Women in power – A good thing or a bad thing? (A look at Wu Zetian China’s first and only woman Emperor and Queen Esther of the Bible)

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“Wu Zetian” – China’s first and only woman Emperor started off in the palace as an ordinary young courts girl who one day found the favour of the Emperor Gaozong and eventually becoming one of his many concubines. At one point, she was so highly favoured that a lot of people sent her gifts to get into her good books. One day, there was a prophecy that predicted “Tang dynasty will end by the 3rd generation. A woman warrior named “Wu” would overtake it.

Overnight, she became a national threat. Wu was a girl of beauty and intelligence and the Emperor was mesmerised and charmed by her. While the other men (the high officials)  saw her a threat and wanted to eliminate her, the Emperor did not approve and consent to her execution citing that she is “only a woman”, what can she do?

While the Emperor did not consent to her execution, he had subsequently became wary of her and hence Wu began to lose her favour with the Emperor. Wu was devoted and truly in love with the king, and while she patiently waited day and night for the Emperor to return to her, he never did. A woman’s value seemed to have be of no significance to a man and they were treated like a plaything. For the Emperor, he changed his women like clothes and they were merely a means to satisfy his sexual desire. And a statement like “she is only a woman, what can she do” indicated that a woman in those times were lowly esteemed.

But despite that, history has it that Wu eventually became the first and only woman Emperor who ever ruled ancient China for almost half a century. And she was no ordinary woman but one of beauty, wits and of great military prowess. After Emperor Gaozong died, she married his successor – the ninth prince and after he was down with a stroke, Wu took over the empire from him not without viciously killing her own sons as well to becoming China’s first and only woman Emperor who ruled for almost half a century. That’s quite a formidable feat for a woman of those times, not to mention cruel as well when one is power greedy!

The importance to history of Wu’s period of political and military leadership includes the major expansion of the Chinese empire, extending it far beyond its previous territorial limits, deep into Central Asia and engage in a severe war on the Korean Peninsular. Her leadership also resulted in important issues effects regarding social class in China society and in relation to state support for Taoism, Buddhism, education and literature. She also had a monumatery impact upon the stating of the Longman Grottoes and the “Wordless Stele” at the Gianliang Mausoleum, as well as the construction of some major buildings and bronze casting that no longer survived.

Now let us look at another example – Queen Esther of the Bible (Esther 1-9)

Queen Esther was but an ordinary Jewish woman, she and her people were merely exiles living in a foreign land.

When the previous Queen Vashti refused to obey Ahasuerus’s request for her to display her beauty in the presence of the people and prince at the King’s command during a banquet he had thrown to show off his riches and his royal glory and the splendour of his great majesty, King Ahasuerus became very offended and furious. At the “advice” given to him by some wise men, they incited him to decree a royal edict that Vashti should come no more into the presence of King Ahasuerus and let the king give her royal position to another who is more worthy than she. (Esther chapter 1)

In replacement of the position that was left vacant by Vashti, the king’s attendance who served him said, “Let beautiful young virgin be sought for the king”. Esther became one of this beautiful young virgin who has found favour in the eyes of King Ahasuerus and subsequently made her queen. (Esther chapter 2)

Esther has an uncle by the name of Mordecai who works in the palace, and one day he found out a plot by two of the king’s official who were planning to assassinate the king, he reported this to Queen Esther and Esther informed the king in Mordecai’s name. Now the plot was investigated and found out to be so, they were both hanged and it was written in the Book of the Chronicles in the king’s presence.

Now there was a man called Haman whom the King has promoted and established his authority over all the princes who were with him. All the king’s servants who were at the king’s gate bowed down to him for so the king has commanded but Mordecai did not. When it was found out that the reason why Mordecai refusal to bow down to him was because he was a Jew, Haman was enraged and wanted to destroy Mordecai and all his people. So Haman said to the king “There is a certain people scattered and dispersed among the people in all the province of your kingdom, their laws are different from those of all the other and they do not observe the kings law, so it is not in the king’s interest to let them remain. If it is pleasing to the king, let it be decreed that they be destroyed and I will pay then thousand talent of silver into the hands of those who carry out the king’s business, to put into the kings’ treasuries.” The King thus consented him, by giving him the signet ring and so the decree was made. (Esther chapter 3)

Esther soon found out about this plot through her uncle Mordecai. He also gave Esther a copy of the text of the edict that he might show the Queen and inform her in order her to go in to the king to implore his favour and plead with the king with him for her people. However Esther initial respond was this, “All the king’s servant and the people of the king’s provinces know that for any man or woman who comes t o the king to the inner court who is not summoned, he has but one law, that he be put to death, unless the king holds out to him the golden sceptre so that he may live, And I have not been summoned to come to the king for these thirty days.” Mordecai than responded, “Do not imagine that you in the king’s palace can escape any more than all the Jews, for if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise from another place and you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as that?”

Upon hearing Mordecai’s word, Esther finally had this to respond, “Go, assemble all the Jews and fast for me, do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maiden also will do fast in the same way. And thus I will go in to the king, which is not according to the law, and if I perish, I perish.” (Esther chapter 4)

After the fast was over, Esther put on her royal robe and stood in the inner court of the king’s palace. And it happened when the king saw Esther, standing in the court, she obtained favour in his sight and the king extended to Esther the golden sceptre. When the King asked Esther what her request was, she requested and invited him and Haman to the banquet she has prepared for them and subsequently prepared a second banquet.  During the second banquet that Esther has prepared, Esther finally brought her petition towards the king and revealed Haman’s evil plot. As a result of this Haman got hanged, the edict has been revolved and the Jews has been given authority to defend themselves from the enemies who were about to attack them, therefore saving her people. Her uncle Mordecai subsequently also got promoted for all the deeds that he has done. (Esther chapter 5-9) (I suggest reading the book of Esther for yourself to get a better and fuller understanding of the whole story, due to time, this is just a summarised version)

As we can see from the above two examples what a woman in power is capable of… One came into power through vicious means, while the other came into power purely by favour… Yet despite the way they came up to the top, their achievement is no less greater than the other. Both women accomplished great and mighty deeds on behalf of her people. The question now we ponder might be, “Is it more important how she came into power or what she is capable of attaining after coming into power?”

I suppose the more important question to answer is the motive behind their actions. While Wu Zetian accomplished just as much as Queen Esther if not more, she only had one thing in mind and that is power. Whereas Queen Esther’s actions and moves were all sincere and purely from her heart with only the intention to serve the well being of her people even to the extend of risking her own life. This alone sets her apart from Wu Zetian. It is pretty scary to imagine what a woman is capable of when she is in power. So is it a good thing or a bad thing to have a woman in leadership? Well, you decide for yourself.

Serving with you in His Kingdom with love;

Princess Michelle –

Beloved Daughter of the Most High King

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