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Rhee, "Empress Wu of the Tang dynasty: Becoming the only female emperor in China," 2009

USC Thesis in East Asian Languages and Cultures.
August 4, 2009

Jong Min Rhee, M.A

Abstract (Summary)
This thesis presents a re-evaluation of Empress Wu (624-705) of the Tang dynasty, who became the only female emperor in Chinese history. In the Chinese historical texts, evaluations of Empress Wu as an emperor by Confucian historians were generally hostile, but were not consistently so. This study first analyzes and compares descriptions of Empress Wu in primary sources. It investigates how Confucian historiography affected each primary source and how the accounts changed over time, in general becoming more negative. Second, this study examines what components helped Empress Wu become an emperor, including an analysis of Tang social conditions and Empress Wu's political deeds. Through these analyses, this study attempts to explain how Empress Wu was able to become the only female emperor in Chinese history.

Committee members: Birge, Bettine,  Kim, Namkil,  Hayden, George