Thursday, 6 December 2012
Golden Girl Project: Wang Zhaojun
The fourth and last of the Four Beauties of China is about Wang Zhaojun. She was a musician who played the kind of music to attract animals, especially birds. When birds flew towards her just to listen to her music, they lost the ability to fly. Wang's music influenced creatures that made them lose their vital senses. It's part of Chinese legend but not known if this actually happened or not, and if it did what the scientific reason for that would be.
She was a beautiful child from a rich family background, growing up in a village of South China, then part of the affluent Han empire. Not only was she talented in music but in academics and painting. She became famous for both her beauty and for her intelligence. She attracted more than birds, and Emperor Yuan wanted her as his concubine after having heard about her. The emperor's palace court had an artist, named Mao Shouyan, who painted portraits of women. As the emperor was looking for a wife, the women often bribed the artist into making them appear very flattering. However, Wang Zhaojun didn't, so the artist punished her by painting her ugly. The emperor saw the portrait and wasn't interested in meeting her, so Wang Zhaojun remained in court as a maid servant for a while.
Then one day she was summoned to meet the emperor. It wasn't because he had an interest in her but believed that she was ugly as depicted in the portrait. The decision was to send her away to northern China as the fake daughter of the emperor, to complete a tradition between the alliance of Han and Xiongnu, and make an official visitor named Huhanye Chanyu the imperial son-in-law. At this time, the only princess was the daughter of Lu, and she was reluctant to be apart from her child. The other concubines refused to journey to the chilly north and this meant Wang Zhaojun was left. When she DID arrive at court, she revealed her truest beauty to everyone, including the emperor himself. He realised his mistake, and blamed the artist for lying to him. The artist was arrested and the emperor reluctantly gave Wang Zhaojun away to a happy Huhanye.
Wang Zhaojun had three children, a daughter and two sons with Huhanye. One of the boys died. The daughter grew to become a prominent figure in ancient politics. Wang influenced her husband into spreading peace amongst the different peoples of China. But after Wang Zhaojun was widowed, she was given a second husband, and bore two children. She became a powerful, political symbol of friendship, love, compassion and the arts. Since her time, poems and plays have been written about her, not to mention many production companies. This woman is a symbol of civilised progress.
Picture of Wang Zhaojun by Thammasak Aueragsakul.