The TV drama The Empress of China is hot among audiences recently. Actress Fan Bingbing, who plays the role of Empress Wu Zetian, is a fabulous beauty. What did Wu Zetian, China's only female monarch, look like in real life? Let's explore the possibilities.

The famous Chinese scholar Guo Moruo researched this, and he thinks that a plump empress portrayed in a painting by Tang Dynasty painter Zhang Xuan is Wu Zetian. Zhang left many famous paintings, such as Paintings of Lady of Guoguo on a Spring Outing of the Tang Dynasty, Court Ladies Preparing Newly-Woven Silk and Lady of Wei.

It is guessed that Zhang Xuan was a court painter and had met Wu Zetian before, so the portrait by him is quite reliable.

Another frequently seen image of Wu Zetian is the block-painted edition of Images of Ancient People in History, created in 1498, during the reign of Emperor Hongzhi in the Ming Dynasty. However, as the painting was recreated by Ming people, it is not very reliable and possibly a portrait born out of imagination.

There are also many stone statues of Empress Wu Zetian, and the most ancient one is now at her birthplace, Guangyuan in Sichuan province. The statue is said to be vey close to the real appearance of Wu Zetian.

According to ancient records, Wu Zetian had big eyes, a long neck, a big face and a square forehead. Anyway, Wu Zetian would not look like Fan Bingbing, who has the little face of a modern beauty. Moreover, maybe Wu Zetian was a woman who had a face similar to a man's, as the Tang Dynasty regarded chubbiness as a standard of beauty and feminine temperament was not popular then.