Empress Wu Zetian (also known as Empress Consort Wu, Wu Hou, Wu Mei Niang, Mei-Niang, and Wu Zhao, 624-705 CE, r. 690-704 CE) was the only female emperor in the history of China. She reigned during the Tang Dynasty (618-907 CE) and was one of the most effective and controversial monarchs in China’s history.
Although modern historians, both east and west, have revised the ancient depiction of Wu Zetian as a scheming usurper, that view of her reign still persists in much that is written about her. The woman who believed she was as capable as any man to lead the country continues to be vilified, even if writers now qualify their criticisms, but there is no arguing with the fact that, under Wu Zetian, China experienced an affluence and stability it had never known before. Her reforms and policies lay the foundation for the success of Xuanzong as emperor under whose reign China became the most prosperous country in the world.