Tomb of China’s woman prime minister: The life and lovers of politician who served first female emperor and was eventually executed in a palace coup
As a sequence of murders, coups and affairs enveloped the dynasty, Shangguan Wan'er's husband Li Xian briefly became emperor.
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Ancient: This undated picture released by the Shaanxi provincial cultural relics bureau shows a stone marker carved with an epitaph inside the newly discovered tomb of Shangguan Wan'er
'Of major significance': Chinese archaeologists work inside the newly discovered tomb of Shangguan Wan'er, a 7th-century female politician who was one of the most powerful women in ancient Chinese history
Fascinating find: The tomb was discovered near an airport in Xianyang in northern Shaanxi province and confirmed by an epitaph, China Radio International said on its website
She was killed in 710 when Li Longji (685-762), the seventh emperor of the Tang Dynasty, launched a palace coup.
Her tomb was discovered near an airport in Xianyang in northern Shaanxi province and confirmed by an epitaph, China Radio International said on its website.
'The discovery of the tomb with the epitaph is of major significance in the study of the Tang Dynasty,' the China Daily said, citing a historian specialising in the era, Du Wenyu.
The grave was badly damaged, suggesting a 'large-scale, organised' and possibly 'official destruction', Geng Qinggang, a Shaanxi-based archaeology researcher told the China News Service on Thursday.
Desecrated: The grave was badly damaged, suggesting a 'large-scale, organised' and possibly 'official destruction', Geng Qinggang, a Shaanxi-based archaeology researcher told the China News Service
Bloody end: Shangguan Wan'er was killed in 710 when Li Longji (685-762), the seventh emperor of the Tang Dynasty, launched a palace coup
Relics: Sculptures of horse riders inside the newly discovered tomb of Shangguan Wan'er
DENIED A STATUS: HOW WOMEN WERE REPRESSED IN CHINA
Shannguan Wan'er was born into an influential Chinese family in 664AD.
Her grandfather, Shangguan Yi, had risen to the rank of chancellor during the reign of Emperor Gaozong.
But was executed after he was found to be involved in a plot to depose of his wife, Empress Wu.
Shangguan Wan'er's father, Shangguan Tingzhi, was also put to death for taking part in the same conspiracy.
Despite her family connections, she went on to become Wu's secretary when she became empress dowager following Gaozong's death in 683 and then took title of Emperor herself in 690.
Empress Wu is said to have admired Shangguan Wan'er's qualities of being discerning and manipulative and saw something of the young girl in herself, it was reported on Journey to the East.
As secretary, she was in charge of writing imperial edicts, dealing with matters of vital importance on the government and state - effectively taking on the role of a prime minister.
Held in high regard: Shangguan Wan'er - who lived from 664 to 710 in the Tang dynasty - was a trusted aide to China's first female emperor Wu Zetian (pictured)
She was also asked to spy on the Empress's courtiers.
When Tang Emperor Zhongzong ascended to the throne after a coup, Shangguan Wan'er was awarded the title Zhaorong and given responsibility for the imperial harem.
Aspiring to follow in the footsteps of Empress Wu, Empress Wei posioned her husband and took power.
But after a short time, she was overthrown and killed in a coup by Li Longji, Prince of Linzi.
As a member of Empress Wei's inner circle, Shangguan Wan'er was also killed.
Her story has intrigued many in China and has even inspired a TV series.