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Liang Hongyu

Painting of Liang Hongyu beating a battle drum while afloat during a water battle. A personal banner with the character of Liáng (梁) flutters in the background.

Liang Hongyu – Renowned Woman Warrior of the Song Dynasty

Liang Hongyu (Traditional Chinese: 梁紅玉; pinyin: Liáng Hóngyù; 1102–1135) was a female general of the Han Chinese Song Dynasty (Traditional Chinese: 宋朝; pinyin: Sòng cháo; 960–1279). She is famed for defending China from attacks by the Jurchen-led peoples, who were the ancestors of the Manchus. The Jurchen produced the Jin (Traditional Chinese: 金朝; pinyin: Jīn cháo, Jurchen: Anchun Gurun; 1115–1234) and Qing (Traditional Chinese: 大清; pinyin: Dà qīng; Manchu: Daiqing Gurun; 1616/1636–1912) dynasties that both conquered China in their turn. Liang Hongyu led the most colorful and unconventional life of all China's honored women warriors during a turbulent time in the nation's history.

Liang Hongyu

Painting of Liang Hongyu

Her given name was lost over time. In official Chinese historical accounts, she is referred to as "Lady Liang" (Traditional Chinese: 梁氏; pinyin: Liáng shì). The character of Shì (氏) alludes to a woman's clan or maiden name. In folktales, she is Hongyu (Traditional Chinese: 红玉; pinyin: Hóng yù; lit. "Red Jade"). Chinese culture considers jade to be a stone of good luck and it is called "the Stone of Heaven." Jade is so precious there is a saying that goes "gold is valuable while jade is priceless."

Numerous Chinese proverbs use the word jade to describe one's beauty, nobility, sincerity, power, and importance. When a female is called a "jade woman" (Yùnǚ 玉女), she is being called a beautiful woman or a fairy maiden beyond compare. Red Jade is the favored talisman in China for those studying martial arts or training for sports. It is used to fight hesitation and fear and inspire courage in the face of challenge and competition.

Liang Hongyu

Concept art of Liang Hongyu

Hongyu was born during the rule of Emperor Huizong of Song (宋徽宗; r. 1100–1126). In some accounts, she was a native of the prefecture-level city of Chizhou (池州) in southern Anhui Province (安徽省), a landlocked administrative division of East China that is located across the basins of the Yangtze River (长江) and the Huai River (淮河). Chizhou is a port on the Yangtze River. The ancestral home of the Liang clan lay in a prefecture on the northern bank of the Huai River. Some legends say she was born instead in Huai'an (淮安), a prefecture-level city in central Jiangsu Province (江苏省) on the eastern central coast of China. Some legends refer to Hongyu's father and grandfather, who were both respected generals in service to the Song Dynasty. Other accounts speak of her father and brother, who were both Song military officers. The Liang clan had been leading military officers for the Song Dynasty since the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period (五代十国; 907–979), a time of prolonged multiple political divisions in China.

Details of Hongyu's life are little known before 1121 when she met Han Shizhong (韓世忠; 1089–1151), a general from Shaanxi Province (陕西省) in Northwest China who had a distinguished career in service to the Song Dynasty. The folktales of Hongyu indicate that contrary to the customs of the time, her father did not have her feet bound. From a young age, her father taught her martial arts so that she could fight and defend herself. She was said to be possessed of uncommon strength for a woman and was a skilled archer as well.

Liang Hongyu

Concept art of Liang Hongyu

In 1120, the second year of the Xuanhe era of Emperor Huizong, a Chinese rebel named Fang La (方臘) started an uprising in Qixian Village (七賢村), She Prefecture (歙州) in Anhui. Fang La promised to overthrow the Song government, which was notorious for corruption among its officials, and to abolish its complicated tax system. Fang La vowed to be a Shèngwáng (聖王, "sage king") akin to the Sānhuángwǔdì (Traditional Chinese: 三皇五帝; Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors; c. 2852 BC–c. 2070 BC), who improved the lives of their subjects, passed on essential skills and knowledge, possessed great moral character, and ruled over periods of great peace. Fang La promised to restore the long departed well-field system (Traditional Chinese: 井田制度; pinyin: jǐngtián zhìdù) of the ancient Zhou Dynasty (Traditional Chinese: 周朝; pinyin: Zhōu cháo; c. 1045 BC–221 BC) where eight families farmed eight plots of land for themselves and one communally for the ruler as tax.

Fang La soon gained the support of tens of thousands of people. His forces first captured the city of Lin'an (臨安), modern-day Hangzhou (杭州市) in Zhejiang Province (浙江省) on China's east coast. They went on to take control of 52 counties and six prefectures across parts of the provinces of Anhui, Zhejiang, Jiangsu (江苏), and Jiangxi (江西).

A dozen imperial Song columns were defeated by the rebels, including those led by Hongyu's father and grandfather (or her father and brother). With the majority of their soldiers killed, her father and grandfather/brother were sentenced to death to atone for their defeat.

In 1121, Song general Wang Yuan (王淵; 1077–1129) was dispatched with another army to end the rebellion. Han Shizhong, who was his deputy, played an instrumental part in the campaign. Shizhong passed himself off as a rebel follower, infiltrated Qingxi County (清溪縣) in Zhejiang where Fang La held his headquarters, personally captured the rebel leader, and delivered Fang La into the custody of Song authorities.

Even though Wang Yuan took credit for the capture of Fang La to the displeasure of Shizhong, Song troops went on to retake the lost territories. Fang La and 52 of his subordinates were sent to the imperial capital of Bianjing (汴京), present-day Kaifeng (開封) in Henan Province (河南省). After four months at the capital, Fang La was convicted of treason and executed by Lingchi (凌迟, "Death by a thousand cuts").

Fang La's rebellion was later confused with the unrest from April–June 1121 in the city of Taizhou (台州市) on the East China Sea coast of Zhejiang Province. Manichaeism, a Persian religion that taught a dualistic cosmology describing the struggle between a good spiritual world of light and an evil material world of darkness, was then widespread in Taizhou. Fang La himself was likely not a follower of the religion.

Meantime, the Liang family fell on hard times with the execution of Hongyu's father and grandfather/brother. The camps of the various Song armies included the wives and families of the generals and other military officers who customarily accompanied them on campaigns and had their own staff of campaign servants. The wives and daughters of the officers thus lived with honor while in camp.

The ranks of the camp followers included artisans, actors, and other entertainers of many varieties. The world of the Song army camp followers was a bewildering and colorful mix of formal ritual and rough life. Hongyu, who already lived as a camp follower, went into indentured servitude in order to support herself. In some legends, it is said Hongyu became an army courtesan. Courtesans were expected to entertain the officers and soldiers with singing, dancing, and drumming performances as well as with sexual favors.

Hongyu Drumming

Actress Sa Yaoyao portraying Liang Hongyu in the film "The Loyal Liang Yuhong" or "Jingyong Lianghongyu"

Hongyu stood apart from the common run of courtesans, though. It was recorded that "she was highly literate and was naturally gifted with amazing physical strength. She could bend a strong bow and hit the mark with every shot. She always rolled her eyes at the young men and did not have the air of a courtesan."

Hongyu was also recorded to have been a woman wrestler. Women's wrestling was a popular spectator pastime during the Song Dynasty, so much so that even Song emperors attended public matches.

Liang Hongyu

Concept art of Liang Hongyu

Wrestling in China today is generally referred to as Shuai Jiao (Traditional Chinese: 摔跤; pinyin: shuāijiāo; lit. "to trip and fall" or "to wrestle"). During the time of Hongyu, wrestling was called Jue Li (Traditional Chinese: 角力; pinyin: juélì; lit. "wrestling" or "a trial of strength"). Jue Li was first referenced in the Book of Rites (Traditional Chinese: 禮記; pinyin: Lǐjì), a collection of texts describing the social customs, court administration, and ceremonial rites of the Zhou Dynasty as they were known during the Warring States period (Traditional Chinese: 戰戰國; pinyin: zhànguó; c. 475–221 BC), the Ch'in or Qin Dynasty (Traditional Chinese: 秦; pinyin: Qín cháo; 221–206 BC), and the early Han Dynasty (Traditional Chinese: 漢朝; pinyin: Hàncháo; 202 BC–220 AD). Jue Li complemented throwing techniques with strikes, blocks, joint locks and attacks on pressure points. These exercises were typically done in the winter by soldiers who also practiced archery and studied military strategy.

During the Song Dynasty, women wrestlers competed like men, so most women wore only a loincloth during their competitions. The popularity of female wrestlers during this period also indicated a relative rarity of the foot binding of women in the lower to middle classes.

Female wrestling was outlawed three centuries later during the Ming Dynasty (Traditional Chinese: 明朝; pinyin: Míng Cháo; 1368–1644) since Ming era Chinese aspired to be moralistic and believed the sport propagated "female indecencies." Many legends of Hongyu were generated during the time of the Ming, so some Ming historians may have mistakenly inferred that indentured servitude and female wrestling corresponded to "prostitution." Hongyu may have been a female entertainer and wrestler who led a free lifestyle while earning a small income to buy back her freedom.

The accounts of how Hongyu and Shizhong met vary. It is generally held that they met at a banquet, perhaps at the Song capital of Bianjing, following the defeat of Fang La. Hongyu was among the entertainers, whether as a singer or drummer. At one point, the entertainers served wine to the officers and soldiers. Hongyu attended to Shizhong, who drew her admiration. Firstly, she knew of his merit in capturing Fang La. Secondly, he stood apart from the other officers who celebrated rowdily—quiet, pensive, handsome, and strongly built. Hongyu's beauty, demeanor, and intelligence likewise drew the attention of Shizhong.

Hongyu is said to have approached the morose Shizhong and asked why he wasn't showing more signs of joy at the banquet which honored the defeat of Fang La. Shizhong answered that the victory was a small one and he was increasingly concerned about the growing hostility of the Jurchen tribes who roamed beyond the northern Song border.

Shizhong and Hongyu Married

Painting of traditional Chinese wedding ceremony with groom and bride both dressed in red. Red symbolizes luck, joy, happiness, celebration, vitality, and fertility. Red was worn to ward off evil.

The initial greeting led to a hearty conversation, which brought on regular meetings thereafter. Their relationship soon developed from mutual admiration to love and eventually marriage in 1122. Hongyu purchased her freedom and became Shizhong's second wife.

Hongyu and Shizhong

Illustration of Hongyu and Shizhong hunting together

Hongyu's marriage to Shizhong gave her the "second founding" of her life, a second chance to live a proper life. A few years after their marriage, Hongyu gave birth to their son Han Liang (韓亮). Hongyu worked as an aide on the staff of Shizhong, who received promotions and increasing responsibilities. Whether on official postings or campaigns, Hongyu and Shizhong traveled everywhere together. Most of the territories assigned to the jurisdiction of Shizhong's forces included land and naval contingents. Hongyu took an interest in coordinating the two elements and her military doctrine developed.


Illustration of Song cavalry Guards Battalion deployed with banners (left) from the Wujing Zongyao (武經總要, "Complete Essentials for the Military Classics"), a Northern Song military compendium written from about 1040 to 1044. Concept art of Song cavalry deploying for combat amid infantry support (right).

Hongyu developed a squadron-level system of communication through the employment of battlefield banners and drums. Though banners and drums had been a part of Chinese military practices since at least 2000 BC, Hongyu created a specific set of signals. The signals enabled Shizhong's soldiers and sailors to carry out complex movements even during combat, to organize parallel land-sea attacks, and time different attacks for breaking up opposing forces.

Song Command Banner

Illustrations of Song Dynasty command banner (left) and a naval ensign of a lookout platform (right) atop a Song sailing war chuán (船, "boat; ship") or zhōu (舟, "vessel"). Illustrations from the Wujing Zongyao.

In 1125, Shizhong's concern about conflict with the Jurchen tribes materialized as the Jin–Song Wars erupted. In 1115, the Jurchens had revolted against their rulers, the Khitan-led Liao Dynasty (Traditional Chinese: 遼朝; pinyin: Liáo cháo; 916–1125 AD) or Khitan Empire (Khitan: Mos diau-d kitai huldʒi gur) that then reigned over the North China Plain, Manchuria, the Mongolian Plateau, and North Korea. Aguda (旻; 1068–1123), a Jurchen chieftain, led the Jurchen tribes and founded the Jin Dynasty. He adopted the word Jin (金; "gold") as the name for the new Jurchen empire. He borrowed the word from the Achuchu River (按出虎) in eastern Manchuria. The Achuchu River was the ancestral territory of the Jurchens and its name meant "Gold River" in the Jurchen tongue.

Jurchen nomads

Drawing of Jurchen nomad horsemen

Aguda took the title of Emperor Taizu of Jin (金太祖; r. 1115–1123) and allied with Emperor Huizong against the Liao. In return for Song aid, the Jurchen promised to hand over control of the Sixteen Prefectures of You and Ji (幽蓟十六州), a line of fortified cities and passes, in northern China that the Liao had controlled since 938. The quick defeat of the Liao by Jin forces and a number of Song defeats to the Liao made the Jin reluctant to cede the lost Chinese territory back to the Song, though.

Additionally, the corrupt and short-sighted Song court gave asylum early in 1123 to a Jin defector named Zhang Jue (張覺), who was the governor-general of Ping Prefecture (平州), modern Lulong County (卢龙县) in Hebei Province (河北省) on the coast of North China. Ping Prefecture was a key territory that lay on the border of the Song and Jin empires. Zhang Yue received a title and land from the Song court and Ping Prefecture was incorporated into Song territory. A small Jin army dispatched to retake Ping Prefecture was also defeated by Zhang Yue's troops.

The Song court later realized that harboring Zhang Yue would lead to war with the Jin. Zhang Yue was executed in the winter of 1123, but the Jin weren't dissuaded. In the fall of 1125, Emperor Taizong of Jin (金太宗; r. 1123–1135), the second Jin emperor, ordered an attack on the Song. Consequently, the Jurchen tribes laid siege to Bianjing and Taiyuan (太原市), the capital of Shanxi Province (山西省) in North China. This was the first of four major Jin invasions from 1125 to 1137.

As the Jurchen siege of Bianjing continued, Emperor Huizong abdicated to his eldest son, Emperor Qinzong of Song (宋欽宗; r. 1126–1127) and fled to the countryside. The siege ended when Emperor Qinzong agreed to a treaty in which a city was surrendered to the Jin and annual tribute would be paid. The retired emperor Huizong returned to the capital.

Soon after the Jin armies left Bianjing, though, Emperor Qinzong renounced the treaty and dispatched armies to repel the returning Jurchens. The Song troops were defeated and Bianjing fell to Jin siege in 1127 in the second Jin invasion. Bianjing was occupied by Jin troops in an event called the Jingkang Incident (靖康事變) as "Jingkang" was the era name of Emperor Qinzong.

Qinzong, Huizong, many other members of the Song imperial family, and numerous officials of the Song court were captured by Jin forces, ending the Northern Song Dynasty (Traditional Chinese: 北宋; pinyin: Běisòng; 960–1127). Qinzong and Huizong were demoted to the status of commoners and were deported to Huining Prefecture (會寧府) in Northeast China where they spent the rest of their lives as hostages to the Jin.

Emperor Gaozong of Song (宋高宗; r. 1127–1130, 1131–1162), the ninth son of Huizong and a younger half-brother of Qinzong, escaped to southern China, though. Gaozong was in Chizhou on a diplomatic mission when Bianjing was captured and his father and older brother were taken prisoner. Gaozong and other free members of the Song imperial family fled down the Grand Canal, or the Jing–Hang Grand Canal (京杭大運河). Hongyu and Shizhong were among over one million people, who took flight southward with the Song imperial family and court, forever separated from their ancestral lands in North China.

Hongyu and Shizhong

Illustration of Hongyu and Shizhong on northern bank of Huai River

Gaozong established the Southern Song Dynasty (Traditional Chinese: 南宋; pinyin: Nánsòng; 1127–1279) in Jiankang (建康), modern Nanjing (南京市), the capital of Jiangsu Province. It would be the first of many temporary capitals for the Southern Song. It would not be until 1138 when Gaozong would declare the official capital of the Southern Song to be Lin'an (臨安), modern-day Hangzhou (杭州市), Zhejiang.

Emperor Gaozong

Illustration of Song emperor at court

The flat Central Plains, or the Zhongyuan (Traditional Chinese: 中原; pinyin: Zhōngyuán), which lay between the lower and middle reaches of the Yellow River or Huáng hé (黃河), had allowed the Jin to dominate North China with their massed heavy cavalry. By contrast, South China was a tangle of irregular hills, rough mountains, and a network of interlocked rivers and canals. It had long acted as a barrier against invading armies from the north and a rally point of resistance for southern defenders.

Emperor Gaozong and his new government bolstered the economy of South China with substantial shipbuilding and harbor improvement projects as well as the building of beacons and seaport warehouses at major seaports to support international trade. Gaozong also established China's first permanent navy and appointed able military generals like Han Shizhong and Yue Fei (岳飛; 1103–1142) to command the armies.

Yue Fei became friends with Hongyu and Shizhong and a nemesis to the soldiers of Jin, who came to fear him. Among the Jurchens, it was widely said: "It is easy to move the mountain, but hard to defeat troops of General Yue" (撼山易, 撼岳家军难). Yue Fei also developed a style of Yuejiaquan (Traditional Chinese: 岳家拳; pinyin: Yuèjiā quán; lit. "Yue Family Fist") that he taught to his soldiers. It combines internal and external theory and techniques or applications. It is centered on primarily battlefield-oriented attacks. The art developed by Yue Fei later helped to give rise to the internal style of Xing Yi Quan (Traditional Chinese: 形意拳; pinyin: Xìng Yì Quán; lit. "Shape-Will Fist" or "Form-Intention Fist") during the 18th century. The style of Yue Fei is distinct from the system of Yuejiaquan developed at the Shaolin Temple (少林寺) in Henan Province. Han Shizhong, Yue Fei, and other generals were seen as patriots and folk heroes in China for their service in turning back the advances of the Jurchens.

In 1129, Han Shizhong was stationed on the frontline against the Jurchens in Xiu Prefecture (秀州), centered on the present-day prefectural city of Jiaxing (嘉兴市), Zhejiang. Hongyu and their son were then residing in Jiankang when the Palace Guards mutinied. The mutiny was led by two officers, Miao Fu (苗傅) and Liu Zhengyan (劉正彥), who were dissatisfied that Wang Yuan, the old commander of Han Shizhong, had been appointed as Commander-in-Chief of the Imperial Defense Command by Gaozong. The Palace Guards were also mainly made up of officers and soldiers whose home areas in North China were occupied by the Jin. They appealed many times to Gaozong to consent to a counterattack that would free their ancestral lands. But Gaozong, who was content to be emperor and to maintain the integrity of the Southern Song realm in the face of repeated attacks by numerically superior Jin forces, turned a deaf ear to their pleas and thereby incurred much disaffection.

Miao Fu and Liu Zhengyan took advantage of the discontent of the Palace Guards and organized over ten thousand men under the claim that Yuan and the court eunuchs were plotting against the emperor. The two officers launched a palace coup on March 26, 1129. They massacred all the palace eunuchs and murdered Wang Yuan. They also compelled Gaozong to abdicate in favor of his two-year-old son Zhao Fu (趙旉) and placed Gaozong under house arrest.

Hongyu and her young son were held hostage with Gaozong and the rest of the court. Hongyu conspired with Zhu Shengfei (朱勝非; 1082–1144), the Grand Chancellor or Prime Minister (Zǎixiàng 宰相), and Empress Dowager Longyu (Lóngyù tàihòu 隆裕太后), the Queen Mother, to overturn the mutiny and restore Gaozong to the throne, though.

Zhu Shengfei and the Queen Mother negotiated with the mutineers to stall for time, pretending to agree to their demands. Hongyu approached the rebel leaders as well. She told them that she could persuade her husband to surrender to their regime and add his army to their forces, which would help further their cause.

Miao Fu and Liu Zhengyan agreed to release Hongyu so that she could go to Han Shizhong and appeal to him to join their ranks. Hongyu departed Jiankang on horseback, secretly carrying her son on her back. She reached Xiu Prefecture after a day and a half of galloping.

Hongyu told her husband of the mutiny and the disposition of the rebel forces in Jiankang. Shizhong marched on Jiankang with his troops. Hongyu and their son accompanied him. Shizhong ended the mutiny on April 20, 1129, less than a month after it broke out. Gaozong was restored to the throne and the rebel leaders were executed for treason.

Shizhong was promoted to "General of the Left Flank of the Imperial Army" (Traditional Chinese: 帝國軍左翼將軍; pinyin: Dìguó jūn zuǒyì jiāngjūn). He became the most powerful general of Gaozong's court.

Hongyu was specially honored. She was rewarded with the title of "Noble Lady of Hu Guo" (Traditional Chinese: 護國夫人; pinyin: Hù guó fūrén; lit. "Lady Protector of the Country"). She was also enfeoffed with the fiefdom of Yang in South China and given the noble rank of "Noble Lady of Yang" (Traditional Chinese: 杨国夫人; pinyin: Yáng guó fūrén; lit. "Lady of Yang State"). Through the fengjian (封建) system of ancient China, the ruler would allocate an area of land to a noble, establishing him or her as the ruler of that region and allowing his or her title and fief to be inherited by his or her descendants. Hongyu was thus made a marquise, or zhūhóu (諸侯, "all marquise"), the ruler of a zhūhóu guó (諸侯國, "feudal vassal state"). Her rank of marquise was the second of the five orders of ancient Chinese nobility, below only that of duke. She held her titles and enfeoffment in her own right, independent of her husband's titles and holdings, which was unique in imperial China since Chinese noblewomen normally obtained their status through their husbands. The nature of Hongyu's honors harkened back to the ancient days of Fu Hao (婦好; died c. 1200 BC) of the Shang Dynasty (Traditional Chinese: 商朝; pinyin: Shāngcháo; c. 1600 BC–c. 1046 BC), who was a general and landholder in her own right.

Third Jin Invasion of Song

Southern route of Jin army-navy on third invasion of Song China from the heartland of the conquered Northern Song Dynasty in the basin of the Huai River (lightly shaded territory). The Jin invasion force journeyed past Lake Hongze and Lake Gaoyu on the Huai River. At the confluence of the Yangtze and Huai Rivers, the Jin invasion force turned westward to attack the then Southern Song capital of Jiankang (modern Nanjing).


Illustration of Jin Iron Pagoda Horseman (left) and painting of mounted Iron Pagoda horsemen in formation (right).

Shortly after the mutiny was ended, though, the Jin launched their third invasion and advanced once again beyond the Huai River in the early winter of 1129. They launched another mighty invasion of South China with an army of over 100,000 men. The force was led by Wuzhu (烏珠; ?–1148), the fourth son of Emperor Taizu and one of the leading marshals of the Jurchen, who helped establish the Jin Dynasty and conquer the Northern Song Dynasty. The elite unit of the Jurchens was the "Iron Pagoda Horsemen" (铁浮图) or "Iron Buddha Cavalry" (铁浮屠), heavy cavalry in which both the horsemen and their horse mounts wore thick lamellar armor. The Jurchen heavy cavalry was essential in many victories for the Jin Dynasty. The Jin army was also accompanied by a fleet composed of hundreds of vessels that were built by Song slaves and prisoners of war. This great army and fleet were to be the death blow of the Jin against the Southern Song.


Illustration of Jin army in column formation (left) and in wedge formation (right).

The joint Jin army and fleet swarmed down the Yangtze River. It plundered every major city unchallenged. In early 1130, the Jin invasion force set its sights on the then Song capital of Jiankang.

Rocket Arrows

Oldest known illustration of huǒjiàn (rocket arrows) from Huolongjing (火龍經, "Fire Dragon Manual"), a Chinese military treatise compiled during the early Ming Dynasty (Traditional Chinese: 明朝; pinyin: Míng Cháo; 1368–1644) in the 14th century. The rightmost drawing is titled "fire arrow." The middle drawing is titled "arrow frame in the shape of a dragon." The leftmost is titled "complete fire arrow."


Illustrations of manual huǒjiàn (fire arrow) (left) and huǒ qiāng (fire lance) (right) from Huolongjing.


Illustration of pili huoqiu bombs from Wujing Zongyao (left) and huǒ qiāng fire lance (right) from Huolongjing.


Illustrations of Song gunpowder weapons: Chángshé (長蛇, "long serpent") fire arrow rocket launcher with 32 medium small poisoned rocket arrows (left) from Ming Dynasty military book Wubei Zhi (武備志, "Military Preparation Records") written in 1621; Huolóngchushui (火龙出水, "Fire dragon rising out of the water") multistage rocket from Huolongjing; stationary Huǒchē (火車, "fire cart") fire arrow (rocket arrow) launcher from Huolongjing.

To counter the ironclad horsemen of the Jin, Shizhong and Hongyu raised corps of crossbowmen with great oblong-shaped shields large enough to cover their bodies, formations of pikemen equipped to hold off enemy cavalry, and units of soldiers wielding large two-handed anti-cavalry swords. They also trained troopers outfitted with various gunpowder weapons. The firearms included fire lances or huǒ qiāng (火槍, "fire spear"), polearm weapons with attached small pyrotechnic devices; gunpowder propelled fire arrows, huǒjiàn (火箭, "fire arrow" or "rocket arrow") or huǒpào (火炮, "fire cannon" or "artillery"); and exploding fire arrows or tiě huǒpào (鐵火炮, "iron fire cannon" or "iron artillery"). Their troops were also equipped with explosive devices like the fēngchén pào (風塵砲, "wind-and-dust bomb"), a pot with a tube of gunpowder that was hurled at opponents, and a fragmentation bomb called the làn gǔ huǒ yóu shén pào (爛骨火油神砲, "bone-burning and bruising fire-oil magic bomb") that scattered caustically coated iron pellets upon detonation.

Wind and Dust Bomb

Illustration of fēngchén pào from Huolongjing.

Fragmentation Bomb

Illustration of làn gǔ huǒ yóu shén pào from Huolongjing. Its cast iron casing held iron pellets covered with urine, feces, scallion juice (a skin irritant derived from young onion juice), tung oil (an eye and respiratory irritant), and salammoniac powder (ammonium chloride derivative that causes skin and respiratory tract irritation). A gunpowder stick lies in the middle. The black dots depict iron pellets.

Additionally, Shizhong and Hongyu commissioned the building of a new design of jūnjiàn (軍艦, "warship") called "Tiger Ships" or Hǔ jiàn (虎舰). The ships were fortified to be floating fortresses and outfitted with paddle wheels or shuǐchē (水車, "water-wheel") on either side to enable them to sail in either bad or windless weather and maneuver against water currents. The Tiger Ships poured out jets of fire from their prows with a refined oil called měng huǒ yóu (猛火油, "fierce-fire oil") with flamethrowers named pēnhuǒ qì (噴火器, "spray fire device") or měng huǒ yóu guì (猛火油櫃, "fierce-fire oil cabinet"). Unlike early flamethrowers made elsewhere in the world, the Song design was able to shoot a continuous fire streak without pausing to recharge. The Song device featured a bent "U" shaped double pump design that allowed the flamethrower to charge itself on one side while the other side fired, allowing it to maintain fire as long as its měng huǒ yóu supply was maintained. The Tiger Ships could also launch bombs or zhèntiānléi (震天雷, "thunder crash bombs") with mangonels or traction trebuchets called pào (砲, "cannon"). A type of bomb that Song ships fired was the pīlì huǒqiú (霹靂火球, "thunderbolt fireballs") or pīlì huǒpào (霹靂火砲, "thunderbolt artillery"), an explosive device that produced blinding smoke upon impact and used a gunpowder mixture that contained lime powder that was caustic to all within range.

Song warship

Song four-deck low chuán (ship) or jūnjiàn (warship) armed with counterweight pào (trebuchet), circa 1272.

Song Chechuan

Modern reconstruction of Song naval shuǐchē chuán ("water-wheel boat") or qianli chuan ("thousand league boat") of 12th century, propelled by muscle power.


Illustrations of Song pēnhuǒ qì or měng huǒ yóu guì flamethrower (left) and pīlì huǒqiú bombs (right) with mixtures of gunpowder and lime from Wujing Zongyao.

By March 1130, Shizhong and Hongyu had gathered a defense force. It numbered a mere 8,000 men and 150 ships, though. With the fate of the Southern Song Dynasty in their hands and their army and fleet at a gross disadvantage in numbers and materiel, they led their forces to Jiankang to oppose the Jin during the night of the Lantern Festival (Traditional Chinese: 元宵節; pinyin: Yuánxiāo jié), also called the Shangyuan Festival (Traditional Chinese: 上元節; pinyin: Shàngyuán jié), a traditional celebration held on the fifteenth day of the first month in the lunisolar Chinese calendar.

The Song army was encamped near Jiaoshan Temple (焦山寺). The Song fleet was deployed in a semicircle formation to await the Jin warships.

Shizhong and Hongyu placed their forces in a strategically advantageous D-shaped inlet of the Yangtze River located north of Jiankang called the Huangtiangdang Bulge (黄天荡, "Yellow Sky Bend" or "Yellow Sky Bulge") where the river flow became so erratic it seemed to reverse itself during certain times of day.

The couple calculated that the inexperienced Jin sailors would have difficulty sailing against the downflow of the ocean-going Yangtze. The twists and turns of the river by the shores of Jiankang and the Huangtiandang Bulge would slow the progress of the Jin fleet. Additionally, the Jin warships would become crowded together and be unable to maneuver as they entered the waters near the capital.

Shizhong and Hongyu spent a sleepless night developing a strategy for the upcoming Battle of Huangtiandang (黃天蕩之戰). Hongyu is recorded as saying to her husband:

"We cannot win if we fight them head on. How about dividing our troops into three divisions and ambush the enemy from all directions? Let me command near the center to frighten them. When they come, we will first use our guns, arrows, and catapults so that we can destroy them without them coming close to us. Then, surely the Jin army will try to break my encirclement from the flanks. At that time, you should lead the other two divisions to attack their new flanks according to the signals I give you. I will be in my boat among the middle troops. I will beat the drum and wave the flag. When I beat the drum, your men will move forward. When I stop, your men will stop and take their positions. When I point my flag to the west, you lead them to the west. When I point my flag to the east, your men will charge in the east."

Song Tiger Ship

Illustration of Song Hǔ jiàn ("Tiger Ship") outfitted with pēnhuǒ qì ("spray fire device") or měng huǒ yóu guì ("fierce-fire oil cabinet") flamethrower.

Hongyu and Shizhong reckoned on the following advantages for their flotilla against the Jin ships: the Song fleet included ocean-going ships with higher decks that allowed their marines to shoot downward upon boarding parties; the paddle ships, shuǐchē chuán (水車船, "water-wheel boat") or or qiānlǐchuán (千里船; pinyin, "thousand league boat"), within their fleet could maneuver the difficult currents of the waters near the Bulge; and the newly built Tiger Ships would provide a great surprise and tactical advantage against the numerically superior Jin.

Song water-wheel boat 1

Song water wheel boat 2

Illustrations of Song Song naval shuǐchē chuán ("water-wheel boat") or qianli chuan ("thousand league boat").

At predawn of April 24, Hongyu set off in command of the Song ships, which she ordered to trail the Jin fleet. Her ships stole behind the flanks of the Jin armada as the latter navigated upward along the waters of the Yangtze with which it was unfamiliar. Hongyu observed as the Jin ships struggled to sail onward and became packed in a crowded flow. When the bulk of the enemy vessels neared the shores of Jiankang and the Bulge and became caught up in the treacherous waters thereabouts, Hongyu ordered her fleet to close in.

Liang Hongyu Fleet

Night scene from "Red Cliff" film.

Hongyu's ships positioned themselves in thin lines behind the Jin armada. Before the Jin sailors and marines realized what was happening, the Song fleet opened the battle with a general bombardment. Bombs of various types came crashing down among the Jin vessels: clay pots that burst and sent out a hail of iron darts; sizzling fragmentation explosives that shredded armor; and others that deposited lime dust among the Jin crews which left them coughing and sneezing with pain.

Liang Hongyu Rocket Attack

Concept art of naval Battle of Red Cliffs (Chìbì zhī zhàn 赤壁之戰) in winter of 208–209 AD that marked the end of the Han Dynasty.

The shriek of thousands of rockets came next. The whole Yangtze River was illuminated as a storm of fire arrows twisted through the air, many even turned back on the Song ships, and careened among the vessels and exploded with tremendous bursts. The Jin had heretofore dismissed rockets as ineffective since they flew uncontrolled before exploding, but the rockets served to send the Jin crews scrambling for cover and marked the locations of specific Jin vessels for the advancing Tiger Ships.

Jin Fleet Burning

Red Cliffs battle

Concept art of Red Cliffs naval battle.

Within seconds, an entire flank of the Jin armada was aflame as the Tiger Ships spouted gouts of měng huǒ yóu among the enemy vessels. The refined fierce-fire oil of the Song spread like a blazing plague, sticking to all it contacted and burning everything. When doused with water, it only blazed harder and brighter. Thousands of Jurchen sailors and marines jumped into the Yangtze River but found themselves burned in floating pyres.

Water Battle

Water Battle 2

Concept art of Red Cliffs naval battle.

At what Hongyu judged to be the propitious moment, she beat the command to advance from the drum on her command ship. The signal was picked up by drummers on the towers of each Song warship and passed across the river waters. Rowers on the Song ships increased their pace and marine officers inspected their men who readied themselves for battle.

Ship Boarding

Ship boarding scene from "Red Cliff" film.

As dawn arrived, boarding hooks were swung from the Song ships to target vessels and the fight between the crews broke out. Panic erupted on the Jin warships that had not been sunk and were not yet boarded. Many such ships positioned themselves in a large shield ring of ships against attacks from all directions. The defensive ship formation lopped across the Huangtiandang and reached the shores of Jiankang. The Jin vessels spaced themselves far enough apart to avoid being collectively set afire by the Tiger Ships. In protecting themselves thusly, they sacrificed their mobility, though.

Water Battle

Red Cliff Concept

Concept art of Red Cliffs naval battle.

Red Cliff Battle

Ship battle scene from "Red Cliff" film.

Huantiandang Bulge

Battle of Huangtiandang (黃天蕩之戰): Yellow lines mark Jin fleet maneuvers and preliminary landing deployments before the Song capital of Jiankang (modern Nanjing). The attack of Liang Hongyu's fleet forced the Jin armada to settle into a protective shield ring formation that looped over the Huangtiandang Bulge and reached the shores of Jiankang. Red lines portray the ambush of Hongyu's fleet and Shizhong's cavalry from their covert staging areas.

Battle of Huantiandang

Above map further details the Yangtze River and the waterways of the Huangtiandang Bulge. The Jin (gold lines) and Song (red lines) forces maneuver about the endangered capital of Jiankang (modern Nanking), which lies southwest below the Bulge. Post battle analysis illustrates the sophistication of Hongyu's joint navy-army forces doctrine and her utilization of the technical and tactical advantages of the ships of the numerically inferior Song fleet to neutralize or minimize the dangers of the Bulge's hazardous water currents.

As the Jin armada faced Hongyu's naval assault, Wuzhu ordered an all out amphibious attack upon Jiankang before his hundreds of densely packed troop ships could be destroyed. Wuzhu apparently planned to take the Song capital and fortify it while waiting for Jin reinforcements to break the Song encompassment of his army and navy.

Landing scene

Landing scene from "Red Cliff" film.

Siege scene

Siege scene from "Red Cliff" film.

The troop ships tangled among themselves as they approached the shores of Jiankang. Motion sick men and horses struggled to unload from rocking and poorly anchored transports before the Song capital. They formed ranks while under the fire of arrows and crossbow bolts from the city fortifications. The Jin troops awaited the command of Wuzhu, but instead they heard the drum signal of Hongyu from the center of the water battle, beating more rapidly with a more forceful rhythm and a more compact cadence than before. Hongyu's drumming unsettled the already dispirited Jin soldiers. Her drumming birthed the then popular expression: "Liang Hongyu beats the drum to move back the Gold (Jin) soldiers" (梁红玉鳴鼓退金兵).

Liang Hongyu Drumming

Concept art of Hongyu drumming at Huangtiangdang Bulge (黄天荡, "Yellow Sky Bend" or "Yellow Sky Bulge").

Without warning, Shizhong's elite cavalry charged from two fortified hillocks surrounding the suburbs of Jiankang. The Song horsemen thrust deep into the disorganized and widely spaced units of the wavering enemy. The Jin forces broke and ran.

Song Charge

Song Army Attack

Illustrations of Song army on the attack.

The Jin army fragmented into rabbles of fleeing men. Some Jin soldiers with greater courage fled while bearing their weapons and shields. They raised pockets of determined, but eventually vain resistance, including Wuzhu and many of his subordinates near a mountain temple, possibly Linggu Temple (Traditional Chinese: 靈谷寺; pinyin: Línggǔ Sì; lit. "Spirit Valley Temple") at the northeast foot of Purple Mountain or Zijin Shan (Traditional Chinese: 紫金山; pinyin: Zĭjīn Shān; lit. "Purple-Gold Mountain") on the eastern side of Jiankang. Thousands of Jin soldiers were cut down by the Song cavalry.

Horse duel

Illustration of Song cavalry man attacking an enemy foot soldier.

The slaying of the fleeing Jurchen troops led to a new Chinese saying at the time: "A hundred thousand foes lured to a trap, and it takes only eight thousand brave riders to cut them off" (萬敵兵來假道,八千驍騎截中流).

Wuzhu and a few surviving commanders barely managed to escape to the Jin fleet, which itself remained trapped. A small remnant of the Jin army reached the fleet as well. Over 50,000 Jin sailors, marines, and soldiers died that day. The surviving Jin fleet and soldiers remained trapped along the hook shaped strip of narrow shoreline along the northern end of the Bulge for the next two months.

Battle of Myeongnyang

Painting of naval Battle of Myeongnyang (Korean Hangul: 명량대첩) on October 26, 1597 in which outnumbered Korean Joseon Kingdom's navy defeated the invading Japanese navy off southwest corner of Korean peninsula.

The Jin and Song fleets maintained a stalemate for over a month as the Song blockaded both exits of the Huangtiandang Bulge and the Jin remained in its shield ring formation. The Song sailors crafted large iron hooks for dragging the rails of the lower decked Jin vessels. On May 20, the Jin flotilla attempted a breakout, but many Jin ships were sunk within a short period.

As the Jin fleet remained trapped, the situation on the Jin ships fell from bad to hellish for the Jin sailors and the soldiers who were onboard as well or on the western shore of the Bulge. The Jin ship crews and soldiery were steppe nomads with little to no experience on water, who were greatly demoralized. In addition to weathering trebuchet shots from Song ships and the land intended to sink Jin vessels, the amount of grain in the Jin fleet dwindled every day.

Wuzhu sent messengers offering to return all the loot captured by his forces in exchange for being allowed to return north. Shizhong and Hongyu rejected all entreaties, though, as they were intent on sending the Jin armada to the bottom of the Yangtze and to starve out the Jin before their reinforcements arrived.

They are said to have offered the reply:

"The properties you've looted are ours anyway and you should return them without condition. If you want to come out alive, give us back the land in the north of the Yangtze River you occupy!"

Nearing a breaking point, Wuzhu prevailed upon Song residents with his captured loot to assist his ships and troops to escape. Some locals revealed to Wuzhu that a nearby stream, the Guan River (灌江), ran parallel with the Yangtze and back to the Huai River in the Zhongyuan.

Wuzhu slowly maneuvered the Jin fleet on the Yangtze to where it ran closest to the Guan. Over the next few nights, diggers carved a canal of 97 li (30 miles, 48 kilometers) through the silt of the river bed. The canal was deep enough for the vessels of the remaining Jin flotilla, which were designed to be river-borne. The canal was too shallow for the ocean-going ships of the Song fleet, which required a deeper draft of water to float. For the breakout, Wuzhu readied a dozen of his smaller ships with gunpowder and kindling.

On the 48th day of the Song blockade, Wuzhu sent his demolition ships towards the Song fleet. As the Song sailors reacted to the demolition ships, troops on the Jin ships sent hails of fire arrows at the pursing Song vessels. The sails of many of the ships in the Song fleet caught fire and caused chaos among its numbers. With the Song ships distracted by the fierce fires that had broken out on their decks, the Jin fleet escaped from the larger Song ships down the narrow and shallow canal.

Wuzhu's navy and army were further harried by the forces of Yue Fei before finally returning to Jin territory. But a great victory had been won by Hongyu and Shizhong. Though the Jin would wage constant war for the next 20 years, their intended deathblow against the Southern Song had been parried thanks to Hongyu and Shizhong. Through the struggle, a border between the Southern Song and Jin emerged at the Huai and Yangtze Rivers. A sense of normalcy came to the Song people, as the Southern Song Dynasty entrenched itself in South China.

Song-Jin Border

In other legends or accounts, though, it is said that Shizhong went into a drunken stupor as he ordered the celebration of the repulse of a Jin breakout attempt. He danced with his sword and sang:

"The Yangtze, for all its water, cannot contain my ambition,
While talking leisurely about the palaces on earth and in heaven;
Leaning against the azure blue my sword Hang shining from the solar star,
While the dust of battle settling itself all around!
Having rolled up my sleeves towards the starry sky I fought hard,
And now the sound of battle is dying down...."

The Jin soon attempted to breakout again. Some Song locals were said to have suggested to Wuzhu that he coat his ships with dirt and attempt to escape once again on a windless day so that the sail dependent ships of the Song fleet would not be able to move and maneuver. Wuzhu would attack the Song ships with his own rocket arrows and set afire straw mats placed on the defending warships to keep off wind. The Song fleet would be distracted at the least if not destroyed. Wuzhu employed the tactic while Shizhong was still in a drunken stupor, and the Jin forces finally broke through the blockade.

As these accounts go, Hongyu went to Lin'an, which was now the Song capital. She received an audience with Emperor Gaozong. First, she spoke as an officer, acknowledging that Shizhong had committed a capital crime by letting the Jin escape and that he should be subjected to punishment as the law of the army demanded. Then she spoke as co-contributor to the escape of the Jin and as a faithful wife and the mother of Shizhong's then seven-year old son, Han Liang, and she begged Gaozong for his forgiveness.

The emperor and court were impressed by Hongyu's act of placing righteousness above family loyalty.

Emperor Gaozong acknowledged the contributions of Shizong and stated he did not wish to punish Shizhong as the law dictated. He invited Shizhong to his court. The latter arrived with his son Han Liang. In an effort to lighten the mood of the meeting, Gaozong asked how the boy was progressing with his calligraphy studies. Liang pleased the emperor by producing the Hanzi characters for the statement: "Long Live China!"

Gaozong offered much comfort and praise to Shizhong and Hongyu. He ordered Shizhong to return north to attack the Jurchens and atone for his failure.

Liang Hongyu

Painting of Liang Hongyu

In 1135, Shizhong was appointed as the provincial governor or jiédù shǐ (節度使) of Wuning County (武寧縣) in Jiangxi Province and Anhua County (安化縣) in neighboring Hunan Province (湖南省) in South Central China. He was given the title of Wǔ níng ān huà jūn jiédù shǐ (武寧安化軍節度使; "Wuning Anhua Army Military Governor Envoy"). He and Hongyu reconstructed the principal fortress of Chuzhou (滁州), a prefecture-level city in eastern Anhui Province. They improved its defenses by having a new, stronger city wall raised beyond the existing one. They and their army also helped to rebuild the homes and plant the fields of the local people.

In 1136, Shizhong was commissioned to govern and defend the besieged city of Huai'an (淮安市), a prefecture-level municipality in central Jiangsu Province. The area had been devastated by years of war and the locals were short on food and shelter.

Hongyu and Shizhong shared the hardships of the local people and their soldiers. Hongyu is credited with teaching the people how to build cottages with roofs made from reeds. She also observed horses eating the roots of a local cattail plant then called pú er cài (蒲儿菜). She tasted the shoots of the plant and found it to be edible, whether raw or cooked. She convinced the residents and soldiers to eat the cattail plant in order to continue holding out during the Jin attack.

Huai'an continued to hold out for months until the attacking Jin army withdrew. The people of Huai'an then coined the saying: "Even with only 30,000 soldiers, the Jin army dares not to challenge" (即使只有三萬士兵,晉軍也不敢挑戰).

Hongyu is believed to have started the custom of Huai'an residents to eat cattail root, which is still a local specialty. The plant was renamed as kàng jīn cài (抗金菜, "Anti-Jin Vegetable").

Liang Hongyu

Painting of Liang Hongyu

Hongyu is recorded to have led many victorious campaigns against the Jin in her own right. She scarcely suffered a defeat and became feared among the Jurchens, who often fled when her banner appeared on the field of battle.

Liang Hongyu

Oil Painting "Liang Hongyu Beats the Drum to Fight the Golden Soldier" (painted by Qiu Guangping)

There are several versions of Hongyu's death and the year it occurred, whether in 1131 or 1135. In many accounts, Hongyu died in battle against the Jin. In these records, the Jurchens placed a great bounty on her head and planned a trap to ensnare her. On October 6, 1135, Hongyu led a raid on a seemingly vulnerable Jurchen supply caravan with a small force of elite cavalry.

Instead, Hongyu had ridden into an ambush. A special Jin force that outnumbered her unit by 10 to 1 surrounded Hongyu and her horse troopers. The Jin force included a contingent of fearsome Iron Pagoda infantry and cavalry.

Hongyu led a charge into the weakest point of the Jurchen encirclement. But the Jurchens concentrated archers, who targeted her specifically. Volleys of arrows pierced her body, soaking her armor in blood. However, she led her men through the Jurchen snare. Hongyu cut down dozens of attackers before she finally lost strength and fell from her mount and was slain.

The Jin soldiers then fought and killed one another to take possession of her corpse and claim the bounty on her head. Her body was subsequently cut into many pieces by competing Jurchens. The soldier who turned in Hongyu's head received a two-rank promotion. Other soldiers who claimed her limbs and torso received one-rank promotions.

Jurchen siege

Concept art of Song soldiers defending against a Jurchen city siege.

Hongyu's death was treated as a great victory by the Jin. Her exposed torso, arms, legs, and thighs were impaled on spears to showcase them in occupied Song cities on the frontline to dishearten resistance. Her head was salted and spiced, then rushed north in a wooden box to Emperor Xizong of Jin (金熙宗; r. 1119–1150), the third Jurchen ruler, in the former Liao capital of Yangjing (燕京), the modern-day Chinese capital city of Beijing (北京市). Xizong ordered that Hongyu's head be publicly hung on the front gate of the capital as a trophy.

Hongyu's ability, skill, courage, loyalty, and patriotism to the Song had won the respect of her arch-rival Prince Wuzhu, though. After three days of display, he ordered that her remains minus her head be gathered and stitched back together. When Hongyu's headless body was sewn together, hundreds of wounds were found with seven wounds being fatal. These seven wounds were all inflicted on the front of her corpse, which was returned to a Song army for proper burial.

Emperor Gaozong bestowed upon Hongyu the honorary title of "The Heroic and Valiant Lady of Yang" (英烈杨国夫人). She was buried at a state funeral with the highest honors. Shizhong and Han Liang received silver and silk from Gaozong personally. The Liang Hongyu Temple (梁红玉祠) was raised in Chuzhou to memorialize Hongyu and honor her bravery. The temple still stands today. When Shizhong died in 1151, her headless remains were unearthed and relocated to Lingyan Mountain (靈巖山) by the city of Suzhou (苏州市) in Jiangsu Province to be buried with her husband.





Photos of the Liang Hongyu Temple (梁红玉祠) in Chuzhou.

An alternate account of Hongyu's death begins with Hongyu setting out on a northern expedition with Shizhong and Yue Fei to retake Bianjing. The city was being used by the Jin as their southern capital. However, Hongyu, Shizhong, and Yue Fei were ordered by the Grand Chancellor, Qin Hui (秦檜; 1090–1155), to call off their expedition on pain of death to their families residing in Lin'an.

Qin Hui was a court official during the Northern Song Dynasty who was captured by the Jin with Emperor Qinzong and retired Emperor Huizong in the Jingkang Incident. Qin Hui returned from captivity at the court of Emperor Gaozong with a dubious tale of a miraculous escape. But he quickly won Gaozong's favor and replaced Zhu Shengfei as the Grand Chancellor of the Southern Song Dynasty in 1131.

Qin Hui gained power as a pacifist and helped Gaozong to suppress officials who supported continuing the war with the Jin. Gaozong did not favor the retaking of Bianjing, which could lead to the release of his older half-brother Qinzong and thus threaten his claim to the throne.

Gaozong acquiesced with the framing of Yue Fei by Qin Hui and his accomplices on false charges of betraying the Southern Song. When Shizong questioned the arrest and imprisonment of Yue Fei, Qin Hui justified the charges on the basis of Mòxūyǒu (莫須有) which meant "groundless" or "baseless." The phrase entered the Chinese language as an expression for false charges. Qin Hui was later suspected to be a traitor and vilified through Chinese history.

Shizhong threw his helmet and sword, which were symbols of his authority as a general, at Qin Hui. He retired from the Song army. When Yue Fei was executed, he defied an imperial order to arrest Yue Fei's family and instead escorted the Yue family to safety. He departed with Hongyu and the rest of his family to a rural area near West Lake (西湖), a freshwater body by Lin'an. Shizhong and Hongyu led a reclusive life until her passing from sickness in 1135.

Liang Hongyu

Paired paintings of Liang Hongyu

This alternate legend places Hongyu's death during the events of the fourth Jin invasion of the Song, which was launched in 1137, though. The Jurchens who had lost many skilled veteran soldiers during the earlier invasions were routed after a few battles. Song forces under Yue Fei and Shizhong led a counterattack to retake all of North China. They were victorious in a string of battles, including the Battle of Yancheng (郾城之戰) in 1140 near Luohe (漯河市), a prefecture-level city in central Henan Province. The two generals were called off their campaign by Qin Hui in 1140.

The Jin–Song Wars continued to 1234. The conflict ended when the Southern Song allied with the rising Mongols in 1233. After the Jin were defeated, the Mongols went on to attack the Song themselves. The Mongols established the Yuan Dynasty (Traditional Chinese: 元朝; pinyin: Yuán Cháo; 1271–1368) in China, which was one khanate or tribal chiefdom within a greater empire that spanned almost all of Eurasia during the 13th and 14th centuries.

Hongyu and Shizhong

Bronze statue of Hongyu and Shizhong at Shanghai Martial Arts Museum.

Though the Song Dynasty ultimately fell, Hongyu's contributions with those of her husband Shizhong and other patriots of China came at a critical time that allowed the Southern Song Dynasty to continue when it faced extinction at the hands of the foreign Jin Dynasty. Hongyu is remembered as one of the most well-known and revered women warriors in China.

Liang Hongyu

Painting of Liang Hongyu

Liang Hongyu is an integral part of China's tradition of female martial artists. Men and women can learn the practical techniques and culture of the monks and nuns of the Shaolin Temple in martial arts classes offered by the Michigan Shaolin Wugong Temple.


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