Top 10 Most Influential Chinese Women In History
Today women in China enjoy the same benefits as their male counterparts, which is a sharp contrast to how the women were treated in ancient China. Despite the tumultuous history of women’s social status in China, the nation still had lots of women who stood out for their influence. Here is Chinawhisper’s list of the top 10 most influential women in Chinese history.
1. Daji 妲己
Daji was the favorite concubine of King Zhou, the last king of the Shang Dynasty (16th -11th century BC). She is widely considered a key factor which caused the downfall of Shang Dynasty. She is described as an evil nine-tailed fox spirit who owned a female human body in Chinese novel Fengshen Yanyi. (Amazon book: Tales of the Teahouse Retold: Investiture of the Gods)
2. Xi Shi 西施
Xi Shi was the number 1 beauty of the well-known Four Beauties in ancient China. She lived during the end of Spring and Autumn Period (770-476 B.C.). It was said that Xi Shi’s beauty would put the flowers to shame. She was sent by King Goujian of Yue as a spy to destroy Kingdom Wu. Her beauty made Fuchai, king of the Wu, forget all about his state affairs and killed his best adviser and finally caused the downfall of his kingdom.
3. Lü Zhi 吕雉Lü Zhi (241 BC – 180 BC) was the empress of Emperor Gaozu, the founder of the Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD). Lü Zhi was considered as a ruthless, unfeeling and cruel empress. She assisted his husband Liu Bang to get to the upper level and finally build the Han Dyansty. However after her husband’s death she dominated the political scene until her death in 180 BC. She even had a plan to replace Liu’s Dynasty to Lü’s but finally failed.
4. Diaochan 貂蝉
Diaochan was also listed in the Four Beauties of Ancient China. Diaochan appears in Chinese historical novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms. Her beauty made warrior Lü Bu and the warlord Dong Zhuo finally turn from allies to enemies.
5. Wu Zetian 武则天
There are more than 400 emperors in the history of China, Wu Zetian (624-705) was the only female emperor. She governed the Tang Empire for over half a century. She has many titles: a nun in the temple, concubine, empress, mother of the emperor. She was a cruel and merciless woman who would reach her goals by any means. Nevertheless, she made great achievements in stabilizing and consolidating the Tang dynasty. (Amazon book: Wu Zhao: China’s Only Female Emperor)
6. Yang Yuhuan 杨玉环
Yang Yuhuan (719 —756), also known as Yang Guifei, was the favorite concubine of Emperor Xuanzong of Tang Dynasty. Yang was a typical example of a beauty who caused the downfall of monarchs and nations. Emperor Xuanzhong was indulged in her beauty and did not attend to his court duties and led to An’s rebellion in 755. Yang was considered as the root of troubles by ministers and finally committed suicide and died at Maweipo.
7. Xiao Zhuang 孝庄
Xiao Zhuang (1613-1688) was the empress of Emperor Huang Taiji, the mother of Hong Taiji’s successor the Shunzhi Emperor, and grandmother of Shunzhi’s successor, Kangxi Emperor. She had significant influence during the rule of her son and grandson. She is known for her wisdom and political ability and is a widely respected figure in Chinese history.
8. Dowager Cixi 慈禧太后
Dowager Cixi (1835 –1908) is one of the most powerful women in the history of China. She assisted three successive emperors and actually controlled the Qing Dynasty from 1861 to her death in 1908 for 47 years. Cixi’s ruling period was regarded as the weakest period of the Qing Dynasty. So, she has always been considered as a notorious lady in Chinese history.(Amazon book: Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine Who Launched Modern China)
9. Song Meiling 宋美龄
Song Meiling (1898 –2003) was the wife of President Chiang Kai-shek and one of the legendary Three Song Sisters. She is considered as one of the most influential women during the 20th century. She urged the peaceful resolution of the Xi’an incident, organized the early phase of the Chinese air force in the anti-Japanese war. Her speech to American Congress in 1943 was a major factor in garnering American support for the war.
10. Jiang Qing 江青
Jiang Qing (1914 – 1991) was the last wife of Chairman Mao and the most influential woman in the People’s Republic of China until her downfall in 1976. Jiang Qing was well known for playing a major role in the Cultural Revolution (1966–1976) and for forming the radical political alliance known as the “Gang of Four“.