Four Beauties of China: Wang Zhaojun
See this pic? She’s none other than Wang Zhaojun, one of the four beauties of Ancient China, and her story is real kick-ass and awesome. See, she was born during the time of the Silk Road, which was an awesome time to be born in because China was selling its Silk to the world, and basically errbody around the world wanted silk sooo bad. I mean, silk was as valuable as gold, if not more. So anyway, while China was tryna figure out a way to sell silk to errbody and get richer, they encountered this problem.
To the North of China there were the Huns, and if you watched the Disney version of Mulan you’d know that these Huns were not very friendly. In fact, that was a total understatement - they were super aggressive and wanted to invade China. But after a while, both sides realized that this war thing wasn’t working out, yo, so they established this thing called the marriage treaty, which was basically this:
Once in a while, they would give each other political brides to keep the peace, so they had these women serving as go-betweens to say, “Hey guys, no fighting, play nice!” Also, China had to give these Huns lotsa dowry, and each time they gave the Huns some of their stuff, it had to top the amount of the last one. Anyways, and this is where Wang Zhaojun comes in.
See, Wang Zhaojun was one of the girls in the Emperor’s harem, or back palace (后宫 hou gong). Aaaaaand there were like, so many women to have the sexy times with the Emperor that sometimes, he didn’t even see all of them. Back then, it was pretty common for the Emperor to tell his officers or eunuchs that he wanted a shit ton of beauties, and they would bring many many women back for him, so there you go.
During this period of time, there was a court painter, and the Emperor hired him to paint sexy pics of his concubines. And the sexier they looked in those pics, the more he wanted them, so the painter was getting like, super rich ‘cause all the lay-deez in the court wanted to be painted like they were some goddess. These lay-deez knew that if they wanted to get somewhere in life, they had to be in the Emperor’s favour, and so were like, freaking desperate to be of service to the Emperor.
But Wang Zhaojun totally refused. She was all, “Bitch, please. I totally want the Emperor to see me as I am,” and the painter was all, “Whatever, your loss,” and he painted her like she was some plain Jane, though she really was quite beautiful.
The Emperor saw her pic and was all, “Meh. Next.”
So finally, the Huns came up to the Emperor again and they were all like, “Dude, you better give us another political bride or we’ll open a can of butt whoop.” The Emperor was all like, “Yeah, sure, whatever, I have like, so many beautifoo wimminz anyway,” and basically word got round the palace that Huhuanye the Hun King wanted a bride.
Wang Zhaojun was all, “Imma go,” and when the Emperor heard this, he was all, “Sweet! The Plain Jane is gonna go!” And on that day itself, she presented herself before the Emperor, he freaked. He realized that her milkshake could bring all them Kings to the yard, and he totally wanted her.
But it was too late. She was supposed to go to the Huns, and if he tried to get her back, war would break out, so he let her go. The pic you see above shows Wang Zhaojun in her iconic red robe and pipa as she set off to be the Hun King’s wife. The Emperor was so heartbroken and pissed and upset that he ordered the court painter to be executed, but he himself died after Wang Zhaojun was gone ‘cause he longed for her like, soooo much.
And the thing is, ‘cause of Wang Zhaojun, the Huns and China had 60 years of peace, ‘cause she was the Hun King’s favourite and he always listened to her, yo. And she like, totally missed Chinese culture so she brought her culture to the Huns, like those overseas exchange programs we have today, so the Huns understood them Chinese peeps better. She also had like, many sons, who were totally like her - political and cultural ambassadors between two nations.
This is a woman who lived in a time when it so wasn’t cool to be female, but she had her principles, and was bad-ass enough to keep to it. She made the best of it and did something for the world. I guess that’s why people always keep re-telling her story. There are like, soooo many plays and operas dedicated to her, and that is pretty awesome, which is why she is one of the four beauties of Ancient China.