The four beauties of ancient China are extremely famous in Chinese culture and even in the world. These four beauties are Xi Shi, Wang Zhao Jun, Diao Chan, and Yang Yu Huan, and they are from different historical periods. These four beauties are said to be most beautiful women in China and also have great influence on the country’s politics and history. In order to express how beautiful they are, Chinese people use the phrase “Sink the fish, fall the wild-geese, shade the moon, shame the flower” to describe them.
Xi Shi was a historical figure in the Yue Dynasty during the Spring and Autumn period. She was a girl who spent a lot of time washing yarn by the creek. She was very pretty and when she was washing yarn by the creek, the fish in the water were astonished by her beauty and sank to the bottom of the creek.
At that time, the Yue Country was defeated by the Wu Country. The emperor of Yue Country knew that the emperor of Wu Country had a lust for beauty, so he sent someone to look for the most beautiful girl in the country. They found Xi Shi washing yarn by the creek and they were so impressed by her beauty. The courtier brought Xi Shi back to the emperor and she was trained with singing, dancing, walking, etc so she could be sent to Emperor Wu as a gift. The purpose of sending Xi Shi was to distract the Wu Emperor. When the Wu Emperor focused only on Xi Shi, the Yue Country spent all the time training the soldiers so they could take revenge. As Emperor Yue wished, Emperor Wu was so obsessed with Xi Shi and had no time checking the situation of Yue Country. Eventually, the Yue Country defeated the Wu Country and took their revenge. Xi Shi played an important role in the history of the Yue Dynasty.
Interesting Facts about Xi Shi
1. Xi Shi was so delicate and she was sick all the time. However, her sick state was the most beautiful and arouse people’s tender affection for her. Most of the girls in her town wanted to mimic her sick look as a desire for beauty. There was a girl named Dong Shi who wanted to imitate Xi Shi, but she just made herself look more ugly.
2. It is said that Xi Shi fell in love with the courtier named Fan Li who found her. After she finished her mission, Xi Shi got married with him and lived a happy life.
Wang Zhao Jun
Wang Zhao Jun was a historical figure born in 52 B.C. in the Han Dynasty. She was very beautiful so she was sent into the palace as the emperor’s lady. There were many other girls from the country that were sent into the palace too. The emperor asked a painter to draw all these girls’ portrait so he could pick the beautiful ones as his concubines. All the other girls gave money to the painter as bribe so the painter would portray them more beautiful. However, Wang Zhao Jun did not give the painter any money. The painter purposely added a mole on her face in the portrait. As a result, Wang Zhao Jun was not selected as the emperor’s concubines.
A few years later, the emperor of the Hun came to meet the Han emperor and asked for a wife. This is called He Qin (peaceful marriage alliance) which is a method a country use to avoid war with the other country. The Han emperor decided to choose one from the ladies who were not chosen as concubines.
Wang Zhao Jun decided to sacrifice herself and marry the Hun Emperor. On departure, the Emperor of Han saw Wang Zhao Jun and was astonished by her beauty and regreted his decision. He did not know there was such a beautiful woman in his palace, but it was too late to change his mind. Wang Zhao Jun eventually left the country and married the Hun Emperor. It is said that on her way to the Hun Country, the wild geese saw her face and were attracted by her beauty, so they forgot to fly and fell to the ground. The emperor of Han was so angry and killed the painter who misrepresented Wang Zhao Jun’s portrait.
Diao Chan is a historical figure in the Three Kingdoms period. Her story was recorded in one of the four masterpieces, The Three Kingdoms. Diao Chan was a showgirl in Officer Wang Yun’s house. One night she was praying in the yard and willing to help her master in politics, and Wang Yun happened to see her and was moved by her loyalty. Wang Yun adopted Diao Chan as daughter and trained her to break the relationship of Lu Bu and Dong Zhuo, who were foster son and father. It is said when Diao Chan was praying at night, the moon was shamed by her beauty and hind behind the cloud.
Diao Chan and Lu Bu were engaged, and Wang Yun purposely introduced Diao Chan to Dong Zhuo (the foster father). Dong Zhuo was attracted by Diao Chan’s beauty and wanted to take her as concubine. Diao Chan cried to Lu Bu that she did not want to marry Dong Zhuo but she had no choice because Dong Zhuo had a lot of power. Lu Bu was so angry that his foster father wanted to take away his lover. Wang Yun persuaded Lu Bu to kill his foster father and he did. Diao Chan played an important role in the history of the Three Kingdom.
Yang Yu Huan
Yang Yu Huan is a historical figure in the Tang Dynasty. She was the concubine of the Tang Emperor, Tang Xuan Zhong. Actually, Yang Yu Huan was married to Tang Xuan Zhong’s son first. However, the emperor was impressed by her beauty when he saw her and decided to take her away from his son.
Yang Yu Huan and the emperor were 34 years apart. The emperor adored Yang Yu Huan so much and tried his best to get whatever she wanted. It is said that Yang Yu Huan loves Lychee so much. However, the palace was in Chang An, a city in central China, and Lychee was only grown in the faraway southern China. The emperor sent soldiers with the best horse to bring the Lychee from Guang Dong, which was thousands of miles away. To make sure Yang Yu Huan eat the fresh Lychee, the soldier carried the litchi in a non-stop relay method with the fastest horse. Many people and horses were killed because of sending the Lychee to Chang An.
Yang Yu Huan also loves the peony so the emperor planted a lot of peony in the palace yard. One day, Yang Yu Huan got drunk and fell asleep in the peony cluster. It is said that the peony was shamed by her beauty and the peony closed their pedals. The emperor spoiled Yang Yu Huan a lot and promoted her bother to a very high position in the imperial court. Yang Yu Huan’s brother got involved in a rebellion so the emperor killed him. Officers in the imperial court thinks that Yang Yu Huan was the one causing all these chaos so the emperor was forced to kill her.
Interesting Facts about Yang Yu Huan
1. Tang Dynasty advocated ample posture because the rulers think that ampleness means wealth and health. So Yang Yu Huan has an ample figure and she is the fattest in the four beauties.
2. It is said Yang Yu Huan has body odor, but the emperor likes her very much so he thinks it is body fragrance.