Born Wu Zhao, she is not properly known as "Wu Hou" until receiving this title in 655, nor is she properly known as "Wu Zetian", her regnal name, until 690, when she took the title, huangdi.
Since she did eventually take the title of emperor it might seem that 'Emperor Wu' should be the correct way to refer to her, rather than the 'Empress Wu,' which is the title used in most English-language writing about her.
One of her grandsons became the renowned Emperor Xuanzong of Tang. Mention of her in the English language has only increased their number.
Wu Zetian was the only woman in the history of China to assume the title of Huangdi.
Her tenure as de facto ruler of China (first through her husband and then through her sons, from 665 to 690) was not without precedent in Chinese history; however, she broke precedents when she founded her own dynasty in 690, the Zhou (周) (interrupting the Tang dynasty), ruling personally under the name Sacred and Divine Empress Regnant (聖神皇帝), and variations thereof, from 690 through 705.
Wu was her patronymic surname, which she retained, according to traditional Chinese practice, after marriage to Gaozong, of the Li family.
Emperor Taizong gave her the art name Wu Mei (武媚), meaning "glamorous".
Besides her career as a political leader, Wu Zetian also had an active family life.