Given Tang Chinas rich history of inter-regional connections and communications with its East Asian neighbors, it is not surprising that Wus sponsorship of Buddhism resulted in a flurry of scholarly exchanges, and the construction of many new pilgrimage Buddhist sites. Creating overpowering statues, like the one at Longmen, was important. There was a sense of trying to keep up with ones rivals by building something bigger than they had. These monumental statues, like the one carved into the mountain at Bamiyan, Afghanistan, which was destroyed by the Taliban in 2001, alerted the populous to the dominance of Buddhism. They also functioned as powerful reminders of imperial power. At these pilgrimage sites, rituals were performed which established a link between the standing Buddha and the ruler. For example, at the statues eye opening ceremony which dedicated the monument, the ruler was ritualistically seen to have been given the right to rule through the divine mandate of the Buddha icon.
A Japanese example: In the late 7th century, Japans Emperor Shomu and Empress Komyo both were involved in Buddhist buildings. The court followed Empress Wus example by creating an enormous statue of the Vairocana Buddha in gold and copper at the Todaiji monastery in Nara, Japans capital. At a nunnery she established, Empress Komyo sponsored the creation of a statue of the Bodhisattva Kannon which, like Wu Zetians statue at Longmen, was felt to be done in her likeness. Kannon embodies compassion, and when seen as female is venerated as a patron of motherhood and fertility.