Princess Pingyang

Princess Pingyang of the Tang Dynasty (China, 598—623 CE) was born Zhao of Pingyang. She was the daughter of Emperor Gaozu of Tang (formally Li Yuan, Duke of Tang), who established the Tang Dynasty with the help of his daughter Zhao. Emperor Yang of the Sui Dynasty was a hated tyrant. He commissioned expensive construction projects that didn’t aid any of his peasants. These ended in a massive peasant uprising, which turned the aristocracy and the intelligentsia against him.

After deciding that Li Yuan, Duke of Tang, posed a significant military threat, Emperor Yang wished to have him executed. The Duke staged a rebellion in response, with his son, son-in-law, and daughter as his generals. To aid her father in his efforts, Zhao amassed an army 70,000 strong. The Sui government greatly underestimated Zhao as she was a woman. When they finally met her in battle, she and her army decimated them. After her victory, she took 10,000 men of her army north in order to help her brother with his part in the rebellion.

Once her father became Emperor Gaozu, he granted her a grand honorific, naming her Princess Pingyang. At her death, he gave her the funeral of a highly esteemed general, which was an unheard of honor for a woman. When his officials argued with him, Emperor Gaozu said that his daughter helped him defeat a tyrannical emperor, and establish the Tang Dynasty. In other words, she earned it.

Legacy: To honor her, Emperor Gaozu named a mountain pass “The Young Lady’s Pass”. It is speculated that without Zhao, the Tang rebellion might never have been successful.

Emperors of the Tang Dynasty granted women under their rule far more rights than they had in the past. Women were able to inherit property, divorce their husbands and marry again, get an education, and start businesses. Before the Tang Dynasty, women had very few rights and were legally considered properties of their fathers if they were not married yet, their husbands if they were, and their sons of they were widows.


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