China’s Forgotten Emperor

Originally commissioned by:
Channel 4

Next on:

<p>China’s only female Emperor. Was she an evil tyrant or one of the most successful rulers in Chinese history?</p>

She’s probably the most controversial woman in Chinese history – Wu Zetian, who rose from lowly concubine to become the only woman in all Chinese history to dare to take the title “Emperor”

Since her death 1,300 years ago, Wu Zetian has been remembered as a callous tyrant, who brought calamity to China. But now, extraordinary new discoveries are revealing a very different picture of her reign.

As archaeologists investigate hidden tombs, spectacular pagodas, gigantic palaces and priceless treasures from her time, they are uncovering a very different story of China’s female Emperor, her skills and her empire. Wu Zetian’s China was a military, economic and cultural superpower, whose influence stretched from the edge of the Mediterranean to Japan and India.  Recent discoveries reveal the wealth and stability of her reign, and point to her skills as a politician and a leader. But they also provide tantalising new evidence of the cruelty and violence at the heart of her regime.

With hands-on investigations and access to the treasures of Wu Zetian’s time, this film tries to give a definitive answer to the question: was Emperor Wu an evil tyrant or one of the most successful rulers in all Chinese history?