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Wu Zetian: The Female Emperor

Rana Mitter tells the story of Empress Wu Zetian, who grew up a humble lady of the court, but became the only woman in 2,000 years to rule China in her own right.

Rana Mitter tells the story of Wu Zetian, the only woman ever to rule as China's emperor in her own right, in two thousand years of dynastic history. Even more remarkably,, she did it during one of the finest moments of China's cultural history - the medieval Tang dynasty. Wu Zetian grew up as a humble lady of the court, but threw off her humility to plan her way to the top with strategic precision, leaving a trail of elite corpses along the way. Once on the throne, she secured China's borders and promoted Buddhism as a powerful new religious force. Later history has condemned her as a dreadful anomaly , as women were never supposed to rule in traditional China. But she's had the last laugh - now regarded as a feminist icon in China with a 74-part TV soap opera dedicated to her rise and rule.
Chinese Characters is a series of 20 essays exploring Chinese history through the life stories of key personalities.
Producer: Ben Crighton
Researcher: Elizabeth Smith Rosser.

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14 minutes