Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Women Warriors - Fu Hao, Chinese general

We go back into the mists of time for this woman warrior, though as it's China, there are written records to consult. It's the very end of the Bronze Age, around 1200BC. In Europe, it was around the time of the legendary Trojan War, and in Britain Stonehenge and that whole ritual landscape on Salisbury Plain was in use.
Fu Hao was one of Emperor Wu Ding's wives. He was a member of the Shang Dynasty. He took a wife from each of the tribes under his control, and had around sixty. Fu Hao worked her way up the hierarchy until she was able to conduct religious rituals on behalf of the Emperor and prepare oracle bones, an extremely important part of the Emperor's duties. She also became his chief general, with thirteen thousand men under her command - a large army for the period. It was under her command that the Shang's rivals, the Tu-Fang, were decisively defeated in a single battle, after generations of conflict. She was also responsible for the first large-scale ambush in Chinese history, in a campaign against one of her husband's other enemies, the Ba.
She died before her husband, who built an impressive tomb for her - and held rituals and sacrifices there to ask for her help from beyond the grave in further military campaigns. The tomb was found in 1976, and is now open to the public. Fu Hao was buried with an impressive collection of jade, two huge battle axes (which were symbols of her military rank) and sixteen slaves.
When the Shang Dynasty fell, they were replaced by the Zhou Dynasty, who greatly reduced women's roles in politics and military matters - they were ridiculed as "hens reporting the dawn" and were treated as rebels. Women also lost the right to own property under the Zhou Dynasty - Fu Hao had owned her own land, and administered it herself.

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