Female Warriors
of Ancient China

FU HAO of the Shang Dynasty

Female warriors of the Shang - Fu hao Among the female warriors of the Shang Dynasty, Fu Hao, queen consort of King Wu Ding, stands out as a woman general who protected an empire. Fu Hao wasn't one of the standard anime type babes with blades. She rose in the midst of a troubled time during the Shang Dynasty (1600 - 1046 BC), to both military and religious prominence. These were both areas traditionally held in male dominence.

King Wu Ding seemed to have been a forward thinker among Chinese historical figures. He was unencumbered by the cultural thinking of the day and valued people for their worth rather than their accepted position in society. He had a former slave as his premier and a female warrior as his highest ranked general. How refreshing!

Wu Ding showed his commitment to tribes which gave him their allegiance by marrying a woman from each of them. Fu Hao was one of these. She rose to Queen Consort, so he must have really liked her. She also bore him children.

The evidence of Fu Hao's life and achievements comes from oracle bone records found in Shang cave repositories, and from her tomb. She was not mentioned in the following Zhou Dynasty records of ancient China, where language had further developed. The Zhou greatly reduced the status of women and didn't even allow them to own property. Fu Hao was one of more than 100 women from Shang times with military involvement, but the following dynasty seems to have erased the records, so to speak.

In the time of Wu Ding and Fu Hao, there were lots of raids on Shang territory by the barbarian tribes from over the borders. Fu Hao asked for and received a commission to lead a large army against the Tu Fang to the north. This competent female warrior beat them so soundly they never challenged the Shang again.

Following that, Qiangfang challenged the borders, only to be routed by a beautiful female warrior and her army. The Shang had the monopoly on development of bronze weapons, so that may have also been in her favour.

Female warriors of the Shang - Fu haoA third raid came from the Yifang, to the southeast. Fu Hao was exhausted by this time. She was a very involved general who tended the wounded and raised morale among her soldiers after the battle. She gave herself without reserve. However, exhausted as she was, Fu Hao, went to the Yi and overcame their attacks.

Her fourth campaign was alongside her husband. They rode to battle together in ancient China against the Bafang - coming home victorious. Sadly, one of ancient China's greatest female warriors never really recovered from her exhaustion, and died soon after.

Fu Hao was buried with the greatest honour that could be afforded a warrior, in a tomb on the edge of the royal cemetary in Anyang, Henan province. It remained untouched until recently discovered and yielded many secrets. She had been buried with six dogs and sixteen slaves. Animal and human sacrifice was common in those days and there is evidence that Fu Hao presided over this highly political function and performed the sacrifices.

Female warriors of the Shang - Fu haoOver a hundred weapons were discovered in her tomb - long range bows, double pointed lances, spears, pikes, long bladed sabres, short swords, daggers, helmets, shields. The most interesting was four battle axes - the symbol of highest military prominence.

Fu Hao was the most exalted of military leaders. She is reknowned among Chinese historical figures as a military leader, high priestess and oracle caster. Her grave also yielded many treasures of jade, bronze, bone, stone pottery and ivory. She was a great loss to the empire and Wu Ding was known to pray to his lost female warrior for help when enemies attacked, after her death.

Pictures on this page are from Wikipedia Commons.

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