Liang Hongyu

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Liang Hongyu
Traditional Chinese梁紅玉
Simplified Chinese梁红玉

Liang Hongyu was a Chinese general of the Song Dynasty.[1] She became famous during the Jin–Song wars against the Jurchen-led Jin Dynasty. Her real given name was lost in time. She was simply referenced in the official Chinese history books as "Lady Liang" (梁氏). Historical details of Liang's life are sketchy,[2] but she was known to be the wife of Han Shizhong, a Song general known for resisting invaders from the Jin Dynasty together with Yue Fei and others, and to have commanded troops at the Battle of Huangtiandang using drums to coordinate the Song forces.

Since her death, several legendary tales have emerged of her life and exploits. These tales give her the name "Hongyu" (红玉), meaning "Red Jade".[3]

Historical Liang Hongyu[edit]

There are scant details of the historical Liang Hongyu. Her birthday and birthplace are unknown, although some sources she was born in 1102 in what is today's Anhui Province. Her early life is unknown. She was a Gējì, good at singing, dancing and painting. Liang Hongyu is also good at playing musical instruments and calligraphy.[4][5]She met Han Shizong in 1121 while performing. They married and had at least one child.[6]

Han Shizong was a general commanding Song troops against the Jin Dynasty, and Liang accompanied her husband on these campaigns. She is known to have participated at the Battle of Huangtiandang, where her use of flags and drums as signals led to a Song victory. When Han Shizong resigned after the execution of Yue Fei, Liang followed her husband into retirement.[2]

Legendary Liang Hongyu[edit]

Later legends about Liang significantly fleshed out details of her life and exploits. Liang's father was an army commander at the frontier, from where the Song Dynasty was increasingly threatened by the Jurchen-ruled Jin Dynasty. He taught her martial skills.[7]: 275  Liang's feet were not bound.[8]: 273  She was a master of martial arts. Several accounts stated she was a woman with incredible strength and was a master of archery.

At a certain point in her career, she met her husband, Han Shizhong, though accounts differ on exactly how they met. The most believable version is that she met Han at a banquet where she was entertaining the troops that Han led. Han had led his men in crushing a rebellion in southern China, and Han had personally arrested the rebel leader, Fang La. However, his superior stole his credit, much to Han's displeasure. Liang knew the truth and admired Han's victory. She saved enough money to pay her own redemption from slavery. After she was free, she became Han's second wife.

The Jurchens soon started the total invasion of the Song Dynasty. Han formed an army to fight the Jurchens and Liang worked as a general in her husband's army.

Battle of Huangtiandang[edit]

When the Jurchens once more invaded and attacked Hangzhou in 1129, shortly after the coup had been crushed, Liang and her husband led their forces to ambush the enemy army on their way back to Jin territory. Their troops were outnumbered and the Battle of Huangtiandang commenced. This was a series of naval battles fought on the Yangtze River. Liang made a plan by which she would direct the soldiers with her drums. When the battle started, the Song troops were pushed back by Jurchen troops due to superior numbers on the Jurchen side. With great courage, Liang threw her helmet and armour, beating the drums and led the charge into the enemy formation. This became the turning point of the battle. Chinese "Tiger Ships", which could spew fire with flame throwers, destroyed many Jin ships while Liang directed them with her drumming. The Jurchens were trapped for more than a month, before a traitor revealed a weakness in the Chinese encirclement and they escaped, but with heavy losses.

Later life[edit]

In 1135 Han was appointed jiedushi of Wuning Anhua (武寧安化軍節度使). Liang and her husband rebuilt the fortress of Chuzhou and increased its defence. They and their soldiers also worked on the rebuilding of houses and the planting of fields.[8]: 275 

In 1136, Han Shizhong was awarded the title of Jiedu envoy of Wuning and Anhua towns and Xuanfu disposal envoy of Jingdong and Huaidong roads, and opened an official office in Chuzhou. Liang Hongyu followed her husband out of Chuzhou, and Han Shizhong "draped himself on grass and set up a military mansion" and shared the joys and sorrows with the soldiers. His wife Liang Hongyu also personally "weaved thin sheets into the house".[9]

After Liang Hongyu's death, she was given the title of Mrs. Binguo(邠国夫人) by the court. The posthumous article lamented that Liang Hongyu and Han Shizhong "eventually grew old hand in hand even after becoming rich".[10]The exact time of Liang Hongyu's death is unknown, but it is generally believed that she died in 1153.[11][12][13]


Poetry was written in her honour, which contributed to her fame.

Together with Qin Liangyu, He Yufeng, and the legendary Hua Mulan, she is one of the most well-known female warriors in China.[14]: 87 


  1. ^ Edwards (2021-09-13). Men and Women in Qing China: Gender in The Red Chamber Dream. BRILL. ISBN 978-90-04-48271-5.
  2. ^ a b "Liang Hongyu". Retrieved 15 March 2023.
  3. ^ Lee, Lily Xiao Hong; Wiles, Sue (2015-01-28). Biographical Dictionary of Chinese Women, Volume II: Tang Through Ming 618 - 1644. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-317-51562-3.
  4. ^ 明·张四维《双烈记》第三出:小字红玉。真个是莲脸星眸。蛾眉蝉鬓。窈窕身躯。温柔情性。最善吹弹歌舞。更精翰墨丹青。一时豪贵英贤争赏。无论京都远近驰名。只是我那女儿别是一般行径。全非门户心情。不肯迎人接客。只愿裙布荆钗。咳。却是怎了。身边又无三个两个。并无别样营生。
  5. ^ "姜白石合肥行踪".
  6. ^ 罗大经《鹤林玉露》中《丙篇 卷二》:“韩蕲王之夫人,京口娼也。尝五更入府,伺候贺朔。忽于庙柱下见一虎蹲卧,鼻息齁齁然,惊骇亟走出,不敢言。已而人至者众,往复视之,乃一卒也。因蹴之起, 问其姓名,为韩世忠。心异之,密告其母,谓此卒定非凡人。乃邀至其家,具酒食,至夜尽欢,深相结纳,资以金帛,约为夫妇。蕲王后立殊功,为中兴名将,遂封两国夫人。蕲王尝邀兀术于黄天荡,几成擒矣。一夕,凿河遁去。夫人奏疏言世忠失机纵敌,乞加罪责。举朝为之动色,其明智英伟如此。”
  7. ^ Kang-i Sun Chang; Haun Saussy, eds. (2000). Women Writers of Traditional China: An Anthology of Poetry and Criticism. Stanford University Press. ISBN 978-0804732314.
  8. ^ a b Barbara Bennet Peterson; He Hong Fei; Wang Jiyu; Han Tie; Zhang Guangyu, eds. (2000). Notable Women of China: Shang Dynasty to the Early Twentieth Century. M E Sharpe. ISBN 978-0765605047.
  9. ^ 《宋史》卷364《韩世忠传》:(绍兴)六年,授武宁安化军节度使、京东淮东路宣抚处置使,置司楚州。世忠披草莱,立军府,与士同力役。夫人梁亲织薄为屋。将士有怯战者,世忠遗以巾帼,设乐大宴,俾妇人妆以耻之,故人人奋厉。抚集流散,通商惠工,山阳遂为重镇。刘豫兵数入寇,辄为世忠所败。
  10. ^ 张扩《东窗集》卷一二 《韩世忠故妻梁氏赠邠国夫人制》:朕荷天之庥,孝治丕隆,援敷厚泽,以惠多方,恩及闾门之中,礼抚存殁之间。具官故妻某氏:柔嘉而慈,恭顺常侧;警戒致笃于襄成,富贵莫终于偕老。属兹大赉、申赐愍章,易封于邠,永作尔宠。
  11. ^ "梁红玉:而今风浪金焦过,犹作夫人击鼓音".
  12. ^ "我国历史上唯一出身青楼的女将军".
  13. ^ "The rare "courtesan general" in the world".
  14. ^ Louise P Edwards (2001). Men and Women in Qing China: Gender in the Red Chamber Dream (Sinica Leidensia). University of Hawaii Press. ISBN 978-0824824686.