Wu Zetian Never Leaves Ganye Convent - 650 AD

After the death of Emperor Taizong in 649 AD, the concubines and maids of his harem were sentenced to two different fates. Those who had given birth to children were allowed to retire into luxury in a palace. Although secluded, they would want for nothing the rest of their days. Those who had not were marched to a convent, their long black hair shorn from their heads, and they were placed in gray robes. They would spend the rest of their days working and praying for the soul of their dearly departed emperor. The woman who would become Empress Wu Zetian was among this second group of women. One day Emperor Gaozong, Taizong's son and successor, came and visited the convent and found Wu there weeping. This interaction, along with the Empress Wang seeing her as a pawn in a game of Imperial Court chess, led to Wu being released from the convent and allowing her to start on her path to become China's sole female emperor. Her career saw many reforms and changes to policies that made China better.


However, let's imagine for a moment that Emperor Gaozong never visited the convent where Wu was being kept, and therefore Wu never was brought to the attention of Empress Wang and was never released from the convent. She died along with the other women who had been sent there following Taozong's death and was buried in an unmarked grave in a rather unremarkable ceremony. Without Empress Wu Zetian, what happens to the Tang Dynasty? Does it still enjoy a Golden Age, or does it become unremarkable in Chinese History?
• Imperial examinations aren’t so meritocratic and Fujian-Zhejiang lacks representation in politics. China is less open to foreign traders from Arabia, Armenia, and Persia. Even less emphasis on international naval affairs.
• There is a more pronounced class difference and regionalist difference in China.
• A purge of scholars would later occur in the Tang Dynasty, which would ultimately lead to its stagnation and intellectual downfall. Combined with continued decentralization, independent Sincized states would appear in the Hindu Kush and Central Asia.
• Chinese Buddhism is less influential. Buddhists become scapegoats for economic issues in the late medi
• China’s iconic influence on art and architecture globally is reduced.
• Tibet is slightly bigger in modern day through a series of foreign policy butterflies. However, there is also more anti-Tibetan sentiment among the Han Chinese.
• The Turks of the Eastern Steppe, specifically the affiliates of the Açina clan, gain more influence over northern China and the Khitan population.
• Chinese influences permeates South Asia more, with Kashmir and Afghanistan being much more Chinese influenced.