Civilization V: Wu Zetian

As Civilization V is a game based on great civilizations in the world one can, of course, opt to play as China. China is one of the oldest and largest civilizations in the world. They basically invented everything: paper, fireworks, mass-printing, etc. What strikes me as a little odd in Civ V, though, is that the leader of China is Empress Wu Zetian. Unlike many other leaders in the game, she didn’t unite the kingdom. Nor was she the greatest or most prosperous ruler of China’s history. She was a very good ruler, if a little on the crazy side (we’ll get into that a bit later). First, I want to go over the in my opinion two other leaders of China that perhaps should have been the leader choice.

Let’s start with the man responsible for what is known as China, the first emperor, Qin Shi Huang. Before Qin (to be read very much like ‘chin’ as in China) the land of China was held in various kingdoms. Qin rose to power and masterfully lead his armies across the land and united (subjugated) the kingdoms and formed China. He believed that his dynasty would last a thousand years but upon his death his devious second son tricked the elder son into killing himself. The dynasty lasted three years after Emperor Qin died. Sure, Qin’s dynasty was short lived but he did create China. Oh also, he started the created the Terracotta Army and began the construction of the Great WAll. So a quick recap, forged China through battle, first emperor of China, built two Wonders – not the leader in the game.

The second best option is Emperor Xuanzong. In brief, Emperor Xuanzong led the Chinese people to their height of prosperity. The first half of Xuanzong’s reign is considered one of the great golden ages in Chinese history. Diplomatic relations flourished. The capital city became the largest and most prosperous city in the world. China regained lost lands and everyone was generally prosperous and happy. This was all during the first half of his reign. The second half didn’t go so well. He fell head over heels for a consort and stopped caring about the country. But still, under Xuanzong China was awesome. So emperor Xuanzong, same dynasty as Wu Zetian. More prosperous than Wu Zetian, but not the leader in Civ V.

Perhaps the selection was a bit of a gender equality move. Empress Wu Zetian is the only female emperor in Chinese history, but I don’t mind. I truly believe that Empress Wu was selected as the leader because she was a strong powerful woman in history and we need more examples of such women. Empress Wu wasn’t born royalty. She was actually a consort of the emperor. Well, the emperor and then the next emperor. The second one took a shining to her. She was so liked by Emperor Gaozong that the emperor’s wife became jealous. The empress and Wu were political enemies, and in bid for victory Wu hatched a devious plan to both oust the wife and take her place in one swift move. All it took was a little bit of murder and a few lies. Wu became pregnant and killed her own infant child and framed the wife. Wu was soon elevated to wife. Years later the emperor suffered a catastrophic stroke and was bed ridden. Wu basically ruled the empire while the emperor lay on his death bed for a few years. After the emperor’s death and deposing the next two emperors, Wu rose to empress and ruled for several years.

Despite her ruthless cold-hearted rise to power she was actually a wise ruler. She listened to top advisors in every field when making policy decisions, and she promoted education and human rights for women. There is no doubt that Empress Wu was a great leader and deserves a place of honor in Chinese history, but should she be the representative leader of China? What do you think?


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