Liang Hongyu, a brave woman in the Song Dynasty (AD 960-1279), is one of the Four Great Heroines in ancient China, along with Mu Guiying, Hua Mulan and Fan Lihua.
Together with her husband, Liang exhibited loyalty to the nation, a valiant fighting spirit and excellent leadership until her heroic death.
Liang was born in Huai'an, eastern China's Jiangsu Province.
Her father and brother were military officers.
Liang was trained in martial arts at a young age. But unfortunately, her father and brother were both executed after their failure in the fight against Fang La's rebellions troops.
Liang, as a relative of the disgraced soldiers, was forced to serve as a government prostitute.
Yet, her life was changed after encountering Han Shizhong at a party celebrating the victory over Fang La.
The renowned general and the girl fell in love with each other at first sight and married.
In 1129, Miao Fu, the commander of the Imperial Guards, conspired to overthrow the regime of Emperor Gaozong.
Liang and her son were seized as hostage during the coup d'etat.
Fearing that Han might lead his army to put down the rebellion, Miao asked Liang to persuade her husband to pledge allegiance to him.
Liang, as a courageous and intelligent woman, pretended to accept his suggestion.
But she took the chance to provide useful information for Han and urged him to stand strong in the fight against the rebels. After the successful counter-insurgency, Liang was granted the title of Huguo Furen (护国夫人), literally Madam Nation-protecting.
Liang also played an important role in the Battle of Huangtiandang in today's Nanjing, a fight between Jin and Song forces in 1129 and 1130.
The Jin forces on their way north were ambushed by the Song army led by Han as they crossed the Yangtze River.
The Jin forces greatly outnumber the Song — by some accounts, 100,000 to 8,000.
Liang drummed ceaselessly during the battle to signal commands and boost morale.
In the face of the combined efforts of Han and Liang, the Jin army was trapped at Huangtiandang for 48 days.
In 1136, Han was appointed to govern and defend Huai'an City.
After years of war, residents there were short of both shelter and food.
Liang used the local resources, building houses from reeds and finding food to feed the people and the soldiers.
Witnessing horses eating a local wild weed named pu'er cai (蒲儿菜), she tasted it personally and persuaded the people to eat it.
With these new resources and the commitment of the soldiers, Huai'an held out for months until the Jin army retreated.
During Han's posting there, a common saying said: "Even with only 30,000 soldiers, the Jin army dares not to challenge."
The weed later became known as kangjin cai (抗金菜), literally the vegetable of fighting against the Jin forces, in honor of Liang. Today, kangjin cai is still a famous local specialty in Huai'an.
Historian Deng Guangming believes Liang died in a battle against the Jin, saying that although she was severely wounded in the stomach in an ambush by the Jin, she kept fighting until she fell from her horse because of the loss of blood. She was beheaded, but her body returned.
The Song government honored the heroine and her son, Han Yanzhi, who later grew into a valiant and patriotic officer.
(Source: Shanghai Daily)