Fu Hao circa 1250 BCE
Art by Paula Lyzhelle (tumblr)
Shang Dynasty King Wu Ding cemented alliances by marrying one woman from each local tribe for a total of sixty wives. The best known of these wives was Fu (Lady) Hao. The details of Fu Hao’s life are largely lost to time, but inscriptions found in her Yinxu tomb describe her impressive military career.
Fu Hao led successful campaigns against the Tu-Fang, Yi, Qiang, and Ba with as many as 13,000 troops under her command. She is believed to be China’s first female general, but she is not the only military woman of her time. Oracle bones of the period name over a hundred female warriors.
Oracle bone inscriptions also indicate that Wu Ding allowed Fu Hao to conduct special rituals and offer sacrifices herself. As the Shang King controlled religious rituals, it is a sign of Wu Ding’s esteem that Fu Hao was was granted this privilege.
Fu Hao’s tomb was discovered in 1976 and it is the only intact royal tomb from the Shang Dynasty. Filled with works of art, weaponry, and sixteen human sacrifices, Fu Hao’s amazing tomb is a testament to the respect she garnered during her lifetime.