Consort Yu

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This is a Chinese name; the family name is Yu.
Consort Yu
Consort Yu.jpg
A portrait of Consort Yu from Baimei Xinyong Tuzhuan (百美新詠圖傳) by Yan Xiyuan
Concubine of Xiang Yu
Born (unknown)
Died 202 BC
Names
Traditional Chinese 虞姬
Simplified Chinese 虞姬
Pinyin Yú Jī
Wade–Giles Yü Chi
Other names

Consort Yu (died 202 BC), personal name Yu Miaoyi, also known as "Yu the Beauty", was the concubine of the warlord Xiang Yu, who competed with Liu Bang (Emperor Gao), the founder of the Han dynasty, for supremacy over China in the Chu–Han Contention (206–202 BC).

Life[edit]

Consort Yu's birth date is unknown and there are two accounts of her origin. The first said she was from Yanji Town (顏集镇) in Shuyang County, while the other claimed that she was from Suzhou, but both pointed that she was born in present-day Jiangsu.

In 209 BC, Xiang Yu and his uncle Xiang Liang started a revolution to overthrow the Qin dynasty. Consort Yu's elder brother, Yu Ziqi, was serving in Xiang Liang's army as a general then. Consort Yu met Xiang Yu, fell in love with him and became his concubine. Since then, she had been following Xiang Yu on his military campaigns and refused to remain behind.

In 202 BC, Xiang Yu was besieged in the Battle of Gaixia by the combined forces of Liu Bang (King of Han), Han Xin and Peng Yue. The Han army started to sing folk songs from Xiang Yu's native land of Chu to create a false impression that they had captured Chu. The morale of Xiang Yu's troops plummeted and several soldiers deserted. In despair, Xiang Yu indulged in alcohol and sang the Song of Gaixia to express his sorrow. Consort Yu performed a sword dance and sang a verse in return. To prevent Xiang Yu from being distracted by his love for her, Consort Yu committed suicide with Xiang Yu's sword after singing. She was buried at Gaixia.

A "Consort Yu Tomb" stands in present-day Lingbi County, Anhui.

Song of Consort Yu[edit]

This verse was sung by Consort Yu after Xiang Yu sang the Song of Gaixia. She committed suicide with Xiang Yu's sword after singing.

漢兵已略地,

The Han army has conquered our land;

四面楚歌聲。

We are surrounded by Chu songs;

大王義氣盡,

My lord's spirits are low;

賤妾何聊生。

Why then should I live?

Modern references[edit]

The romance of Xiang Yu and Consort Yu has been the subject of plays, films and television series, even though not much about Consort Yu was recorded in history. The story was reenacted on stage in the Peking opera Farewell My Concubine. A novel of the same title by Lilian Lee was adapted into Chen Kaige's award-winning film Farewell My Concubine. Poets such as Su Shi, He Pu and Yuan Mei have written poems about Consort Yu as well. Actresses such as Idy Chan, Melissa Ng, Kristy Yang, Rosamund Kwan and Liu Yifei have played the role of Consort Yu in films and television series.

References[edit]