Born in 600 A.D., in Taiyuan, China, Pingyang was the third daughter of Li Yuan, an influential Sui Dynasty military commander. During Pingyang’s young life Yangdi, a harsh and unfair ruler, was the emperor of China. As a teenager Pingyang married Chai Shao, the leader of the palace guard. The couple lived in the capital city of Chang’an, where they had two sons.

Young woman leading army
Princess Pingyang. Image: Sheroes of History.

In 617, as dislike of the emperor grew Li Yuan led a rebellion to free the empire from Yangdi’s rule. Pingyang escaped to her family’s estate, while Chai Shao left Pingyang to join Li Yuan’s rebel army. At the estate Pingyang used her family’s money to feed the starving people in the villages around the estate. Quickly, her kindness and compassion the loyalty of the villagers. Soon thereafter those who were able to fight formed an army under her command. As they moved throughout the country, Pingyang’s kindness, compassion, and strength convinced others to join her army. At its largest Pingyang commanded an army of 70,000 troops, but she had strict rules for her soldiers to follow. While Yangdi’s army often looted, pillaged, and raped, Pingyang’s army distributed food to the hungry. Their reputation as liberators spread across the country and Pingyang’s army won the affection and loyalty of many. In the final battle for Chang’an, Pingyang joined her husband and father to defeat the last Sui Dynasty stronghold. Li Yuan became the new emperor of the Tang Dynasty and he gave Pingyang the well-deserved titles of Princess and Zhao (very wise and virtuous).

Although she passed away a few years later at the age of 23 Pingyang is remembered as a kind, compassionate, and strong leader. She was given a formal military funeral with a band, which was not allowed for women at that time, for her role in defeating the Sui Dynasty. Princess Pingyang was a remarkable person, despite her young age and gender she ruled 70,000 troops in 617 A.D.. Instead of acting like other military leaders had, Princess Pingyang was a liberator, who gave back to communities. Her kindness, compassion, and strength should serve as a role model for us all.

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