Comparativeessay: Empress Wu Zetian and Pharaoh Hatshepsut
Theancient kingdoms and civilizations had some common aspects regardingmatters of leadership in the society. Most cultures did not recognizewomen in the political arena or any leadership position in thesociety. The rise of female leaders in the ancient societies marked asignificant step in the history. The paper seeks to find similaritiesand differences between the rule of Pharaoh Hatshepsut and Empress WuZetian, of Egypt and China respectively.
EmpressWu Zetian was a significant emperor during the Tang Dynasty, in thehistory of China. She was the only female emperor who ruled Chinaduring 690-750 AD, being one of the most controversial and effectivedominion in China’s history[ CITATION Mar161 l 1033 ].Empress Wu Zetian was a concubine to Emperor Taizong. After the deathof Taizong, she married his son, Gaozong, and became the empressconsort. In 683 CE, Gaozong died leaving Empress Wu Zetian in controlof the emperor. She led China until a year before her death in 705AD.
EmpressWu Zetian ruled the Chinese emperor with a strong desire to retainand gain more power, as an autocrat leader. Nonetheless, theConfucian beliefs and norms do not approve of a woman’s rule. Mostpeople saw a woman performing a man’s job while others saw nodifference between her and other male leaders. Empress Wu Zetianmanaged to effectively lead China during an era of diverse social andcultural ideologies.
Aftertaking over the emperor, Wu took control of all the state affairs andmost of the operations were up to her decision. Wu managed to do awaywith her political enemies hence clearing the path ofadministration. According to [ CITATION Mar161 l 1033 ],“sheformed a secret police force to spy on her opposition and ruthlesslyjailed and killed anyone standing in her way”. In order toeradicate the Confucian belief that was against women rule, sheinstigated a campaign to encourage and elevate women position in thegovernment. For instance, she ordered the writing of popular womenbiographies and gave women high political positions. Moreover, “shemoved the court away from the old male power seat and tried to createa new dynasty”[ CITATION Mar161 l 1033 ].She took bold measures such as reducing the army size and appointinggovernment officials based on meritocracy.
Onthe other hand, Pharaoh Hatshepsut was the first female to become theruler of the ancient Egypt in 1478-1458 BC. Her name means “foremostof noble women.” Pharaoh Hatshepsut began her course to rule as aregent to her stepson Thuthmose III, who ruled between 1458-1425 BC[CITATION Mar162 l 1033 ]. Pharaoh Hatshepsut would later succeed her stepson and become thefirst female ruler. Pharaoh Hatshepsut is renowned as one of theleading Egyptian monarchs, after the Cleopatra VII.
Asthe ruler of ancient Egypt, she improved trade and directed thebuilding of significant and ambitious building projects such as theTemple of Deir el-Bahri, where she was later buried. Hatshepsutfought for the controversial position as the legitimate and thesuccessor, as appointed by her father. As Pharaoh, she reinventedherself as a male figure in paintings and statues with beard andmuscles[CITATION Mar162 l 1033 ].She associated with key government supporters like the chiefminister, Senenmut, in making paramount decisions. Besides buildingmonumental buildings in Egypt,she was also involved in trading activities of items such as ivory,gold, leopard skins, gold, and incense among others that broughtwealth to the country.
TheEgyptian and Chinese cultures were against the rule of a woman in thesociety. According to the Chinese, the Confucian norms did not allowwomen to have any leadership positions not only in politics but alsothe society. However, Pharaoh Hatshepsut and Empress Wu Zetian stoodagainst all these odds and managed to have an effective rule of theirrespective emperors. Most of the ancient cultural beliefs assertedthat women’s position was at the household, taking care of thehomestead. Therefore, it took many people by surprise to have afemale ruler in both Egyptian and Chinese emperors.
Femaleleadership has been encouraged and enhanced since antiquity. The ruleof the two female leaders was featured with political stability andpeaceful coexistence among people. Research studies confirm thatPharaoh Hatshepsut leadership was among the best in Egypt after theCleopatra VII. In the contemporary word, women have consistentlyfought for their leadership rights and freedoms in the male-dominatedbusiness realm. As such, women have advanced their careers bylearning and gaining knowledge in various fields. Women have pursuedtertiary education, acquired degrees, masters, and PhDs, in an effortto compete efficiently in the job market. Besides being involved inthe business fraternity, women have also endeavored in politics byvying for powerful and influential political seats such as thepresidential candidacy for the United States.
Thetopic about women and power has been a controversial issue among manysocieties and cultures around the world. For instance, the Chineseculture did not recognize a female figure authority or leader in thesociety. Since antiquity, women have been associated with householdchores and epitomized as unable to hold any leadership position. Onthe contrary, female figures like Pharaoh Hatshepsut and Empress WuZetian proved their cultures wrong by effectively ruling theirrespective ancient emperors.
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