For over 2,000 years, women rulers and aspiring rulers have been vilified in China and, often, in the West. The title of Jonathan Clements's latest book is indicative of the abuse. From the Han Dynasty's Empress Lu, to the Qing's Dowager Empress in the late nineteenth century, to Mao's wife, Jiang Qing, Chinese women in power have been accused of having made their ways to the top by nefarious means, and especially by having employed extraordinary sexual powers.
Clements is right to point out the misogynist bias – no, too weak a word: rage – in Chinese history. It is apparent in the Dynastic Histories, which in the course of elaborating a reign's failures and successes, usually centuries later, were designed to ‘praise and blame’, and women often