Princess Pingyang was the third daughter of Li Yuan, the founding emperor of the Tang Dynasty (618-907). She helped her father overthrow the Sui Dynasty (581-618) and establish the Tang Dynasty.
In 617, knowing that her father had gathered an army in Jinyang (now Taiyuan, North China's Shanxi province), she went to Huxian county (now Huyi district, Xi'an, capital of Northwest China's Shaanxi province) and disguised herself as a man.
She sold her properties and gathered hundreds of warriors to start the overthrow of the Sui Dynasty. For her outstanding courage and abilities, several insurrectionary armies were convened in only three months.
Several places were occupied with the help of the gathered peasant insurrectionary army, and later other insurrectionary armies also came to join them, with the number of warriors exceeding 70,000.
Due to her excellent abilities of organization and command, this army was disciplined and popular with locals. Qu Tutong, a famous general of the Sui Dynasty, was defeated by her army several times.
When her father dispatched her brother Li Shimin and her husband to attack Chang'an (present day Xi'an), Princess Pingyang led more than 10,000 top soldiers to join them. After Chang'an was occupied, she cooperated with her brother to wipe out the remaining opposition, and stationed in Shanxi to guard the Central Plains.
There were lots of women within her army, and they were called "Niang Zi Jun" (the women’s army) due to their great contributions to the fight against the Sui Dynasty and the founding of the ang Dynasty.
The pass where they stationed was later renamed as Niangzi Pass, which is the ninth pass of the internal Great Wall. It was said that the female soldiers were brave and skillful in the military arts. Their legends are still popular among the locals.
After her death in 623, she was honored with a posthumous title, which was the first case among the princesses of the Tang Dynasty. In addition, she was buried with military honor, becoming the first woman to gain such an honor in ancient China.
Her achievements in the war and the grand funeral showcased the openness and inclusiveness of the Tang Dynasty. To some degree, she contributed to the improvement of women’s social status in the Tang Dynasty.
The Niangzi Pass where Princess Pingyang stationed her troops is the ninth pass of the internal Great Wall. [Photo/chinadaily.com.cn]