Wu Zetian and Her Tomb Stele
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Empress Wu Zetian and Her Wordless Tomb Stele

Empress Wu Zetian, the only one female monarch in Chinese history. She reigned the country as an imperator in the Tang dynasty for 15 years. If taken into account the actual time when she manipulated the government, it’s almost 50 years. The Empress Wu zetian influenced the whole history of the Tang dynasty. In 705 AD, she died of disease and was buried in Qian Mausoleum nearby Xian. Nowadays Qian Mausoleum has become one of the hot attractions for Xian trip.

Over the past thousands years, Qianling was split by the swords in the Cold Weapon Era, and was bombarded by machine guns and heavy shelling in the Hot Weapon Era. In the past 1200 years, the tomb robbers are endless, and the largest population of stealing are up to 400,000. Mountain Liang where the mausoleum locates was nearly destroyed in half. However, Qianling remained intact. It is the most complete and well-preserved imperial tomb in China with the richest cultural relics and without being stolen. In front of her grave, there’s a stone monument erected by Wu Zetian when she’s alive. It’s an enigma as no inscriptions were cut on that tablet, which is called “Wordless Stone Stele”. There are mainly four kinds of explanation about why Wu Zetian erected this Wordless Stone Stele for herself.


The first version: The reason why Wu Zetian left this Tablet is to show off her achievements, and in her view, what she did can not be fully expressed on such a tablet. Though as a woman, she believed that her talent and ability are much higher than her husband, Emperor Gao Zong. It is truth that Wu Zetian made great contribution, such as assisting the poor and weak, striking the bureaucracy, developing the imperial examination. People live and work in peace and contentment during her reign. Besides, there were scarce rebellions at that time, which few emperors could make it, and yet she was just a female emperor. Therefore, Wu Zetian left an empty tablet to mark her indescribable accomplishment.

The second version: Wu Zetian once believed in Taoism, so she killed many Confucian scholars in order to maintain the rule of Taoism and prevent Confucianism from taking her stage. She was aware that the history was recorded by Confucians. In order not to let the Confucian wantonly revenge and smear herself, she just erected a wordless tablet to eradicate the Confucian attempts. In addition, Emperor Zhong Zong (Son of Gao Zong) inherited the throne when Wu Zetian died, he could neither name Wu as the Last Emperor, because his father was also the emperor. He could nor name Wu as Queen Mother, because she was an empress as well. For the Tang dynasty, the era “Wu Zhou” established by Wu Zetian was more than a great humiliation. For the sake of etiquette and rite, there was no inscription on the tablet of Wu Zetian.

The third version: The sin of Wu Zetian is heinous. She understoon what she had done went against tradition and knew it was better to not write any words on her tablet. Despite the great contributions, she was meantime a cruel female monarch. To suppress those who were against her, she appointed a few merciless persons to be punished severely. Many innocent people got killed in her hands. This female emperor’s private life is also very messy, but she was never ashamed of that.

The fourth version: Wu Zetian believed in Buddhism in her later years. As Buddhism disseminated, life and death are trifles, and there’s no right or wrong in one’s life. Hence she left the Wordless Stone Stele.

Wu Zetian, the first and only female ruler in the history of China, who breached the restriction of man’s superior to woman, broke the shackle of the feudal age, and rose to the throne of the emperor on her own. She was overweening in her live days, and left nothing on her monument when she died. Isn’t it intriguing and enigmatic?