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Chinese women in history - soldiers, pirates, scholars, sages and rulers

Li Xiu - defender of Ningzhou

Li Xiu (291-?), also known as Yang Niang or Li Shuxian, was a native of Sichuan Province. Li Yi, father of Li Xiu, was the military commander in charge of Ningzhou during the reign of Emperor Hui of Jin.1 In 303 CE, multiple rebellions broke out in various Ningzhou locales. The Jin Dynasty was weak and could not send reinforcements to Ningzhou. Li Yi held out alone and died of illness while the rebellion was still raging.2

After Li Yi's death, the local officials agreed that Li Yi's daughter Li Xiu had the qualifications and the talent to succeed her father. Li Xiu took her new appointment very seriously. She was very familiar with the operations of the military and led by example, organizing the civilians and soldiers to catch rats and cook grass so they could survive in the besieged city.3 For seven years, Li Xiu held Ningzhou against the rebels, sallying forth to attack the enemy whenever the opportunity arose. Finally, she defeated the rebels and the Jin administration awarded her the title of "Lady who Suppresses and Pacifies the Enemy".

The succeeding Tang administration gave her the additional title of "Lady of Brightness and Wisdom". In recognition for her contributions, the people of the city renamed her former base "Citadel of the Heavenly Lady" (the location of Heavenly City Gate in Jin City today). They also built a Goddess Temple housing a statue of Li Xiu in battle armor. People went there to make offerings in honor of Li Xiu.4


  1. Kunming History: Li Xiu - New Kunming Web (Chinese article)
  2. Kunming History: Li Xiu - New Kunming Web (Chinese article)
  3. Kunming History: Li Xiu - New Kunming Web (Chinese article)
  4. Kunming History: Li Xiu - New Kunming Web (Chinese article)