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Dragon ladies


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There were 5 famous Chinese dragon ladies in history that I can think of.

1) Empress Lu of Han dynasty

2) Wu Zetian

3) Empress Dowager Cixi

4) Soong Meiling

5) Jiang Qing

The Empress Lu was an iron lady who helped her husband Liu Bang in his rise to power. There was a Hong Kong movie made 10 years ago called The Great Conqueror's Concubine, with Gong Li doing an excellent job portraying Lu Zhi as a power-hungry woman manipulating both Xiang Yu and Liu Bang to further her own ambitions, while stroking their egos at the same time. It's a pretty entertaining film than I find much enjoyable than Emperor and the Assassin.

Lu Zhi was one tough woman. She endured captivity under Xiang Yu's watch briefly during the Chu-Han war and devised schemes to help her husband defeat Xiang Yu. Before he died, Liu Bang briefed her on how to rule the state, which advisors to trust and what policy to maintain. His most favorite concubine was the Lady Qi. Lu Zhi was extremely jealous of her and both women hated each other's guts.

When Liu Bang died, Lu Zhi usurped the throne, installed members of her own family into power, and ruled as regent for her son Huidi. She threw the Lady Qi into jail, had her tortured, ordered her arms, ears, tongue, and nose cut off, eyes gouged out, and had her stuffed into a toilet for everyone to see. Huidi saw what happened to the Lady Qi, and told his mother that he could not believe any human being would do such a cruel thing.

The Empress Lu also killed off all of Liu Bang's sons born to other concubines, except for Liu Heng, who fooled her by acting dumb all the time. She decided that it was not worth killing such a dummy, and sent him far away to a kingdom out of her sight. The iron lady finally died in 180 BC. But in spite of all the bloody intrigues at court during her reign, China's prosperity grew and was not affected by the scandals. Lu Hou's reign also postponed the problem of finding an able successor to the throne. Her 15 years in power inadvertently allowed the one man most capable of doing the job to mature, Liu Heng. Many of the advisors who served under Liu Bang were still very loyal to his legacy and wanted to restore the Liu lineage. They invited Liu Heng to come back to the court and become emperor, but he expressed his fear of the former Empress's family. They said "Don't worry, we will take care of this for you." So they killed every single member of the Empress Lu's family that they can get their hands on, and told Liu Heng that it is finally safe to come back.

Liu Heng thanked these advisors for their lifelong loyalty to his father, and gratefully pensioned them off into comfortable retirement. As Emperor Wendi, he eliminated the mutilation punishments created during the Qin dynasty, as well as the law that punished entire families for one person's offense. He also lowered taxes greatly on the peasantry, but did not run Bush-style deficits because he also was very frugal in his spending. China grew so prosperous during his reign that the strings holding all the cash in the treasury rotted with age.

Wu Zetian was equally similar as a dragon lady, but in my opinion less bloodthirsty than Lu Hou.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Vietnam had its own version of dragon lady during the 1950's and early 60's called Madame Nhu, the wife of assassinated South Vietnamese leader Ngo Dinh Diem. During the height of the Buddhist self-immolations in 1963, when asked about the burnings, she replied "Let them burn, and we shall clap our hands."

She was one of those responsible for the rampant corruption and nepotism in her husband's unpopular regime. After Diem was assassinated, she went into a fit, lost all control, and blamed President Kennedy for her husband's downfall.

Has anybody seen the movie 乱? In this Kurosawa epic there is a hot-tempered lady called Lady Kaede who dominates two brothers and brings down their family through her ruthless scheming. If she was a real-life person, she would be an example of a quintessential dragon lady.

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