Chinese kings and emperors get all the fame and fortune, but we all know that they had hoards of women by their side — it’s very clearly stated in the history books. So with all these women behind powerful men, some of them were also notable in their own right.
We’re talking more along the lines of the concubines and maybe even palace servants. We did some research and came across some names you shouldn’t forget and might even want to look more into.
1. Lin Siniang
Lin was taught by her father how to yield a sword from a young age. By the age of six, she wielded the weapon with deadly precision. To support herself when her family died, she had to turn to prostitution and that’s when she caught the attention of Zhu Changshu, a feudal lord of the Qingzhou state.
He was so impressed by her skills that she was asked to teach all his concubines such skills. Not only did these women learn, they became a full-fledged army. When Changshu was captured by rebel forces, it was Lin and her army that rescued him. Sadly, they died in battle but were given heroes’ burials.
2. Empress Dowager Cixi
A controversial figure in Chinese history, for sure, as she’s even credited as the cause of the downfall of the Qing Empire. She started her days in the palace as the king’s concubine, but upon the king’s death, ascended with her son into power. She ruled for 47 years until her death.
3. Empress Wu Zeitan
Empress Wu Zeitan is the lady that single-handedly ran China during the Tang Dynasty. She was a concubine of Emperor Taizong, but started an affair with his son, Li Zhi. Upon the Emperor’s death, Wu was to live her days in a temple, as was customary. The son, having fallen in love with her, beckoned her back to court where she gained power without a title and ruled from behind the scenes until Li’s death.
She then declared herself Empress and changed the dynasty name to Zhou. She did, however, extend China’s boundaries far west into Central Asia and is considered one of the great leaders of ancient China.
Those are a few powerful women in ancient China, and I’m sure history has snubbed many more. Do you have any ancient Chinese heroines to tell us about?
Even more curious about Chinese concubines? Read on for some interesting facts about them here.