Mu Guiying—a Woman General

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The army of the Chinese Song dynasty was in the heat of a seesaw battle with the invading armies of a militant nomad state - the Great Liao from China's north borders. The Great Liao recruited a Chinese army advisor, Lu Zhong who knew how to deploy what he claimed to be an invincible battle array: The Heavely Gate of Seventy-Two Moves, or simply the Array of Heavenly Gate ("Tianmen Zhen" in Chinese), and challenged the Song army to defeat it within a hundred days. Otherwise, they had to surrender their recently unified motherland to the Great Liao. In the Song army, there was a family of generals named Yang, who fought hard and victoriously in many a battle against the invading enemy. However, they were either sabataged by the capitulation wing of the Song Court or distrusted by the Song Emperor whose only concern was to keep himself from harm's way at whatever cost. Eventually, the Yang army was defeated by the Liao with tremendous losses: all but three of the eight brother generals perished. One of the survived quit fighting and became a monk; another was captured by the enemy and became the Liao's first son-in-law. Yang Yanzhao was the only male of his generation to lead the Yang Family army and therefore made its Commander-in-Chief. Except for a couple of very his yong sons, the positions of the generals missing in action were now filled by all the women of the family: Yanzhao's mother, his wife, his two sisters, and three of his brothers' widows. Together, they are known to the Chinese as the "Women Generals of the Yang Family...."

Story retold by Haiwang Yuan, ©2003
Last updated: October 9, 2003

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