The Yang family was celebrated in the Song Dynasty for their military prowess and their loyalty to the Emperor. Three generations of Yang Generals were victorious in battles protecting China from northern invaders in this period; it is said that one eldest son, Yang Yuanping, even rode from Wu Tai Mountain dressed as a decoy Emperor to save Song Taizong from his enemies.
But perhaps the most poignant loyalty story of the Yang family is that of the Lady Generals, wives who rode out to battle to avenge their husbands' deaths, a tragedy that had resulted from a traitorous defection. The revered story of the Yang Lady Generals is even the subject of a forthcoming film (summer 2011) by top director Ronnie Lee, starring Gong Li, Zhang Ziyi, Zhou Xun, Tang Wei and Michelle Yeoh.
Here the Lady Generals practice for battle with bamboo rods in place of swords. Their fancy robes and sweet expressions - one even fixes her hair, her rod held in her teeth - would seem to belie the violence of their mission. Clearly by this period, some six centuries later, the story has become less a grim story of revenge and more a happy-ending tale of virtue.