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Asian History | Chinese Studies | Leadership Studies | Other Political Science | Personality and Social Contexts | Political History | Women's History


This paper presents the results of an indirect assessment of the personality of Empress Wu Zetian, de facto ruler of China from 665 to 705, from the conceptual perspective of personologist Theodore Millon.

Psychodiagnostically relevant data about Empress Wu were collected from biographical sources and media reports and synthesized into a personality profile using the Millon Inventory of Diagnostic Criteria (MIDC), which yields 34 normal and maladaptive personality classifications congruent with DSM-III-R, DSM-IV, and DSM-5.

The personality profile yielded by the MIDC was analyzed in accordance with interpretive guidelines provided in the MIDC and Millon Index of Personality Styles manuals. Wu’s primary personality patterns were found to be Dominant/controlling (a measure of aggressiveness) and Ambitious/self-serving (a measure of narcissism), complemented by a secondary Dauntless/adventurous pattern (a measure of unconventionality or risk taking) and subsidiary Distrusting/suspicious features.

In summary, Wu’s personality composite can be characterized as that of a dominant, confident nonconformist.

Dominant individuals enjoy the power to direct others and to evoke obedience and respect; they are tough and unsentimental and often make effective leaders. Ambitious individuals are bold, competitive, and self-assured; they easily assume leadership roles, expect others to recognize their special qualities, and sometimes act as though entitled. Dauntless individuals tend to flout tradition, dislike following routine, and sometimes act impulsively or irresponsibly.


The research was conducted in the Department of Psychology at Capital Normal University in Beijing, China and at the Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics (USPP), a collaborative faculty–student research program in the psychology of politics at St. John’s University and the College of St. Benedict in Collegeville and St. Joseph, Minnesota, USA, directed by Aubrey Immelman, PhD, associate professor of psychology, who specializes in the psychological assessment of presidential candidates and world leaders.

Related study:

王若月. (2022). 武则天政治人格及其成因分析 [硕士学位论文]. 首都师范大学, 中国北京.

Wang, R. (2022). Analysis of Wu Zetian’s political personality and its origins [Master’s thesis]. Capital Normal University, Beijing, China.