R. W. L. Guisso

Volume and Number

Occasional Paper No. 11



Download Full Text (175.5 MB)

Download Front Matter (6.0 MB)

Download Chapter 1: Introduction (3.5 MB)

Download Chapter 2: Sources for the Life and Career of Wu Tse-t'ien (1.7 MB)

Download Chapter 3: The Origins and Rise of Wu Tse-t'ien (8.4 MB)

Download Chapter 4: The Empress Wu and the Creation of State Ideology (14.1 MB)

Download Chapter 5: The Road to Usurpation (10.5 MB)

Download Chapter 6: Imperial Power and the Ruling Class (9.3 MB)

Download Chapter 7: The Examination System and the Bureaucracy (11.3 MB)

Download Chapter 8: Chinese Arms and Foreign Policy to 684 (10.5 MB)

Download Chapter 9: The Chou Dynasty (17.0 MB)

Download Chapter 10: Retrospect (2.8 MB)

Download Appendix A: Historiography of the Empress Wu (2.7 MB)

Download Appendix B: The tsai-hsiang, 618-705 (12.5 MB)

Download Map: The Distribution of the Great Clans During T'ang (438 KB)

Download Map: The T'ang Empire at its Height in the Mid-Seventh Century (423 KB)

Download Map: The Korean Peninsula in the Seventh Century (409 KB)

Download Map: The Northwest in the Chou Dynasty (450 KB)

Download Map: The Northeast in the Chou Dynasty (446 KB)

Download Back Matter (65.4 MB)

Publication Date


Managing Editor

Henry G. Schwarz


Center for East Asian Studies, Western Washington University


Bellingham, Washington


Wu Tse-t’ien and the Politics of Legitimation in T'ang China by R.W.L. Guisso is an attempt to examine and to describe the career of China's only female "emperor" and an attempt also, by using a particular frame of reference, to place in perspective her very controversial regime. The author did not set out consciously to write a biography but could not avoid, of course, the inclusion of a good deal of biographical detail. In general, the life of the Empress Wu has been subordinated to larger themes, and it is for this reason that we can see her remarkable force of character and virtuosity of mind only through the darkest of glasses.

This study has three emphases. The first is the question of legitimation, the nature of the Empress Wu's position and power. How did she win recognition as the legitimate sovereign of a state and a culture which had never before permitted a woman to be Son of Heaven? And why, after this unique achievement, did she fail to preserve her position until her death? What influence did her unorthodox rise and her anomalous position have upon her times, and what does her career tell us of the process of legitimation in T'ang China?


Publisher (Digital Object)

Resources made available by the Special Collections, Heritage Resources, and Western Libraries, Western Washington University.



OCLC Number


Geographic Coverage

China--History--Tang dynasty, 618-907


Asian History


Wu Tse-t'ien, T'ang China, Empress Wu

Document Type



Copyright 1978 the Center for East Asian Studies, Western Washington University





Wu Tse-T’ien and the Politics of Legitimation in T’ang China

Included in

Asian History Commons