Friday, January 31, 2014

Wu Zetian, Female Emperor of China

The nagging wife. The domineering mother. The aunt that forces you to commit suicide for dishonoring the family. These tried-and-true stereotypes have been around for ages, but the one who embodied it in force lived over 1300 years ago. Wu Zetian used these inherent talents to move up from being a concubine, to the wife of an Emperor, to becoming the only woman in Chinese history to take the title of Emperor herself! She successfully manipulated all of the men in her life, as well as scared the living daylights out of her subjects, just by giving that look (you know the one I'm talking about). Her ambition turned the powerful Tang Dynasty on its ear, and many consider her to be one of the most powerful rulers (regardless of sex) in all of history! You'd certainly make sure to "call when you get there" with this mother!

Fig.1: Original concubine recruitment 
poster featuring Emperor Taizong, 
circa AD 630.
There were some initial signs that Wu Zhao (as she was known before she got all famous) would become pretty influential. First, a total solar eclipse occurred in 624, the same year of her birth, demonstrating her ability to manipulate celestial bodies even as a little baby! As she grew older, she reportedly shied away from her home and needlework duties, and appeared more interested in ghastly things like politics and reading! Wu grew up during an exciting time in Chinese history: Emperor Gaozu established the Tang Dynasty in 618, the first long-term dynasty to rule a unified China in four centuries! Wu wanted a piece of that action, and when an imperial recruiter came to her grade school for an assembly on all the perks of becoming the Emperor's concubine, she was first in line to sign up. At age 13, she entered the harem of Emperor Taizong, which is one of those accepted instances in history that, unless you're Jerry Lee Lewis, we can't help but get the heebee-jeebees about.

Friday, January 24, 2014


Fig.1: I wish I could take time out of my busy 
hunting-gathering lifestyle to make one of these.
Ask folks around the world what is the greatest henge of stones in Europe, they should say the Avebury circle in Wiltshire, England since it is technically the largest by area. But most likely they will say the Stonehenge site located about twenty miles to the south, and quite frankly I don't blame these hypothetical people. I mean, look at the thing (fig.1). It is dang impressive! How did those Neolithic peoples lift up those huge stones like that? What was the original purpose of the monument? Why couldn't they just be content to pack up a mound of dirt like those drunken Irish were doing and call it a day? Amazingly, many of these questions still have not been answered by those lazy archaeologists! It is up to us, the fine patrons of the interweb, to figure out what these bloody British builders were thinking when constructing this monstrosity, even if it means taking some creative license with our theories (that's fancy talk for making stuff up).