Wu Zhou Dynasty 武周


Chinese Name: 武周

English Name: Wu Zhou Dynasty

Other Name:Zhou, The Great Zhou 大周

Duration: About 690 AD – 705 AD

King: Wu Zetian武则天

Wu Zhou Dynasty 武周
Territory Map of Wu Zhou Dynasty 武周疆域图

Brief Introduction

Wu Zhou Dynasty (690 ~ 705) was the dynasty established by Wu Zetian 武则天. On September 9, the first year of Tianshou (690 AD), the grand ceremony of Empress Wu Zetian’s accession to the throne was grandly held in Shendu 神都洛阳. Wu Zetian named the country Zhou 周.

It is called Wu Zhou in order to distinguish it from the Zhou Dynasty in the pre-Qin period in history. Wu Zetian is the only orthodox female emperor in Chinese history, who has been in power for 23 years.

During the reign of Wu Zetian, the country had greater development than that of the Zhenguan period 贞观时期, which was called the legacy of Zhenguan in history. The continuous implementation of the equal field system 均田制 has promoted agricultural production. The number of registered permanent residents increased from 3.8 million in 652 to 6.15 million when Wu Zetian abdicated in 705.

Wu Zhou Dynasty 武周
Luoyang, the capital of God 神都洛阳

Major Historical Events

Preparation for Enthronement 登基准备

During the reign of Li Zhi, Empress Wu (Wu Zetian 武则天) gradually participated in the government. Wu Zetian was originally the concubine of Li Shimin 李世民. Li Shimin became a nun after his death.

Later, she was called into the palace by Emperor Gaozong 唐高宗, won the power struggle, and was made queen. In 660, Li Zhi asked Wu Zetian to help deal with the court politics for physical reasons. Therefore, she can be called “two saints” together with Li Zhi 李治.

After the death of Emperor Gaozong, Prince Li Xian 李显 ascended the throne for Emperor Zhongzong of the Tang Dynasty. Empress Wu, the biological mother of the new emperor, was honored as empress dowager. Because of the disagreement with Zhongzong, Empress Dowager Wu dismissed Zhongzong as king of Luling 庐陵王.

Wu Zhou Dynasty 武周
Emperor Zhongzong of the Tang Dynasty 唐中宗李显

Li Dan 李旦, the fourth son, was Emperor Ruizong of the Tang Dynasty 唐睿宗. Since then, Wu Zetian’s political ambition has continued to expand, and the emperor was imprisoned and held political power by herself. Gradually, the Tang Dynasty became self-reliant.

In 684, Wu Zetian changed the eastern capital to the capital of God and Luoyang palace to Taichu palace 太初宫. Tai Chu 太初 implies a new starting point, marking the beginning of Wu Zetian’s era. In March, Wu Zetian ordered the manufacture of small copper boxes. And put them in front of the palace city of Luoyang to accept the officials at any time. This move was open-minded and played a major role in stabilizing the government at that time.

Wu Zhou Dynasty 武周
Zetian 武则天

At the same time, in order to supervise all officials and clans, Wu Zetian opened the door to whistle blowing, stipulating that anyone can whistle blowing. For those who are informers, the state should provide stagecoach, horses and food. Even the farmer and woodcutter were met by Wu Zetian in person. If what you tell conforms to your will, you can be promoted exceptionally.

If the accusation is not true, he will not be guilty. As a result, “people sue officials” has become a routine, and ministers have to say goodbye to their families every time before going to the court. The ministers were in a panic all day long. Since then, it is only a matter of time before Wu Zetian becomes emperor.

Rule of Wu Zhou Dynasties 武周之治

In 690, Wu Zetian announced that Tang Dynasty was changed to Wu Zhou Dynasty and Luoyang was the capital. Emperor Ruizong of the Tang Dynasty was descended to the throne and became the Emperor himself.

Wu Zhou Dynasty 武周
Tianshu 天枢 Wu Zetian’s pillar to commemorate her merits

Wu Zetian was good at governing the country and initiated the palace examination in imperial examination system. Moreover, she knows people well and can make good use of good officials. During the period when the country was in power, that is Wu Zhou Dynasty the policy was stable, the military strategy was appropriate, the culture was revived, and the people were well fed and clothed, living and working in peace and contentment.

It laid an extremely important foundation for the Kaiyuan rule of Emperor Xuanzong of Tang Dynasty 唐玄宗, which was called the rule of Wu and Zhou dynasties in history.

Although Wu Zetian is old, she is good at makeup and often glows. Even her left and right attendants can’t feel her aging. Wu Zetian highly praised Buddhism, and Buddhist temples were built frequently during the Wu Zhou Dynasty.

Wu Zhou Dynasty 武周
military examination 武举

With the further development of the imperial examination system, Wu Zetian created the palace examination 殿试 and the military examination 武举 in Wu Zhou Dynasty. And vigorously promote officials who were born in the imperial examination, and combat the aristocratic family forces since the Northern Wei Dynasty. The foreign war consolidated and expanded the territory of the country. In Wu Zhou Dynasty, Culture and art have also made progress.

Shenlong Revolution 神龙政变

Shenlong revolution is also known as the five kings’ coup. It refers to the mutiny launched by Crown Prince Li Xian 李显 in Wu Zhou Dynasty, Prime Minister Zhang Jianzhi 张柬之, and other ministers in the capital Luoyang in the first year of Shenlong (705). The mutiny was to force the female emperor Wu Zetian to abdicate and restoring the Tang Dynasty.

Wu Zhou Dynasty 武周
Shenlong Revolution 神龙政变

Finally, Emperor Zhongzong of Tang Dynasty Li Xian 唐中宗李显 reset and restored the name of the Tang Dynasty. He changed the capital back to the eastern capital, restoring the pattern of paying equal attention to the two capitals.

In Wu Zhou Dynasty, Wu Zetian has been in power for 15 years and has been in power for 23 years. From the fifth year of Xianqing 显庆 (660) when Wu Zetian was in power on behalf of Gaozong to the restoration of Zhongzong in the first year of Shenlong 神龙 (705), Wu Zetian was in power for 45 years. She is the only female emperor in Chinese history.

Important Influences

The prosperity and development of music culture

Wu Zetian loved poetry, music and dance. After becoming emperor, she wrote a large number of elegant music works in Wu Zhou Dynasty. Such as Tang Mingtang Movement 唐明堂乐章, etc.

Wu Zhou Dynasty 武周
tangmingtang movement 唐明堂乐章

In order to publicize political needs and meet personal pleasure, Wu Zetian devoted herself to creating a court band called “100000 court music”. Wu Zetian’s homemade “divine palace music” was performed by 900 people in the court of the Vientiane divine palace in Wu Zhou Dynasty. Its large scale can be called the most imperial court band.

Create many emerging systems

There were two most famous systems during the Wu and Zhou dynasties. The first is to create the palace examination and martial arts examination, and the second is the whistleblowing system.

Wu Zhou Dynasty 武周
the palace examination 科举殿试

The palace examination was attended by the winner of the Council examination, and then the emperor was asked to choose. Its purpose is to distinguish the qualified candidates and select officials. Themartial arts examination in Chinese history was founded in Wu Zhou Dynasty. Wu Zetian opened the “martial arts examination” in 702 to select people with martial arts skills. In the Qing Dynasty, it was renamed subjects used to test military personnel 武科.

Zhou dynasty 690–705

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