“Great countries and nations in the world all feel proud of and treasure their own culture and tradition as well as ancient saints and sages,” says Chinese President Xi Jinping.
A bronze statue of Lady Xian in Maoming. [Photo/Cultural Tourism Scenic Spot of Lady Xian’s Former Residence]
As early as over 1500 years ago in the Liang, Chen and Sui dynasties, Lingnan area had already established trade contacts with nations in Southeast Asia through Maritime Silk Road. This was about 700 years earlier than Venetian merchant traveler Marco Polo’s visits to China through the Silk Road in the Yuan dynasty and over 800 years earlier than famed Chinese explorer Zheng He’s expeditionary voyages to Southeast Asia in the Ming dynasty.
Note: Lingnan is a geographic area referring to lands in the south of China’s Nan Mountains: Dayu, Qitian, Dupang, Mengzhu and Yuecheng. The region covers the modern Chinese provinces of Guangdong, Guangxi, and Hainan as well as Hong Kong and Macao.
This person led the local people to promote production technology, agriculture, handicraft and boost the economic development, and quelled the civil disturbances and suppressed the rebellions in the Lingnan area to keep the peace for the common people. In addition, this somebody also recaptured Hainan Island after being away from the central government for nearly six hundred years.
This certain person was none other than Lady Xian, the most acclaimed and the most legendary politician and militarist in ancient Lingnan area in China. Lady Xian, also known as Duchess of the Qiao State, was a heroine that lived through the Liang dynasty (502-560), the Chen dynasty (557-589) and the Sui dynasty (581-618).
Born in 5th century, Lady Xian was a native in Gaoliang (currently Maoming city in Guangdong province). Maoming city is her hometown. Lady Xian was a member of ethnic Li. Her family was hereditary leader of their tribe.
During her life, Lady Xian strove to safeguard the country’s territorial integrity and national unity, maintain the stability and peace in Lingnan area, promote the local development of economy, culture, science, technology and its trade with some ancient Maritime Silk Road countries in southeast Asia. She had made eminent contributions and was thus praised and honored by the imperial court for many times, admired and supported by the people in Lingnan area and given the honorary title of “Saintly Mother of Lingnan”. Former Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai called her “the First Heroine of China” and former Chinese President Jiang Zemin praised her as “the role model that the later generations should learn from forever”.
Maoming Thermal Power Plant in the rays in Maoming, Guangdong. [Photo: Newsgd.com/Tu Zhifeng]
Maoming city, the hometown of Lady Xian, is the cradle of the culture of Lady Xian and the research center of the great historical figure. Maoming people love their hometown and Lady Xian. Moreover, they love their outstanding historical and cultural heritage that has been passed down from generation to generation.
During the reign of Emperor Tongzhi (1861-1875) and of Emperor Guangxu (1875-1908) in the Qing dynasty, Tan Yingxiang, an officer candidate of Datang village in Maoming county, had already edited and published the Book of Lady Xian. Unfortunately, such book had been lost and now there are only a few chapters available. It is the first book in China that focuses on the study of Lady Xian.
For more than 1500 years, people in the Lingnan area have been commemorating Lady Xian in various ways, worshiping her in temples, holding festivals in memory of her contribution. At the moment, there are about 2500 temples of Lady Xian across the world, spanning Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam and the western part of Guangdong province. She is a heroine that is worshiped not only by local people but also overseas Chinese in Southeast Asia.
In terms of people’s respect for Lady Xian for over a thousand years, be it among the average people or among the officers, we can conclude by citing a saying of Professor Ding Yangzhong from the Central Academy of Drama, who is a native in Gaozhou, a county-level city in Maoming city, “She is a human being. But she receives respect from people all the time like she is a deity”.
After more than 1500 years, from a real heroine in ancient China, Lady Xian has become a deity worshiped by people in Lingnan area in China as well as in many countries in Southeast Asia. The change carries people’s yearning for peace and stability, for well-being life and good health, and for friendly relationship with the world.