At the age of 72 her two lovers, brothers, were disposed of by courtiers. She abdicated, dying soon afterward.

Her regime was characterized by Machiavellian cleverness and brutal despotism. Traditional Chinese politicial theory[?] did not allow a woman to ascend the throne and Empress Wu was determined to squash the opposition and promote loyal officials within the bureaucracy.

She advocated Buddhism and ruthlessly persecuted her opponents within the royal family and the nobility.

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