Author: Pei-Yi Wu


Hidden just below the surface in the Songshi is the story of a woman who contradicts every stereotypical view of her gender. Yang Miaozhen was a warrior, peerless both in single combat and in strategic planning. Before she was twenty, she commanded an armed band of ten thousand. She met her future husband when he and his soldiers flocked to her banner. The apparently uxorilocal marriage lasted as a partnership of equality. The couple went on to carve out a large area between Shandong and the Yangzi River and ruled it as their private domain. Although they ostensibly pledged allegiance to the Southern Song, any overseer sent from the court, whatever his station or achievement, could enjoy his tenure only at Yang Miaozhen's pleasure. After her husband's death, she led her troops to join the Mongols, who appointed her governor of Shandong. Thus her story stands on its head the complex patrilineal, patriarchal, and patrilocal system generally believed to have prevailed throughout Chinese history.