1. Liang Hongyu
Liang Hongyu (1102-1135) was a Song Dynasty general. She was the daughter of a military commander on the northern frontier and since childhood she had been trained in martial arts and archery. After her father lost an important battle against the northern Jin Dynasty, Hongyu was sold into slavery and forced to work as a female wrestler.
Eventually she saved enough money to buy her freedom and married a military commander by the name of Han Shizhong. When the Jin Dynasty attacked the Song Dynasty in the 1120s, Han and Liang formed and army and rode together against the invaders.
Liang was a skilled commander well known for her tactical acumen. At the Battle of Huangtiandang in 1129, she used war drums and flags to direct her forces and successfully blockaded fleet of 100,000 soldiers using only 8,000 of her own troops.
2. Shen Yunying
Shen Yunying (1624-1660) was a Ming Dynasty General. She was the daughter of Shen Zhixu, a general who was in charge of the defence of Dazhou City. One day in 1643, the rebel leader Yellow Tiger besieged Dazhou, and Shen Zhixu was killed in the skirmish. Just when all looked lost, the 19-year-old Shi Yunying took up command of her father’s forces and led a valiant cavalry charge, winning the battle.
In recognition of her accomplishment the Ming government offered Shen her father’s position, which she accepted. She continued to fight valiantly to defend the dynasty, but the next year it was overthrown by the Qing. She retired from military life and returned home to found a school where girls could be taught both literacy and martial arts.
3. Huang Guigu
Huang Guigu (246-221 BCE) was a military general for the state of Qin. By all accounts she was a model soldier in every way. She was incredibly strong and skilled at archery. What’s more, she was disciplined. She would spend her days drilling and spend her nights studying tactics.
Huang commanded three military units in campaigns against the Xiongnu and Xianbei tribes in the north, and King Zheng rewarded her handsomely with gold and jade for her service. She died at 25 of unknown causes in 221 BC, the same year that King Zheng unified China and declared himself Qin Shi Huangdi — the First Emperor.
4. Qin Liangyu
Qin Liangyu (1574-1648) was a Ming Dynasty general. She belonged to the Miao ethnicity, and her father believed that girls and boys should have the same education. He trained all his children in classics and poetry, but also in kung fu, horseback riding and archery. She took to the martial arts faster than any of her other brothers, and grew to become a skilled warrior.
Qin married a district commander by the name of Ma Qiancheng. When he died, she took on his responsibilities. When the Manchus invaded the Ming Dynasty, Qin Liangyu sold off her possessions to raise an army. She initially went north but then returned to Sichuan when it was attacked by rebels. Her actions in putting down the rebellion earned her the rank of Commander in Chief of the whole province.
In 1630 took her “White Staff soldiers” and marched to relieve the beseiged capital of Beijing, prompting the Chongzhen Emperor to write a poem in her honour. In 1846, in gratitude for her years of service, she was granted the title of “Grand Protector of the Crown Prince, Duchess of Loyalty and Honor”, thought to be the highest rank ever attained by a woman in the Imperial Army.