Remarkable Women in Ancient China (17)- Wang Cong Er

Who is she? 

  • A female rebel leader of the White Lotus Sect (which had command of fourteen or fifteen thousand individuals) 

Notable Life Events:

  • Born in 1777 to a mother who was a performing acrobat on the street (father died when she was young), from which she learnt the trade and the mother and daughter performed while wandering from city to city 
  • At the city of Shen Yang, she joined the White Lotus Sect with the help of her would-be husband, Qi Ling. White Lotus Sect was a religious rebel group that fought against the corrupt government officials of the last dynasty in China, the Manchurian controlled Qing dynasty, during which corrupt government officials and landowners conspired together to take land away from honest farmers  
  • After their marriage, the couple plotted an uprising at Shen Yang, the news of which unfortunately got leaked and Qi Ling was arrested and killed in the process along with more than 100 of White Lotus believers
  • After her husband’s death, she became the new leader of the local White Lotus Sect and was known as Widow Qi
  • In 1796, after learning of the successful uprising at other places, Cong Er finally killed the local governor and opened the grain storage to share with the common citizen. At that time, she already had control over an army of forty or fifty thousand. 
  • She led her army to Sichuan where she combined forces with the White Lotus army there. For ease of control, the combined forces of fourteen or fifteen thousand was split up into eight parts grouped under four different flag colours: yellow, indigo, blue and white. She was elected to be the leader of the combined army. 
  • In 1798, she had won her way from Sichuan to Xian with her army but eventually she started losing because the government had the number advantage on her. Eventually, she was forced to retreat and jump off a cliff when cornered. She was only 22 at the age of death. 

Why is she remarkable:

  • I believe she is the first female rebel leader to have control of such a large army in Chinese history. 
  • My Chinese source tells me that the Qing government actually recorded that she was captured after she jumped off the cliff and then put to death. But it’s not clear that the records were not forged in an attempt for them to save face. She was also discredited post-death by the government who claimed that she had sexual relationships with many men which was frowned upon behaviour in that era given the general support/dictum for virtuous women.

Moonlake’s thoughts on her: 

She is clearly a capable woman and military commander and with spirit to boot (or at least that is how her suicide is perceived as exhibiting). I don’t have much other thought to add to that.

Wikipedia reference:

Published by moonlakeku

intermediate Chinese fantasy writer working on her debut series

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