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Tang Stwijn 23-24 (2005-06) Beyond Filial Piety: Biographhs of Exnnpl4ry WOmm and Wu Zhao's New Paradigm of Political Authority NORMAN HARRY ROTHSCHILD UNIVERSITY OF NORTH FLORIDA Wu Zhao Ji:\~1 (r. 690-705), the only female Emperor in Chinese history, redefined filial piety. Shortly after her mother's death in 670, she proposed a measure that set the mourning period for the mother at three years--even if the father were still aliveeffectively making the demands of filial piety equally applicable for both parents. The memorial, proposed during the Shangyuan LJt reign era (20 September 674 to 18 December 676), was approved of and implemented by her husband, Emperor Gaozong (r. 649683 ).2 Later, when Wu Zhao was Grand Dowager, the measure was I would like to thank Suzanne Cahill and the two anonymous Tang StuJits readers for providing extremely perceptive, helpful, and constructive criticisms. 1 While in most secondary scholarship she is known as Wu utian J1t ~IJ ~ or Empress Wu Jitl§, throughout this paper I use the self-styled designation Wu Zhao that she assumed in 689. For her assumption of the name Zhao, see Zjzhi tongjian llmim.(Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1995; hereafter ZZTj), 204.6263, and Xin Tangshu if'-.(hereafter XTS), 76.3481; all references to the twentyfour dynastic histories are to the Beijing Zhonghua shuju edition. 2 Dong Hao .f5 et al., comps., Quan Tang wm ~~~ (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1996; hereafter QTW), 97.1000, contains the "Qing fu zai wei mu zhong sannian fu biao" gJX::(£~flJ:~ '=:1f.ij~~; Wang Pu .3:~, ed., Tang huiyao ~fJ~ (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1998), 37.675-76. XTS (76.3480) gives a general date of the Shangyuan era for the proposals. In the ZZTj (202.6374), these twelve proposals were made on the ""yin 3:Ji day of the twelfth lunar month of Shangyuan (28 January 675). Among others, Chen Jo-shui discusses this measure and its subsequent development in detail in "Empress Wu and Proto-Feminist Sentiments in T'ang China," in Frederick ~ Brandauer and Chun-chieh Huang, eels., Imptrial Rulership and Cultural Changt in Traditional China (Seatde: University of Washington Press, 1994, 77-116). After Wu Zhao's death, the old mourning rule was temporarily restored in 719, but in the Grtat Tang Kaiyuan Ritulll CotU of 732, Xuanzong reconfirmed it, and the measure 149 Rothschild: &,0"" Fililll Piny formally codified in her Chuigong g~ ~mt3 (Regulations of the Ch uigong Era).j Naturally, this measure served to elevate the role of the mother as the recipient and object of filial devotion of sons. Given her venerable stature at this juncture as Empress and matriarch of the imperial clan, Wu Zhao benefited greatly from the new ceremonial regulation. On the surface an act of filial respect, of ritual humility before her deceased parent, this measure served in reality to exalt her own status both within family and state. Beginning with her proposal of this article in the mid-670s as Wu Zhao rose in political eminence and moved toward the establishment of her own dynasty, she consistently sought to extend the breadth of her "motherhood" from her flesh-and-blood children to a far wider network of "political sons" empire-wide. Filial piety was a complex concept with many permutations. An individual might be a subject offering filial attention to parents, ancestors, and parents-in-law or the object of filial devotion proffered by younger generations. This essay will focus not upon Wu Zhao in her capacity as a giver of filial piety-though, when necessary, she played that role well-but as a receiver, as the object of filial devotion. A clever politician, she grasped the profound normative importance of filial piety: she situated herself as a champion of Confucian values, as a dutiful wife, a filial daughter and daughter-in-law, and a mother deeply concerned with the education of her children. That her new definition of filial piety might be propagated and bear fruit, as her husband Gaozong's 00regent , as Grand Dowager, and ultimately as ruler, Wu Zhao often instructed others on how to be filial-not just her own children. stood throughout the history of imperial China (86-87). Formerly, following...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1759-7633
Print ISSN
0737-5034
Pages
pp. 149-168
Launched on MUSE
2021-04-08
Open Access
No
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