Princess Pingyang

Princess Píngyáng (Traditional Chinese: 平陽公主; Simplified Chinese: 平阳公主), formally Princess Zhao of Pingyang (平陽昭公主), was the daughter of Emperor Gaozu of Tang (高祖 ; 李淵; Li Yuan, Duke of Tang), the founding emperor of the Tang Dynasty. She was the third of Li Yuan’s nineteen daughters. Eventually, Li Yuan gave her in marriage to Chai Shao (Cai Shao; 柴紹), the son of Chai Shen (柴慎), the Duke of Julu. When Li Yuan decided to rebel against the Emperor Yang of Sui (隋煬帝), Pingyang sent her husband to join her brothers, while she fled to her family’s country estate in Huxian province. There she gained a loyal following of several hundred men and persuaded the rebel leaders, He Panren (何潘仁), Li Zhongwen (李仲文), Xiang Shanzhi (向善志), and Qiu Shili (丘師利), to join her. Leading their combined forces, she attacked and captured the capital of Huxian county. The Sui government did not take her army seriously because it was led by a woman, until she had gathered a total of 70,000 men.

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Eventually she met up with Chai Shao and Li Shimin, who was commanding one wing of Li Yuan's army. Chai and Pingyang set up separate headquarters as commanding generals, and her army became known as the "Army of the Lady" (娘子軍). In 618, Li Yuan had Emperor Yang's grandson Emperor Gong of Sui ( 恭帝侑) yielding the throne to him, establishing himself as Emperor Gaozu and founding the Tang Dynasty. He then made his daughter the Princess Pingyang, and made her a marshal, authorizing a staff to serve at her command. When she died at the age of twenty-three, Emperor Gaozu gave her a grand military funeral, fit for a high general. In Chinese literature, Princess Pingyang remains a legendary example of filial piety and courage.

Background

The future Princess Pingyang was the third daughter of Li Yuan, the Duke of Tang, a hereditary duke during Sui Dynasty. She was his third daughter, but the only daughter of his wife, Duchess Dou, who also bore four sons—Li Jiancheng( 李建成), Li Shimin (唐太宗; 李世民), Li Xuanba (李玄霸), and Li Yuanji(李元吉). Eventually, Li Yuan gave her in marriage to Chai Shao (Cai Shao柴紹), the son of Chai Shen (柴慎), the Duke of Julu.

Participation in Tang's founding

The tyranny of the Emperor Yang of Sui (隋煬帝), and his wasteful use of resources, had resulted in the outbreak of numerous peasant rebellions, and turned the aristocracy and literati against him. In 617, Emperor Yangdi was plotting to imprison Li Yuan, then the general in charge at Taiyuan (太原, in modern Taiyuan, Shanxi), because he regarded his military power as a threat. To forestall this, Li Yuan decided to rebel. He sent messengers to summon his daughter and son-in-law Chai Shao, then one of the crown prince’s bodyguards at the Sui capital Chang'an, back to Taiyuan. Chai worried that they would not be able to escape together easily, and when he consulted Pingyang, she told him to go and that she, as a woman, would be able to hide more easily. After first meeting Li Jiancheng and Li Yuanji, whom Li Yuan had similarly recalled from Hedong (河東, in modern Yuncheng, Shanxi), reported to Taiyuan. Pingyang fled to her family’s country estate in Huxian province. There she gained a loyal following of several hundred men by opening her family’s grain reserves to the people who were dying of starvation. She sent her servant Ma Sanbao (馬三寶) to persuade the agrarian rebel leader He Panren (何潘仁) to join her, and then convinced the former Sui commanders Li Zhongwen (李仲文), Xiang Shanzhi (向善志), and Qiu Shili (丘師利) to follow suit. With these combined forces, she attacked and captured the capital of Huxian county. She maintained strict discipline and forbade looting. The Sui government did not take her army seriously because it was led by a woman, until she had gathered a total of 70,000 men. When they finally waged a campaign against her, she defeated them and marched north with 10,000 of her best troops to assist her brother.

Late in 617, Li Yuan crossed the Yellow River into the Chang'an region, and sent Chai Shao to rendezvous with Pingyang. They then joined Li Shimin, who was commanding one wing of Li Yuan's army. Chai and Pingyang set up separate headquarters as commanding generals, and her army became known as the "Army of the Lady." In 618, Li Yuan had Emperor Yang's grandson Emperor Gong of Sui ( 恭帝侑) yield the throne to him, establishing himself as Emperor Gaozu and founding the Tang Dynasty. He then created his daughter, the Princess Pingyang, and made her a marshal, authorizing a staff to serve at her command. As she had contributed greatly to his victory, he particularly honored her over his eighteen other daughters.

Death

The Princess Pingyang, however, was not recorded as having been involved in another battle after her father's capture of Chang'an. Not long after her father had assumed the throne, Princess Pingyang died, at the age of twenty-three. After her death in 623, Emperor Gaozu ordered that a grand military funeral, fit for a high-ranking general, be given for her. When officials of the Ministry of Rites objected to the presence of a band, stating that women's funerals were not supposed to have bands, he responded:

The band would be playing military music. The Princess personally beat the drums and rose in righteous rebellion to help me establish the dynasty. How can she be treated as an ordinary woman?

The Emperor Gaozu named a strategic mountain pass in Pingding county, "the Young Lady's Pass" in her honor. According to later Chinese literature, at her funeral, her father spoke these words: "As you know, the princess mustered an army that helped us overthrow the Sui dynasty. She participated in many battles, and her help was decisive in founding the Tang dynasty. She was no ordinary woman."

Women of the Tang Dynasty

In ancient China, a woman was required to obey her father before marriage, her husband during marriage, and her sons in widowhood. In Chinese male-dominated society, women were regarded as little more than bondservants. During the peak of the Tang Dynasty, however, from 618 to 765, women were granted unusual rights and freedoms. Under Emperor Gaozu’s son, Li Shimin (the Taizong Emperor), China underwent considerable development in the areas of philosophy, politics, culture, economy, and foreign and domestic policy. The government undertook a new system of land allocation and taxation in which widows, as well as male householders, were granted land, giving women more economic independence.

Previous dynasties had not allowed a woman to divorce or remarry, even after her first spouse had died. The Tang code did not punish a couple which divorced on the basis of mutual consent, and historical records show that it was not unusual for women to divorce or remarry. A Tang Dynasty divorce agreement, unearthed from Dunhuang, reads: "Since we cannot live together harmoniously, we had better separate. I hope that after the divorce, niangzi (a form of address for one's wife) can be as young and beautiful as before, and may you find a more satisfactory husband. I hope that the divorce will not plant hatred between us in the future."[1]

From the reign of Emperor Gaozong to that of Emperor Suzong during the early and middle Tang Dynasty, there were altogether ninety-eight royal princesses. Sixty-one of these married, and of this number, twenty-four married twice and four married three times. Intermarriage with other ethnic groups or foreigners was also common; seven of Emperor Gaozu's nineteen daughters, and eight of Emperor Taizong's twenty-one daughters, were married to men of other nationalities. Tang women were also allowed to pursue an education, and there were a number of Tang poetesses. During the Tang Dynasty, women were allowed more freedom to conduct social activities and carry on business independently.

Notes

  1. Chinavoc, The Tang Dynasty. Retrieved December 14, 2007.

References

  • Loewe, Michael, and Edward L. Shaughnessy. The Cambridge History of Ancient China: From the Origins of Civilization to 221 B.C.E. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1999. ISBN 0521470307
  • History of Warfare in China Antiquity Through the Spring and Autumn Period. Westview Pr, 2007. ISBN 9780813321943
  • Needham, Joseph. Science and Civilization in China: Volume 4, Part 2. Taipei: Caves Books, Ltd, 1986. ISBN 9780521070607
  • Perkins, Dorothy. Encyclopedia of China the Essential Reference to China, its History and Culture. New York: Facts on File, 1999. ISBN 0816026939
  • Quian, Sima, and Burton Watson. Records of the Great Historian. Columbia University Press, 1961. ISBN 0-231-08167-7
  • Twitchett, Denis Crispin and John King Fairbank. The Cambridge History of China. Cambridge University Press, 1978. ISBN 0521214475

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