Women in the Chinese Military Reading: Young, Helen Praeger, Choosing Revolution: Chinese Women on the Long March, “Introduction” and “Conclusion”. Women in the Chinese Military. Introduction Women Commanders of Han origin Hua Mulan Liang Hongyu Qin Lingyu
Women in the Chinese Military Reading: Young, Helen Praeger, Choosing Revolution: Chinese Women on the Long March, “Introduction” and “Conclusion”.
Women in the Chinese Military • Introduction • Women Commanders of Han origin • Hua Mulan • Liang Hongyu • Qin Lingyu • Women Commanders of Non-Han origin • Princess Pingyang of the Tang • Empress Dowager Yingtian of the Liao • Empress Dowager Chengtian of the Liao • Female Leaders as Defenders • Women Leaders of Peasant Uprisings • Women Fighters in the Late Qing • The Taiping Rebellion • The Boxer Rebellion • The the 1911 Revolution • Recent History of female participation • The Anti-Japanese War • The Red Army • The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) • The Chinese Nationalist (Taiwan) Army
Introduction • War is usually the man’s area and women’s participation has often not been mentioned; yet, Chinese women have participated in wars and battles within the last 3,000. • Many women were commanders with long military careers and political skills. • Others lacked military training or experience before their participation. • Most professional military personnel were from military families who grew up learning the skills of war. • Some had official titles, some did not. • Some were ordinary citizens who had to defend their home or city or take part in rebellions.
Introduction (2) • The earliest famous female general that we know of is Fu Hao 妇好 in the Shang dynasty. • There were many other unknown women in the armies and in rebellions; many women participated to end the Qin 秦 dynasty. • Women of both Han and non-Han origin took part in both the defense and in the invasion of China. • In more recent history, women fought as defenders against the Japanese (1930s). • In Peoples Republic of China (PRC), women have served in the Chinese military on a regular basis since 1949. • In the 1990s there were about 240,000 women – 12 generals -- working either on active duty or as civilians in the People’s Liberation Armay (PLA) – 7.5% of 3.2 million persons. • About 1,500 women served in Taiwan under the Kuomintang (KMT)/Guamingdong (GMT) during the 1990s.
Introduction (3) • Women’s participation could be divided into three kinds: • Women commanders or service personnel of official armed forces, mostly imperial armies – most served for years and participated in military operations frequently. • Defenders – women who were only involved in one battle although it might have lasted for many years. • Rebel leaders and followers – women of peasant or ethnic uprisings – participated in more than one battle. • There were also women of lower social status camp followers – they were frequently wives, fiancées, sisters of soldiers or prostitutes. • Some women cooked, served as camp guards, nurses and were responsible for equipment repair.
Women Commanders of Han origin: Hua Mulan • The most famous female warrior in recorded history is the legendary Hua Mulan. • There are a lot of debates as to whether she is a real or a historical figure. • According to one version, her real name is Wei Huahu 魏花弧: • She lived during the Han dynasty and that her tomb can be found in the Wei 魏 village in Bozhou 亳州. • Record of her name and actions can be found in a book compiled at the end of the Jin 晋dynasty (206 B.C.E.-220 C.E.). • The local history of Wan county 完县, where she was stationed has also records of her actions and local scholars have written many articles to commemorate her.
Women Commanders of Han origin: Hua Mulan (2) • She was born into a sergeant’s family in Shandong and received her military training from her father who had retired from the army. • When he was recalled he was too old and her brother was too young. • She disguised herself as a man, bought a horse and saddle and went in her father’s place. • She served for 12 years and was promoted and rewarded several times after many victories and the court wanted to promote her to the position of general but she refused the honor and instead asked for a camel to go home.
Women Commanders of Han origin: Hua Mulan (3) • There are two versions to the end of her story. • When the court found out that she was a woman the emperor ordered her into the palace to serve as an imperial concubine and she committed suicide. • The other version is that she married a general. • The tragic version is probably the true one. • A temple was built in her village and every year on her birthday there is a ceremony to remember her.
Women Commanders of Han origin: Liang Hongyu • Liang Hongyu梁红玉 (ca.1100-1135), lived during the period between the Northern and Southern Song. • Her father was a military commander guarding the borders against the Xiongnu 匈奴 and taught her tactical planning and the use of weapons. • In 1121, she married a low ranking military officer who later became one of China’s most outstanding generals. • They lived in military camps with their two sons and she was able to learn more about the arts of war; when her husband was elevated to marshal she became his assistant. • She fought all over northern and central china during the Jin 金invasions and when the Song was defeated. • At her death, the emperor honored her by giving her family 500 taels of silver and 500 bolts of cloth.
Women Commanders of Han origin: Qin Liangyu • Qin Liangyu 秦良玉 (1547-1648) was a general who fought against the Manchu invaders at the end of the Ming dynasty. • She was born in Sichuan; her father was a local official who excelled in both classical Chinese and military strategy. • He educated his children at home and encouraged them to serve in civil and military positions. • She was very intelligent and was her father’s favorite and was treated equally as the sons; she was married to a military commander who was descended from a general’s family. • When her husband died, Qin was ordered to take his former military office and was made military commander and fought to protect Beijing from the Manchu when she was over 70 years old -- she was given title of Loyal Marquis.
Women Commanders of non-Han origin • There were many female commanders of non-Han origin. • They were female members of the royal family. • They were outstanding for their military leadership and political vision. • They are equals to reigning queens in other cultures. • They led armies of either all women warriors or of mixed male and female soldiers.
Women Commanders of non-Han origin:Princess Pinyang • Princess Pingyang 平阳公主 (ca.600-623), was the daughter of the founding emperor of the Tang dynasty (618-907). • She organized a “Woman’s Army” and led them to help her father overthrow the Sui 隋 (582-628) and establish the Tang. • She formed her army among the peasants in her area whom she had won over by opening up the food stores during the drought. • After her victories, her army would distribute food to the people in the captured territories and they saw her armies as liberators rather than as conquerors. • When her army grew to 70,000 troops, the Sui took her seriously and attacked her but the Suit troops were defeated. • She was made a marshal with the same entitlements as her brothers. • But the hard struggles of war had worn her out and she died at the age of 23.
Women Commanders of non-Han origin:The Empress dowager Yingtian of the Liao • Empress Dowager Yingtian (d.953) helped her husband ambush and murder the other chiefs so that he could found the Liao 辽 (907-1125) dynasty. • While he was emperor, she commanded 200,000 horsemen, organized campaigns against rival tribes, and maintained order when her husband was away on campaigns. • When he died, more than 300 were buried with him, but she said that her children needed her and instead, cut off her right hand and placed it in his coffin. • She had disapproved of her husband’s choice of heir who sensed the danger and approached his mother to formally withdraw his claim so that her preferred heir, the second son, could ascend the throne as Liao Taizong (r.926-947).
Women Commanders of non-Han origin:The Empress dowager Yingtian of the Liao (2) • The ED, as regent, took control of all military and civil affairs while the succession question was being settled and continued to exercise great influence during her second son’s reign. • After his death, the eldest son, Yelu Yuan 耶律阮 (r.947-951), of the former heir – Yingtian’s eldest son – declared himself emperor (Shizong) before his father’s coffin. • His grandmother wanted the throne for her third son and so opposed him – this was a conflict between the Chinese style of succession and the Qidan style. • She sent her youngest son with an army to block her grandson’s return to the capital but the son’s army was defeated. • The old lady then led her own army to confront her grandson but was defeated and was forced to stay under house arrest within one of the palaces.
Women Commanders of non-Han origin:The Empress dowager Chengtian of the Liao • The fifth emperor, Jingzong, died in 982 leaving the throne to his 11 year-old son, Shenzong (r.982-1031). • His mother, ED Chengtian became regent at the age of 37 and remained in control until her death in 1009 (969-1009). • She underwent the ritual of “rebirth” which confirms the new emperor’s right to rule in the eyes of the Qidan aristocracy – a practice reserved for emperors but she went through it three times — twice in 984 and again in 986. • The new emperor, Shenzong, was completely dominated by his mother, who continued to browbeat him and sometimes strike him in public even when he was a grown man.
Women Commanders of non-Han origin:The Empress dowager Chengtian of the Liao (2) • The Empress Dowager was a ruler who understood the realities of power and the art of governance and was always willing to listen to advice – she won the deep loyalty of Liao officials, both Qidan and Chinese. • She was an excellent military commander and had her own army of 10,000 cavalry; even when she was over 60 (1005) when she commanded armies in the field against the Song dynasty. • She oversaw the peace negotiations with the Song which brought in 100 years of peace to both dynasties – the Treaty of Shanyuan. • The Liao-shi (History of the Liao) sums up her achievements by saying, “Shenzong may be considered the most successful of the Liao emperors, most of his successes must be attributed to his mother’s instruction.”
Women Warriors as Defenders • The most famous woman defender was Xun Guan 旬灌 who lived in the Jin 晋 Dynasty (265-420) in Henan. • She was the descendant of a famous general in Wei of the Three Kingdoms and had begun military training at a very young age. • Her father had also been a general and was the Grand Defender of a city which was surrounded by a rebellious troop. • All his sons were scholars with no military skills. • The daughter, Xun Guan, at the age of 13 led several dozen warriors at midnight and broke out of the encirclement of the rebels.
Women Warriors as Defenders (2) • Yan Gongren 晏恭人 was the widow of a rich landlord. • She built fences with thorns and organized her farm laborers and her maids to defend against the bandits. • Because of her success, more farmers came to ask for protection and her followers controlled five areas. • All of her followers went though military training and she shared all supplies and rewards with her allies and her followers. • Tens of thousands of people were then protected. • As a reward, she was given the official title of “Furen” 夫人 and her son was given an official title.
Women Leaders of Peasants’ Uprisings • The first known woman leader of a peasant uprising was Lü Mu 吕母; who lived during the late Western Han (206-24BCE) in Shandong. • Her family was very rich and her son had been an official in charge of local public security . • She had no military training but led an uprising against the county governor to avenge the wrongful execution of her son for a minor offense. • She spent 4 years selling all her family’s property, raised an army of hundreds of young people and called herself the general. • She treated her army well and they did not loot so more peasants joined and the army grew to 10,000 persons. • She attacked, captured the governor and killed him and offered his head in sacrifice to her son. • A year later (18 C.E.), a larger peasant uprising “red eyebrows 赤眉”arose and her army worked with them and is credited by historians as having caused the rebellions that destroyed the Han empire in the year 24.
Women Leaders of Peasants’ Uprisings (2) • Chen Shuozhen 陈硕贞 was the first and only Chinese woman who declared herself Emperor after launching a peasant rebellion. • She lived during the early Tang Dynasty and was an ordinary farmer with no military training. • She and her brother-in-law, Zhang Shuyin 张叔胤, said that she had ascended into heaven and had become immortal and had returned to correct wrongs in the society. • She called herself Wen Jia Emperor 文佳皇帝 and organized her own court. • She had an army of 40,000-50,000 persons and occupied many areas in western Zhejiang and southern Anhui provinces. • Eventually, she and her brother-in-law were captured and executed.
Women Fighters in the Late Qing:The Taiping Rebellion 太平天国 • When the rebellion started in 1851 entire family members, old and young, men and women took part in the uprising. • In the beginning, between 2-3,000 women took part in the uprising out of a total of 20,000 persons but by the time they arrived at the capital, there were 500,000 women – 40 women armies. • Women participated directly in battles; some wore men’s clothing, some painted their foreheads red or wrapped their heads with red cloths. • At the beginning women were always put at the front; many Qing soldiers were so puzzled by the appearance of these colorful women that they giggled and stopped fighting.
Women Fighters in the Late Qing:The Boxer Rebellion义和团 • The female leaders who fought in Boxer Movements showed strong leadership in organizing and commanding armies; many relied on religion to mobilize their followers. • Most had military training and knowledge but came from poor peasant families. • The most active was the young women’s group, aged between 12 and 18 – some were as young as 8 or 9. • They trained with swords and every few days they formed groups and went through the streets. • They joined in burning foreign buildings and killing foreigners in Tianjin. • The leader, 林黑儿 had learned martial arts as a child and was an entertainer; she was eventually captured and executed.
Women Fighters in the Late Qing:1911 Revolution • Women participated in the 1911 revolution for a short time and in limited scale. • Many were young and educated. • When the revolution was won, men were given key positions but women were not given any important responsibilities. • The women were disappointed and frustrated. • After 1926, there was a first generation of female cadets of Huangpu Military Academy (1924 to 1927).
Recent History of female participation: Anti-Japanese War • The women were guerrilla fighters, arsonists, assassins, bomb makers, leaders in uprisings, defenders and their age range was from 9-60. • They participated in direct combat, reconnaissance, logistic and medical support. • Some women were put in gender segregated units and were assigned to combat support such as nursing, cooking, and uniform manufacture. • Male commanders tried to keep women out of regular combat units except when the troops were loosing then the women would be assigned to covering the main army’s escape. • Women suffered the heaviest casualties in this war compared with those in others.
Recent History of female participation:The Red Army • In the early years of the communist movement (1927-35) there were many women serving in combat and non-combat roles. • At least 20,000 women took part in military operations in 12 bases. • It is estimated that 2,600 women participated on the Long March长征: • Some were teen-agers escaping their abusive “in-law” families into which they had been sold. • Some were avoiding arranged marriages. • Some were running away from starvation. • Others were revolutionaries and were escaping capture. • Some were wives, sisters, daughters, or nieces of Communists. • There were another 8,000 who worked at jobs such as carriers, Tailors, and laundry workers.
Recent History of female participation:The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) • Today, most do not have to serve in the military although all young men and women, 18 and over, are supposed to serve. • Women who serve do so for about the same time as the men: • an average of 2 years for the army, • 4 for the navy and • 3 for the air force. • Career women serve longer than the enlisted – they served up to 30 years. • In 1994 there were 240,000 women serving in the PLA, 8% of the military personnel. • More women serve in the army and the headquarters.
Recent History of female participation:The People’s Liberation Army (2) • Most women serve in traditional female roles such as medical workers, administrative personnel, communications specialists, logistic support staff, political and propaganda workers, scientific researchers and technicians. • Enlisted women serve as switchboard operators, typists, map makers or data entry personnel. • Most career soldiers work as nurses; in 1990 70.6% of career soldiers were nurses. • By the end of 1992, there were 290 female pilots; none had been assigned to combat although some were test pilots.
Recent History of female participation:The Chinese Nationalist (Taiwan) Army • The women participated in the Anti-Japanese War. • Almost all modern women went through military training and have professional skills. • They played supportive roles in the armed forces. • Some participated in combat. • About 1,500 serve in the military, most are career personnel.