The top four beauties in ancient China include Xi Shi, Diao Chan, Wang Zhaojun and Yang Yuhuan. These four ladies are famous not only for their beauties but also for their unique personalities and breathtaking life experiences.
Because they were able to influence emperors and kings, with whom they were involved. In some cases, they brought kingdoms, even dynasties, to their knees. For most of them, however, their lives ended in tragedy or mystery.
Xi Shi, originally named as Shi Yiguang, was born in Zhuluo Village, Zhuji City, Zhejiang Province during the late Spring-autumn and Warring States Period. Xi Shi was a patriotic, charming lady. In order to realize the national independence, Xi Shi was selected as a "gift" by Yue King who was the king of Yue State. She sacrificed her happiness and served Wu King who was the king of Wu State and strong opponent of Gou Jian. Wu King was so addicted to Xi Shi that he ignored all the national affairs. Day by day, Wu State gradually fell in decay. Yue King seizes the excellent chance and defeated Wu King, realizing the dream of national independence.
Wang Zhaojun was born in today's Zhaojun Village, Xingshan County, Hubei Province in 52 B.C. during the Han Dynasty. She was a gorgeous lady and great at painting, Chinese calligraphy, playing chess and Zheng (a kind of musical instrument in ancient China).
In 36 B.C., Wang Zhaojun was selected as royal maid to serve the royal members. At that time, the relations between ancient China and Xiongnu (an ancient nationality in North China) was strained. One of the leaders of Xiongnu State visited Han emperors and expressed his wish to make peace with Han Dynasty by marriage. Han Xuan Emperor agreed. However, no princess or maids would like to marry a Xiongnu leader and live a distant place. Then Wang Zhaojun stood out and agreed to go to Xiongnu area. Wang Zhaojun got well with Xiongnu people and made great contribution to maintain the peace and friendship between Hang Dynasty and Xiongnu State.
Diaochan unlikes the other three beauties, Records on Diao Chan are scarcely found historical sources and may possibly be a fictional character. Diao Chan’s role as a widely known character is attributed to the famous novel-Romance of the Three Kingdoms.
According to the novel, Diao Chan is a singing girl in the late Eastern Han Dynasty. In order to alienate Dong Zhuo (a tyrannical warlord) from Lu Bu (Dong Zhuo’s adopted son), Diao Chan took upon herself to implement interlinked badger games, regardless of her own happiness. Under her effort, Dong Zhuo was killed by Lu Bu, thus contributing to the emerging of the outstanding heroes: Cao Cao, Liu Bei and Sun Quan, etc. The story of Diao Chan’s circumventing Dong Zhuo and Lu Bu is narrated in Phoenix Pavilion, a play of Peking Opera.
Yang Yuhuan, an imperial concubine of Emperor Xuanzong of the Tang Dynasty, commonly called “Imperial Concubine Yang (Yang Guifei)“.
Yang Yuhuan was born in an old, well-known official family. She was naturally beautiful with a docile character. She was gifted in music, singing, dancing and playing lute. These talents, together with her education, made her stand out among the imperial concubines and win the emperor‘s favor.
In 755 A.D when the military insurgence “Anshi Insurgence (Anshizhiluan)“ was launched by the local forces of the Tang Dynasty, Emperor Tang Xuanzong, together with Imperial Concubine Yang, fled from Chang’an. When they arrived at the Mawei Slope, the army refused to march, for the army thought that the reason of this rebellion by An Lushan was that Imperial Concubine Yang’s behavior of attracting emperor ruined the state and that her cousin Yang Guozong colluded with the enemy. To appease the army, Emperor Tang Xuanzong had no choice but to order Yang to commit suicide at the Mawei Slope.