Wu Zetian, the first and only female emperor in China. Born into a wealthy family, she was privileged to have read aplenty and received quality education. Wu was taken to be Emperor Taizong’s concubine at the age of 19 but was never a favourite. Now this is the ridiculous part – after Taizong’s death she remarried, to Taizong’s successor and ninth son, Emperor Gaozong!
Wu progressively gained increasing influence over the governance of the empire throughout Emperor Gaozong’s reign and was eventually making major decisions on behalf of the emperor. She was seen as ruthless in her power-struggle endeavours and was believed by some historians to have even murdered her own flesh in order to frame her competitors.
During her political heyday, Wu instructed the construction of two architectural miracle of the time – Ming Tang and Tian Tang. The former for meetings with government officials and the latter for religious ceremonies. These ancient architects were long gone with the passing of time (in fact, Tian Tang was burnt by a monk with whom Wu was having an affair, 6 years after it was built).
Located in the Luoyang city center today, the Sui-Tang Luoyang City National Heritage Park is a new tourist attraction constructed on the remnants of the palaces when Luoyang was China’s imperial capital during the Sui (589-618 BC) and Tang dynasties (618-907 AD). It aims to emulate the original Ming Tang and Tian Tang and provide a glimpse of the history to its modern visitors.
Ming Tang exterior
A rebuild of the grand Assembly Hall to imitate the splendour and opulence during Wu’s political zenith.
Tian Tang – a 9 storey building, standing tall and proud. Based on historical records, Tian Tang was destroyed in an arson. The fire was set by the same monk who oversaw the construction project and the reason why he burnt his labour of love was love itself. He was once a love interest of Emperor Wu and stayed by her side for years after the death of her second husband. However, common as all other Emperors who had hundreds and thousands of concubines, Emperor Wu had a collection of her own, albeit only a few. So, it was said that Monk Shang lost his favouritism to the Emperor’s imperial doctor and out of jealousy, he set Tian Tang ablaze and lit up the Luoyang sky in a raging crimson.
First storey – a grand hall.
Valuable art pieces can be found on every storey
A peaceful but monumental looking Buddha resting atop the tower. The entire floor appeared as though it was made of gold!
Here’s just a photo taken while cousin and I were making our way to the heritage park during an afternoon shower. I love the refreshing shades of green that decorated the city with high spirits and ebullience.
Travel Tips and Information:
- Address: Zhongzhou Middle Road, Lao Cheng District, Luoyang, China
- Opening hours: 8:30 – 17:30
- Entrance Fee: RMB 120
- Tel: +86 379 6312 2277
- Estimated time for sightseeing: 2 hours
- More information on channelnewsasia.com/henan