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Empress Wu Empress Theodora.  The only female in Chinese history to rule as emperor  Effectively ruled China during one of its more peaceful and culturally.

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Presentation on theme: "Empress Wu Empress Theodora.  The only female in Chinese history to rule as emperor  Effectively ruled China during one of its more peaceful and culturally."— Presentation transcript:

1 Empress Wu Empress Theodora

2  The only female in Chinese history to rule as emperor  Effectively ruled China during one of its more peaceful and culturally diverse periods  Even though a popular Confucian saying stated that a woman ruling was as unnatural as having a “hen crow like a rooster at daybreak”

3  A time of relative freedom for women  Women did not bind their feet  Women did not lead submissive lives  Tang rulers had nomadic ancestors  Nomadic cultures generally offered women more freedoms

4  Wu was born into a wealthy, noble family  Taught to read the Chinese classics and write  Taught to play music  Known for her wit, intelligence, and beauty

5  Definition: Concubine -one having a recognized social status in a household below that of a wife  Wu was recruited to the court of Emperor Tai Tsung  Wu soon became his favorite concubine

6  Kao Tsung was Emperor Tai Tsung’s son  Concubine Wu was attracted to the emperor’s son  When the emperor died, Wu was only twenty-seven years old  She quickly became the new emperor, Kao Tsung’s, favorite concubine

7  Concubine Wu gave birth to the sons that the new emperor desperately wanted  As the mother of the future emperor, she grew in power  She eliminated the emperor’s wife by accusing her of killing Wu’s newborn daughter  The emperor believed Wu  The emperor married Wu

8  Within five years of marriage, the emperor suffered a stroke  Empress Wu took over the administrative duties of the court, a position equal to emperor  The empress created a secret police force to spy on the opposition  She cruelly jailed or killed anyone who stood in her way

9  Wu managed to outflank her eldest sons and moved her youngest and much weaker son into power

10  To challenge Confucian beliefs -Wu began a campaign to elevate the status of women 1. Had scholars write biographies of famous women 2. Raised the position of her mother’s clan by giving her relatives high political posts 3. Said that the ideal ruler was one who ruled like a mother does over her children

11  In 690, Wu’s youngest son removed himself from office  Wu Zetian was declared emperor of China  In spite of her ruthless rise to power, her reign was benign  She found the best people she could to govern China  She treated those she trusted fairly

12  She reduced the size of the army  She stopped the influence of aristocratic military men on government  Relying instead on scholars in government  Everyone had to compete for government positions by taking exams

13  Fair to peasants  Lowering oppressive taxes  Raising agricultural production  Strengthening public works

14  Placed Buddhism over Daoism as the favored religion  She invited the most gifted scholars to China  Built Buddhist temples and cave sculptures  Chinese Buddhism achieved its highest development under the reign of Wu Zetian

15  Lessened the power of the secret police  But increasingly superstitious and fearful  Sorcerers and corrupt court favorites flattered her

16  Finally, in 705, she was pressured to give up the throne in favor of her of her third son, who was waiting all these years in the wings  Wu Zetian died peacefully at age eighty the same year

17  Born into the lowest classes  Her father was an animal trainer  After his death, Theodora took the stage as an actress to support the family  The profession was considered scandalous  Being an actress was synonymous with being a prostitute

18  But Theodora took every opportunity to move up in a very rigid class system  In 516, at the age of sixteen, Theodora traveled to Alexandria, Egypt  In Egypt, she discovered Monophysitism

19  Monophysitism was the belief that Jesus Christ was wholly divine  Theodora converted to Monophysitism  Theodora renounced her former career and lifestyle

20  Theodora met Justinian I in 522, who was heir to the Byzantine throne  Justinian wanted to wed Theodora immediately  But as heir, he was forbidden to marry an actress, even a former one

21  Justinian had this law repealed the following year  The two were married in 525

22  Theodora and Justinian were known for ruling as intellectual and political equals  And Theodora was responsible for much of the reformation of Byzantium  In 528, construction began on the Basilica of San Vitale in Ravenna, Italy  The basilica’s mosaic, completed in 548, depicts both the emperor and empress participating in an imperial procession, signifying her equal role in ruling the empire

23  In 532, religion plagued the empire  A conflict between two political and religious groups, the Blues and Greens, began during a chariot race at the Hippodrome and quickly grew into what is known as the Nika Revolt  The revolt destroyed much of Constantinople

24  Many saw this as a chance to overthrow Justinian  Justinian wished to flee  But Theodora spoke out, preferring to die as a ruler than to be removed from power  Her courage prompted Justinian to send troops in to calm the rebels

25  After quelling the revolt, Theodora and Justinian confronted the destruction of important monuments in Constantinople, including the Hagia Sophia  The couple rebuilt the basilica, which was rededicated in 537  It was the largest church of the period and later became one of the greatest examples of Byzantine architecture


27  During her time as empress, Theodora fought for the persecuted  She attended to the rights of prostitutes, particularly by closing brothels, creating protective safe houses, and passing laws to prohibit forced prostitution

28  In addition, she passed laws that expanded the rights of women in divorce cases and abolished a law that allowed women to be killed for committing adultery

29  Finally, she strove to protect the Monophysites  Building houses of worship that served as refuges

30  Theodora died in 548  But her influence was apparent in Justinian’s subsequent rule  Justinian sought to maintain the same level of freedom for women, setting a precedent for women’s equality  He also fought for the Monophysites, despite his own conflicting orthodox beliefs

31  But there are always exceptions

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