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

Lu Mu - mother of a revolution

Lu Mu (? - 18 CE) was a native of Langya Haiqu (present day Rizhao, Shandong).1 She lived during the reign of the usurper Wang Mang, whose new policies on taxation and conscription worsened the situation for already struggling peasants.2 Lu Mu (literally 'mother of Lu') was a wealthy widow who ran the family business. She was known for her generosity in the community. Mrs Lu provided rice to starving peasants and once helped pay for the funeral of a local man whose family had no money to buy a coffin.3

Lu Mu's son Lu Yu was a county constable. In 14 CE, Lu Yu neglected orders to punish citizens who did not pay their taxes and the County Supervisor executed him for insubordination.4 Lu Mu was furious and began making plans for revenge. She sold all her assets and opened a tavern as a front for recruiting followers, secretly stockpiling weapons and buying horses. When local youths had no money to pay for wine, she gave them wine on credit. She also loaned food and clothing to those in need. At the same time, she went from house to house, explaining why government policies of high taxation and conscription were making life difficult for the common people.5 Having garnered a strong base of supporters for her cause, Lu Mu revolted with a few hundred followers, becoming the first peasant leader to rise up against Wang Mang.6

Lu Mu's forces fought a guerilla war against government troops at sea and on land. As tax rates rose despite the increasing rate of farmer bankruptcy brought on by a spate of natural disasters, thousands flocked to join Lu Mu's cause.7 Lu Mu organized her troops into units of a hundred each. She set strict rules for her soldiers, forbidding them to take the property of peasants.8 In 17 CE, the peasant rebels raised a great banner with the word "Lu" on it and marched on Haiqu.9 The county fell to the rebels after a fierce battle and the county supervisor was taken alive. When county officials begged Lu Mu to have mercy on the supervisor, Lu Mu reminded them that her son had received no mercy. The rebels beheaded the supervisor and offered his head on the altar of Lu Yu. 10

When news of the fall of Haiqu came to Langya Ward, the Ward Governor sent the army to Haiqu. But Lu Mu had already moved her troops back to their offshore base. Following the dramatic victory at Haiqiu, Lu Mu's name spread far and wide. Within a year, the rebel ranks had swelled to more than ten thousand.11 Lu Mu's rebels continued to launch attacks against government forces from their island base. Wang Mang became very concerned about Lu Mu's power. Seeing he could not defeat her by force, he repeatedly sent emissaries to encourage the rebels to surrender, but it was to no avail. Lu Mu's revolt had galvanized a national movement. Peasants all over China were organizing revolts.12 Even after Lu Mu died from illness in 18 CE, her followers continued to fight against the imperial government by joining other rebel armies.13

X.T.


Notes
  1. Rizhao Culture - China's first woman leader of a peasant rebellion: Lu Mu' (Chinese article)
  2. Rizhao Culture - China's first woman leader of a peasant rebellion: Lu Mu' (Chinese article)
  3. All China under one family - Biographies: Lu Mu (Chinese article)
  4. Rizhao Culture - China's first woman leader of a peasant rebellion: Lu Mu' (Chinese article)
  5. Rizhao Culture - China's first woman leader of a peasant rebellion: Lu Mu' (Chinese article)
    All China under one family - Biographies: Lu Mu (Chinese article)
  6. Lu Mu and Fan Sui (Chinese article)
    Rizhao Culture - China's first woman leader of a peasant rebellion: Lu Mu' (Chinese article)
  7. Rizhao Culture - China's first woman leader of a peasant rebellion: Lu Mu' (Chinese article)
  8. All China under one family - Biographies: Lu Mu (Chinese article)
  9. Lu Mu and Fan Sui (Chinese article)
  10. Lu Mu and Fan Sui (Chinese article)
    Rizhao Culture - China's first woman leader of a peasant rebellion: Lu Mu' (Chinese article)
  11. Lu Mu and Fan Sui (Chinese article)
    Rizhao Culture - China's first woman leader of a peasant rebellion: Lu Mu' (Chinese article)
  12. Lu Mu and Fan Sui (Chinese article)
    Rizhao Culture - China's first woman leader of a peasant rebellion: Lu Mu' (Chinese article)
  13. Lu Mu and Fan Sui (Chinese article)
    Rizhao Culture - China's first woman leader of a peasant rebellion: Lu Mu' (Chinese article)