Tuesday 12 February 2013

Chinese Art: Four Great Beauties

Continuing our celebrations of Chinese Lunar New Year we look at a particular Chinese legend known as the Four Great Beauties. It refers to four women of ancient China who lived at different times, in different dynasties, the earliest in the 6-7th century BC, the latest, Yang Guifei, lived between 719 and 756 AD during the Tang Dynasty. She was said to have a face that put all flowers to shame.

The other three, in chronological order were:
  • Xi Shi (c. 7th to 6th century BC, Spring and Autumn Period), said to be so entrancingly beautiful that fish would forget how to swim and sink away from the surface when she walks by.
  • Wang Zhaojun (c. 1st century BC, Western Han Dynasty), said to be so beautiful that her appearance would entice birds in flight to fall from the sky.
  • Diaochan (c. 3rd century, Late Eastern Han/Three Kingdoms period), said to be so luminously lovely that the moon itself would shy away in embarrassment when compared to her face.

Three of the Four Beauties brought kingdoms to their knees, and the lives of all four ended in tragedy or under mysterious circumstances. Source: Wikipedia.

Yang Guifei by Uemura Shoen (Shohaku Art Museum)
By Uemura Shōen (1875-1949) [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

畫麗珠萃秀 Gathering Gems of Beauty (吳西施) 2
By Identified as He Dazi (赫達資) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Periodo edo, kosumi morihage, wang zhaojun, XVII sec. 02
I, Sailko [GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Wang Yun & Diao Chan
By shizhao (talk)拍摄,画者不明 (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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