Wu Zetian – College Essay

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WU ZETIAN’S CONTRIBUTION TO THE CULTURAL DEVELOPMENT OF THE TANG DYNASTY By Rui Wang A thesis submitted in conformity with the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts Department of East Asian Studies University of Toronto © 2008 by Rui Wang ABSTRACT Wu Zetian’s Contribution to the Cultural Development of the Tang Dynasty Rui Wang Master of Arts Thesis, November 2008 Department of East Asian Studies University of Toronto This thesis represents cross-section of sources on a selection of major topics and issues related to Wu Zetian’s policies and accomplishments in promoting the cultural development of the Tang Dynasty.

Her contribution to the cultural development of the Tang Dynasty can be summarized into several aspects: increased the number of hiring sources, which drew a larger talent pool of potential candidates; increased the importance of the Imperial Examination System, and made bold innovations to it; selected scholars as officials according to the effectiveness of their essays and emphasized their literary accomplishments and ability to identify, relate and solve pertinent societal issues; broke the traditionalist’s hold on power and influence, and integrated people of various backgrounds and cultures; summoned scholars to compile reference book, which facilitated cultural prosperity, promoted Buddhism and other religions simultaneously. All of those bold reforms enabled a paradigm shift that fostered an economically, socially and culturally rich society to flourish and prosper. Table of Contents Abstract ii Table of Contents iii Chapter 1 Introduction 1 1. 1 Cultural development during the Zhenguan Period 2 Advocating Confucianism and embracing a pluralistic cultural development policy

Promoting historiography cultural classics Expanding the Imperial Examination System Ceasing military activities and preparing for cultural development 1. 2 Brief introduction to Wu Zetian 12 1. 3 Wu Zetian’s accomplishments 15 Wu Zetian was accomplished in poetry Wu Zetian was accomplished in prose writing Wu Zetian was accomplished in calligraphy Wu Zetian was accomplished in classics and histories Wu’s admiration for the competent Wu’s respects for the worthy Sources for the talents in 2. 2 Bold innovations of the Imperial Examination System 31 Elevating the status of the examination for the Jinshi degree Formulating the “Royal Palace Examination”

Introducing “Military Candidacy in Provincial Examinations” Adopting “Hu Ming Kao” in the imperial examination system 2. 3 Selection of officials and the age of prospering literary arts 39 2. 4 Striking the clan families and fusing different cultures 44 Suppressing the power of influential clan families Moving the capital to Luoyang Changing the Records of Clans into the Records of Family Names 2. 5 Compilation of reference books 52 2. 6 Promoting Buddhism and developing the three religions simultaneously 57 The rising of Buddhism culture The promotion of Taoism culture Developing the three religions simultaneously Chapter 3 Researchers’ and historians’ comments on Wu Zetian 75 BIBLIOGRAPHY 87 IV

Chapter 1- Introduction Throughout China’s feudal history, the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD) is a significant historical period for its triumphant civilization. As one of the world’s three Axial Ages1, the Tang Dynasty had achieved significant contributions to the world’s cultural development. The period of Wu Zetian’s reign was the transitional period from the Early Tang Dynasty(618-712 AD) to the Great Tang Dynasty(713-765 AD), and the reign of this Empress was so long that it covered nearly one quarter of the duration of the Tang Dynasty. Therefore, it is important to be cognizant of the historical influence of Wu Zetian (624-705 AD) had on Chinese history.

Wu Zetian is one of the historical figures who produced the greatest impact and brought about the greatest debate in the Chinese history. From a Cairen of Emperor Taizong (599-649 AD) to the Empress of Emperor Gaozong (628-683 AD), this brilliant woman intervened in the political affairs of the imperial court, first in partnership with her husband Emperor Gaozong, later as defacto regent of her son, Emperor Zhongzong (656-710 AD), and finally as China’s sole ruler in both face and name. As the only female emperor in the Chinese history to ascend the imperial throne, she produced great impact on the development of Chinese history. In a feudal male-dominant society, can the reign of Empress Wu be seen as a historical progress or regression back to the remote antiquity?

During the process in which she captured the highest state power, she took use of this apex power and arbitrarily slaughtered 1 The three Axial Ages: with the other two being the Ancient Egypt and Ancient India of the same period. 2 Cairen: one of the nine concubines of the fifth rank. many innocents. Is this merely a trivial fault among her many merits, or a huge devastation to the society? These types of controversial debates exist throughout the Chinese history. This paper attempts to explicit, from various historical resources, Wu Zetian’s great contribution to the cultural development of the Tang Dynasty. Wu Zetian was born in the 7th year of the Wude Period (618-626 AD) of Gaozu(566-635 AD)’s reign, and in the 11th year of the Zhenguan Period (627-649 AD).

When she was fourteen years old, she was chosen and recruited as Cairen, the fifth-grade concubine, by Emperor Taizong3. Many years’ of life in the imperial court and the brilliant social development during the Zhenguan Period(627-649 AD) produced a far-reaching influence on her, and laid a solid foundation for her upcoming political dominance. Secondly, due to Wu Zetian’s relatively high cultural taste and her passion for culture, she may not merely follow the cultural traditions from the Zhenguan Period, but contributed further innovations and developments to them. Thus it is the very first topic that enters our spectrum of discussion in this paper. 1. 1 Cultural development during the Zhenguan Period

The establishment of Sui (581-618 AD) and Tang(618-907 AD) Dynasties marks the end of the over 400 years’ split and turbulence, and the kingdom was unified to an unprecedented extent. In the process of establishing the Tang Dynasty, Li Shimin (Emperor Taizong, 599-649 AD) and his father (Emperor Gaozu, 566-635AD) saw 3 Liu Xufl! ]B6j, Jiu Tang ShuMMIH “Old Tang History” , Vol. 6, Biography of the Queen of Heaven ZetianM3i]ikB#wL, Beijing: Zhonghua Shuju, 1975. with their own eyes the greatness of peasant revolt, and they had to establish trust and cooperation with people after their own dynasty is established. Li Shimin once said to his son: “Boat is compared to the ruler of a country, and water to the people; the water can carry the boat, but it can also capsize it $-Jjff UltAM, 7jc? tUttl^; zKttafc M> ^FtbS^r”4 Learning from the lessons of the previous dynasty’s ruin due to political corruption and harsh treatment of people, the two emperors adopted a series of measures to alleviate social conflicts between different classes. In terms of politics, they ceased military activities and preparations and promoted cultural development, rectified the administration of officials of the imperial service, as well as expanded the imperial examination system, so that the society was stabilized within a short period of time. In terms of economy, they adopted the Equal Field System and system of levying taxes and corvee to promote the equal distribution of land, thus giving land back to peasants. They also started the construction of irrigation infrastructure, expanded farm fields and alleviated peasants’ tax burdens, so that the society quickly experienced an economic boom.

Especially when Li Shimin (599-649 AD) held the throne, he further promoted the policy of “ceasing military activities and preparations and promoting cultural development”, and at the same time, advocated social achievements in culture and education. As a result, China’s feudal age came to an unprecedented level of prosperity during the Zhenguan Period (627-649 AD). The cultural development of Zhenguan Period can be summarized in the following five aspects: Sima GuangW] H^fe, Zizhi TongjianM yn ffil? , “Comprehensive Mirror for the Advancement of Governance”, Record 8 of the Tang Dynasty, 192. Advocating Confucianism and embracing a pluralistic cultural development policy Since the Han Dynasty(202 BC-220 AD), Confucian doctrine sunk into the long-standing debate between present and ancient study for the legitimacy of Confucian classics.

Meanwhile, the rise of the study of theology since the end of the West Han Dynasty(202 BC-9 AD), along with the emergence of the study metaphysics in the Wei and Jin Dynasties(220-589 AD), had all greatly weakened the dominance of Confucius ideology in the Chinese society. In addition, because of the endless chaos caused by war, the Confucian doctrine became a subject carried on by generations of disciples from their teachers among the popular communities. Since Emperor Taizong seized the throne, he realized the importance of the Confucius studies, and declared to his officials at the royal court that: “What I love most the Tao (moral law) of the ancient sages Emperors Yao, Shun, the King of Zhou Dynasty( 1046-256 BC) and Confucius. In my opinion, their Tao is like the wings to birds and water to fish, they cannot live without, even for a single moment. Hf$R^P”5.

Therefore he advocated the Confucius studies throughout the whole country, which aimed at re-establishing the dominance of Confucius in the cultural communities. Firstly, during second year of the Zhenguan Period, Emperor Taizong “esteemed Duke Zhou as the ancient sage, and for the first time established 5 Sima GuangW]J§;5fe, Zizhi Tongjian’MiaM^, “Comprehensive Mirror for the Advancement of Governance”, Record 8 of the Tang Dynasty, p. 515. Confucianism as the national studies. ;XM&%i9b^, ffi^LJl^M^M^”6 In the fourth year of the Zhenguan Period, he ordered various prefectures and counties to construct Confucian temples to allow local people to offer sacrifices in such temples.

In the eleventh year of the Zhenguan Period, he further issued an imperial decree, stated that the whole country shall regard Confucius as “Xuan FUJL5? “7. In addition, a Confucian temple had been constructed in the Yanzhou Prefecture, where he designated twenty households to maintain the temple, to demonstrate his worship to the Confucius values and doctrines. Secondly, the imperial cabinet integrated aspects of Confucianism to various aspects of culture and law. While canonizing famous masters of Confucius learning and Confucius classics in the past age, Emperor Taizong also paid great attention to promote his contemporary Confucius masters.

According to historical records, Emperor Taizong “set up the Hongwen Imperial College to the left of the main hall of the imperial palace, where the selected best scholars in Confucius studies taught the Confucius classics and discussed political issues. ^ JEmZ&, S:%JC^m, M»;T3C{f^±, fiUM^, «W 8 At the same time, he gathered Confucian scholars from all over the country, and promoted those who were proficient in more than one of the Confucian classics to high and important positions. 9 Lastly, the literati scholars from the Imperial Academy committed to the integration of the Confucian classics and Confucian Studies. 6 Liu XuSljBfiJ, Jiu Tang ShuUfM^t “Old Tang History” , Vol. 189, Biographies of the Confucians-I, No. 139. 7 Ouyang Xiu,et al. Xin Tang Shuff If H, ” New Tang History”, Vol. 15, Record of Rites and Music-V. 8 Liu XufijBfiJ, Jiu Tang ShuMlMW “Old Tang History” , Vol. 89, Biographies of the Confucians-I. 9 Liu XuI’jBfy Jiu Tang ShuWl^ES “Old Tang History” , Vol. 189, Biographies of the Confucians-I. Addressing the problem of the differences in “variations of many Confucian teaching BrPtS^ri”10, Emperor Taizong(599-649 AD) had a unified Revision and Annotation of Five Classics compiled and published throughout the country for people to study for examinations. In addition, he also organized scholars from the Imperial Academy to compile a unified interpretation for the Five Classics, entitled Wu Jing Ding Ben HM/iL^f “The Official Interpretation of the Five Classic “, and ordered people in the country to study and disseminate.

In short, the compilation of The Official Interpretation of the Five Classics marked the unification of the studies of Confucian classics of the northern and southern parts of the country, and Confucian philosophy finally had “uniformed dominations^—^i”11 in the country. Though he advocated Confucian studies and revered Confucius, Emperor Taizong also respected Buddhism and Taoism, and allowed the coexistence of various schools of thought. Although he claimed that “what I love most the Tao (moral law) of the ancient sage Emperors Yao, Shun, as well as the teachings of the King of Zhou Dynasty and Confucius ^ZffiM, ‘B&^ZM, J^? Lttfc”12 He praised Taoism as “the essential point of Lao-tzu’s theory is pristine and void,^^”li? B, H^E ^#|j|” and he recognized Lao-tzu as the “royal ancestorillii”13.

Despite having the esteemed Confucian teaching as the basis for national academic curriculum, Emperor 10 Sima GuangSUfTfe, Zizhi TongjianM^MW, “Comprehensive Mirror for the Advancement of Governance”, Vol. 192, Record 8 of the Tang Dynasty. 11 Liu XuSTO, Jiu Tang ShuMfMM “Old Tang History” , Vol. 189, Biographies of the Confucians-I. 12 Wu Jing^rM, Zhenguan Zheng Yao&M&M, “the Record of Zhenguan Political History”, Vol. 6, Shen Suo Hao%$ftU. 13 Dong Gaojjrilcf, Quan Tang Wen^f^’X, Vol. 6, Ling Daoshi zai Seng qian Zhao^-ittiitflt ntfiB. Taizong also tolerated the Buddhism which originated from India. When Xuanzang returned with huge volumes of Mahaprajnaparamita Sutra from India, Emperor Taizong came out of the imperial palace to welcome him, and the entire population of the city came out to see this grand scene.

He ordered Xuanzang to translate the sutra classics that he brought back, and wrote an introduction to Xuanzang’s translated sutra entitled “Sheng Jiao Xu^tfcpf “Introduction to the Sacred Teachings”. Emperor Taizong’s open cultural policies broke the rigidity of imperial rulers since the Han Dynasty who “venerated Confucianism as the only ideology ^KffBtfj”, which facilitated in broadening people’s cultural horizons, this made the cultural scene of the Zhenguan Period(627-649 AD) both dynamic and spirited. Promoting historiography cultural classics Compiling books can be seen as the foundation of cultural development. The initial compilation of books and historical records had always been regarded as significant to the cultural and educational promotion.

After Emperor Taizong (599-649 AD) seized the throne, he attached much importance to the compilation of books and historical records, and made great achievements in this field. First, the emperor’s view on the importance of compiling books was attributed to the chaos caused by wars as at the end of the Sui Dynasty(581-618 AD), which resulted in extremely severe loss and damage of classical books. As early as the beginning of the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD), Emperor Gaozong Li Yuan adopted the 14 Xuanzang(602-664): a famous Chinese Buddhist monk, scholar, traveler, and translator that brought up the interaction between China and India in the early Tang period. advice from important officials, paid high prices for lost old books, and organized scholars to verify and rewrite the books.

After Emperor Taizong (599-649 AD) took the imperial power, he again organized scholars to revise the Five Classics, Shi Ji jfe IS “Historical Record”, the works of the various schools of thought during the period from pre-Qin(221-207 BC) times to the early years of the Han Dynasty(202 BC-220 AD) as well as collections of poems and proses; “within a few years, the secret repository was brilliantly filled up with a complete collection of booksfft^^LPa], 1$ M’Mffi’J&W’15 At the same time, scholars responded to the imperial order, and actively participated in the compilation of reference books; except Wu Jing Ding Ben 5M^^ “The Official Interpretation of the Five Classics” and Wu Jing Zheng Yi 3iMlElt “Revision and Annotation of Five Classics”. Examples of such reference books include Yi Wen Lei Ju^kJtWM. “Classified Excerpts from Ancient Writers”, Bei Tang Shu Chao 4b^*i^ “Excerpts from Books in the Northern Hall”, Qun Shu Zhi Yaoffi^-tu1^ “Important Experts from Many Classical Books”, Wen Si Bo Yao I^t/Stm? “Works of Literary Gems”, Tang Lil Shu Yi MW^iWk “Comments on Law of Tang Dynasty “, etc. Such measures as protection and using of cultural classics and compilation of reference books greatly promoted the cultural development of the Zhenguan Period.

Second, the emperor placed significant importance to the compilation of historical records. In the Zhenguan Period, people were involved in large-scaled compilation and revision of the national historical records of the previous dynasties as 15 Wang Pu ^M, Tang Hui Yao ^#1 ? “Institutional History of the Tang Dynasty”, Vol. 35. well as of the Tang Dynasty. Of The Twenty-Four Histories, eight were compiled during the Zhenguan Period. 16 Because of the proactive efforts made in the Zhenguan Period, official compilation of classical books later became the norm for cultural promotion, and compilation of histories became an established system in later dynasties.

Expanding the Imperial Examination System The imperial examination system originated in the Han Dynasty, when it was called Ce Shi j$tfj? 17. It burgeoned as the “Wide Selection from all Sorts of People fl “M^M” in the Six Dynasties18, and in the Sui Dynasty(581-618 AD) the system was finalized as “Jinshi Degree SystemMif4″19. Emperor Taizong realized that “the most important point in politics is nothing more than selecting and employing competent persons, and the basis for selection shall be virtues and depths of knowledge. J|I&;t^, 1fe? f#A, ‘MMttWlJ, ^MM&”20 Thus the imperial examination system was inherited and further developed in the Tang Dynasty.

During the Zhenguan Period(627-649 AD), the impetus of the imperial examination system was to select various levels of government officials annually through the awarding of Ming Jing Degree and Jinshi Degree. Large amount of masters of Confucian studies 16 Namely, The Book of JinU^, The Book of Liang’MW, The Book of CheiMM, The Book of Northern Qiit^9, The Book of Northern ZhouitM^, The Book of Sui $H if, History of Southern Dynasties^ $. and History of Northern Dynastieslt$l. 17 Wu, ZongguoH^g. Tang Dai Keju ZhiduMttW&MBt. 18 Eastern Wu(222-280> Eastern Jin( 316-420), Song of the Southern Dynasty (420-497), Qi( 479-502 ) , Liang (502-557) ,Chen (557-589) . 19 Wu, Zongguo^H. Tang Dai Keju ZhiduMVZM^Uig.. 20 Wu Jing^iiU, Zhenguan ZhengyaoMMMM, “Essentials of Governance in the Zhenguan Period”, Vol. 7, Esteeming the Confucian Studies. were selected into to imperial court service, and the examination system reached its prosperity during this period. Emperor Taizong (599-649 AD) also realized that without a good mastery of knowledge, officials could not be selected for important positions. As a result, the cultural and educational courses were greatly emphasized during his reign. The emperor had the Imperial Academy re-established, so as to intensify the management and supervision of the cultural and educational causes. Apart from the National Studies in the Zhenguan Period, Emperor Taizong revived studies of classical books in the year 618.

Soon after, he promoted medical studies throughout the country. In 632, he established the studies of law, to train special talented people in justice. In order to demonstrate his concern to education, Emperor Taizong often went to the Imperial College to listen to the teachings of Confucian classics, “ordered Jijiu (principal of the imperial college), Siye (vice-president of the imperial college) and scholars to teach and discuss studies there. ^-^tS> ^1li> t^itifil” 2 1 For example, during the fourteenth year of the Zhenguan Period, Emperor Taizong led his imperial officials to the Imperial College to listen Kong Ying’s teachings of Xiaojing #&5 “Book on Filial Piety”.

After Kong Ying finished his lecture, Emperor Taizong ordered Shi Dian Song HJt? Jf “Ode to the Teacher of Classics” to be dedicated to him, and ordered his government officials to award fine silk to the Jijiu, scholars and excellent students at the Imperial College. Under the careful supervision of Emperor Taizong, the cultural and educational development in the Zhenguan Period reached an 21 Liu XuITO, Jiu Tang Shu^BW “Old Tang History”, Vol. 189, Biographies of the Confucians-I. unprecedented prosperity. The historical Du You once praised the cultural scene at this period as “prosperous unmatched by any period of the near ancient times 11 IP^JfUij ^*W”. 2 Ceasing military activities and preparing for cultural development In the second year of Zhenguan Period (627-649 AD), Emperor Taizong(599-649 AD) declared that ” Even though I’ve ascended the throne by use of force, to make peace in the country, we should advocate virtue and culmreJ3^Stil^/t? ^C~F > ^Hr” tU 3tliM$iP*3″23 He also claimed repeatedly that “when there is no warfare in the country, we should promote Confucian ritual and music, cease military activities, and prepare for and promote cultural developmentXT$? V; TfSfcHIJtf^^ fE5? ‘|? 3t “2 4 Thus ceasing military activities and promoting cultural development, the Confucian dogma and music are main features of the cultural prosperity of the Zhenguan Period.

Born as a warrior, and after he became the ruler of the country, Li Shimin( Taizong, 599-649 AD) led his imperial officials to write poems and proses, which became in vogue in the society, and had a substantial impact on the later ages. In summary, the Zhenguan Period resulted in a profound legacy in Chinese history for cultural enrichment. It laid a foundation for the prosperity of political, economic and cultural development in the Early Tang Dynasty (618-712 AD), as well as for the overall social prosperity of the upcoming High Tang Period (713-765 AD). 22 Du Yout±$f, TongDianM. ^, “Comprehensive Compendium”, Vol. 6. 23 Wang Pu T?? #, Tang Hui Yao j##” ^ “Institutional History of the Tang Dynasty”, Vol. 33, Po Zhen Lem$m. 24 Liu XufiJ^U, Jiu Tang SMS It It “Old Tang History”, Biography of Xiao DeyanMWn&. 1. 2 Brief Introduction to Wu Zetian

Wu Zetian was born during the seventh year of the Wude Period (618-626 AD) of Emperor Gaozu’s reign (566-635 AD), and died in the first year of the Shenlong Period (705-707 AD) of her own reign. In the eleventh year of Zhenguan Period (the year 637), when she was fourteen years old, the girl who later became Empress Wu Zetian was admitted into the imperial court and appointed as Cairen (the fifth rank concubine). In the 23rd year of the Zhenguan Period (649 AD), Emperor Taizong died, and Wu Cairen became a Buddhist nun in a nunnery25. After Emperor Gaozong was enthroned, he again brought Wu into the imperial court and during the fifth year of Yonghui Period (654 AD), Wu was awarded the title Zhaoyi, the second grade concubine in the court. In the sixth year of Yonghui Period (650-655 AD), she became the empress of Emperor Gaozong.

Later, because Gaozong suffered from Fengji (a disease similar to high blood pressure), Empress Wu participated in decisions of the imperial politics, which was called “Dual Divine Rulers of the Royal CourtH^” by people of that time26. In the first year of Hongdao Period (683 AD), Emperor Gaozong died. Emperor Zhongzong was then enthroned, and during the first year of Wenming Period (684 AD), Empress Wu dethroned Emperor Zhongzong, and enthroned Emperor Ruizong, and she herself held the court audience. During the first year of Tianshou Period (690-692 AD), Wu came to the throne herself and became Empress Zetian, and changed the title of her dynasty from Tang to “Zhou”.

In the first 25 It is a convention in the feudal society: when the emperor passed away, all his maids shall enter the nunnery. 26 Wang Pu J:M, Tang Hui Yao /§#^g, Vol. 3, Empresses. year of Shenlong Period of her own reign (705 AD), forced by her cabinet member Zhang Jianzhi and others who conducted a mutiny, Empress Wu Zetian passed the throne to Emperor Zhongzong, and in December of the same year she died in Shangyang Palace, at the age of eighty-two. Until her death, Wu Zetian had been at the helm of the empire for forty-five years, and ruling the empire as the Empress for fifteen years. Wu Zetian lived during a significant time period of the Early Tang Dynasty (618-712 AD).

Wu Zeitian’s reign took nearly half a century of the ninety years of this era. Guo Moruo27 once praised her as “carrying forward the effective governance of the Zhenguan Period(627-649 AD) and preceding the upcoming Heyday of Kaiyuan Period (713-741 AD)J$L>&ffl7t, Jn^jtfS”, meaning Empress Wu Zetian’s reign bridged the two important and prosperous eras of the Tang Dynasty. Therefore, it is important to be cognizant of the contribution of Wu Zetian to the cultural development of the Tang Dynasty. It is worth mentioning that after Emperor Taizong(599-649 AD)’s death, Emperor Gaozong(628-683 AD) succeeded the throne, and Wu was no more than a queen mother.

Whereas compared with Emperor Taizong, Gaozong was mediocre in promoting learning opportunities and had a cowardly disposition. Historical books mention that “in the grand cause of the Li’s reign in Tang Dynasty, Emperor Gaozong was only a nominal ruler; though an offspring of great origin, he had no comparable 27 Guo Moruo$K^^(1892-1978): a famous author, poet, historian, archaeologist of contemporary China.. virtues with his father and grandfather; his unprincipled love for a woman caused the collapse of his reign, and it is his fault that all subsequent rulers had to suffer the consequences of his mediocrityitflfc^tit, &&&&, M1$fl$L3i, ^tl^ll, (? ^$6, #t^M; iH^J3&, %W^W”2% Therefore, Emperor Gaozong’s role was minor during his reign, and also due to his poor heath condition, all political decisions were made by his Empress Wu, which underlain the reason on that Wu Zetian was amenable to adjudicate political matters in the imperial court and then changed the title of the dynasty from Tang to Zhou, and enthroned herself as the Empress of Zhou. Thus Emperor Gaozong’s reign could not constitute an independent age, though it lasted as long as thirty-four years in total. The earlier years of his reign could only be seen as the continuance of the Zhenguan Governance, and the later years of his reign could be regarded as governed by his Empress Wu.

According to historical records: “after the Xianqing Period(656-661 AD), [Emperor Gaozong] suffered badly from Fengji disease, so that all the memorials submitted to the throne by officials were read and decided by the’Queen of Heaven’, g IS J! ?Ui, (iSfaO %^MM, “S”^^#, wmuBmk*29 Therefore, though her reign as an Empress only lasted for fifteen years, before her enthronement she had already “assisted in the national politics for several dozens of years, and her power was no less than an emperor, as a result, she was one of the Dual Divine Rulers of the Royal Courtftffi0$tI? +? > $M%^UM, #S#l$ 28 Liu Xu^’jHfef, Jiu Tang S/wlf JifUr “Old Tang History”, Vol. 4, Biography of Emperor Gaozong. 29 Liu Xul! ]B6j, Jiu Tang SMtJifH “Old Tang History”, Vol. 6, Biography of the Queen of Heaven Zetian. §ZL^” of the country at that time. Therefore, the imperial power was actually held by Wu Zetian for as long as half a century, and her contributions to the cultural development of the Tang Dynasty discussed in this paper include what she achieved during all this half a century from when she was the queen mother. 1. 3 Wu Zetian’s accomplishments The cultural taste and accomplishments of a ruler of an imperial country often determines his/her achievements during his/her reign. Wu Zetian received considerable education in her childhood, and after she was admitted to the imperial court at fourteen years old, her tastes were further polished by the royal cultural edification.

Moreover, she was extremely brilliant as a consummate learner, and had quite outstanding cultural taste and accomplishments. Historical records describe her as “born with intelligence and accomplished in both literature and historyj ^ ^ H If, i^3iC±” 3 1 Her talents can be seen as a precursor to her contributions to the cultural development of the Tang Dynasty. Wu Zetian was accomplished in poetry Wu Zetian not only loves poetry, she could also write poetry herself. Altogether forty-six of her poems were collected in the Complete Poems in the Tang Dynasty. Wu Zetian’s poems illustrates her proficiency in her literary arts. An example is one of her poems written in Ganye Nunnery, Ru Yi Niang %wMt$. ¬ 30 Liu XiiUBfej, Jiu Tang Sftwffjglt “Old Tang History”, Vol. 6, Biography of the Queen of Heaven Zetian. 31 Liu XufjjBfij, Jiu Tang ShuMM^ “Old Tang History”, Vol. 6, Biography of the Queen of Heaven Zetian.. With so many disheveled trains of thought, I even mistake the red blossoms as green leaves, I am worn out and heartbroken, all because of my sweet memory of you. Oh how I miss you, if you do not believe in my words, Just open the box and see the beautiful skirts stained with my tears. ^m, mmmM^mm*32 In this poem written in the Ganye Nunnery, the “you” that the narrator missed so much refers to Li Zhi, Emperor Gaozong. Overflow with sorrowful feelings, this poem is quite touching.

The first line of the poem had fu, bi and xing, the literary techniques of image metaphor and allegory. “Mistake the red blossoms as green leaves” can be understood as the speaker’s absentmindedness because of her lovesickness, and it can also be understood as the narrator’s sigh of the time flying, and she being worried that spring (a classical metaphor for a girl’s flowery youth) would soon pass by. This verse is indicative of the narrator’s sorrow by not being with her lover, and is quite touchingly expressed. The last two verses illustrate this idea succinctly, “if you don’t believe what I said, just open the box and see the beautiful skirts stained with my tears. This poem expresses the author’s true feelings, which makes it rather touching, so that even in the brilliant collection of the poetry of the Tang Dynasty, this one can be regarded as an excellent poem. Another example is entitled La Ri Xuan Zhao Xing Shang Yuan M 0 ! alS#_t^B “Proclaiming Our Visit to the Imperial Gardens on the Day of the Winter Sacrifice”, 32 Peng DingqiuSi^? ^, et al. eds, Quart Tang Sh&fMW, Vol. 5-47. written during the second year of Tianshou Period (690-692 AD), also the second year of her enthronement as the Empress of “the Great Zhou”: Tomorrow morning I’ll visit the imperial garden, hastily signals to the nature that spring come soon.

All trees and flowers shall blossom during the night, without waiting leisurely for the morning wind. Unlike the sorrowful tone of the first poem, this one expresses the author’s authoritative vigor as a ruler. As the Empress of the country, Wu Zetian informed the Mother Nature that she would go to the imperial court the next morning, and all the trees shall blossom during the night, so that the great empress may appreciate them during her visit. Even the Mother Nature shall be docile and obedient in front of the Empress. This poem has a lively and consistent tone, showing the poet’s a confident and unswerving determination in ruling the country. It is widely different from the first poem Ru Yi Niang, written in her youth.

Lu Shu, a scholar of the Qing Dynasty, fully approved Wu Zetian’s poems Ru Ti Niang and Proclaiming Our Visit to the Imperial Gardens on the Day of the Winter Sacrifice, saying that “the Empress is endowed with intelligence and wisdom, and she is definitely a natural-born ruler of the countiyjat^llij^^ ^ZE^. §I”, and that the poems “show her true nature Mt% *feHa”34. 33 Peng Dingqiufi^^, et al. eds, Quart Tang Shi±)^M, Vol. 5-46. 34 Dong Gao Mta,Qin Ding Quan Tang Wen %K. jsiikM3C, “Anthologies of Prose of the Tang Dynasty Compiled by Imperial Order”, Vol. 97. In summary, the themes of Wu Zetian’s poems are of great variety: some pay a tribute to the imperial politics and the official rulings; some praise and honor her mperial officials; some admire the beauty of the Mother Nature and some take account of the sacrificial events. As a ruler of a feudal dynasty, Wu Zetian not only composed poetry, but also advocated the officials writing and replying in poems, and to compete with each other to discover the best poetic talents. This no doubt had a great impact on the prosperous cultural development that nobody can afford to underestimate. Wu Zetian was accomplished in prose writing In Quan Tang Wen ^Jff3t “Anthologies of Prose of the Tang Dynasty”, there are sixty-six pieces of writing written by Wu Zetian, and in Tang Da Zhao Ling Ji 0j^ sB^M: “Collection of Tang Dynasty Imperial Edicts and Orders” there are twelve extra pieces of writing by Wu.

Some famous examples include the one-hundred-volume Chui Gong Ji ^^M, six-volume Jin Lun Ji &$mM and ten-volume Chen Gui Etft. Though many of these writings and books were actually written by her officials, one cannot deny Wu’s great contribution to prose writing and her mastery of this art. For example, Shengxian Taizi Bei ^Hlljvfc”??? ^ “Stele in Praise of the Prince who Ascended into Heaven to become an immoral” is the epigraph written by Wu Zetian on the fourth of February of the second year of Shengli Period (698-700 A D), when Wu Zetian went to Songshan Mountain for the grand ceremony of the worship of heaven, and visited the newly-constructed Shengxian Taizi Temple “Temple of the Prince who Ascended into Heaven to become an immoral”.

This epigraph wrote about the story of Prince Jin of King Ling of Zhou ascending immortal, and on the other hand, it depicts the social realities of the Zhou Dynasty ruled by Wu Zetian. Both the “immortal world” and the social realities in this epigraph are full of praise and pride. The magnificent “immortal world” in Wu Zetian’s epigraph is a reflection of the grand society under Wu’s rule, and the immortal prince Qiao, the legendary figure in this writing, who is “outstanding in genius, and transcend the worldly 3KMWii&> Sit’iSJHj”, is actually Wu’s self-description. The whole writing integrates romanticism and realism together, and it is an outstanding epigraph masterpiece. Wu Zetian was accomplished in calligraphy Wu Zetian was accomplished in calligraphy, historical records indicate that he is especially good at fei bai (uneven blank spaces within each pen-stroke or in Chinese, this translates to”flying white”) and xing shu “running script”. She wrote the horizontal tablet in fei bai for the Jianfu Temple and the Chongfu Temple, and she wrote her officials’ names in this style to give to them. Fei bai is a special calligraphic style, in which there are blank spaces within each pen-stroke, making the writing look like being written by a worn brush-pen and dried ink, so that it has a distinctive style. The five characters Shengxian Taizi Bei ifHllJvfci^ “Stele in Praise of the Prince who Ascended into Heaven to become an immoral” were written in fei bai style.

Wu Zetian was also accomplished in inscribing on a tablet. A famous Qing Dynasty(1636-1912 AD) scholar of the Qing Dynasty named Gu Yanwu had a list of Wu’s inscriptions in his book Jin Shi Wen Zi Ji&^iJC^-t^ “Account of Characters Inscribed on Metals and Stones”. There were altogether twenty-two inscribed steles such as Tian Hou Yu Zhi Shifiez^Jfj #P$WW “ImperialStele by the Queen of Heaven ” inscribed during the second year of the Yongchun Period (682-683 AD). Other notable examples include: Lin Zhong Kou Shou Ming 6lii^> n$3i? “Dictated Inscription at the Deathbed” written by Wang Zhengjun during the second year of the Chuigong Period (685-688 A.

D) and Shang Qi Duwei Xiang Jing Rui BeiJl^M^^MMW “Imperial Military Officer Jing Rui Stele”. Wu Zetian’s inscriptions are highly valuable to calligraphic art. According to Vol. 89 of Jiu Tang Shu ff/ffli, Biography of Wang FangqingJL’fjS. W, Wu Zetian once ordered Wang Fangqing, a high rank court official, to look for all the authentic works of calligraphers since Wang Xizhi , and she immitatede their styles by using rubbings, as a result, she made great progress in calligraphy. Under the influence of Wu Zetian, a number of famous calligraphers emerged during her reign, which brought some new ideas and innovations to the calligraphic establishment. Wu Zetian was accomplished in classics and histories

According to TongDianMM “Comprehensive Manual” and TangHui Yao MUl lc, Wu Zetian was diligent in her studies during her childhood, and was therefore quite accomplished in classics and histories. An example was during the second year of Changshou Period (692-694 A D), Wu Zetian wrote an eight-thousand-character 35 Wang Xizhi H%sb3i, (303-361): a Chinese calligrapher, traditionally referred to as the Sage of Calligraphy *M . book entitled Chen Gui Efl , that reference include many classics: Shang Shu$’m, the Spring and Autumn Annals^^K, the Analects of ConfuciustfeWs, Lao Tzu^i^f, Chuang TseM^, Kuan Tzu^^f, Springs and Autumns of Master Z,wSlS#$C, Huainan Zztflllf”? Shuo Yuant&M, Classics of Filial Piety^M, Mao Shi ^l^and Li Sao PUSt “On Encountering Trouble”. In one of her famous writting, Tong Ti Zhang |Uti|S “0« One Body”, there is a passage that reads: “… government officials compared to a emperor is like one’s limbs compared to his head, or his ears and eyes compared to his heart. Both are interdependent to each other, and each variable relies on each other to function. Therefore, officials shall serve their ruler as sons serve their fathers. Whereas though father and son are close kin, they are not as close as officials and the emperor, who are all within one body. ^AE^. ^F”Sife» li m^zMjun, nBZM>b®. &offimmjsj&m,mnmjsj&Ro ^L^zmm , MfZW^io ll^M^M, ? *^;ge; t lUff til”36 The above writing emphasizes the togetherness of officials and the ruler who shall always stand together through difficult situations, this idea originates from Kuan Tzu37. Another example is that in On Complying with Tao, she wrote “Tao can be as infinitely high as the sky and as immeasurably deep as the earth. It embraces everything in the world and has no definite shape; stretched, it may be as huge as the universe, and folded, it cannot even fill a grasp. Tao can be large and small, dark and bright, weak and strong, soft and finn. ^it#, m^wm, MTfnjm, n^nm. Qmnw, m^mm, mzm. ‘f 36 Wu Zetiani^IK, Chen Gui glfl, “Tracks of Subjects of Rulers”, Tong Ti ZhangMWM. 37 Guan Zhongi§:’f4,(725-645BC): a Chinese politician in the Spring and Autumn Period.

He was appointed Prime Minister by Duke Huan of Qi in 685 BC. /s&, %z*m-m, ‘MM*, mmmm, mmmi, mmm”™ The account of “Tao” in this writing originates from the philosophic ideas of Lao Tzu and Chuang Tse? 9 To conclude, Wu Zetian has sophisticated cultural tastes and accomplishments, which is one of the important factors of her becoming a Cairen of Emperor Taizong from an ordinary girl, and then becoming the Empress of Emperor Gaozong, then the Empress of her own “Great Zhou” Dynasty. She was active on the political stage for almost half a century, which not only made significant contributions to the cultural development of Tang Dynasty, but also had far-reaching influences to the Chinese history.

Chapter 2- Wu Zetian’s Contribution to the Cultural Development of the Tang Dynasty During the greater than ninety year reign of the early Tang period, Wu Zetian’s rule lasted nearly half a century, and made great contributions to the cultural development of the Tang Dynasty. On the one hand, these contributions can be seen as needed for her political ruling: in order to seize the highest power of the feudal country and uproot the old powers, she advocated social reform and thus brought about new cultural prosperity. On the other hand, all these reforms originated from her own love for culture, which affected and even advanced the change of social 38 Wu ZetianSSJt’J^, Chen Gui gifl, “Tracks of Subjects of Rulers”, Shou Dao ZhangW&M. 39 Lao Tzu %=? 462-302BC) and Chuang TseS T (369-286BC) : both influential Chinese philosophers and central figures in Taoism who lived during Spring and Autumn Period and the Warring States Period. atmosphere of that era, helping to bring about the cultural prosperity in the society. In discussing Wu Zetian’s contribution to the cultural development of the Tang Dynasty, this paper only focuses on her policies to encourage cultural development and the cultivating effects of her actions on the cultural development during her reign. It was once and again attested by historians that the national power was increasingly stronger during Wu Zetian’s reign. 2. 1 Selecting the competent through various sources

Wu Zetian is one of the few rulers in the Chinese history that could select and use competent officials through various channels. Although in order to root out the dissidents, she framed and killed many officials from other parties, and put merciless officials in important positions who abused and killed many innocent people. Her policy to “select and use competent officials through various channels” was always praised by people of later ages. Sima Guang(1019-1086)40 recounted some of the events during this era: “Though the Queen Mother brought over too many people with official titles in her imperial court, for those who were not competent, she either dismissed them from office or punished them or even put them to death.

Ruling the country with punishment and reward with both hands, she made political decisions on her own, perceptive and good at judging judiciously, and enabled competition amongst talented people of that time. i:jgSIM^? t’fuiBC^TA^s ^^fSH# , # m&z, JtsMjifc. mmzm&mmxT, Mem, vmmwi, #tgi$3sg Sima GuangWJ J§;)ft:A Chinese historian, scholar, and high chancellor of the Song Dynasty. In the ancient China, to select and use competent officials is the highest ruler’s gesture in good governance of the country, so that they must select noble-minded and competent people and put them in important positions. All competent rulers throughout ancient China’s history had a proficient understanding that hiring competent officials was the key to successful governance. Wu Zetian was no exception.

The so-called “through various channels” means Wu Zetian dared to break the boundary determined by family status, and made competence as her only criterion. This alone can be seen as Wu Zetian’s contribution to the society, which necessarily brought about social transformation and promoted cultural prosperity of that age. Wu’s admiration for the competent Wu Zetian’s love for culture is reflected by her admiration for competent people and this admiration in turn resulted in relatively lenient cultural atmosphere at that time. Even for those who were critical of her, the Empress celebrated their talents and learning. The most typical example of this is that upon reading Luo Binwang(619-687) ‘s writing entitled Tao Wu Xi M^# “An Essay to Denounce Wu ” addressed to Xu Jingye(? 648, a rebellious leader against Wu), which scolded Wu severely and listed Wu’s criminal charges and scandals in her private life and scolded her severely. Wu Zetian was impressed by its great momentum and literary talent, so that she said to her officials:”this is the fault of the Zai Xiang (prime minister), how can he lets such a Sima Guang^JH^t, Zizhi TongjianKVnlSM, “Comprehensive Mirror for the Advancement of Governance”, Vol. 205, Yuelu Book Corporation, P. 689. talented writer drift away, when we could have him work in a government office? jth ^BZMtfl, AW&jfc^ffi^^U^fW” 4 2 Soon after she sent people to collect Luo Binwang’s lost and scattered manuscripts and to compile them in one volume.

According to Jiu Tang Shu ff Jjlfll, Luo Binwang’s “writings were mostly lost and scattered everywhere, Wu Zetian always spoke highly of his writings, and sent people to find them; a person of Yanzhou named Xi Yunqing collected them and compiled into ten volumes, which were quite popular in this era 3t^i? ;fc, Mil Aj^JI %%, mmz, ^mnxmmmmm-i’m, M«” 4 3 in a feudal society, this unconventional act of Wu Zetian is very noble. Because of Wu’s admiration for competent persons, she was rather tolerant of the intellectuals. There were not much cultural taboos and people enjoyed more freedom of thought and expression. During this time, the literary community changed its decadent style of the past times, a large number of writings reflected the social realities and discussed the current politics, showing a lively cultural vision of that time.

Take Chen Zi’ang(661-702, a poet of the Tang Dynasty) as an example, he advocated reformation of poetry and was awarded the Jinshi Degree at 24 years old. Being appreciated by Wu Zetian, he was promoted to Lintai Zhengzi HXlE^ , and later to You Shi Yi ^Ei^nM. Chen composed many poems entitled Gan Yu, depicting the suffering of ordinary people and daringly scolded Wu’s political rule. The nineteenth Gan Yu $M poem made a direct attack to Wu’s decisions in investing 42 Sima GuangSl^j’fi, Zizhi Tongjian^nfflll, “Comprehensive Mirror for the Advancement of Governance”, Beijing: Zhonghua Shuju, 1976, p. 6424. 43 Liu XuSijBfeJ, Jiu Tang ShuWSWt, “Old Tang History” , Beijing: Zhonghua Shuju,1975, p. 5007. uch money in constructing temples and statues of Buddha, and scolding her for not “being concerned and helping the ordinary people S^7H7C”. Another example is the twenty-ninth of his Gan Yu poem, which bluntly criticized Wu’s unjust war against Sheng Qiang (a minority group in the northwest) was fraught with great sufferings to the soldiers and people. As a result of Wu’s policies that foster freedom of expression and thought, poetry during this era flourished. Wu’s respects for the worthy Wu Zetian was open-minded to select and to employ the worthy people. A persuasive example was her trust and respect for her prime minister, Di Renjie(630-700). According to Zizhi Tongjian If^p! fflll: zMm^m^, xjsn’&Zo w&±femm, m^tm m, mmm^m±, x^x^mm^z AM-% %n , u-nwm, mmm«” 73&«m, ^KI^S: “mm Sources for the talents Wu Zetian was among the few throughout the Chinese history who was able to encourage a paradigm shift, by making a breakthrough in the hiring process of government officials. She was not content with the conventional methods of the existing imperial examination system, and made bold reforms to the system, initiated the “royal palace examination M i? ” and “military candidacy in provincial examinations ii? |i” that provided opportunities for mid- and lower-class intellectuals and commoners. Sima GuangW]JS;}? , Zizhi Tong/ianrMiaM. :, “Comprehensive Mirror for the Advancement of Governance”, Vol. 27. Wu’s resourcefulness in recruiting talent through various methods demonstrated her open-mindedness as a visionary ruler. An example of some measures adopted by Wu Zetian included allowing the civil and military officials as well as ordinary people to recommend themselves to various government positions. In the first year of Chuigong Period (685-688 A. D. ) of her reign, Wu Zetian made an announcement that permitted “civil and military officials above the ninth rank inside and outside the imperial court as well as civilians to recommend themselves as competent for the imperial court serviceH^X^^hmiX±R^t&^^ §^”. 5 That is to say, no matter they were officials or ordinary people, as long as “their knowledge of the classics may help manage the state, or their military aptitude may help make the border area peaceful, those who can become the pillar of the state shall be put in important positions, and such talents, no matter whether they are born in distinguished or ordinary families, shall recommend their names to me^^t”pflUM^S; fl^WlU/i! MM, mmmZ^t, mm^ZMH, MM±M, 31 l^ffl” 46. A second example of her hiring practices included establishing an office named “Cun Fu Shi^Mi$. ‘ whose mandate was to seek civilian talent and recommend them to the Empress. In the first year of Tianshou Period (September 690 – March 692), Wu Zetian “ordered Shi Wuzi and other nine people to search through ten sources throughout the country for talented peopled^JM? ^+A^fMMM”. 41 And after they found such people, 45 Sima GuangW]^^, Zizhi Tongjian^k’JnM. ^s:, “Comprehensive Mirror for the Advancement of Governance”,Vol. 203. 6 Dong Gaoisfp. Qin Ding Quan Tang Wen^^^rjgjt , “Anthologies of Prose of the Tang Dynasty Compiled by Imperial Order”, Beijing: Zhonghua Shuju, 1983, p. 986. 47 Sima Guangf^JiTfe, Zizhi TongjianMiaMM, “Comprehensive Mirror for the Advancement of Governance”. Vol. 204. they shall recommend them to the imperial court. The final example was to adopt the official probation system. For the “self-recommended” individuals or those recommended by the office of Cun Fu Shi, Wu Zetian would appoint them as officials under her rule and their tenure is dependent on their performance. According to Vol. 205 of Zizhi Tongjian, in the first year of Changshou(692-694 A. D. , “in January of the traditional Chinese calendar of Dingmao Year, during the spring, the Queen Mother was presented those recommended by the office of Cun Wu Shi; she did not ask whether they were competent, but appointed them all to her offices, some were appointed to positions as senior as Fengge Sheren(a mid-senior level official at the legislative bureau of government) and the supervising secretary, some of lower level were appointed as ministry councilor, attendant secretary, censor, register, editor of imperial books, etc. This was the very start of the first official probation system#, -^ As a visionary leader, Wu Zetian’s insight, courage, perseverance and foresight helped mold one of the most progressive policies throughout Chinese history to ameliorate the lives of Chinese people by providing equal opportunities for advancement, and were the impetus for profound social change. In the highly hierarchical feudal society where family status dominated, it needed boldness of vision, great courage and insight to practice this. These fully demonstrated Wu’s eager crave for talents and determination for reforms.

Sima GuangK] Ji^t, Zizhi Tong/ian,MitiM. W:, “Comprehensive Mirror for the Advancement of Governance”,Beijing: Zhonghua Shuju, 1976, p. 6477. Nevertheless, Wu Zetian’s measures to select worthy and talented people through various sources also brought about corruption in her imperial court service. The adoption of the official probation system caused a huge bureaucracy to the dismay of many people and aggravated people’s burden. According to historical records, the expanded bureaucratic regime was described as: “Vehicles of Bu gwes(imperial registers), ladlers of Shi Ks(an official rank similar to Bu Que), a rake may hold up several Shi Yu ,S7iz’. (imperial censors), and so many Jiao Shu Langs (editors of imperial books) lined there, like a pile of bowlslif Hit^tS o #HlH14i b ffi^l#fP jfe, Sfcjlftt&llilft”. Shen Quanjiao, a. Juren49, added another two lines to this doggerel: “Blunderer Cun Fu Shi, grinning EmpressflB’&’#J!.? , SI @ ^#M, ” (meaning Cun Fu Shis were irresponsible, and the noble Empress was stupidly joyful), which was regarded as a slander to the imperial politics and an irony to the Empress. Yet when some of her imperial subjects were going to flog this Juren with stick, Wu Zetian smiled and said: “as long as you people are not abusing the power to recommend the wrong people, what is there to fear about what others say? ‘(H/(? BPll^^f MfltAIf” She had her officials release the writer. 50 As demonstrated, Wu Zetian was ruler that possessed integrity, and her intentions were to select truly competent people. Wu Zetian selected the worthy and the competent through various sources, and their roles in society were dependent on their abilities. Depending on the severity of the incompetence of the official, she might remove him or even sentence him to death. 49 Juren: a provincial graduate in the imperial examinations. 50 Sima GuangWl ^jfc, Zizhi Tongjicm’MVpffl!! , “Comprehensive Mirror for the Advancement of Governance”, Vol. 205,Beijing: Zhonghua Shuju, 1976, p. 6477.

Lu Zhi(754-805, an official of Tang Dynasty), in commenting on this practice of Wu Zetian, said: “The system was very strict, so that the change of officials was extremely swift: those who were not fit for their positions were quickly removed, and those who were competent were immediately promoted to higher positions; this is the so-called ‘ability to appreciate a person’s character and ability’ Mft BE He > MM. WM. » ^ U # MM, ^tfrtHTK &WgtfM5nAZ*M”51 This comments reflects Wu Zetian’s good mastery of the art to select and use competent officials. 2. 2 Bold innovations of the Imperial Examination System The imperial examination system before Wu Zetian’s time was mainly consisted of Jinshi Degree and Ming Jing Degree. Topics in the examinations focused mostly on Confucian classics. Since the examinations were conducted periodically, it was called Chang Ke ^ 4 “Normal Qualifying Examinations”.

After Wu Zetian seized the royal throne, she was no longer content with the method of selecting officials through Chang Ke, therefore, she made bold innovations to the imperial examination system. Elevating the status of the examination for the Jinshi degree The imperial examinations before Wu Zetian’s time, though with multiplicity of items, were mainly consisted of the examinations for candidates of Ming Jing Degree and Jinshi Degree. According to Vol. 44, Records of Selecting Officials, of Xin Tang Shu 0f M Hr “History of the Late Tang Dynasty”, the main formats of the examinations for candidates of Ming Jing Degree required the examinees to read 51 Liu XuIijHfif, Jiu Tang ShuMBW “Old Tang History” , Vol. 139, Biography ofLu Zhi. luently and to recite the Confucian classics, thus the major objective of the examinations was to test people’s proficiency in the classics. Though there were some requirements in writing political essays, the essay topics did not reflect the social reality, nor did they reflect the examinees’ strength in literary arts, and were inadequate in covering the Confucian classics. After Wu Zetian seized the royal throne, she prioritized the examinations, and elevated the status of the examinations for the Jinshi Degree, increasing the standards and expanding the scope of the examinations. The imperial edict of August of the second year of Yonglong Period(680-681A. D. stated: “from now on, after being checked on virtues, examinees shall be tested on the Confucian classics; those who pass six out of ten topics shall pass and continue to write two essays on general topics, and after the examiners ensured that they have sufficient literary knowledge, they shall write examinations on topics of political essays U^Wi^, ^MtK, f$MtitW, ^+W?? #7N^±#, M ±U&JCffi-g, li? ##^t f #^iitll 52”. This means that the original examinations for the Jinshi Degree were now divided into three parts, namely “Confucian classics, literary essays and political essays”, of which “literary essays” and “political essays” emphasized the examinees’ literary talents and general knowledge, which was the origin of the maxim “selecting scholars as officials according to their essays”53. Wu Zetian’s gesture in elevating the status of the examinations for the 52 Ouyang Xiuifcffili. et al. Xin Tang ShuMfMM, “New Tang History”, Vol. 44, Xuanju Zhi, “Record of Imperial Examinations”. 3 Chen FeiUll, Tang Dai Shi Ce Kao Shu^^MM^ifc, Beijing: Zhonghua Shuju, 2002. Jinshi Degree, as well as putting more emphasis to the literary essays on such examinations, had a profound impact culturally and socially on Chinese history. Firstly, by changing the existing examination mechanism to address current societal needs, it becomes a tool that facilitates choosing suitable people for governance. Secondly, by changing the existing selection process to a meritocracy provided people of all backgrounds equal opportunities to enter the imperial court service with their true knowledge and talents, not just through parroting Confucian classics.

The new policy was warmly welcomed in the society and promoted the cultural prosperity of that time. Formulating the “Royal Palace Examination” The “royal palace examinational^” was also called “Zhi Kef|! jf4″, which is different from Chang Ke /’regular examinations”. It was an examination hosted by the Empress “herself to test people over the country with virtues, competence and literary talents g B Wi^f > ^t? > %^Z±”5 According to TangHui YaoM%^:, “in the second month of the traditional Chinese calendar of the first year of Zaichu Period(689-690), the Queen Mother Wu began her oral examination of the examinees in her palace in Luoyang, and the whole process lasted for several days.

The royal palace examination was now commenced^^C/stSc^ZlTli^—B > WM^K^^^M , 8fcB3f7. I$fr! ^Agjtk#ft”55 After Wu Zetian seized the royal throne and announced herself as the Empress of the Country, she was no longer content with the 54 Ouyang XiuUcffi#,et al. Xin Tang Shu§{jt#, “New Tang History”,Vol. 44„ 55 Wang Pu Ti#, Tang Hui Yao jg#l j “Institutional History of the Tang Dynasty”,Vol. 76. method of selecting officials through Chang Ke. She initiated the “royal palace examinations”, holding oral examinations in the palace on political decisions, selecting scholars as officials according to their literary talents, breaking the traditional rules and practices and using those who were excellent in such examinations.

This “royal palace examination” was inherited by later dynasties through over a thousand years in Chinese feudal society. According to Vol. 44 of Xuan Ju Zhi 3H|if?! jand Xin Tang S7zwfjf/! f If: In the royal palace examinations, “the topics were improvised by the Empress herselfJCJ|4=i 1=1 > Bt^AiEHBrr’^fSfc” meaning that the theme and content of such oral examinations were chosen randomly by the ruler according to her own needs. The “improvised” topics address current societal needs, and therefore the examination is an effective gauge on potential recruits. An incentive for recruits to write the Zhi Ke versus the Chang Ke examination includes circumventing the Li Bu (Ministry of Official Personal Affairs in feudal China).

That is to say, those who pass the Zhi Ke could become officials without prior approval of Li Bu. Besides, current officials that pass this examination could be promoted to higher official ranks. This innovative form of imperial examination was especially warmly welcomed in the society because it was more like a crosscut to the higher imperial court service. According to Vol. 8 of Da Tang Xin Yu (New Account of the Great Tang Dynasty) by Liu Su, “At first when Zetian made innovations to the imperial examination system, she searched throughout the country for competent people, and nearly ten thousand people all over the country via each other to come for the examinationsMiJ^^/]^^’, A$tiilJ$l> 7f2L±Jl! f|jiJ#[R]HA”56.

The scope of imperial examination of the Tang Dynasty was largely expanded. The prosperity of the examination in turn encouraged the enterprise of people from all backgrounds, and thus brought about social and cultural prosperity. Introducing “Military Candidacy in Provincial Examinations” Before Wu Zetian, only intellectuals could participate in the imperial examinations, while military talents had no way to be awarded the Jinshi Degree, and could not become officials through this source. In the first month of the second year of Chang’an Period (701-704 AD), Wu Zetian invented military candidacy in provincial examinations, which was specially designed for selecting military talents. 7 The items for the examination included Ma She (shooting [an arrow] while riding a horse), Bu She (shooting while walking), Ping She (shooting), Tong She (shooting through a hole), Ma Qiang (playing with spear while riding a horse), Qiao Guan (weight lifting), Fu Zhong (weight bearing) and stature, etc,. 58 The “military candidacy in provincial examination” opened up a source for people with military talents to be awarded the Jinshi Degree, thus further expanded the scope of the imperial examination system, and greatly excited people of various talents to participate in the imperial examinations. Adopting “Hu Ming Kao” in the Imperial Examination System 56 Liu SuI’M, Da TangXin Yu XMW^k, Beijing: Zhonghua Shuju, 2004, p. 127. Wu Zetian invented the practice of “Hu Ming Kao^S^^? , meaning during the examinations and review of papers, the names of the examinees would be covered with glue, which made the examinations and papers appear anonymous, resulting in a fair practice to assess the examinations, and to prevent fraudulent practices. According to TongDian MM “Comprehensive Manual”, “Seeing that many officials selected by Li Bu were not truly worthy or competent, the Queen Mother Wu ordered that examinees cover their names on the examination papers, and the final choice shall be determined anonymously. This was the origin of the practice of Hu Ming (covering the examinees’names^^XMMA^*, 734-5*0 MK? , Bf^t^ The practice of “Hu Ming Kao” not only promoted fairness in the imperial examinations, but also helped create a more culture-friendly atmosphere in the society.

An example to illustrate the great effects of the reformed imperial examinations was that Xue Yuanchao, a famous prime minister during that era once said: “I am not endowed with outstanding talents, but still enjoyed riches and honor in my life. Nevertheless, I still have three regrets: one is that I have not participated in the examinations for the Jinshi Degree; the second is that I did not marry my son to girl of the royal family; and the third, I did compile a record of the national histories-jl-^;^, mnmfr, M^^WHtg, f&^um±MM, ^nm^*, ^##Bi. 60” 59 Du You|±fe, Tong DiartM^, “Comprehensive Compendium”, Vol. 15. 60 Liu SuIJtt, Sui Tang Ma Hua^f^BsS, Vol. 5, Beijing: Zhonghua Shuju, 1979.

Alhough Xue Yuanchao was a prime minister, neither his power nor his position could be elevated higher, yet he still regretted that he could not bring honor to his ancestors by participating in the imperial examinations for the Jinshi Degree. This example demonstrated the importance of participating in the reformed imperial examination through the Jinshi degree at that era. Yet as explained before, it was the common intellectuals who were most encouraged and excited because they could be put to important positions through the imperial examination regardless what families they were born of or whether they were rich or poor, even the most important officials in the imperial court could “be born in poor families, and still take on ministerial responsibilitiesJl! tti|t} ^^jfe, MMWffi ” , “wearing court dresses with a simple move, and becoming important officials in a short while&#^## , 1&1MBPTH^”62 For example, the famous poet Chen Zi’ang was awarded the Jinshi Degree at 24 years old, appreciated by Wu Zetian, he was promoted to Lintai Zhengzi( a mid-rank editor of imperial books), and later to You Shi Yi( a mid-rank imperial register); in one of his Gan Yu i^illpoems he wrote such lines to express his wishes to dedicate himself to the service of the imperial court ” My only desire is to reciprocate the court’s appreciation of my talents, and to build up a powerful establishment with the sword in my hand^B#$^SH» ffiMMMM”. 61 Dong G&oWna,Qin Ding Quart Tang Wen$i’Ml=kM3C, “Anthologies of Prose of the Tang Dynasty Compiled by Imperial Order”, Vol. 166. Introduction to the Collection of Nanyanggong’s Writings^i^ 62 Dong Gao ll:I§,Qin Ding Quart Tang Wen iJCS^iifJt, “Anthologies of Prose of the Tang Dynasty Compiled by Imperial Order”, Vol. 179, Shang Jiang Zhou Sangguan Sima Shu, _hl$j’H JlW^lHtf.

Another example is the lines in Lu Zhaolin’s Jie Ke Shao Man Chang Xing^§4>^ iflfr: “Without an important official title, who could make such great contributions(to the court^^i^i h siMUM-^J”, and Luo Bin Wang’s lines from Cong Jun Zhong Xing Lu NanWW-^^fl^W “A Hard Journey during the Military March”: “Once known by the ruler, who would fear fighting in the frontier(with the enemy)? {M 4s*”-MUlE&K W-W^W^M^”• All of these examples appreciated the awarding of the imperial examinations and praised the official hiring system adopted by Wu Zetian in her reign. People were obviously inspired by Wu’s progressive political vision, and excited with the desire to make great achievements and contributions for the country.

This kind of enthusiasm was also exp

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