Wu Zetian (625-705) could backstab and murder with the best of them. During her reign, she expanded China’s territory to the Northeast into the Korean peninsula and West into central Asia, leaving a trail of blood in both directions.
China’s test-based meritocracy was already ancient. Wu’s innovation was to allow women to sit for the Imperial examination and thereby to be selected as officials and military officers. During the Song Dynasty (960-1279), the Yang family was famous for its women generals. (The Disnified legend of Mulan came before Empress Wu.)