General Jing-ye Xu's Address on Declaring the War Against Empress Ze-tian Wu 1 (684 CE)

Luo, Bin-wang 2 (ca. 640-684 CE)

   Illegitimate Empress Wu had a bad temper and was born to a lower class. She used to be one of Emperor Tai-zong's concubines. She won Emperor Tai-zong's love by taking advantage of the opportunity to change his clothes. When Emperor Tai-zong was fatally ill, she seduced the crown prince Gao-zong. Later Emperor Tai-zong died. She went to a temple and became a nun to cover her sin. After Prince Gao-zong succeeded the throne, he asked her to return to the palace and became his concubine. She was not content with her status and attempted to win Emperor Gao-zong's complete love. As soon as she arrived at the palace, she immediately exposed her jealous character. Her eyebrows showed arrogance and she would not concede to other people's opinions. She was slanderous, but she pretended to be innocent and bashful by covering her face with her sleeves. Her coquetry bedazzled Emperor Gao-zong. Indeed, Emperor Gao-zong deposed Queen Wang and promoted Wu to queen. Thus she entrapped the father and the son to ride the same doe. She had a snake's heart and a wolf’s character. She allied with wicked people and persecuted good people. She killed her sister and brothers. When Emperor Gao-zong had a headache, she prevented the doctor from curing him, resulting in his death. She also poisoned the former queen, Wang. Her deeds were hated by both gods and people. These deeds can no longer be tolerated by either Heaven or Earth. She harbored a vicious heart and attempted to steal the throne. She put Emperor Gao-zong’s beloved son under house arrest and offered important positions only to her own relatives. Oh! I cannot see a loyal official like Prince Regent Guang Huo anymore. There no longer exists a person like Duke Zhang Liu who protected his emperor by reducing the power of Queen Lü's family. When Queen Fei-yan 3 Zhao pecked her emperor's offspring, it was predicted that the fortune of the Han dynasty was running out. When a monster was born from a dragon's saliva, it foretold that the fate of the Zhou dynasty would end quickly 4.

   I was made a duke during Emperor Gao-zong's reign and I am the eldest grandson of General Shi-xun Xu. I inherited the achievements and mission of late Emperor Gao-zong and shoulder the great favor and responsibility of our nation. There was a good reason for Wei-zi of Song 5 to feel sad when he passed by the old capital of his extinct country. Was it not appropriate that Jun-shan Yuan 6 cried when he talked about the tyranny of the queen's family? Thus my anger toward Empress Wu is powerful enough to generate a storm. My ambition is to bring peace to China. My motive originated from the disappointment of our nation. My action follows people's will and trust. Consequently, I hold the flag of righteousness high and am determined to eliminate the devil and bastard.

   From Canton in the south to the Three Great Rivers in the north, all the people unite to stand on our side. Our cavalry are numerous and invincible. Our armed vehicles stretch hundreds of miles. We have so much rice in Hai-ling City that much of it spoils. The provisions of our storage houses are unlimited. All along the lower section of the Yangtze River our flags are displayed. In view of our strong logistics, would it take long for us to defeat our enemy? When our cavalry move, the neighing of horses is like the north wind blowing. When our soldiers pull out their swords, the bright purple luminance will reach to the stars. Our anger toward Empress Wu is powerful enough to force a mountain's collapse. The war-cry of our soldiers will cause turbulence among the wind and clouds. With these resources, what enemy is invincible? With such strong spirits, what difficult task can we not accomplish?

   You gentlemen are either the relatives of royal family or the offspring of officials who have made great contributions to our country. Some have shouldered Emperor Gao-zong's assignment by being stationed on the borders. Some have received his order to stay in the vicinity of the capital. The legacy of the late Emperor Gao-zong is still ringing in our ears. How can we forget our loyalty and promises? The soil on Emperor Gao-zong's tomb is not yet dry, whom can his orphaned son Zhong-zong rely on? If you choose to honor Emperor Gao-zong, follow Prince Zhong-zong, fight against the evil empress, and accomplish our mission, then you can turn the disaster caused by Empress Wu into a fortune. That is, you will enjoy various titles and awards. For your assurance, let us point to the mountain and river together and take an oath. But if you still want to cling to the doomed empress and wander along the wrong path, you will miss this great opportunity and will be punished for joining us too late. Please come and see whose world it will be!


1 "Ze-tian" means "follow the rules of the high heavens". Empress Ze-tian Wu (624-705) is the sole female ruler in Chinese history. When she was fourteen, she became Emperor Tai-zong's concubine. Later Emperor Tai-zong died. Wu went to a temple and became a nun. After Prince Gao-zong succeeded the throne, he asked her to return to the palace and become his concubine. In 655, Wu gave birth to a daughter. Queen Wang came to see Wu. After Queen Wang left, Wu secretly killed her own daughter and lied to Emperor Gao-zong that Queen Wang had done the killing. Emperor Gao-zong was angry, so he deposed Queen Wang and promoted Wu to queen. In 684, Emperor Gao-zong died. Then Prince Zhong-zong succeeded the throne and Queen Wu became the Prince's Regent. In 690, Queen Wu deposed Emperor Zhong-zong, usurped the throne, and changed the Tang dynasty to the Zhou dynasty. When she started her reign in China, she was a great strategist and used very talented people. Consequently, political and military achievements reached their peak in her time. However, in her later years, her lovers interfered in state affairs, China became a mess. In 705, Prime Minister Jian-zhi Zhang and several generals united to stage a coup. They killed the empress' lovers and reinstated Emperor Zhong-zong to the throne and changed the Zhou dynasty back to the Tang dynasty. In that winter, Empress Wu died at the age of 82.

2 It turned out that General Xu's troops were defeated by Empress Wu and Xu's secretary Luo was missing in action. However, this address is immortal. Even when Empress Wu read it, she could not but praise the author's talent.

3 "Fei-yan" means swallow in Chinese. Fei-yan Zhao (ca. 45-1 BCE) was the second queen of Emperor Cheng-di of the Western Han dynasty. She was jealous. If she knew her emperor's concubines became pregnant, she would kill them. The sentence in the text hints that Empress Ze-tian Wu was as vicious as Fei-yan Zhao.

4 Near the end of the Xia dynasty two dragons appeared in front of the palace. They said that they were the ancestors of the Xia dynasty. The emperor asked his officials to store their saliva in a box. Before long the Xia dynasty ended. The box was handed down through the Shang dynasty to the Zhou dynasty. No one dared open the box until near the end of Emperor Li-wang's reign. When the emperor opened the box, the saliva flowed out of the box and became a large black turtle. When one emperor's concubine met the turtle, she soon became pregnant. Later, she gave birth to a daughter named Bao-si. The concubine discarded Bao-si because her daughter had no father. Later, Emperor You-wang attacked the State of Bao. The King of Bao sent beautiful Bao-si to the emperor as a gift. Emperor You-wang was so infatuated with her that he lost his country. Here the sentence hints that Empress Ze-tian Wu was as the incarnation of a disastrous monster as Bao-si. "夏" refers to "華夏". For this story it refers to "the Zhou dynasty".

5 Wei-zi was the stepbrother of Emperor Zhou of the Shang dynasty. After Emperor Wu-wang destroyed tha Shang dynasty, Wei-zi was made the King of the State of Song. When Wei-zi visited his old home, he wrote a sad poem.

6 Jun-shan Yuan worried about state affairs. Whenever he discussed the tyranny of the queen's family, he wept.