Xun Guan was born at a time of turbulence and uncertainty for feudal China. Her father, Xun Song, was the governor of Xiangyang (also Xiangcheng) during the last years of the Western Jin dynasty (265 – 316).
She was thirteen years old and with her father when their city came under attack from the insurgent Du Zeng, who had amassed some 2000 troops and surrounded the city. Under siege and low on supplies, Xun Song found himself in a desperate situation. If he could just get word to Shi Lan, a general and ally in neighbouring Pinyang, then perhaps they could send supplies and reinforcements – but to do this someone would have to break through Du Zeng’s forces.
It was a dangerous mission, one that no one was willing to take. As food supplies dwindled further, Xun Song prepared himself to carry out the task himself. Xun Guan stopped him.
His young daughter was adamant that he must stay with his people, who needed his leadership now more than ever. Instead, she volunteered to lead a small party past the enemy line and go for help herself.
Though she was only thirteen, Xun Guan clearly had some military training and was a persuasive speaker, because her father allowed her to go. She waited for night to fall, when she knew that Du Zeng’s soldiers lowered their guard, and managed to escape the city unscathed.
From there, she headed straight to Pinyang where she pleaded to Shi Lan for help. She also wrote a letter on behalf of her father to General Zhou Fang in the south, asking for further reinforcements. Zhou sent 3000 men at once and the two armies fell upon the besieged city, forcing Du Zeng to retreat.
Once the city was freed, Shi Lan commented to Xun Song:”You daughter is clever and brave. I am envious of you!”
Zhou Fang added:
“Xiangyang is no longer under siege and the people are saved. Respect and thanks to young Xun Guan!”
Biographical Dictionary of Chinese Women: Antiquity Through Sui, 1600 B.C.E – 618 C.E. – Lily Xiao Hong Lee, A. D. Stefanowska, Sue Wiles
Xun Guan – Cultural China