Analysis of Nigel Cawthrone´s Daughter of Heaven: The True Story of the Only Woman to Become Emperor of China

Analysis of Nigel Cawthrone´s Daughter of Heaven: The True Story of the Only Woman to Become Emperor of China

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Daughter of Heaven: The True Story of the Only Woman to Become Emperor of China written by Nigel Cawthorne is the true story of the first and only woman ruler of China and her path to the throne. Early in her life it was predicted that she would rule the Empire one day. Wu Chao was born into a successful family, and as a young teenager in the Tang Dynasty she became a concubine in the court of Emperor T’ai-tsung. Traditionally, the Emperor’s concubines were banished to a Buddhist convent after his death, but at a young age Wu Chao was clever and was not about to lose her place in court. To secure her place she seduced T’ai-tsung’s son, the Emperor Kao-tsung, who was next in line for the throne. This was believed to be an incestuous act according to traditional Confucian practices, but from early on Wu Chao was willing to take drastic measures to get what she wanted.
Early on in the book I wondered how far Wu Chao was willing to go for a spot on the throne. She used a combination of feminine sexuality and strong will to claim the throne. The first obstacle in her way was the Empress Wang, but her being barren was an advantage for Wu Chao. She was able to provide healthy male heirs for the Emperor, while the Empress could not. When Wu Chao gave birth to a baby girl the Empress came to pay her respects to the newborn, and not long after her visit the baby was found smothered in her bed. The Emperor was devastated by the death of his daughter, and although it was never proven how the child died, Wu Chao had discredited the Empress through this ordeal. She was promoted to the Emperor’s wife and on her way to abusing her power to keep rivals out of her way.
Wu Chao was ambitious and used her beauty and wit to manipulate her way to...


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...edchamber. Empress Wu completely reversed the sex roles in court; a “woman is superior to man in the way water is to fire. Those who are expert in sexual intercourse are like good cooks who know how to blend the five flavours into tasty broth. Those who know the art of yin and yang can blend the five pleasures (Cawthorne, 49). Daoist philosopher Laozi believed that yin and yang cannot exist without the other. Even into her seventies Empress Wu enjoyed the company of her young consorts regularly; clearly she was very open about her sexual needs and interest in immortality.
Behind every great man is an even greater woman, and Empress Wu is a prime example of this. Although at times she was a ruthless leader, she knew how to get the job done, and was a sufficient ruler during her time on the throne. After Wu Chao’s rule there seemed nothing that a woman could not do.

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