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"Human beings cannot be resurrected. This is all destiny. The important thing is that those who are alive continue to live."
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Wu Zetian (17 February 624 – 16 December 705), personal name Wu Zhao, was empress consort to emperor Gaozong of Tang and, after his death in 683, the sole ruler of China for over two decades. She first was regent to her sons and, unprecedently, empress regnant (referred to as "emperor") of her own Zhou dynasty from 690 until her death, the only legitimate female sovereign in the history of China. She leads the Chinese in Civilization VI.

There are the leaders who will fight you head-on, and then there is Wu Zetian. Her skills are launching offensive spy missions.


From humble beginnings to the center of the world you rose, Wu Zetian, Empress of China. Do not let the machinations of your court halt you, for you outwit them all. Whether by the painter’s brush, your skill with words, or the poisoned blade you will rise above your foes, and cause the world to bow to you – out of love or fear, there is little difference.


Wu Zetian's unique agenda is Court Intrigue. She likes civilizations which pose no threat and dislikes ones with a strong military or nearby cities.

Her leader ability is Manual of Entrapment. She receives a free Spy with Defensive Tactics and all of her offensive Spies operate at 1 level higher. When an offensive espionage mission is successful, she gains 100% Science Science, Faith Faith and Culture Culture produced that turn by that city. Also, she can purchase her Spies with Faith Faith.

Detailed Approach[]

China under Wu Zetian focuses on building her empire up while tearing down her opponent's civilization from the inside. Her bonuses towards Espionage give her an extra Spy and also help her offensive spy operations. When she is successfully spying on her enemies, she receives Science Science and Culture Culture to advance in the Technology and Civic trees. This Science Science and Culture Culture is even more useful when progressing, as Eurekas and Inspirations go even farther with China's Dynastic Cycle ability. A Culture Victory is best with Wu Zetian, given her ability to steal Great Works easily and the Great Wall's Tourism Tourism.


Wu Zetian is voiced by Wang Shan. She speaks Mandarin Chinese.


Codename Quote (English translation) Quote (Mandarin Chinese) Notes
Agenda-based Approval You've been such a comfort to me. As loyal as my eunuchs. (lit. "As a subordinate, you've been of great comfort to me. You are just as loyal as the eunuchs by my side.") 子於朕也甚慰。其忠同於朕之左右。

Zǐ yú zhèn yě shèn wèi. Qí zhōng tóng yú zhèn zhī zuǒyòu.

The word 子 () means subordinate in this context.
Agenda-based Disapproval You think I am here to be plotted against? I am the one that plots! (lit. "You think that I am to be plotted against? I am the one who plots.") 子以為朕為所謀,然而朕,實謀之。

Zǐ yǐwéi zhèn wéi suǒ móu, rán'ér zhèn shí móu zhī.

Attacked Here come a bunch of men waving swords around and shouting. Or am I supposed to call this mess an "art?" (lit. "A group armed with swords wailing restlessly, should I call this behavior an art?") 群備武劍,焦躁呼號,吾為斯行為藝能乎?

Qún bèi wǔ jiàn, jiāozào hūháo, wú wèi sī xíngwéi yì néng hū?

Declares War My dear, the time has come for you to go. (lit. "Darling, your time here is over, you can leave.") 阿郎,時完已,可去也。

Āláng, shí wán yǐ, kě qù yě.

Defeated Please... I'm sure we could work something out. This doesn't have to be the end... does it? (lit. "Please, if you believe that you can deal with and abandon it, do you believe that it will be as you envisioned?") 拜託,如自信能處治然廢棄終也,如其信乎?

Bàituō, rú zìxìn néng chǔzhì rán fèiqì zhōng yě, rúqí xìn hū?

Greeting I am Wu Zetian, the most feared and loved Empress in China. The only Empress in China. (lit. "I am Wu Zhao, loved and feared by the people, the only queen in all of China.") 朕乃武曌,民皆愛之畏之,天下唯一之后主。

Zhèn nǎi Wǔ Zhào, mín jiē ài zhī wèi zhī, tiānxià wéiyī zhī hòuzhǔ.

Wu Zetian uses her personal name, Wǔ Zhào (武曌) in this dialogue. 天下 (tiānxià) in this context refers to China.
Quote from Civilopedia Human beings cannot be resurrected. This is all destiny. The important thing is that those who are alive continue to live. (lit. "The dead cannot be resurrected. It is fate. However, it is important for those who survive to continue.") 死者不可復生,此天命也。然存者有繼著而行,為此為重。

Sǐzhě bùkě fùshēng, cǐ tiānmìng yě. Rán cún zhě yǒu jìzhe ér xíng, wèi cǐ wéizhòng.


Delegation: I send to you horses carved in jade, dancers from all the regions of China, and, as always the best silks our looms produce.

Accepts Player's Declaration of Friendship: Wonderful. I shall treat you as though you are my own child.

Rejects Player's Declaration of Friendship: I have plenty of admirers, I'm afraid.

Requests Declaration of Friendship: I would like to get to know you better.

Player Accepts Declaration of Friendship: Friends are how we climb the ladder of our ambition.

Player Rejects Declaration of Friendship: I gain nothing from associating with you.

Denounced by Player: Your words are sharp. Other things are sharper.

Denounces Player: I have a long list of enemies. You are on that list.

Too Many Troops Near Her Border: Your presence here is... unsubtle.

Invitation to Capital: Our capital has layers of history, art settled down into the very dust. Shall you see it?

Invitation to City: All roads lead here, to the Zhou Empire.

Civilopedia entry[]

The first and only woman to sit on China’s throne, Wu Zetian got to where she got to via assassinations, manipulation, and cunning court strategy. While she was focused on the court, she also altered the way that Chinese politics worked towards a more meritocratic system and away from noble patronage.

We are accustomed to speaking of the 600s as a dark age. But this is a perspective that only sees Europe. In the rest of the world, this is a time of expansion and interconnection, whether or not this be about the growth of the Islamic world, the consolidation of the Chola empires, etc. In China, Tang was the re-emergence of a large empire in the wake of Han. But Tang went further, building a multi-ethnic series of dependencies as well as a flourishing of the arts that would set the stage for later and greater Chinese empires.

Tang was an era of court culture. Porcelain, tea, and all the profits from the Silk Road contributed to the empire’s success, and its capital of Chang’an was the largest city in the world in its time. Tribute systems, while not at the level of later Ming systems, were established, as well as protectorates that reached as far as India and Iran. Most of all, poetry and the arts were at their height during Tang.

A court culture needs a court villain. And here enters Wu Zetian. The Wu family were wealthy timber merchants, and, like many powerful families, it was the custom to send a daughter to be a concubine of the Imperial court under Emperor Taizong. But Taizong died, and the sickly Gaozong took over.

Gaozong had a wife, the Empress Wang, but favored and had children with a concubine, Xiao. Wang sought to divert Gaozong’s attention from this rival and sought to promote Wu within the court. It backfired. Wu rose, and both Wang and Xiao fell – and fell so badly that Wang had Wu’s daughter strangled in her crib (or, according to others, Wu killed her own daughter and blamed Wang for it). After their deaths in relative obscurity, Wu claimed to be haunted by their spirits.

Wu’s influence over Gaozong grew, especially as his health failed. Her influence was primarily focused on palace intrigue, although she did caution against a conquest of Goguryeo (northern Korea). She began advising him behind a pearl screen, being present at all of his meetings. Upon his death, her son, Li Zhe (the Zhongzong Emperor), takes over, but quickly favors his own in-laws instead of his mother. This set up a clash between the two families and between Wu’s shadow rule and the standard workings of power, a clash that Wu was to win. She deposed her own son and replaced him with his younger, more pliable brother, Li Dan (Ruizhong), in 684.

Here, Wu’s power was more nakedly open. She openly gave orders and, in 690, declared herself Empress regnant and founded her own dynasty, Zhou. She was the first and only woman to ever sit on China’s throne. But as she herself declined in later years, she began to rely more and more on her councilors, especially two brothers, Zhang Yizhi and Zhang Changzong. With power came ambition, and the two Zhang brothers began to resent any other connections or appointments that Wu would make outside of their own. Eventually, rivals in the court plot the Zhang brothers’ death, and, for once, Wu was unable to stop her enemies. The Zhang brothers were killed, and Wu – finally – deposed.

Domestically, Wu initiated a number of reforms that both reflected her own – relatively – humble origins as well as set barriers to anyone who would seek to follow in her footsteps. She initiated public reforms curbing female performers and putting limits on women’s fashion but also opened administrative examinations to all men, regardless of status. Further, in a stunning display of power, she eliminated entire branches of the imperial family, shifting the focus of power in China away from powerful families and towards the centralized bureaucracy. Wu’s regime was enforced via her secret police and involved the threat of hidden violence against all who would oppose her. But this was violence largely directed at the court. For commoners, Wu’s reign would have been relatively enlightened – she cut the military, promoted skilled officials, and gave much of royal land to commoners.

Internationally, Wu promoted Buddhism, even declaring herself to be Maitreya, the Buddha-to-be, but openly clashed with Tibet as well as western Turkic tribes. While Tibet remained independent, the Tibetan Empire lost the ground that it had taken in years past. And while Wu made inroads into Turkic areas, the Western nomadic powers were to have their day several centuries hence.


  • Wu Zetian's leader ability is named after a text allegedly written by her secret police official Lai Junchen, which taught how to incriminate people and fabricate evidence, while her leader agenda references her usage of this secret police to stamp down dissenters in her court.




Leader Spotlight- Wu Zetian - Civilization VI- Leader Pass

Leader Spotlight: Wu Zetian

Related achievements[]

Mother's Day
Mother's Day
Win a regular game as Wu Zetian.
Wu Zetian was the mother of two emperors, both of which she eventually deposed.
Crouching Tiger Hidden Cannon
Crouching Tiger Hidden Cannon
Playing as China, end a turn with 5 Crouching Tigers on Great Wall tiles.
A reference to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, a 2000 martial arts film.

See also[]

External links[]

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1 Requires DLC

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