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Empress Wu and Buddhism: A Symbiotic Relationship Essay

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Wu Zhao, the first female emperor of China, rose to power during the Tang Dynasty and her active role with Buddhism fabricated a perpetual impact in the Chinese society as a whole. There is no doubt that Buddhism and the Tang administration, under Wu’s reign, formed a symbiotic relationship with one another. She is considered to be one of the most prominent advocators of the religion during the era. Her efforts to spread of Buddhism and the monetary support help Buddhism to expand throughout the people significantly, which provide the religion another source of financial income to spread even further. Regardless of Empress Wu’s intention, she has furnished the religion in numerous ways, but what did she receive in return? This proposes the question: To what extent did Empress Wu’s support of Buddhism, politically and financially, help Wu and better her empire overall?
There is no simple answer to this question, especially with the convoluted and entwining relationship between Buddhism and Wu, so we focus on how the religion assisted Wu in grasping power and its indispensable role in the Chinese economy. The close connection between government and religion is not a new concept to the Tang era as it has been well-established prior to its time, and it even survived long after. In the case of Buddhism and Empress Wu, the religion played a pivotal role in justifying her rule, which could explain her special interest in it. Among the Buddhists followers, she was identified as the bodhisattva Maitreya, which helped her gain a sense of legitimacy to her reign, especially in a male-dominant society (Smarr Feb. 17 2012). The association of Buddhism with Wu helped spur Wu’s benevolent policies towards the religion, who benefitted handsome...


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...ntly influenced more than just the expansion of the Chinese economy, it has brought in new ideas and cultures from foreign countries that have an everlasting impact on China as a whole.



Works Cited
Bentley, Jerry H., and Herbert F. Ziegler. Traditions & Encounters: A Global Persepective on the Past. Ed. Jessica Portz. 5th ed., 2011. 290-295. Print.
Yu, Han. “Memorial on Buddhism”. Making of the Modern World 12: Classical & Medieval Tradition. Trans. Richard F. Burton. Ed. Janet Smarr. La Jolla: University Readers, 2012. 111-112. Print.
“A Pilgrim’s Visit to The Five Terraces Mountains”. Making of the Modern World 12: Classical & Medieval Tradition. Trans. Richard F. Burton. Ed. Janet Smarr. La Jolla: University Readers, 2012. 108-110. Print.
Smarr, Janet. “Emperor Wu”. Making of the Modern World 12. Ledden Auditorium, La Jolla, CA. 17 Feb. 2012. Lecture.



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