Qin Liangyu: The Woman General of the Ming Dynasty
At the end of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), Qin Liangyu's father began teaching his children martial arts, military strategy and Chinese classical literature to prepare them for the chaos that he sensed would be coming soon.
Qin soon proved herself talented in archery, horse riding and the arts of war, for which her father lamented, "It is a pity that you are a girl, or you would be given a royal title someday for your military contributions."
Little did her father realize that his daughter would someday become the only woman general to be listed in the official history of a Chinese dynasty. For decades, Qin led her army in protecting the country and was given the royal title of 'loyal marquis' for her contributions.
A Military Marriage of Love
Born in 1574, Qin married Ma Qiancheng, the military commander in Shizhu, southwest China's Chongqing Municipality, at the age of 24. Ma was descended from a general's family.
Both Qin and Ma were brave, intelligent and physically attractive. They loved and respected each other.
In 1599, Yang Yinglong, the military commander in Zunyi, southwest China's Guizhou Province, rebelled against the government. Yang took over and occupied several strategically important cities like Chongqing. Then he led his army to attack Chengdu, capital city of southwest China's Sichuan Province.
With orders from the government, Ma led 3,000 soldiers to suppress the rebellion. All of his soldiers used spears made of white wood, giving them their name, the 'White Stick Troop'. Qin led another 300 soldiers to fight alongside her husband.
In 1600, the government troops succeeded in several military campaigns. As a result, they held many celebrations during that year's Spring Festival, lowering their guard.
Aware of the danger, Qin reminded her husband to order the White Stick Troop to stay alert and forbid them to drink alcohol.
As Qin had expected, the rebelling army attacked in the middle of the night. As the other government troops fled in panic, Qin and her husband led their troop to start a counter attack that ended in the defeat of the rebelling army.
Then they hunted down the retreating rebels and surrounded Yang and his entire army. In this way, the rebellion was suppressed.
Qian and Ma were considered to have contributed the most in suppressing the rebellion, and the royal court rewarded them with silver and silk.
A Woman General of the Ming Dynasty
In 1613, Ma offended a court eunuch, Qiu Chengyun, when he refused Qiu's request for bribes. He was framed and arrested. Soon after, he died in prison. Under the government's order, Qin took over her husband's post.
In 1616, Nurhachi, the chieftain of the Jurchen tribes (later referred to as the 'Manchu') in northeast China's Liaoning Province, founded the Jin Dynasty. He then launched a series of attacks on Ming armies.
In order to support the war against Nurhachi, the Ming government ordered Qin to send troops to Liaoning. Qin dispatched her brothers, Qaing Bangping and Qin Minping, to lead the White Stick Troop there.
During a military action, the Jin army surrounded her brothers and their army. Although outnumbered, the White Stick Troop fought bravely and broke out after killing several thousand enemies. After that battle, the White Stick Troop became famous nationwide.
In 1621, She Chongming, a military commander, led thousands of soldiers in revolt against the government in Chongqing. He asked Qin to help but was immediately refused.
Qin then sent her troops to take over strategically important places to prevent the rebelling army from escaping from Sichuan. She launched a series of surprise raids and quickly suppressed the rebellion.
In recognition of her contributions, the government assigned her as the general in charge of the armies in Sichuan.
In 1630, the Manchu army invaded China and surrounded the outskirts of Beijing. Qin led her army to Beijing to rescue the capital.
Although the Ming troops in Beijing had 200,000 soldiers, none of them were brave enough to challenge the Manchu army. So Qin led her army to launch the first attack. She was successful, and the Manchu army was forced to retreat.
The royal family was so impressed with Qin's bravery that the emperor, Chongzhen, wrote a poem in her praise. Qin was one of only two officials for whom the emperor wrote a poem. The other was the Prime Minister, Yang Sichang (1588 - 1641).
Fighting Peasant Uprisings
In the last years of the Ming Dynasty, successive peasant uprisings rocked the country, threatening the rule of the royal family. Qin was ordered to return to Sichuan to safeguard the province.
In 1634, the peasant army led by Zhang Xianzhong (1606 - 1647) occupied Fengjie, Chongqing Municipality. However, when Qin and her army approached the town, the peasant soldiers fled in fear of her reputation for bravery.
In 1640, Luo Rucai, a general of a peasant army, led his soldiers to march into Sichuan. At Wu Mountain, Qin ambushed Luo's army and forced him to retreat. Later, Luo's army joined Zhang's army and began attacking most of the cities in Sichuan.
Qin was ordered to reinforce another government army in Chongqing, which soon proved to be a strategic mistake. Outnumbered, the government army was defeated and Qin lost her White Stick Troop of 30,000 soldiers in one battle. Only she survived.
In the next few years, Qin was again defeated several times by the peasant army. In the end, she was forced to retreat to Shizhu.
In 1644, the Manchu army occupied the strategically important Shanhai Pass. Soon, they had invaded and occupied Beijing, marking the fall of the Ming Dynasty. Some members of the Ming royal family established a government in Nanjing, south China's Jiangsu Province.
The Manchu army continued to march southward and westward. Their ferociousness and brutality sparked fierce resistance from peasant armies and the remaining Ming army.
In 1648, the remaining Ming government gave Qin the title of 'prince's teacher' and commanding officer of the Sichuan military force, hoping she could continue to lead her army in resisting the Manchu invasion.
Unfortunately, Qin died only days later at the age of 74.
(Source: hxlsw.com/Translated and edited by womenofchina.cn)