It’s a well-known fact that Chinese women are beautiful. Everyone loves Chinese women. Did you know that there are three Chinese women throughout over 5000 years of Chinese history that were said to be the most beautiful of them all? The three great beauties of China did indeed yield a lot of power. Beauty is power! However, being a beautiful woman has its downfalls. There is a Chinese saying “Beautiful women will have difficult lives.” In each of these beautiful women’s cases, their lives have either ended prematurely or they were used as a tool in political struggles.
Let’s meet these women!
1. Xi Shi
Xi Shi is thought to have been the most beautiful of the three beauties. There is a popular saying “Xi Shi chen yu”, meaning that Xi Shi was so beautiful that fish would forget how to swim and sink away from the surface when she walks by.
Xi Shi was born in 506 BC. Back then China was not one country, but made up of several states like mini-kingdoms and all those states were constantly fighting with each other. Xi Shi was from the state of Yue which was vanquished by the state of Wu. The king of Yue was forced to serve the prince of Wu for three years.
According to legend, the king of Yue and his advisers thought of a way to beat Wu and it is widely known that the prince of Wu was a sucker for pretty women. The king of Yue knew that if Wu prince was surrounded by beautiful women, he would be so distracted that he would have no energy left to rule the country. In order for the plan to succeed, the king of Yue needed to enlist a loyal woman of stunning beauty who was willing to sacrifice herself for the good of the country. Xi Shi was chosen. She was taken as a tribute gift from Yue to the state of Wu. But she felt deeply in love with a wise and kind minister during the journey. Before they parted, they had made a secret pledge of undying love.
As expected, the prince of Wu was enchanted by Xi Shi and spent more and more time with her, neglecting his political duties. When he eventually realised, it was too late. The Yue king invaded the Wu state and Xi Shi committed suicide. The mission was complete.
Now, there are two versions of what happened to Xi Shi after this. One is that Xi Shi drowned in a river and the other that is more plausible, is that she reunited with the minister she was in love with and lived in relative obscurity happily ever after.
2. Diao Chan
Diao Chan is the second best looking of the three beauties. She was described to be so luminously beautiful that the moon itself would shy away when compared to her face.
During the East Han Dynasty, there was a tyrannical warlord named Dong Zhuo with an adopted son Lu Bu who was the mightiest warrior in the land.
At the time, there was also an official called Wang Yun. Wang Yun was very concerned with the political state of the country. In order to dethrone Dong Zhuo, Wang Yun hatched a plan to drive a wedge between Dong Zhuo and Lu Bu. The wedge would be Diao Chan, a beautiful girl who happened to live in Wang Yun’s castle. She agreed to help Wang Yun in order to repay his kindness for taking her in. Lu Bu was immediately mesmerised by her beauty. Then, Wang Yun also presented Diao Chan to Dong Zhuo who immediately took her as his concubine.
One day, when Wang Yun who came to see Dong Zhuo, Diao Chan run to him crying, saying that she feels ashamed to see him as she had been violated by Dong Zhuo. At his time, Dong Zhuo walked and saw Lu Bu holding Diao Chan. From that point on, the battle was on between Dong Zhuo and Lu Bu and they became crazy jealous of each other over Diao Chan.
In the end, Wang Yun was able to enlist Lu Bu in helping him kill Dong Zhuo. So the son killed his adoptive father over a woman. There are various versions of Diao Chan’s fate and none of them were good. Some say she was executed by Dong Zhuo’s followers along with Wang Yun and some say that she won the world along with Lu Bu but she was executed when he was defeated. Some say Diao Chan never existed as her name only appeared in legends and not historical texts.
3. Wang Zhao Jun
Wang Zhao Jun is the third most beautiful woman in Chinese history and it is said to be so beautiful that her appearance would entice birds in flight to fall from the sky. Wang Zhao Jun was born in the western Han Dynasty in 52 BC. She is known for her passion for Mahjong, a game with deep roots in ancient China, that embraces the same popularity nowadays. According to recent findings, mahjong was incredibly popular among officials. Even though the game was considered indecent, having a corrupting influence on the ancient society, women showed a big interest in playing it, as a fine medium throughout which to socialise. However, because of its bad reputation, mention of the game was shot by historians. Nowadays, women still show a keen interest in games not only in China, but all over the world.
Wang Zhao Jun entered the Imperial Palace during the reign of Emperor Yuan. The emperor chose companions from his vast group of maidens only by looking at the portraits. The ladies started to bribe the court artists to ensure that they painted flattering likeness – like driving a photographer to photoshop your photo to make you look the best when you want to win a contest or a competition..
Wang Zhao Jun was so confident in her natural beauty and refused to pay the bribe. As a result, the painter painted and ugly picture of her and in the finished portrait she seemed to be the ugliest of all the palace ladies and thus never received the Emperor’s favour.
When Hu Han Xie, the chieftain of Mongolia and Northern China at that time became a subject of Han Empire, he told the Emperor he wished to take a hot beauty as his Empress. The emperor agreed to the request but he did not want to give away any of his pretty maidens, so he actually decided to pick up the ugliest girl for marriage. Only when Wang Zhao Jun was on the point of departure, the emperor realised he’d made a huge mistake but it was too late.
Wang Zhao Jun travelled beyond the Great Wall and never returned to the homeland. She died at the tender age of thirty-three.
There is a popular Chinese saying “It is hard for heroes to pass the test of beautiful women.” Basically, all guys are weak when it comes to dealing with a beautiful woman.