Today in World History: February 17th

China, in all of its more than four millennia of existence, has not had a lone female ruler other than Wu Zetian. Born on this day in 624, she is the only woman to rule China by herself. She rose through the ranks, starting as a preferred concubine to Emperor Taizong, and when he died, she married his son, but not hers. When he suffered a stroke and became incapable of ruling, Wu Zetian became the ruler of the vast empire. She expanded the country immensely, conquering most of Northern Korea, and into Central Asia. She faced much opposition to her rulealong with religious problems as Taoists and Buddhists fought amongst each other. She also expanded the scholar systems in China, and ruled for many years until her death. By that time she was at an unusual age of eighty-one in 705, when, on the 16 December, she died after a period of illness, finally honored as Empress Zetian Dasheng, and her Zhou dynasty was replaced with the restoration of the Tang Dynasty. She had three sons, all who would serve briefly as emperors, and her grandson would become the great Emperor Xuanzong.

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