Wu Zetian TV Series (1995) Review – China’s First Female Emperor

Wu Zetian TV Series (Review) – Who is Wu Zetian?

Today we are introducing to you the Wu Zetian TV series.

Wu Zetian 武则天 wǔzétiān is so famous that several TV shows were created based on her story. Even Fan Bingbing, a famous Chinese actress plays her.

What we recommend today is the one released in 1995.

Wu-zetian 1995

I suggest you need to have a Mandarin level of HSK 4 or higher to best understand this TV show. However, if you just want to use the show to get familiar with Chinese history, then there is no requirement for your Mandarin level.

Enhance those Mandarin skills with our Online Chinese lessons!

Wu Zetian TV Series: Brief Introduction

The TV series tells the story of Wu Zetian‘s transformation from an innocent and romantic girl, to a powerful woman overnight.

She experienced the ruthlessness and cruelty of the court life. In a series of court struggles, she gradually shows her outstanding political talent, until she becomes an unprecedented empress of a generation.

This is a rare achievement in a patriarchal society.

We have more details to share with you when you scroll down but BE WARNED – Spoiler Alert.

Wu Zetian TV Series: Where to Watch

The series is made up of 30 episodes and each episode lasts 45 minutes each.

It can be watched for free on the Chinese streaming site iQiyi with a clear image and Chinese subtitles.

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iQiyi Review // China’s Netflix vs Actual Netflix

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You can also watch it on YouTube without subtitles if you want to challenge yourself somewhat!

In China we are really familiar with this story because she is the only female emperor in Chinese history.

In fact if you want to find out more about Wu Zetian, and other influential women in Chinese history check out our article on the 10 most famous and powerful women in China’s history here.

Wu Zetian TV Series: Main characters

Wu Zetian Review-Wu Zetian
Wu Zetian Review-Wu Zetian

Wu Zetian: 武则天 wǔzétiān is played by Liu Xiaoqing 刘晓庆 liú xiǎoqìng.

This actress is very famous in China and was imprisoned for more than one year because of tax evasion.

Her ex-boyfriend Jiang Wen 姜文 jiāngwén had to bail her out.

Fun fact – Fan Bingbing who also starred as Wu Zetian in another Wu Zetian TV show also got fined US$127 million because of tax evasion.

Wu Zetian Review-Li zhi
Wu Zetian Review-Li zhi

The emperor Li Zhi: 李治 lǐ zhì,is also know as Tang Gaozong.

He is played by Chen Baoguo 陈宝国 chén bǎoguó.

Have you noticed that the actor playing emperor Li Zhi is the same one who plays the male lead in Da Zhai Men?

If you want to find out more about Da Zhai Men, or discover what it is, check out our review on it.

Da Zhai Men is a TV show set during the Qing Dynasty.

The show tells a story about the male lead Bai jingqi (白景琦báijǐngqí) from his childhood right up to his old age. We recommend you watch it.

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Is Traditional Chinese Medicine Real? Watch Da Zhai Men 大宅门 To Find Out

Da Zhai Men 大宅门 is a TV show starts during the Qing dynasty, when Emperor Guangxu is six years old (the 1880s). Find out what you can learn here.

Wu Zetian TV Series : Emperor Wu Zetian

Empress Wu was the only female monarch of China, and remains the most remarkable, influential and mysterious woman in Chinese history.

Contrary to the teachings of Confucius, this was a woman who ruled the empire for over half a century; while her actions have been a subject for debate for centuries. 

Opinion is sharply divided between those who admire her for her many achievements and those who regard her as a ruthless, merciless schemer and autocrat. 

Others will say merely that she did what she had to do and that her actions were no different from those of male emperors.

Check our article below about the China History Documentary for more facts about Emperor Wu Zetian

Great Chinese Documentary - China History 中国通史[zhōngguó tōngshǐ] Thumbnail

Great Chinese Documentary – China History 中国通史[zhōngguó tōngshǐ]

China History Documentary – Everything you need to know about China from the era of primitive myth to the end of the late Qing Dynasty is here.

Wu Zetian TV Series : Spoiler Alert

The story goes like this…

Wu Zetian was born of a royal lineage during the Tang Dynasty. She entered Emperor Taizong‘s harem when she was 13 and that of the successive Emperor Gaozong after.

A master of manipulation, Wu Zetian persuaded the emperor to declare her one rank below the empress consort.

Eventually, the Emperor married Wu. When Gaozong suffered a stroke five years later, Wu governed behind the scenes.

She created a secret police force to spy on her opposition, jailing or killing those who stood in her way.

After Gaozong‘s death she reigned through puppet emperors, her sons Zhongzong and Ruizong.

She finally proclaimed herself Emperor, the first woman to do so. Wu ruled until her 80s when she was unable to thwart a coup.

She died shortly after.

Wu Zetian TV Series : How did Wu Zetian influence China?

Despite her ruthless climb to power, her rule was benign.

Wu reduced the size of the standing army and replaced aristocrats in the government with scholars.

She was fair to the peasantry, lowering taxes, raising agricultural production and strengthening public works.

Wu also campaigned to elevate the status of women and had scholars write biographies of famous women.

Famous poet Li Bai, once regarded her as one of the seven sages in Tang Dynasty.

Wu Zetian Review 1995
Wu Zetian Review 1995

Wu Zetian is one of the most influential women in Chinese history.

She married two emperors: Tang Taizong and Emperor Gaozong.

She had two sons who became emperors: Tang Zhongzong and Tang Ruizong.

She herself is a unique female emperor. As the first female emperor in the history of China, her political talent was admired by many people.

She raised the status of women.

Wu Zetian poured scorn on the Confucian belief that women should always be subordinate to men. As well as furthering her own ambitions, she sought to enhance the position of women in society.

This included employing scholars to write biographies of famous women. 

These works served as a reminder to everyone that women were every bit as capable as men.

All they lacked was equal opportunity.

Wu Zetian TV Series : Wu Zetian Tomb

Aged eighty-two, Wu Zetian died in the December of the year in which she had been deposed. 

She was buried alongside Emperor Gaozong in the Qingling Tomb, located west of the present day Xi’an City. 

At her own wish, her final resting place was marked by a plain tombstone lacking any inscription. 

To some, this symbolises her absolute power that no words could describe. 

To others the absence of any comment suggests that she wanted future generations to decide for themselves how she should be eulogised.

Share with us your opinion toword her in the comments below.

无字碑 wú zì bēi literally means no words on the monument

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Wu Zetian Review: FAQ’s

How many episodes are there of the Wu Zetian TV Series?

There are 30 episodes with each lasting 45 minutes.

Is Wu Zetian a real person in Chinese history?

Yes, Wu Zetian is a real person, in fact one of the most influential women in China’s history.

Her tomb is in Xi’an ,China.

Who plays Wu Zetian in the TV Series?

Wu Zetian: 武则天 wǔzétiān is played by Liu Xiaoqing 刘晓庆 liú xiǎoqìng.

Liu herself has been through a number of controversies, most famously her tax evasion where she was sent to prison for a year before being bailed out by her partner.

When was the Wu Zetian TV Series released?

It was first released in 1995.

Who is the female emperor of China?

In fact it is Wu Zetian 武则天 wǔzétiān herself. To date the only female to rule China.

Why does Wu Zetian have a plain tombstone (无字碑 wú zì bēi) when she died?

It is regarded that she chose to have a plain tombstone so that people can judge her actions for themselves.

Edited by Katie Coy

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