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Emperor Wu Zhao and Her Pantheon of Devis, Divinities, and Dynastic Mothers$
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Norman Rothschild

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780231169387

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231169387.001.0001

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Wu Zhao and Her Pantheon of Female Political Ancestors

Wu Zhao and Her Pantheon of Female Political Ancestors

(p.1) Introduction Wu Zhao and Her Pantheon of Female Political Ancestors
Emperor Wu Zhao and Her Pantheon of Devis, Divinities, and Dynastic Mothers

N. Harry Rothschild

Columbia University Press

This book focuses on the remarkable political career of Wu Zhao (624–705), China's first and only female emperor better known as Wu Zetian or Empress Wu. In the tortuous half century of her reign, Wu Zhao faced daunting cultural obstacles and fierce opposition. Acutely aware of the breadth of resistance to her public political engagement, Wu Zhao capably deflected much of the virulent criticism. This book examines how Wu Zhao overcame these ponderous obstacles to become the sole female emperor in China's long historical pageant by developing and embracing a lineage of culturally revered female ancestors, goddesses, and paragons from different traditions, all of whom were closely associated with her person and her political power. It explains how Wu Zhao, by endorsing these various cults and drawing upon each of the “three faiths” (san jiao)—Buddhism, Confucianism, and Daoism—significantly bolstered her political authority, providing both a divine aura and tremendous normative charisma. The book explores the timing, nature, and purpose of Wu Zhao's connections to this eclectic assemblage of past influential women and female divinities.

Keywords:   cults, Wu Zhao, China, female emperor, Wu Zetian, Empress Wu, goddesses, paragons, political authority, female divinities

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