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Fu Hao — First Female General in the History of China and Wife of Four Kings

Lady Fu Hao (or Fu Zi) of the Shang Dynasty was the first documented female marshal in the history of China, and also the queen of King Wu Ding (? — 1192 BC). 

Among around 10,000 pieces of oracle bone inscriptions excavated in China, about 200 of them were about Lady Fu Hao (or Fu Zi).

Together with her husband King Wu Ding, they implemented and won the earliest ambush war in Chinese history; she also commanded and succeeded in the largest-scale war of that century. 

Inscriptions on Bones in regard to King Wu Ding’s Divination about his Empire

Unearthed Inscriptions on Bones in regard to King Wu Ding’s Divinations about his Empire — National Museum of China

Fu Hao was an honorable queen, and an exceptional marshal with outstanding military achievements; meanwhile, she was also a feudal lord with her fief and army and was in charge of the most saint worship ceremonies of the Empire Shang as an honorable priestess.

As a woman with paramount theocracy, and royal and military power, she also obtained great love from the king. 

Recently, her well-preserved tomb was discovered in Henan Province, which contained 1928 pieces of valuable and exquisite burial artifacts.

Those ancient oracle bone inscriptions and over 3000 years old cultural relics buried with her, together, are telling the world the story of this glorious marshal, queen, and priestess.

Unearthed Jade Objects from Tomb of Fu Hao — National Museum of China (Photo by Dongmaiying)

From A Teenage Queen to An Exceptional Marshal

Fu Hao was a high-born princess of a vassal state of the Shang Dynasty, very knowledgeable and well-educated. 

When she was newly married to her ambitious husband, King Wu Ding, a big war on their northern border lasted for a while.

She strongly recommended herself as the general of Shang’s army; at that time, she was still a teenage girl.

Seeing those assigned military generals couldn’t win this war for a long time, King Wu Ding then reluctantly sent his young and beautiful queen into the battlefield.

To everyone’s surprise, when their queen picked up her broad axes, she was quite a brave and genius marshal; their enemy was soon defeated, and the Shang Empire achieved huge success. 

Unearthed Bronze Axe (Tong Yue) from Fu Hao's Tomb of the Shang Dynasty

Unearthed Bronze Axe (Tong Yue) from Tomb of Fu Hao — National Museum of China (Photo by Dongmaiying)

Fu Hao's Exceptional Military Achievements

From that time on, Queen Fu Hao became a respected and honorable marshal of the Empire Shang.

 

In the meanwhile, she was also the high priestess, the most distinguished and supreme position in that era, which was in charge of Shang’s grand sacrificial ceremonies.

Together with her husband, they conquered lots of powerful states, and largely extended Shang’s territory.

The biggest war during that century was commanded by Fu Hao, in which she led around 13,000 warriors and defeated a strong nomadic regime successfully. 

Her military activities, her successes, as well as her life experiences, were all documented in those ancient inscriptions on bones or tortoise shells.