(Hakka) Li Zhen (李贞) [1907-1990] – First Woman General in the PLA!

General Li Zhen Meets Mao Zedong in 1955

(Translated by Adrian Chan-Wyles PhD)

Li Zhen (1907-1990) was born into a Hakka family living in Liuyang County, Hunan Province. Li Zhen’s family lived in abject poverty and suffered greatly due to the inequalities and exploitation that existed in China at that time. Her father died when she was just 6 years old, and she was sold into servitude to a rich doctor’s family. She was made to work long hours, was fed little and beaten often. Li Zhen joined the Communist Party of China in 1927 (when she was 20 years old) and took part in the Autumn Harvest Uprising on the border with Hunan and Jiangxi.

Li Zhen and Her Husband Gan Siqi (甘泗淇)

During the Agrarian Revolutionary War, Li Zhen served as chairperson of the Liu Dong Guerrilla Soldier’s Committee Ministry of Military Affairs (during the fighting, Li Zhen was forced to jump off a cliff to save her own life from enemy fire – but she was already 6 months pregnant and lost her baby due to the fall). Thereafter, Li Zhen held the following posts of Minister of Organization of the Political Department of the Red Army Corps, Deputy Minister of the Organization of the Political Department of the Red Army, President of the Eighth Route Army Women’s School (during the Anti-Japanese War), Secretary General of the Political Department of the Jinsui Military Region (during the War of Liberation), and Secretary-General of the Political Department of the Northwest Field Army. Many of these posts meant that Li Zhen was a Political Commissar with much responsibility and authority. Whilst living in often difficult conditions, Li Zhen had to take care of the soldiers under her command, whilst following orders correctly and fighting the enemy efficiently. Li Zhen carried-out these duties with extraordinary skill.


In 1951, Li Zhen served as the Political commissar for the Chinese People’s Volunteer Army deployed in North Korea. Li Zhen received two medals for her outstanding military service during this campaign. During a solemn ceremony held In Zhongnanhai (Beijing), Mao Zedong granted Li Zhen the New China First Military Rank Award (for the PLA) of ‘Major General’ on the afternoon of September 27th, 1955. When this remarkable woman passed away from illness in 1990, she divided her modest savings in three ways. One-third was given to the Communist Party of China, one-third was given to the Soong Ching Ling Child Welfare Foundation, and the final third was directed to Gan Siqi’s hometown in Ningxiang County, Hunan, to be used for school subsidies

Original Chinese Language Texts:




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