Princess Pingyang

Princess Pingyang (simplified Chinese: 平阳公主; traditional Chinese: 平陽公主; pinyin: Píngyáng Gōngzhǔ), formally Princess Zhao of Pingyang (平陽昭公主) (598 - 623) was the daughter of Emperor Gaozu of Tang (Li Yuan), the founding emperor of the tang dynasty. She helped him to seize power and eventually take over the throne from sui dynasty by organizing an "Army of the Lady" (娘子軍), commanded by herself, in his campaign to capture the Sui capital Chang'an.


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, Li Shimin, Li Xuanba (李玄霸), and Li Yuanji. Eventually, Li Yuan gave her in marriage to Chai Shao (柴紹), the son of Chai Shen (柴慎) the Duke of Julu.

Participation in Tang's founding

In 617, Li Yuan, then the general in charge at Taiyuan was planning to rebel against Emperor Yang of Sui, by whom he had been imprisoned before. He sent messengers to his daughter and son-in-law Chai Shao, then at the Sui capital Chang'an, summoning them back to Taiyuan. Chai worried that they would not be able to escape together easily, and when he consulted her, she told him to go and that she, as a woman, would be able to hide more easily. He therefore secretly headed for Taiyuan and, 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 hid initially, but then distributed her wealth to several hundred men, receiving their loyalty, so she rose in support of Li Yuan. 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 also persuaded other rebel leaders Li Zhongwen (李仲文), Xiang Shanzhi (向善志), and Qiu Shili (丘師利) to join her as well. She attacked and captured some of the nearby cities, and she gathered a total of 70,000 men. Peasants saw her army as one of liberation and offered food and drinks as they passed by.

Late in 617, Li Yuan crossed the Yellow River into the Chang'an region, and he sent Chai Shao to rendezvous with her. They then joined Li Shimin, commanding one wing of Li Yuan's army. Chai and she 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 yield the throne to him, establishing tang dynasty as its Emperor Gaozu. He created her the Princess Pingyang, and as she contributed greatly to his victory, he particularly honored her over his 18 other daughters.


The Princess Pingyang, however, was not recorded as having been involved in another battle after her father's capture of Chang'an. When she died in 623, Emperor Gaozu ordered that a grand military funeral, fit for a high 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?


Princess Pingyang and her husband, Chai Shao, had two sons:

Chai Zhewei 柴哲威, titled Duke of Qiao

Chai Lingwu 柴令武 (died 653), titled Duke of Xiangyang, married Emperor Taizong's daughter Princess Baling (巴陵公主)

Last update 30-05-2012

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