WOMEN OF HISTORY: Wu Zetian (624 - 705 AD)
Play • 9 min

Meet Wu Zetian, the only female emperor in the history of China, who lived from about 624-705 AD. 

Now listen, Wu Zetian doesn’t have a reputation for being Miss Congeniality or anything, in fact she’s known for her ruthless determination and brutal violence inflicted mostly by her secret police force, but she climbed the proverbial latter from being one of the lowest-ranking (teenage) concubines in the palace to literally claiming the position of emperor and holding that power for FIFTY YEARS.


How did she do it? 


She was really smart and committed to learning, intensely ambitious, incredibly bold and courageous, and persuasively charismatic. Wu Zetian was fiercely determined to get on top, and stay there. 


And, despite some of her more questionable and murder-y decisions, she also dramatically increased the size of China’s empire, improved the lives of peasants by cutting taxes and building new public works, improved farming techniques and literacy, and generally led her country during a time of power and prosperity.



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