Empress Wu is also known as Wu Hou, Wu Chao, Wu Zetian, or Wu Tse T'ien ("Emulator of Heaven"). She was born in the year of 625 AD. She was born and raised in China during the Tang dynasty. Empress Wu was the daughter of Wu Shih-Huo, a rich and noble merchant at the time. The Tang Dynasty was a time of relative freedom for woman. Since Empress Wu lived during that period of time, she was well educated at home. Like most other rich and noble people of her time, she was taught to play music, write, and read the Chinese classics.
Empress Wu started out as a low-ranking concubine of the emperor of the Tang court, T'ai Tsung. She was well known for her beauty, wit, and intelligence, and so that was why she was recruited to the Tang court at the early age of 13. It was the year of 638 AD when she was recruited. Soon after she was recruited to the Tang court, she went from a low-ranking concubine to his favorite concubine. When T'ai Tsung died in 652 AD, Empress Wu mourned his death and traditionally, she shaved off all her hair and became a nun.
Meanwhile, in the Tang court after T'ai Tsung's death, T'ai Tsung's son, Kao Tsung, became the emperor of the Tang court. Kao Tsung's empress, Empress Wang, was jealous of a new concubine that Kao Tsung gave much affection to. Her name was Hsaio Shu-Fei. She then ordered Empress Wu to grow her hair back and come back to the Tang court. She did what she was told and came back. Empress Wang's plan was to take away the affection that Kao Tsung gave to Hsaio Shu-Fei. Empress Wang's plan worked, but it also backfired on her. Empress Wu got Kao Tsung's affection, but still, Empress Wang was not satisfied because she still didn't get any affection. So then Empress Wang became jealous of Empress Wu and tried to get rid of her as well. Empress Wang's jealousy grew when Empress Wu gave birth to a baby girl for Kao Tsung. Empress Wang panicked and tried to spread rumors about Empress Wu, but Empress Wu was too clever for that.
In order to become the empress of Kao Tsung, she had to find a way to get rid of Empress Wang. So then she killed her own daughter and framed Empress Wang for the murder. Kao Tsung believed Empress Wu and made her his new empress. But Empress Wu was still not satisfied, so she framed Empress Wang and Hsaio Shu-Fei for the crime of trying to poison Kao Tsung. Their punishment was that they, along with their entire families, were striped of any government ranks or titles. They were left to be known as village commoners. Using the title of "Empress," she sent people to kill them. Also, she used the title of "Empress" to easily destroy anybody who dared to go against her. Eventually, she has ordered the death of hundreds of imperial family members and many others that have gone against her.
When Empress Wu was 70 years of age, she was in very bad health and there were a lot of rebellions against her. The rebels threatened her and told her to give the throne back to her third son. On one night, the rebels broke in and killed many of the people that supported Empress Wu and proclaimed for the throne to be given back to Empress Wu's third son. A while after that incident, Empress Wu was forced to retire and give the throne back to her third son.
Empress Wu had a total of 4 children. There were three sons and one daughter. Her first child was a daughter that she killed to frame Empress Wang. She used her second and third son to control the Tang Court by telling them to do whatever she wants. In other words, they were just puppets controlled by her. Her fourth child, who was her third and last son, was named Chung-Tsung. Chung-Tsung took the throne and became emperor right after Empress Wu was forced to retire. Chung-Tsung was the only one remaining that was acceptable to take the throne. Empress Wu was forced to retire in 705 AD. Empress Wu was very sick at the time and due to her sickness, at the end of that year, she died peacefully in the Tang court. But in 710 AD, the rest of the remaining of her family was assassinated.
During Empress Wu's life, she was extremely devoted to Buddhism due to Empress Wu being raised in a family that is very dedicated to their religion. In her case, she was brought up in a Buddhist family. She was secretly supported by the Buddhist sects. They believed that Empress Wu was the reincarnation of "Bodhaisattva Martreya." In other words, she was believed to be the Buddhist messiah.
Empress Wu was the first and only female ruler in the history of China. You may see her as a ruthless, cruel, and mean lady, but you may also see her as just a woman doing what she had to for the power that she wanted. Empress Wu did all she can to gain and keep power. She even killed a few of her own children and, supposedly, one of her own granddaughters.
To go down in history like Empress Wu did, is a very difficult goal to achieve, but for someone as ruthless as Empress Wu, it was not as difficult as it is for someone less ruthless. She started out being a rich and noble merchant's daughter. From there, she became known for her beauty, wit, and intelligence. Then she went on to be a concubine of the emperor of the Tang court, T'ai Tsung, and soon after, a concubine of Kao Tsung, T'ai Tsung's son. Being a concubine of Kao Tsung, she wanted more power, so she ruthlessly killed her own newborn daughter and framed Empress Wang for the murder. Afterwards she became the official empress of Kao Tsung, but she still wanted more power and control. So she used her sons, while they were on the throne, like puppets and ordered them to do what she wanted.
During the time that she ruled, she made quite a few accomplishments. One of the things she did was in 657 AD. That was when she moved a branch capital to Loyang permanently. The capital stayed there until 701 AD. Another accomplishment that she made during the time that she ruled was in 669 AD. During that year, she organized a civil servant examination and moved the seat of courts to the Loyang family. Also, she defeated the northern powers and created a twelve-part reform program. The program included things like the "suppression of slander", remission of taxes, and respect for the death of someone's mother.
After Empress Wu died, her third son, Chung-Tsung's, wife tried to rule. Her name was Empress Wei, and, supposedly, she took Empress Wu as her example. Empress Wei did things like initiating corruption at court by openly selling offices. In 710, Chung-Tsung died. Rumors say that Empress Wei poisoned him, but nobody knows for sure. After the death of Chung-Tsung, Empress Wei tried to establish herself as the ruler of the Tang Court like Empress Wu did, but she failed. The courts that revolted against her caused her failure. The princess, Tai-Ping was another women that supposedly took after the example of Empress Wu. She also tried to establish herself as the ruler, but she failed. After her failure, she committed suicide. I guess Empress Wu had quite an impact on the women during her time. Women today, though, don't do what Empress Wu did anymore. I don't think women today take the example she did. Empress Wu, to me, is just one of the magnificent women from the history of China.
I don't think the life of women, ladies, and/or girls today would have been any better or worse because all of what Empress Wu did is in the past. The affects that she had on people were only from her time. Today, women have more power and choices so I don't think any women would kill the president and try to establish herself as the president.