Phenomenal Woman: Lin Siniang

Teenaged YA protagonists got NOTHING on Lin Siniang.

Lin’s story begins with her birth in 1629, towards the end of the Ming Dynasty, to an impoverished military family. Despite her family’s poverty, her father trained her in martial arts from a very early age. By the age of six, Lin was said to be able to wield a sword with deadly precision, which many spoke of but few believed, because her tender age and gender.

Having lost her family as a young girl, Lin was forced into prostitution. She is believed to have worked long days on the bank of the Qinhuai River, only to spend longer nights perfecting her combat skills. It was here that Zhu Changshu, king of the feudal Qingzhou state, first saw her, fell in love at first sight—not only with her looks, but also her skills with sword and spear—and immediately took her away to become his princess.

In his awe and admiration for her abilities, the king asked Lin to teach all of his royal concubines martial arts. What started as a simple lesson in self-defense quickly escalated, and soon led to the establishment of an all-female army.

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Just a few years after Lin entered the king’s court, droughts and a famine in Northern China provoked attacks from rebels from the Shanxi and Shaanxi provinces. Due to his sore underestimation of the rebel forces, Zhu Changshu was captured as a prisoner.

In order to rescue the king, Lin rallied her army of concubines and led them into battle. Despite managing to slay a large number of rebel soldiers, Lin and her all-women cadre were enormously outnumbered. She was asked to surrender, to which she refused. Instead, she continued to fight until she was too exhausted to block the blow that would kill her. The date of this battle is uncertain, but it is believed that Lin died in 1644.

Despite their deaths, the bravery of Lin and her warriors greatly inspired the army that quickly showed up in their wake. The rebels were defeated and King Zhu Changshu, upon being freed, ordered that Lin and every one of her soldiers be given an honorable burial.

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