Editor's Note： About Lady Xian’s dates of birth and death, due to not quite clear record from historical materials, there are several theories. This biographical chronicle is one of the theories, only for your reference to get to know the life story of Lady Xian.
Tan Yingxiang, an officer candidate of Gaozhou county (called “Maoming county” at that time) during the reign of Emperor Xianfeng (1850-1861) in the Qing dynasty (1632-1912), had edited and published the Book of Lady Xian (refer to Yiwen Zhi in the Gaozhou Chronicle). Unfortunately, Tan’s book had been lost and now there are only a few chapters available. The present biographical chronicle is part of the book.
Lady Xian was born during the reign of Emperor Tianjian (502-519) in the Liang dynasty (502-560), and passed away in the second year of the reign of Emperor Renshou (602) in the Sui dynasty (581-618) at the age of 90. Some records say she died at the age of 96 while others say 87.
The following are the important events happened along Lady Xian’s life, marked by her age:
Lady Xian was born in current Maoming city in the Liang dynasty (502-560). She was a daughter of the Xian family which was the leader of ethnic Li and other tribes in Lingnan area for generations.
At the age of nine to ten: According to old records, Lady Xian had already mastered military strategies and started to help manage her tribe (please refer to Yunzhi).
At the age of twenty-two: After years of governance, Lady Xian assisted her brother to successful pacify the ethnic groups. As a result, more and more people joined and submitted to her.
At the age of twenty-three: In the first year of the reign of Emperor Datong (535), Lady Xian married Feng Pao, the executive chief of Gaoliang prefecture at that time. Different from the situation in the political center Zhongyuan where women were prohibited from interfering in the politics, women in Lingnan area were allowed to have a political career. After getting married, Lady Xian helped her husband Feng Bao deal with government affairs, taking part in the decision making process of lawsuits. She exhorted and restrained her clansmen, making them abide by the public etiquettes. Therefore, the Feng family was able to establish their authority in the local place.
At the age of twenty-eight: Lady Xian pleaded in the imperial court to set up Yazhou in Hainan. According to the preface of the Table of Changes in the Qiongzhou Annal of the reign of Emperor Daoguang (1821-1850), in the middle of the reign of Datong (535-546), Dan’er prefecture was abolished and Yazhou, under the jurisdiction of Guangzhou, was established. Before the establishment, more than one thousand ethnic groups from Dan’er joined and submitted to Lady Xian. Therefore, Lady Xian pleaded in court to set up Yazhou.
At the age of thirty-eight: In the 6th Chinese lunar month of the first year of the reign of Emperor Jianwen of Liang (reign title: Dabao), Gaozhou prefectural governor Li Qianshi attempted to tempt Feng Bao to rise in rebellion. Lady Xian saw through the trick and stopped Feng from allying with Li Qianshi. After a couple of days, Li Qianshi revolted. Lady Xian attacked Li Qianshi with her wit and gained a complete victory. Then in Ganshi she joined force with Chen Baxian who she believed was able to quell the unrest and change the terrible situation at the end of the Liang dynasty (please refer to History as a Mirror).
At the age of thirty-nine: In the second year of the reign of Dabao (551), Lady Xian was conferred the honored name of “Lady of Protection Marquise” for suppressing Li Qianshi (please refer to the Story of Lady Xian of the Biography of Lady of Protection in the Book of Sui cited in the Fuhai Celi).
At the age of forty-four: In the first year of the reign of Taiping (556), Feng Bao deceased. Till then, Lady Xian had sowed her merits among multiple ethnic groups in Southeast China, bringing peace to the place.
At the age of forty-five: Chen Baxian, Emperor Wu, founded the Chen dynasty with the reign title of Yongding (557).
At the age of forty-six: In the second year of the reign of Yongding (558), Lady Xian’s son Feng Pu was nine years old. He was dispatched to lead all the tribal chiefs to the court and named as the chief of Yangchun prefecture.
At the age of fifty-seven: In the 10th Chinese lunar month of the first year of the reign of Emperor Xuan (569), Guangzhou prefectural governor Ouyang He revolted and lured Lady Xian’s son Feng Pu to join him. The righteous Lady Xian sent army to guard other areas of Lingnan apart from Guangzhou, and united the troops sent by the Chen imperial court to defeat Ouyang He and saved her son.
At the age of fifty-eight: In the second year of the reign of Emperor Taijian (570), according to the History as a Mirror, Feng Pu was granted Head of Xindu and appointed as the prefecture chief of Shilong prefecture for suppressing Ouyang He while Lady Xian was given the title of “Taifuren of Shilong Prefecture”.
At the age of sixty-nine: It is the thirteenth year of the reign of Emperor Xuan (581). The Chen dynasty was declining. This year also marks the first year of the reign of Emperor Kaihuang (reign title of Emperor Wen of the Sui dynasty) (581).
At the age of seventy-three: The Chen dynasty was then going through its last few turbulent years, too busy to attend to the matter of Lingnan. In the meantime, the Sui dynasty had taken over Lingnan area. In the third year of the reign of Houzhu (585), Feng Pu passed away. Lingnan area was in chaos. Lady Xian united people of all the tribes in this area and ensured tranquility and peace. Since then she had become the leader of Lingnan area. Later she was deified as “Saintly Mother” by the people at the age of seventy-seven.
At the age of seventy-seven: In the 2nd Chinese lunar month of the ninth year of Emperor Kaihuang of the Sui dynasty (589), Wei Guang, the king of Jin asked Emperor Houzhu to write a letter to Lady Xian to inform her of the fall of the Chen dynasty (557-589) and to ask Lady Xian to surrender to the Sui dynasty (581-618). Lady Xian gathered all the chiefs and wailed together for the fall of the Chen dynasty. Later, she dispatched her grandson Feng Xuan (some historical materials said it was Feng Hun) to lead the army to welcome Wei Guang to enter Guangzhou. Lady Xian’s another grandson Feng Hun was named as official Yitong Sansi while Lady Xian was given the honored name of “Furen of Songkang Prefecture”.
At the age of seventy-eight: In the 11th Chinese lunar month of the tenth year of the reign of the Emperor Kaihuang (590), Wang Zhongxuan, the king of Panyu rose in rebellion, besieging Wei Guang in Guangzhou. Lady Xian dispatched her grandson Feng Xuan to help Wei Guang. However, Feng Xuan did not take any action and was thus sent to prison by Lady Xian. Later, Lady Xian dispatched Feng Ang, another of her grandsons, to lead the army to suppress the rebellion. (Lady Xian personally put on the armor and rode on a war horse with a brocade umbrella open, leading the cavalry to guard Pei Ju, the envoy that would read the imperial decree, to patrol and pacify local states. Chiefs such as Chen Tan from Cangwu county all came to call on Pei Ju. The chiefs continued to lead their tribes and Lingnan area became stable.)
According to the History as a Mirror, due to the fact that Wang Zhongxuan was suppressed, Feng Xuan was pardoned and named as the governor of Luozhou, Feng Ang was made the governor of Gaozhou, Feng Bao was conferred posthumously the head of Guangzhou and the title of “Lord of Qiaoguo” while Lady Xian was granted the name of “Lady of Qiaoguo” (The office of Lady of Qiaoguo was established).
At the age of seventy-nine: In the 11th year of Emperor Wen’s reign of the Sui dynasty (591), Lady Xian submitted a written statement to the imperial court to denounce Zhao Ne, the head of Panzhou (currently Guangzhou). Zhao Ne was subject to justice. Emperor Wen issued an imperial decree asking Lady Xian to offer amnesty and enlistment to rebels. Lady personally brought the decree and called herself an envoy of the emperor. She announced the decree to all the ethnic groups when she traveled across over ten states. The people of the places she visited all submitted. Emperor Wen rewarded her with the city of Tangmu of 1500 households in Linzhen county. Feng Pu was conferred posthumously “Lord of Pingyuan Prefecture”. (In the first year of the reign of Emperor Renshou (601), to avoid using the same character the name of Prince Yang Guang, Guangzhou was renamed “Panzhou”).
At the age of eighty-eight: In the twentieth year of the reign of Emperor Kaihuang (600), Feng Xuan suppressed the rebellion of Li Datan.
At the age of eighty-nine: In the first year of the reign of Emperor Renshou (601), the ethnic groups in five states including Chao and Cheng rose in rebellion. Feng Ang went to the capital to ask for armed forces to suppress them. As a result, he was dispatched to fight against the rebellions.
On the eighteenth of the first Chinese lunar month of the second year of the reign of Emperor Rens
(602), Lady Xian deceased in Maoming. She was honored with the posthumous name of “Lady of Chengjing”. Temples were also set up to honor her.
Click next page to see the Sovereigns of Liang dynasty (502-557), Chen dynasty (557-589) and Sui dynasty (581 - 618).