Once upon a time there was in China a female emperor, Wu Zetian (624–705), the only woman regarded as a legitimate emperor in the history of the country. And once upon a time, but closer to our times, there was another woman who claimed to be the reincarnation of Wu Zetian and founded in 1986 near Anqiu, a county-level city under the jurisdiction of Weifang in the south of Shandong province, a religious movement called the Great Sage Dynasty (大圣王朝). Her name was Chao Zengkun (晁正坤). Her movement was declared a xie jiao (heterodox teaching) by the Chinese Communist Party. Chao was arrested, tried by Weifang Intermediate People’s Court, sentenced to death, and executed in 1990.
Interestingly, while proclaiming that the “Great Sage Dynasty” has been consigned to “the dustbin of history” thanks to the swift reaction by the authorities, in 2021, the 35th anniversary of the foundation of the movement, several Party-controlled Chinese media have published articles on it, as they did in 2020 on the 30th anniversary of Chao’s execution. This in turn generated discussions on Weibo, and several rare photographs of the event emerged.