上官婉兒 Shangguan WanEr (a poetess and talented woman)
Shangguan (double surname) WanEr (664—710 AD) was a poetess and worked as a secretary for Empress Wu the Great. When her grandfather was killed by Empress Wu, because he opposed her to be the empress, she and her mother were taken to the palace as slaves. She was then still a child. Under the education of her mother, she became a girl of talent. She developed a good memory. Later when Empress Wu found her talent, she liberated her from slavery and also her mother. As she could write well and exercise good calligraphy, Empress Wu made the girl her secretary and let her draft edicts for her. She endeavored to please Empress Wu and soon became her favorite. Empress Wu let her handle some state affairs and by degrees, she got some power.
In 705 AD, during the rule of Emperor Zhongzong, the emperor let her draft all the imperial edicts, which was a very important position. The emperor trusted in her so much that her power grew as well as her ambition. It was said that she had adultery with the emperor. Next year, she had adultery with Wu Sansi, a nephew of Empress Wu. In the seventh moon of 707 AD, the crown prince led his bodyguards to attack the residence of Wu Sansi and killed him. The crown prince wanted to kill Shangguan WanEr, too, because she supported Wu family. WanEr escaped to the palace and the emperor''s mother, Empress Wei, protected her. Then the imperial guards came forth to defeat the crown prince, who was killed in the combat.
In 710 AD, when Princess Taiping became more powerful, WanEr tended to support Princess Taiping. When Emperor Zhongzong was poisoned by Empress Wei, she and Princess Taiping drafted the will of the late emperor to make Prince Wen as the crown prince and Empress Wei became the regent. In the seventh moon, Prince Linzi, son of Emperor Ruizong, led the imperial guards to enter the palace and killed Empress Wei, her daughter Princess Anle, and also Shangguan WanEr, who was thought to be the follower of Empress Wei. When the son later became Emperor Xuanzong, he admired the poetic talent of WanEr and gave order to collect her poems into a book. One of her poem runs as follows:
Just as leaves fall on the Tongting Lake,
I think of you ten thousand miles away.
The dew is dense and the scented quilts are cold;
The moon sets and the brocade screen is empty.