View Full Version : EMPRESS WU THE GREAT (1)

July 26th, 2014, 02:41 PM
This is a historical fiction. If it is not the genre for here, please let me know.


Not like in Europe where men stick to the principle of “Lady First” and where there have been many sovereign queens in the history, in ancient China, as a whole, the social status of women was low. They were not allowed to do what men were doing and not allowed to interfere with what men were doing, especially politically. They were deemed as ornaments in men’s life and as reproduction machines to bear offspring for the male families. Their sole duty was to obey men and please men. Although in some particular families, the husband might listen to the wife or might even be henpecked to the wife, yet it was not the main stream in the ancient Chinese society. It was an individual case. There was even such a tradition that when a woman did not bear any sons (daughters did not count) for the husband, the husband could divorce her for that very reason. The word “divorce” here was not accurately used. The actual situation was just that the husband could send the woman back to the family of her parents, where she had come from for the marriage. And the parents could not refuse to take their daughter back. Under such circumstances, it was not easy for a woman to climb all the way up successfully to the throne. Now let us go back to that period our heroine lived to see how she had become the sole female sovereign ever in the Chinese history. She was generally known as Empress Wu Zetian the Great.
The low social status of women began much earlier before Tang Dynasty (AD 618—AD 907 ), in which she lived. It started almost at the beginning of Zhou Dynasty (1121 BC—476 BC). As far as I know, those foreign readers, who are familiar with Greek, Roman, Egyptian or Indian histories, may not know much of Chinese history. To give readers a general idea, I enumerate in the following list all the important dynasties in the Chinese history:

Xia Dynasty (2207 BC—1766 BC) For this dynasty, some modern Chinese historians deny its existence because there is no archeological evidence ever found from the digging site. There are only written records in some history books. Therefore, when the Chinese government boasts that China has a long history of five thousand years, those Chinese historians hold that China has only a history of three thousand seven hundred years.
Shang Dynasty (1765 BC—1122 BC) Many bronze utensils dug up proved its existence.
Zhou Dynasty (1121 BC—476 BC)
War Period among Seven Kingdoms (475 BC—221 BC)
Qin Dynasty (220 BC—207 BC), conquering other six kingdoms and forming the first empire in China.
Han Dynasty (206 BC—AD 220)
Three Kingdoms Period (AD 220—AD 280)
Jin Dynasty (AD 265—AD 420), conquering other two kingdoms by 280 AD
War Period among many small separate kingdoms (AD 420—AD 589)
Sui Dynasty (AD 581—AD 618) wiping out all other kingdoms by AD 589
Tang Dynasty (AD 618—AD 907)
War Period again (AD 907—AD 960)
Song Dynasty (AD 960—AD 1279)
Yuan Dynasty (AD 1271—AD 1368) formed by Mongolian Tribe
Ming Dynasty (AD 1368—AD 1644)
Qing Dynasty (AD 1644—AD 1911), the last dynasty in China.

I hope this list will be helpful to the readers when I mention other dynasties in this book. The basic reference book of Chinese history for my writing is “Zizhitongjian”, a famous authoritative ancient history book, written by a prime minister in Song Dynasty by the name of Sima Guang, who was a great scholar as well. The chronicles in his book began from toward the end of Zhou Dynasty and finished in AD 959, divided into 294 volumes. Since Song Dynasty was almost right after Tang Dynasty, the facts stated there were mostly reliable. But the author Sima Guang was a conservative man and hated anything against any traditions; and so, he might give a little twist where they were not to his ideal of the things. One obvious example was that when Empress Wu had already established her new dynasty and become the sovereign empress, Sima in his book still addressed her as empress dowager, not as empress. In his mind, women should not be a sovereign empress, could only be an empress dowager, which reflected his notion that women always belonged to men (as empress dowager, the widow of her husband), not an independent person (as a sovereign empress, an independent person ruling the country).

Ride the Pen
July 27th, 2014, 03:36 PM
This is a historical fiction. If it is not the genre for here, please let me know.

You say that this is "historical fiction", but basically, this is non-fiction.

For it to be fiction, what's missing is a story structure, concrete characters, some foreshadowing of a plot, a voice of narration, etc...

August 2nd, 2014, 02:20 PM
So, can I post it here, or can't?

August 2nd, 2014, 03:45 PM
You say it's fiction, it's fiction.

That it's written like a non-fiction history piece, indicates to me that what you need to do is work on a more interesting presentation :-)

As I've mentioned a few other times to other authors, there are two distinctly different thought processes to writing. The first is getting down your story and side notes, to see that it doesn't contradict itself, and if you change the storyline, to make it easier to know what else in the story is affected. The second is working out how to present your story in an engrossing manner.

It looks like you've got the first thought process well in hand, and need to move on to the second :-)

Readers vary of course, but when they read fiction, few want to wade through a lengthy history lesson before getting into the story. Involve us in the story, and dribble in the backstory as needed. If you've got a lot more backstory that you believe important to the reader's understanding than you can dribble in, then footnote it similar to what Garrison Keillor did in Lake Wobegon Days, or include an appendix the reader can refer to if they feel the need.

I hope this helps in some small way.


August 6th, 2014, 07:16 PM