The Qianling mausoleum and its perception by its contemporaries

Publication type Article
Status Published
Occupation: Postgraduate student, Institute of Oriental Studies
Affiliation: Institute of Oriental Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences
Address: Russian Federation, Moscow
Journal nameVostok. Afro-Aziatskie obshchestva: istoriia i sovremennost
EditionIssue 6

In 690, Empress Wu Zetian (624–705), the widow of Emperor Gaozong (r. 650–683), accepted the male title of emperor (huangdi) and proclaimed the foundation of a new dynasty, the Zhou (690–705). Thus, she received a formal confirmation of the obvious fact that full state power was already in her hands. According to traditional Chinese notions a woman could not rule, so later historians evaluated these actions rather critically. For this reason it is probable that the major written sources produced under Wu Zetian’s rule, “Jiu Tang Shu” (“Old Book of Tang”) and “Xin Tan Shu” (“New Book of Tang”), reflect neither the actual situation nor the opinion of contemporaries about the woman-emperor. In view of these circumstances, one of the most important sources of knowledge for us is the Qianling mausoleum (completed in 684), the burial place of both Gaozong and Wu Zetian. The Qianling mausoleum is famous primarily for its sculptural images and mural paintings, which attracted the interest of art historians. A careful study of the objects located on the territory of the mausoleum also gives us invaluable information about the political situation in the relevant period and allows us to make some interesting observations.

KeywordsWu Zetian, Wu-hou, Wu Zhao, Qianling, Gaozong, Tang China Imperial Tombs, Uncharactered Stele, Spirit Way
Publication date27.12.2018
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