According to legend,
the Four Great Beauties are the most beautiful women of ancient
China. They gained their reputation for their influence on ancient
Chinese history. According to their living time in Chinese history
they are as follows in sequence:
Xishi (7th Century BC-6th Century BC) was so entrancingly
beautiful that fish would forget to swim and sink down when she
Wang Zhaojun (1st Century BC) was so beautiful
that her appearance would attract the flying wild goose to fall
from the sky.
Diaochan (3rd Century AD) was so pretty that the
moon itself would shy away in embarrassment when compared to her
Concubine Yang Yuhuan (719-756AD) could make blooming
flowers feel ashamed.
Xishi (497 BC) was a legendary beauty of ancient
China. She has been described as "equally charming in both
heavy and light makeup", "as appealing when she frowns
she smiles". Of her figure it has been said that "were
she plump, you would admire her plumpness, were she thin you would
admire her for being slender". She is celebrated as a woman
of extraordinary natural beauty with a universal appeal. Although
many have praised Xishi's looks, there is but little mention of
her notable virtue - she had a great love for her country and her
Xishi was the daughter of a tea trader from Ningluo Mountain village
in the Zhuji County in Zhejiang Province. This comprised a part
of the ancient state of Yue.
When the state of Yue was vanquished by the state of Wu, the King
of Yue, Gou Jian was forced to serve the Prince of Wu for three
years. After his release, King Gou Jian slept on brushwood and drank
gall before each meal to remind himself of the humiliation his country
had suffered. He commissioned men to search far and wide for a woman
whom he could send as a tribute to Prince Fuchai of Wu. Xishi, whose
beauty was much talked of even from early childhood, was selected
for this task and sent to the capital.
King Gou Jian approved of the choice and had Xishi dressed in fine
robes. He had her trained in royal court etiquette. Gou Jian ordered
his minister Fan Li to take Xishi to the Prince of Wu as a tribute
gift from Yue. During the journey, Xishi fell deeply in love with
the wise minister. Fan Li also grew to admire this courageous lady
who was willing to give her life for her country. Consequently,
before they parted, they made a secret pledge of undying love.
They arrived at the capital of Wu and the prince welcomed Xishi
with open arms. He was enchanted by her appearance and doted on
her. Gradually he began to neglect his political duties, preferring
to idle away his time with Xishi. He frequently took her out on
carriage rides to the noisy and prosperous sections of the city.
On these rides, he liked to boast to those around him that he had
won the heart of the most beautiful woman in the world. He would
add: "If you want to look at her, you'll have to present me
with some gold coins!" In this way, he also managed to enrich
Xishi, however, never lost sight of her mission. Her aim was to
bewitch the Prince of Wu so that his subjects would grow restless
and his friends would desert him. The political chaos that ensued
would enable the King of Yue to invade the state of Wu, recompensing
him for his former humiliation.
Heaven grants the wishes of men. The King of Yue finally annexed
the state of Wu. Following the death of Prince Fuchai of Wu, Xishi
disappeared from public life. She lived in relative obscurity with
Fan Li who became a successful trader.
This story is unique in the history of feudal China as no one has
ever found fault with Xishi, even though she had caused the downfall
of the state of Wu.
Wang Zhaojun was one of the four China’s ancient
beauties. Like her peers, her fame was also tied to the political
development of her time. Today, the name of Zhaojun not only symbolizes
physical beauty, but also a spirit of goodwill to bridge different
cultures, even at the expense of one’s own interests. Her name
was Qiang, her style Zhaojun but during the Jin Dynasty, she was
referred to as Mingfei as the name Zhao could not be used by ordinary
folks since the King Sima Zhao had the same surname. Later generations,
however, addressed her as Mingfei.
A native of Zigui (in Western Hubei Province), she entered the imperial
court during the reign of Emperor Yuan of Western Han (48-33 BC).During
the reign of the Han emperor Xuan (91-49BC), the Huns, or Xiong-Nu,
Han’s troublesome northern neighbor, split into five kingdoms,
each led by a chieftain known as Chan-Yu. Wars started among the
five Chan-Yus in a bid for control. Chan-Yu Khukhenye, who was defeated
by his brother Chan-Yu Zhizhi-Guduhu, decided to befriend the former
foe in the south, Emperor Xuan, by suggesting that he pay the emperor
a personal visit.
Khukhenye was the first Chan-Yu that ever came to pay tribute to
a Han emperor. Rejoiced and feeling a bit flattered,
Emperor Xuan went out of his way to meet Khukhenye at the suburb
of Capital Chang’an and held a grand banquet in his honor. After
a month’s stay in Chang’an, Khukhenye thought of going back home
and asked Emperor Xuan for help. The emperor sent an army of ten
thousand strong to escort him back and gave him a hundred thousand
bushels of food to bring back to his starved people. The thankful
Khukhenye was determined to maintain the friendly relationship with
the Han Dynasty.
After Emperor Xuan’s death, his son succeeded the throne and became
Emperor Yuan. Meanwhile, Chan-Yu Zhizhi-Guduhu had been running
over the states to the west of Han and went so far as to slay the
envoy of the Han emperor. This act of brutality incurred the emperor’s
retaliations and cost his own life. With the death of Chan-Yu Zhizhi-Guduhu,
Khukhenye’s position was further strengthened. In the year of 33AD,
he paid a second visit to the Han’s capital, where he asked to
marry one of Emperor Yuan’s daughters to cement the relations of
Han and his Xiong-Nu state. The emperor granted his request, but
instead of his daughter, the bride would be a maid of honor. Getting
married would be a god-sent opportunity for a maid of honor to be
freed from their perpetual solitude in the backyard of the palace.
However, all but one volunteered to venture in to a matrimony that
would destine their life in a foreign land. That was Wang Qiang,
better known in history as Wang Zhaojun. She was extremely beautiful
and intelligent. At the wedding in Chang’an, the emperor was awed
by Zhaojun’s beauty.
Back to his chamber, Emperor Yuan was very regretful that he allowed
Wang Zhaojun to be married to the Xiong-Nu chieftain. He would have
had her as his concubine if he had known she was so glamorous. He
wondered why he had not seen her portrait and sent for it for a
review. Incidentally, emperors chose their concubines by looking
at portraits instead of the girls themselves. When he found that
the portrait did not match Wang Zhaojun, he launched an investigation.
It turned out that the artist Mao Yanshou would paint a prettier
portrait for those who bribed him or vice versa. As Wang Zhaojun
refused to do so, he did injustice to her beauty so that the emperor
would never know her existence in the palace. In rage, Emperor Yuan
had Mao Yanshou executed.
Regretful as he was, Emperor Yuan blessed the inter-racial marriage.
He admired Zhaojun’s courage and was thankful for her willingness
to serve the interests of Han in spite of her own.
Escorted by officials sent by the emperor, Wang Zhaojun embarked
on a long journey to the north on horseback. They braved bitter
cold and heavy snow storms and finally reached Xiong-Nu. There Khukhenye
conferred the title of Peaceful Hu-E-Shi, in the hope that she would
bring them security and peach. That she did by persuading Khukhenye
to abandon violence. As a result, peace reigned on the border with
her mother country for over half a century. After Khukhenye’s death,
Zhaojun married the eldest son of his and his concubine in accordance
with the custom of the Xiong-Nu nationality – a custom abhorred
by the Chinese moral norms in which she was brought up. Therefore,
it must have taken a lot of courage and political insight for her
to do so. It has been popularly believed that she did so for the
sake of Xiong-Nu’s stability, and thereby peace between Xiong Nu
and her mother country. For her self-sacrifice a second time, she
earned the respect of her compatriots not only in her generation,
but generations to come.
Diao Chan is allegedly one of the four ancient
Chinese beauties. Despite her absence in historical records, she
was immortalized as a heroine by the well-known Chinese literary
classics Romance of Three Kingdoms.
Some scholars claim that Diao Chan was born in the family of Ren
in the Mu'er Village of Bingzhou county of today's Shanxi province.
At fifteen, she was selected as a maid of honor in the Han Court,
where she was charged with the duty of taking care of court officials’
hat decorations known as Diao Chan at the time. Hence she came to
be known as such.
With the death of the Han emperor Ling in 189 A.D., the Han Dynasty
fell apart so that warlords ran rampant. The situation would not
be stabilized until three of the warlords emerged to become equally
strong and began the period of stalemate known in history as the
Three Kingdoms. However, before this could happen, chaos reigned.
Each warlord had tried to beat the others. In doing so, they needed
to rally support with imperial mandate. The court now rendered powerless,
thus fell victim to their bloody conflicts trying to get hold of
One of the warlords, Dong Zhuo, with the help of his god-son Lü
Bu, an invincible young warrior, eventually got the upper hand by
slaying the child emperor and installed one of his likings. Though
a prime minister in ink, he was in fact a sovereign, and an extremely
brutal one! He would kill any of his subjects who dared to voice
the slightest dissent. He had a palace built miles outside the capital
for himself. In order to get eight hundred maids of honor and concubines,
he had all the men related to the women slaughtered.
Even the puppet emperor hated Dong and secretly pleaded help of
his closest courtiers.
Wang Yun, one of the courtiers that the young emperor had consulted,
would very much like Dong Zhuo to be destroyed himself. However,
with Lü Bu as Dong's body guard in all weather, who could beat
this formidable foe and save the dynasty from his deadly grip? He
began to lose sleep and appetite, trying to find an answer. His
decline in health worried a girl very much. This is Diao Chan. When
the Han Dynasty fell apart, she lost her job and was adopted by
Wang Yun and worked for him as an alme - a singing and dancing girl.
Wang Yun treated her as his own daughter, for which she was very
grateful. One night, Diao Chan came out to the garden in Wang's
mansion and prayed to the goddess of moon, to whom she expressed
her willingness to do whatever she could to help her fatherly master.
Her pray was overheard by Wang Yun who happened to come to the garden
for a walk. A plan dawned upon him: using Diao Chan to antagonize
Dong Zhuo and Lü Bu so that they would become vulnerable. Diao
The next day, Wang Yun entertained Lü Bu in his mansion, where
he introduced him to Diao Chan. Lü Bu was immediately captivated
by her beauty and was only too happy when Wang Yun offered to marry
them in a few days. A day later, Wang Yun played the same trick
on Dong Zhuo. Lascivious as he was, Dong could not wait and took
Diao Chan with him as he left Wang Yun's mansion. Whenever there
was a chance, Diao Chan would complain of Lü's harassment before
Dong, and her resentment of Dong for nabbing their love before Lü.
In so doing, Diao Chan successfully drove a wedge between the father
and the son, whose jealousy eventually grew into hatred. One day
Dong Zhuo caught Lü Bu courting Diao Chan in his own backyard and
became so enraged that he ran after Lü with an attempt to kill
him. In turn, Lü Bu would have ended Dong's life but for the qualm
of the sin of patricide. He finally made up his mind after Wang
Yun reminded him that since he and Dong had different family names,
they were not legally bounded. Then, they staged a coup d'etat and
killed Dong Zhuo, to the happy release of the dynasty.
Some legends told more stories about Diao Chan's heroism. After
Lü Bu's death, Cao Cao, another warlord who later established Wei,
one of the Three Kingdoms, gave Diao Chan to Guan Yu, one of the
two sworn brotherly generals of Cao Cao's rival Liu Bei. Unwilling
to sabotage the cause of Liu Bei for whom she had great respect,
Diao Chan threatened with suicide. With her consent, Guan Yu escorted
her to a temple, where she became a nun. Hearing this, Cao Cao was
very angry and ordered that she be captured. His men traced Diao
Chan to the temple. Refusing to be brought back to Cao Cao, Diao
Chan threw herself to the sword in the hand of one of the men and
Another legend tells that the three brother warriors of Liu Bei,
Guan Yu and Zhang Fei kept Diao Chan as their sister and sent her
back to her hometown after they succeeded in establishing Shu, one
of the Three Kingdoms. Diao Chan died a natural death where she
Concubine Yang Yuhuan (713 — 756AD) is known as
one of the four ancient Chinese beauties. Like the other three,
Yuhuan was a historical as well as a legendary figure. Historically,
Yang Yuhuan was the wife of Prince Shou, the son of Xuanzong Emperor
of the Tang dynasty. Coveting her beauty, Xuanzong Emperor wanted
to have her as his concubine. As he could not openly marry his daughter-in-law,
he did it in a devious way. He first made Yang Yuhuan a Taoist nun.
Then he gave her the title of Yang the Supreme Truth, which entitled
her to become a member of his court. Soon, in 745AD, Xuanzong Emperor
conferred the title of Guifei (First Lady) to Yuhuan, making her
his most favorite woman in the court to the dismay of hundreds of
his other concubines.
Normally, an emperor would not care about a serious love affair
for a concubine. Emperor Xuanzong's affection for Concubine Yang,
however, was exceptional. Guifei Yang , too, was very much in love
with Emperor Xuangzong, and the two became inseparable. Their romance
earned admiration from generations to come, but at the time incurred
strong disapproval from the emperor's subordinates. Consequently,
as the pair fled from a rebel army, Concubine Yang was forced to
hang herself. The love affair, culminated with its tragic end, has
since become a legend. Among many of the legends, the poem “Lament
of Endless Grief” written by Bai Juyi, one of the greatest Tang
poets, was the most popular.
The poem began with the lascivious Xuanzong Emperor searching for
a beautiful woman to add to the cohort of his concubines. Finally
Yang Yuhuan caught his attention. The poet thus described what happened
The emperor’s favors also extended to her relatives: her cousin
Yang Guozhong, in particular, was appointed prime minister. A wicked
person, he made many an enemy in and outside the court.
Xuanzong Emperor and Concubine Yang were both artistically minded,
the former well versed in musical instruments; the latter, in singing
and dancing. Together they often performed the then famous Rainbow
Feather Garment Dance. However, good times did not last. Xuanzong
indulging himself in the infatuation with Concubine Yang when civil
war broke out on the frontiers.
In the first decade of the sixth century, the Tang government established
many fortresses, known as fan towns, in the northern frontiers to
enforce their defense and conferred the title of jiedushi (military
governor) to their top leaders, who were thus entitled to tremendous
military, civil and financial powers.
In 755AD, a military officer named An Lushan became so powerful
that he began to challenge the sovereignty of Xuanzong Emperor.
He led a rebellion under the banner of ending the corrupt government
of Prime Minister Yang Guozhong, Guifei Yang’s cousin. When the
rebel army marched towards Chang'an, the capital, Xuanzong Emperor
had to flee with his courtiers, escorted by an army. When they reached
a village called Mawei Slope, a little more than a hundred li from
the capital, the soldiers and their officers refused to move on.
They demanded that the Prime Minister Yang Guozhong and his cousin
Yang Concubine be eliminated, blaming them for the problems that
had beset the dynasty.
The Emperor Xuanzong had but to give in to their demand, even though
he loved Guifei Yang dearly and knew that she was made the scapegoat
for the Prime Minister's misdeeds. After all, his life and, by its
extension, the fate of the dynasty was more important than that
of a woman. Concubine Yang was also aware of what had happened.
Grief and sorrow almost overtook her. She did not grudge her life
as much as amorous relations she had with her regal lover. With
much reluctance, she hanged herself with a white scarf. Almighty
and affectionate as he was, the emperor could not prevent the tragedy.
Covering his face with his hands, he allowed his tears to run unchecked.
The rebellion was finally crushed and Xuanzong Emperor returned
to his palace. Now that Concubine Yang had gone forever, he had
nothing on his mind but her memory. Everything he saw and touched
would remind him of their moments together. The lotus roots of the
lake resembled her fair skin and the willow branches her eyebrows.
The emperor became listless and sleepless. Even though he was able
to fall asleep, the absence of his beloved concubine in his dream
gave him more misery than insomnia. Seeing that the emperor suffered
so much from the death of Concubine Yang, a Taoist priest offered
to help; he claimed that he could communicate with the deceased.
He began to search for the spirit of Concubine Yang in heaven and
the underworld. Eventually, they traced her to a divine island,
upon which there stood pavilions after pavilions populated with
nymphs and fairies. Concubine Yang was the most beautiful of them
all. At the arrival of her royal lover’s envoy, she hastened out
of her chamber without much hairdo. Still she was as beautiful as
when she had done the Rainbow and Feather Garment Dance. With tears,
she expressed her thanks to the envoy for bringing her the love
from the emperor. “Please tell his majesty. Though life is short
in the mortal world, it is timeless on this divine island. Give
this half of my hairpin to my beloved and let him know of my love
for him: it is as firm as the gold of which it is made.”
On each seventh day of the seventh month, Xuanzong Emperor would
visit the Longevity Temple, where he could communicate quietly with
his First Lady. He would pray, “May we be twin birds flying side
by side in heaven and twin trees intertwined on the earth.”
Alas, "heaven and earth may not last forever, but this sorrow
is eternal," lamented Bai Juyi at the end of his poem.
The Four Ancient Chinese Great Beauties Silk Scrolls on
Ancient Great Beauties of China Silk Scroll
are two types of silk scrolls with four beauties. For the smaller
type, the center of the single scroll is 23cm wideX45cm high and
the whole single scroll is 30cm wide X100cm high. For the bigger
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whole single scroll is 45cm wide X140cm high. One set of bigger
four beauties scroll costs 200USD including shipping to your door
by EMS. One set of smaller four beauties scroll costs 150USD including
shipping to your door by EMS. If you have interest please contact
Ancient Ladies Silk Wall Hanging
go to this link to see more information if you have interest in
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