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

Tang Sai'er - rebel commander and leader of the White Lotus Sect

Tang Sai'er, native of Shandong, was a leader of the White Lotus Sect during the Ming Dynasty.1 The White Lotus Sect, based on Buddhist beliefs, originated during the preceding Yuan dynasty. It was considered a heretical cult. The cult became a subversive organization involved in uprisings against the government.2

According to The Chronicles of the Reign of Ming Taizhong, Tang Sai'er loved reading the Buddhist Scriptures since a young age. She married a man named Lin San. Tang Sai'er allegedly "called herself 'Holy Mother' and claimed to be a prophetess."3 Tang travelled through many counties, recruiting more than 500 believers.4 She claimed to be a sorceress with the power of commanding gods and demons. In 1420, with a cult following of tens of thousands, Tang Sai'er launched an armed revolt against the government. Her rebel army took a number of cities and counties, including Anzhou, Chanzhou, Jimo and Shouzhou.5

During her battle against government troops, Tang was said to have used her witchcraft to create an airborne army of demons out of paper dolls. After she was finally defeated by government forces led by Liu Sheng and Lin Qing, Sai'er managed to escape, a feat which has been attributed to sorcery.6 The Emperor Chengzu ordered a nationwide search for this notorious fugitive but met with no success. From then on, the White Lotus Sect went underground.7 It continued its activities into the 20th century.8

The character of Tang Sai'er continued to fascinate later generations, inspiring the Qing Dynasty novel "Legend of the Goddess". She also appears in more modern novels.9

X.T.


Notes
  1. The Propaganda and Sorcery of the White Lotus Sect (Chinese article)
    The Political Uses of Buddhism during the Reign of Emperor Cheng of Ming (Chinese article)
  2. The Evolution of the White Lotus Sect (Chinese article)
    The Propaganda and Sorcery of the White Lotus Sect (Chinese article)
  3. The Political Uses of Buddhism during the Reign of Emperor Cheng of Ming (Chinese article)
  4. The Political Uses of Buddhism during the Reign of Emperor Cheng of Ming (Chinese article)
  5. The Propaganda and Sorcery of the White Lotus Sect (Chinese article)
  6. The Propaganda and Sorcery of the White Lotus Sect (Chinese article)
    The Evolution of the White Lotus Sect (Chinese article)
  7. The Evolution of the White Lotus Sect (Chinese article)
  8. The Propaganda and Sorcery of the White Lotus Sect (Chinese article)
  9. A Wind from the Past - an overview of Qing Dynasty novels (Chinese article)
    The Roaming Sword and the Majestic Capital (Chinese article)
    Saga of the Shaolin Heroes (Chinese article)