Remarkable Women in Ancient China (14)- Feng Liao

Who is she:

  • The first official female diplomat in ancient China 

Notable Life Events:

  • Actual birth date and date of death both unknown but active around the long reign of Emperor Wu of the Western Han dynasty 
  • In 101 BC, she accompanied the second Han princess to be married off to the Wusun king for an alliance, as her maid 
  • She learnt the Wusun language and customs relatively quickly and accompanied the princess when she toured neighbouring tribes on behalf of the Han dynasty. She became known as Madame Feng. 
  • She married the Right General of Wusun (I think that is one of the highest military positions) 
  • She was the official diplomat on at least three occasions in intervention of Wusun succession issues. In fact, she had already returned to China with the princess but then volunteered for her third diplomatic mission to Wusun after the princess’ grandson could not manage the throne well and there was political instability again. 

Why is she remarkable:

  • Besides the obvious, I think it will be useful if I summarise a bit of the foregin relations of the Han dynasty at that time. Basically, the Emperor Wu was engaged in this extensive and difficult campaign against a group of nomads known as the Xiangnu which was the goal underlying the Wusun alliance and other diplomatic contact with other nomadic tribes. So what Feng Liao did was important in that light. Moreover, her contribution was even deemed important across the long history of ancient China. 

Moonlake’s thoughts on her: 

  • Not sure what to think of her, I’m not seeing much personality. Rather what I’m seeing here is a capable woman, with a flair for language and political savvy. 

English reference:

Published by moonlakeku

intermediate Chinese fantasy writer working on her debut series

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