Zhou dynasty (690–705)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Zhou dynasty
Zhou Dynasty c. 700
Capital Shendu (Luoyang)
Languages Chinese
Religion Buddhism (state religion), Taoism, Confucianism, Chinese folk religion
Government Absolute Monarchy
 •  690–705 Wu Zetian
 •  Established by Wu Zetian 16 October 690
 •  Disestablished 22 February 705
 •  Empress Wu Zetian deposed in a coup 705
Currency Chinese coin, Chinese cash
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Tang dynasty
Tang dynasty
Today part of  China

The Zhou dynasty (Chinese: 周), also called the Second Zhou dynasty or Restored Zhou dynasty was a Chinese dynasty established by Wu Zetian in 690, when she proclaimed herself huangdi (emperor). The dynasty interrupted the Tang Dynasty until its abolition in 705, when Wu Zetian abdicated and the Tang Dynasty was restored.

Its sole ruler was Wu Zhao, who took the name Wu Zetian upon her coronation. Wu, who believed herself to be descended from the ancient Zhou Dynasty, named her dynasty Zhou.

The dynasty's capital was Shendu[1] (神都 divine capital, present-day Luoyang), despite Wu's infamous rise to power, there is evidence that suggests women were granted more privileges during her reign, and China was in a state of great prosperity during her rule. The dynasty's state religion was Buddhism, which was promoted by Wu Zetian to support her legitimate mandate, in addition to this she also preached herself to be an incarnation of the Maitreya Buddha, writing a document called the Great Cloud Sutra, which prophesied that a female emperor would end illness, worry and disaster from the world; and sought the support of the Buddhist clergy. It is not clear when Wu Zetian became a supporter of Buddhism, but she likely chose Buddhism as the state religion to legitimize her rule, as Confucianism did not allow female emperors.[1] Unlike her predecessor's dynasty, Wu Zetian selected people in her government based on their skills, and not on their status, the Buddhist clergy created a document called Commentary on the Meaning of the Prophecy about Shenhuang, which predicted a female Chakravartin who would rule the Jambudvipa as the reincarnation of Vimalaprabha. This document was presented to Wu Zetian two months before the proclamation of the Zhou Dynasty.

Various other documents were also written such as The Great Spell of Unsullied Pure Light, also predicting the rise of a female monarch, of which Wu Zetian ordered 100,000 copies be written.[2]

Traditionalist Chinese historiography considers the dynasty as a period of the Tang dynasty, as Wu was also the former Empress consort of the Tang dynasty, and was buried in the Qianling mausoleum, a Tang dynasty monument, in addition to this, Wu Zetian was the only emperor of the dynasty, and this does not fit the concept of a dynasty. There were however other dynasties of a similar length, such as the Xin dynasty or much shorther length, such as the Shun Dynasty. Wu Zetian's rule was long also seen as a period of great tyranny, though in more recent decades this seems to have lessened or reversed, as the appearance of Wu Zetian in countless Chinese works of fiction seems to depict her as a wise ruler.


Before her coronation, Wu Zhao (as she was then known), was often acting as de facto regent for her husband, Emperor Gaozong or her sons. Beginning in 655, Wu began to preside over court meeting in name of the emperor, after Gaozong's death, she ruled in name of her sons, who ruled officially as puppet emperors. In 690, she deposed her son, Emperor Ruizong and declared herself Huangdi (emperor) of her Zhou Dynasty.


  1. ^ a b Buddhism, Diplomacy, and Trade: The Realignment of India–China Relations , Tansen Sen
  2. ^ The Woman Who Discovered Printing, T.H. Barrett