100 Famous Women in China - Page 6

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  1. #51
    47. Ladyship Pistil(a humorous poetess)
    Ladyship Pistil(?--976 AD) was her nickname. She was a favorite concubine of theking of the present Sichuan province. As she liked flowers, such aspeony, the king gave her this nickname, which was known to us. Shewas pretty and clever, and could write poems. The king led a lewddissipated life and his kingdom became weak. At that time, outsideSichuan province, the whole country was under the rule of Songdynasty. Therefore, in 965 AD, Song dynasty sent army to invade thekingdom. The king surrendered, and of course died later. The ladyshipwas captured. It was said that she became the concubine of theemperor of Song dynasty till her death. There was a famous andhumorous poem we know till today, which is:

    Theking puts up the flag of surrender on battlements;
    Howcan his lady know in the deep palace?
    Fortymyriad soldiers take off armors in unison;
    No one of them is aman. (meaning no one fighting to death.)

  2. #52
    48.Mu Guiying (the third of the four heroines)
    MuGuiying (982--?) was one of the four heroines. The other three wereHua Mulan, Fan Lihua, and Liang Hongyu. All are included in thisbook. There was a Yang family in Song dynasty. All the family memberswere fighters, including females, two daughters and sevendaughters-in-law. Mu was married to the sixth son. Her fightingskills were the first among all the females. Her father wasoriginally the chieftain of outlaws. They camped on a mountain,called Mu Camp. The government sent Yang family to conquer the MuCamp, and the sixth son of the family came out to challenge. Thedaughter Mu Guiying galloped out to face the challenger, whom shecaptured after a few rounds. She wanted to marry the son and thensurrendered to the government. It was thus settled. The heroinebecame a member of Yang family.
    ThenLiao tribe in the north invaded Han dynasty, and Yang family was sentagain to defend the territory. The heroine was the commander and byusing some ruse, defeated the Liao tribe. They never dared to invadeSong dynasty till later the tribe was conquered by Jin tribe. Thatwas her great merit. Then when a revolt took place in Guangxiprovince in the south, she and her husband went there to subdue it.So she was conferred the title of Marquise Huntian. When a minoritystate called Xixia in the west invaded the country, she and all otherfemale fighters went to resist the invasion. At the time, all malesin the family died in different battles or occasions. The survivorswere all widows. In one of the combats with Xixia, Mu was killed inan ambush of the enemy, but the remaining women vanquished the Xixiaarmy.

  3. #53
    49. Li Qingzhao (avery famous poetess)
    Li Qingzhao(1084—1156 AD) was a famous poetess in Song dynasty ((960—1279AD), born in Mingshui town of Shandong province. Her father was anofficial and a famous writer of the time as well. And her maternalgrandfather had been a premier. When she was still a young girl, herwell-written poems were known in the capital in the literary circle.In 1101 AD, she married Zhao Mingcheng (1081—1129 AD), who was alsoan official. In 1107 AD, the couple moved to Qingzhou town. Theyliked to buy books, especially books of old and precious editions.Every time when the husband bought a good edition from the marketafter work, the couple would enjoy reading it together after supper.Their life was simple and pleasant.
    At that time, therewas a minority in the north, named Jin tribe, that often invaded intoSong dynasty. In 1127 AD, when the poetess was forty-four, the armyof Jin tribe marched south and attacked the town, they had to escapesouth across the Yangtze River, and next spring they arrived inJiangning city. As they had to desert their belongings when they fledfrom the Jin tribe, now they lived in poverty.
    After the death ofher husband, she moved to Shaoxing town in Zhejinag province, andlived alone in the house of a local family. In the third moon of 1131AD, the only things, some old paintings, that left to her, were allstolen overnight. Next year, she went to Hangzhou city to marryanother man, but was divorced a few months later, because she foundthat the man was a corrupt official, who was put in prisonafterwards. Then she lived alone and always kept writing poems tillthe end of her life. But she had only forty-five poems handing downto us. All were well-known to us. I introduced one of them here.

    Seeking, seeking; lonely, quiet;gloomy﹐grievous﹐glum.
    When it just turns warm, but stillcold, it’s hardest to have a rest full.
    Two or three cups of light wine, how tofend the evening wind so strong?
    The wild geese pass—I feelheart-broken—since they are my old acquaintance.
    All over the ground the yellow flowersin heaps.
    Languished as I am, who will now pickthem?
    Keeping myself at the window, how can Ifare alone till nightfall?
    Phoenix trees, plus drizzles on them,dripping and dripping till evening;
    At this moment, what can I do with theword “sorrow”?

    versionin rhyme

    Seeking, seeking; lonely, quiet;doleful, rueful, woeful.
    When it just turns warm, but stillcold, it’s hardest to rest full.
    Two or three cups of light wine, how tofend the strong wind in the evening?
    The wild geese pass, they being my oldacquaintance, heart-broken I’m feeling.
    All over the ground, in heaps, theflowers yellow.
    Languished as I am, who will pick themnow?
    Keeping myself at the window, how can Ifare alone till night falling?
    Phoenix trees, plus drizzles on them,dripping and dripping till evening;
    Atthis moment, what can I do with the word “sorrow”?

  4. #54
    50.Liang Hongyu (the fourth of the four heroines)
    LiangHongyu (1102—1135 AD) was famous to us as a fighter against the Jintribe invading Song dynasty. Her family fled from north to south toavoid the slaughter and pillage of the Jin tribe. They came to wherethe general Han Shizhong camped his army. Somehow, she became amilitary singsong girl and came to know the general Han. She was aspecial girl, who knew how to use sword. Therefore, the general Hanmarried her.
    Shefought together with her husband Han (1089—1151 AD), the commanderof an army. In the third moon of 1129 AD, the Jin tribe army took twotowns and was about to invade the capital. The emperor and courtierswere in panic. A couple of courtiers wanted to betray the emperor,but were afraid of commander Han, who was then at the frontierdefending the Song territory. So they took his wife Liang Hongyu ashostage. When Han marched his army towards the capital, they had torelease Liang. When Liang joined Han, they came to the capital tokill the traitors. The emperor was ecstatic and gave Liang the titleof Ladyship Yangguo. In addition, the emperor gave her monthlysalary, which only male officials and officers could have. As afemale she was the first one to have such a treatment.
    ThenLiang and Han marched north to defend the border. The number of theenemy was double, even triple greater than theirs. However, they useda better strategy to defeat the enemy. For more than ten years, theJin tribe did not even dare to advance facing such defenders. Sothere was temporary peace at the frontier till the death of thecouple. The Jin tribe was later conquered by Mongolians, whoafterwards marched south and annihilated Song dynasty and establishedtheir Yuan dynasty(1271—1368 AD), which was overthrown by Ming dynasty. (see nextepisode)

  5. #55
    51.Empress Ma (a virtuous woman)
    EmpressMa (1332—1382 AD) was the wife of Zhu Yuanzhang(10/21/1328—06/24/1398 AD), the first emperor of Ming dynasty(1368—1644 AD). She was nicknamed Big Feet, because at that time,women generally bound their feet small as a fashion, but women in thecountryside still kept their natural size of feet. So did Ma.
    WhenMa was a child, her parents died and she was adopted by a closefriend of her father, Guo Zixing (1312—1355 AD). It was thentowards the end of Yuan dynasty. There were many groups of rebelsagainst the Mongolians. Guo was one of them. At that time, ZhuYuanzhang was only a poor vagabond. Once he became a monk for aliving. When the rebellion rose, Zhu joined Guo's group and foughtbravely and achieved great merits. Therefore, Guo married his adopteddaughter, Ma, to him. Once at a time, food was scarce and everyonehad a limited ration. In this period of time, Guo doubted that Zhuwas not faithful to him, and so cut his ration. Ma had to share herswith Zhu furtively.
    Afterdeath of Guo in fight, Zhu became the leader of the group. With theelapse of time, he got many followers and finally wiped out othergroups. At last he overthrew the Yuan dynasty and founded his Mingdynasty. He was Emperor Taizu of Ming dynasty. His wife was theempress. She had born five sons and two daughters for him.. Zhu was acruel man and when his empire was steadfast, he began to kill thegenerals, who had helped him to conquer opponents, one after theother. When the empress learned it, she advised him not to do so. Hisreason to kill the generals was because he was afraid that thesepowerful generals might, just might, betray him and endanger hisempire. The empress saved the rest of them. When the empress wasseriously sick, he and his courtiers all wished to hold some ceremonyin temples to pray for her longer life. But she opposed it, sayingthat birth and death were decided by destiny, what was the use ofprayer. Her last will to her husband was to treat people andcourtiers nicely and trust in them for the good of the country. Shedied at the age of fifty-one.

  6. #56
    52. Tang SaiEr (afemale leader of rebellion)
    Tang SaiEr (1399--?AD) was the leader of the up-rising peasants. She was not illiterateand learned fighting skills from her father. At fifteen she gotmarried, but soon her husband died. Then she shaved her hair andbecame a Buddhist nun. The second emperor of Ming dynasty, EmperorChengzu, used a lot of peasant labor to build palace and otherconstructions, etc., so that the peasants were all angry against thegovernment. Tang then founded a religion called White Lotus and a lotof peasants believed it and joined it. Tang named herself BuddhistMother. In 1420 AD, White Lotus took up arms and began to attacktowns. The mayors of the towns either escaped or were killed. Othergroups of up-rising peasants joined them.
    When the emperorwas reported of it, he sent a messenger to negotiate with them, onlywanted them to surrender. Of course, Tang refused. The emperor sendarmy and his army was vanquished several times. The process of thebattle was like this. The government army surrounded the mountain, onthe top of which camped the rebels. Tang thought of a stratagem. Shesent someone to the government army, saying that there was scarcityof water and most of the rebels wanted to surrender. Only theirleader Tang refused. She wanted to break through the line in the eastthat night. Therefore, the commander of the government armymaneuvered most of his force to the east in hopes to wipe out therebels. But at night, the rebels came down to assault the west sideof the government army with not many soldiers there. These soldierswere defeated and the rebels went round to attack the back of the most part of the government army and put them to rout.
    At last when theemperor sent armies that outnumbered peasant force, which wasdefeated and Tang escaped to no one knew where. No one knew the endof her either. The emperor ordered to arrest all the Buddhist nunsand checked them one by one to see if there mingled Tang, but invain. Anyway, the believers of the White Lotus religion scattered allover the nation. Only they could not gather enough force to riotagain.

  7. #57
    53.Imperial Concubine Wan (a woman nineteen years older than emperor)
    ImperialConcubine Wan (1428—1487 AD) was originally a maid in the palace incharge of apparels of the grandmother of emperor Xianzong of Mingdynasty, and then became his concubine when he took over the throne.When this emperor was still the crown prince, he often went to seehis grandmother and saw the maid, who was nineteen years older thanhe. She joked with him and played with him. They got more and morefamiliar with each other. As time elapsed, they liked each other.When the grandmother died, he took the maid to his living quarters ashis maid.
    Whenhe became the emperor, the empress dowager wanted to choose anempress for him. It was surely done, but he did not like the empresswhom the empress dowager selected for him. He liked Wan better andmade her his concubine. No one understood why he preferred a womannineteen years older than he, but not the young empress and otherconcubines of his age or even younger. Of course, though she was mucholder than he, she was still a virgin when the emperor married her.
    Asa favorite concubine, she did not respect the empress. Once sheoffended the empress, who ordered her to be beaten by her maids. Wanwent to the emperor and complained bitterly. So the emperor deposedthe empress and confined her in a separate room of the palace. Hewanted to make Wan as the empress, but the empress dowager opposed itbecause she was too old and had been only a maid. Generally anempress must come from the family of a courtier of high rank. Theempress dowager appointed another concubine as the empress. Thisempress was afraid of concubine Wan and often exercised forbearanceand let Wan do whatever she liked. In the feudal China, a husband anda wife should come from the families of almost the equal socialstatus. But a concubine did not matter. Some wealthy families hadconcubines often coming from poor families, or even from whorehouses.Girls from rich families were not willing to be concubines, who wereonly a step-up better than maids. Even the parents would not allowthat.
    AlthoughWan was not the empress, she was powerful and acted as an empress.She bore a son for the emperor, who was happy to have an heir.However, the baby died within the month. Then she was jealous ofother concubines who were with child. She would let them drink somedrugs to abort the child. No one in the palace dared to say anythingabout it. So the emperor did not know of it. Nor did the empressdowager.
    Oncethe emperor sighed and regretted that he did not have a successoryet. A eunuch secretly told him that he did have a successor,secretly kept somewhere lest the boy be killed or poisoned. As theemperor often had sex with any concubine or even any maid, he couldnot know which one was pregnant. Once he had sex with a petty femalepalace official, who became pregnant soon. There were some femaleofficials in the palace just like male officials in the government,to be in charge of some special departments in the palace. As theemperor never saw this female official again, he did not know thatshe was with child. But Wan learned it and sent someone to watch overher. If this woman bore a daughter, it was okay and she was safe. Ifthis woman bore a son, she and her son would lose both lives. Thenthe woman bore a boy and told a eunuch to throw the baby outside thepalace and leave it to his fate, lest he be murdered by concubineWan. The eunuch thought that as the emperor did not have a successoryet, he should keep this baby alive. Therefore, he took it to thedeposed empress who hid it and fed it without Wan's knowing of it.
    Whenthe emperor learned it, he wanted to see his son and so the boy ofsix was brought to his presence. He immediately made this son as thecrown prince. Later the emperor had some other sons with otherconcubines. All the sons were well guarded. Not long afterwards, Wandied.

  8. #58
    (back from travel and continue to post)

    54.Qin Liangyu (a woman with many official titles)
    QinLiangyu (1574—1648 AD) was a female general and strategist withgreat fighting skills. She had a lot of titles such as left governor(next to governor), magistrate somewhere in Sichuan province, headgeneral of an army somewhere, Marquise of Zhongzhen (literallymeaning loyalty), and first-rank ladyship, etc., the only female whohad so many official titles in the history.
    In1592 AD, she married Ma Qiancheng, a magistrate. She helped herhusband to train an army, called White Cudgel Army. In 1599 AD, shemarched her army and defeated the rebels in west of the country. In1613 AD, When her husband died, she took over the position and becamethe high-rank official. In 1620 AD, she sent her brothers, one elderand one younger, with three thousand White Cudgel armymen, toShenyang city in the northern China, for a defensive combat. At thattime, a minority there often invaded Ming dynasty (1368—1644 AD).
    Inthe third moon of 1621 AD, she herself marched her army there anddefeated the minority. In the ninth moon of the same year, she wassent by the emperor to Sichuan province and conquered the rebelsthere. Next year,she took back Chengdu city and Chongqing cityoccupied then by rebels. In 1623 AD, she wiped out all the rebels inthat area in Sichuan province. At that time, the Manchurian turnedstrong and often invaded Ming dynasty. In 1630 AD, they took fourtowns and threatened the safety of the capital. No other generals butfemale general Qin came to the rescue and drove back the invaders.
    In1634 AD, another group of rebels entered Sichuan province, she wentthere to drive them away. In 1640 AD, still another group of rebelsentered to Sichuan province. Why they wanted to occupy Sichuanprovince was because the land features were easy to defend and hardto attack, and besides, there produced provisions galore, enough tofeed the army or rebels. So the female general went there again tovanquish this group of rebels. In 1646 AD, the Manchurian armyoccupied Peking, the capital of Ming dynasty and marched south.General Qin was already over seventy and took Sichuan province as herbase to resist the Manchurian army. In 1648 AD, on the twenty-firstof the fifth moon, she died at the age of seventy-five. She hadstarted her fighting career at twenty-six and fought for forty-fouryears. She was a unique female in the history.

  9. #59
    55.Liu Rushi (one of eight famous contemporary singsong girls)
    LiuRushi1618—1664ADwasone of the eight well-known singsong girls in the Qinhuai river area,i.e., Nanking city and its vicinity. She was the most beautiful girlamong the eight girls. She was versed in painting and calligraphy. In1628 AD when she was ten years old, she was adopted by a bawd and sobecame a singsong girl later. Before receiving visitors, everysingsong girl got special training in many fields such as writingpoems, playing zither or lute, painting and calligraphy, singing ordancing so as to entertain visitors.
    Asa rule, a famous singsong girl never had any action with malevisitors, who were mostly men of letters. They came to see her justto ask a scroll of calligraphy or painting from her own creation, orhave a pleasant conversation with the girl to diverse his sad mood ormake him happy, or listen to the girl sing or watch her dance.Nothing more. They never thought of having love actions with suchfamous talented girls. If they needed that, they could go somewhereelse. Sometimes, of course, she would fall in love with one of thevisitors. So did she, when she met Chen Zilong (1608—1647 AD), whowas a petty official in Nanking city, but a learned man. Chen alreadyhad wife, who was very jealous. Chen did not dare to take the girlhome and they lived together in Songjiang city. Afterwards when thewife came to know it, she went to Songjiang and made a scene.Therefore, Liu went back to where she came from.
    In1638 AD, when she was twenty years old, she met Qian Qianyi(1582—1664 AD), who was a high-rank official. He was twenty-eightthat year. In 1640 AD, they met again. Qian took Liu for a tour amongmountains and on streams. They had a happy time of the life. Theychanted poems to each other. Liu liked the man very much, though hewas over fifty then, while she was only twenty-two. They marriedanyway. She bore a daughter for him. In 1644 AD, the Manchurian armyoccupied the capital of Ming dynasty and marched to Nanking city.Many scholars opposed the Manchurian because they were another tribe,not Han tribe. The Manchurian arrested anyone who was against them.In 1647 AD, Qian was arrested too. Next year, Liu went round to seeall her friends or even just acquaintances to ask for help. At lastQian was released from the jail. He was so grateful to his wife.
    In1664 AD, on the twenty-fourth day of the fifth moon, Qian died ofsome kind of disease. Liu became a widow. The kinsfolk wanted todivide the legacy of Qian. Liu could not endure it and hanged herselfon the twenty-eighth day of the sixth moon, only thirty-four daysafter the death of her husband.

  10. #60
    56.Ma Xianglan (oneof eight famous contemporary singsong girls)
    Ma Xianglan(1548—1604 AD) was one of the eight well-known singsong girls inthe Qinhuai river area, i.e., Nanking city and its vicinity. Althoughshe was plain, she was especially talented in painting. She couldplain orchid and bamboo very well. A painting of orchid in black inkby her is stored in Tokyo museum in Japan and looked upon as aprecious curio of the country. She could sing and dance. She couldwrite poems, besides painting. She also knew music. Once she wrote anopera. She herself conducted a group of troupers to perform it.
    Because of hertalent and pleasant conversation manner, she was well-known and hadlots of visitors. Almost all the visitors would bring her some gifts,and so she saved quite much money. She had a small cottage built atthe riverside, named Orchid Cottage. Sometimes if some young learnedmen came to see her, and when she accidentally knew that they wantedto go to the capital for government tests, but did not have so muchmoney for the traveling and food and board expenses in the capital,she would donate enough money to them out of her own pocket.
    When she grew old,she was looking for a man who could be her life mate. But none of hervisitors became her favorite. At the age of twenty-four, she did meetone, Wang Zhideng (1535—1612 AD), a man of talent and learning.Though they were not married, they were best friends for more thanthirty years. Things in the world always go against one's wishes.Once Wang had a chance to go to the capital for an official position.Ma was happy for him. He implied that if he could get promotion, hewould come to marry her. When want left, Ma stopped receiving guests.She waited for the man to come back to marry her. But she wasdisappointed, because Wang was supplanted by his colleagues. When hereturned he felt so ashamed of himself that he did not go to see Ma.On the contrary, he moved to live in Suzhou city. Marriage was out ofthe question.
    During these longyears, they kept in touch as best friends. Since Wang lived in Suzhoucity, and she lived in Hangzhou city, she often went to Suzhou cityto visit him. When Wang was seventy years old, she went there tocelebrate his birthday. She took tens of singsong girls for the feastand she herself sang for him in spite that she was also growing old.When she returned, she fell sick and died at the age of fifty-seven.Wang wrote a poem in memory of her.


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