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Chen Yuanyuan

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Chen Yuanyuan
A 17th-century portrait of Chen Yuanyuan
BornXing Yuan
1623 (1623)
Jiangsu, Ming Empire
Died1689 or 1695
Qing Empire
SpouseWu Sangui
OccupationGējì,drama actress
Chen Yuanyuan
Traditional Chinese陳圓圓
Simplified Chinese陈圆圆
Xing Yuan
(birth name)
(courtesy name)

Chen Yuanyuan (1623–1689 or 1695)[1][2] was a Chinese Gējì who later became the concubine of military leader Wu Sangui. In Chinese folklore, the Shun army's capture of her in 1644 prompted Wu's fateful decision to let the Qing armies enter China proper through Shanhai Pass, thereby sealing the fate of the Ming dynasty.[3]


Chen Yuanyuan was born in Jiangnan to a poor family with the original surname Xing (邢). After her parents died when she was young, she was adopted by her aunt and took her uncle's surname, Chen. At ten, her uncle sold her to become a Gējì. She became renowned as one of the Eight Beauties of Qinhuai, along with Ma Xianglan, Bian Yujing [zh], Li Xiangjun, Dong Xiaowan, Gu Mei, Kou Baimen [zh], and Liu Rushi.[4][5][6]

Chen studied Kunqu and excelled in Yiyang opera, often wearing her hair in a wo duo ji (high bun, 倭堕髻).[7] She was especially praised for her role as Hongniang in The Romance of the West Chamber by poet Zou Shu (邹枢).[8][9][10] Government official Gong Ruofu (贡若甫) bought her freedom and intended to take her as a concubine, but she was released due to disagreements with other women in his household.[11] In 1641, Chen had a brief relationship with the poet and calligrapher Mao Xiang (冒襄), who also intended to take her as a concubine, but before that she was “acquired” – kidnapped or bought – by the powerful courtier Tian Hongyu (田弘遇), father-in-law of the Chongzhen Emperor.[12][13][14]

Accounts of Chen's arrival in Beijing vary, citing 1641,[15] 1642, or 1643.[16] Mao claimed he proposed to Chen in 1641, with plans for marriage the following year. However, by spring 1642 when he went to visit her again, she had been taken away, leading to the belief that she arrived in Beijing in 1642.[17][18] At that time, Tian, concerned that his daughter Tian Xiuying (田秀英) might fall out of favor, sought beautiful women in Jiangnan to win over the emperor in the interests of the Tian family. However, amid the Ming dynasty's struggles against Li Zicheng and the Manchu, the Chongzhen Emperor had little time for Chen. Three months after entering the Forbidden City, she was sent back to Tian. She then performed in his family opera troupe until she was either bought for Ming general Wu Sangui by his father or given to Wu as a gift by Tian.[19][20]

In April 1644, when Beijing fell to Li Zicheng's peasant army, Wu's household in the city were captured by Li and his subordinate Liu Zongmin (刘宗敏).[21] By various accounts, Chen was either taken as a hostage, made a concubine, or raped by them. Wu eventually allied with the Qing regent, Dorgon, allowing the Qing armies to enter China proper through Shanhai Pass. The combined forces of Wu and the Qing ousted Li's peasant army from Beijing, where the Qing dynasty then established its rule over China.[22][23]

After Chen reunited with her husband, she followed him on various campaigns, ending up in Yunnan, which was awarded to Wu by the Qing rulers as part of his fiefdom. One account claims that Chen became a nun in Kunming after she fell out of Wu's favor due to her age and disagreements with his harem.[24] In the 1980s, Chen's final whereabouts was uncovered by the historian Huang Tousong (黄透松), who was exiled to Guizhou in the 1970s during the Cultural Revolution. According to his research, by the end of Wu's failed rebellion against the Qing, Chen and her stepson Wu Qihua (吴启华) aka Wu Yingqi (吴应麒) were escorted by General Ma Bao (马宝) to what is now Majia Zhai village in Guizhou, where they lived until their deaths among the ethnic minorities hostile to Qing rule. The knowledge of Chen's whereabouts was passed down only by oral history in the village until Huang published the discovery. The inscription on Chen's tombstones in the village was intentionally cryptic to deter detection throughout the years but has been confirmed by government historians in 2005.[25][26][27]

In fiction[edit]

Statue of Chen in Gold Hall Park in Kunming

In Chinese folklore, Chen Yuanyuan plays a dramatic and romanticized role in the rise and fall of dynasties. According to stories that emerged during the Kangxi era, Wu Sangui's motivation for joining forces with the Qing to attack Li Zicheng was to save Chen from Li's capture. This earned Chen the notoriety of a femme fatale and Wu the label of a traitor. Although such stories proved popular, some historians regard them as products of fiction.[28][29][30][31]

The story of Chen and Wu was immortalized in Wu Weiye's qu, the Song of Yuanyuan:[32]

In that time when the emperor abandoned the human world,
Wu crushed the enemy and captured the capital, bearing down from Jade Pass.
The six armies, wailing and grieving, were uniformly clad in the white of mourning,
One wave of headgear-lifting anger propelled him, all for the sake of the fair-faced one.
The fair-faced one, drifting, and fallen, was not what I longed for.
The offending bandits, smote by heaven, wallowed in wanton pleasures.
Lightning swept the Yellow Turbans, the Black Mountain troops were quelled.
Having wailed for ruler and kin, I met her again.

— Wu Weiye, excerpt from Song of Yuanyuan[33]


  1. ^ "秘传人口述:陈圆圆生前思念吴三桂形神交瘁".
  2. ^ "明朝灭亡后,陈圆圆怎样度过后半生?被吴三桂嫌弃,在深山中终老".
  3. ^ "声甲天下之声,色甲天下之色:秦淮八艳之陈圆圆".
  4. ^ Lee & Stephanowska 1998
  5. ^ "How to look at generation Geji Chen Yuanyuan objectively".
  6. ^ 《乾隆武进县志·卷十四·摭遗》:圆圆,金牛里人。姓陈氏,父曰惊闺,俗呼陈货郎。崇正初为田戚畹歌妓,后以赠吴逆三桂。甲申之变,圆圆留京师,贼遣人招三桂。三桂意犹与。既而知圆圆为贼所得,遂决意请讨。梅村圆圆曲谓“冲冠一怒为红颜者”,此也。
  7. ^ 《十美词纪》(清)吴江邹枢贯衡:“陈圆者,女优也。少聪慧,色娟秀,好梳倭堕髻,纤柔婉转,就之如啼。演《西厢》,扮贴旦红娘脚色,体态倾靡,说白便巧,曲尽萧寺当年情绪。”
  8. ^ 清·邹枢《十美词纪》:“陈圆者,女优也。少聪慧,色娟秀,好梳倭堕髻:纤柔婉转,就这如啼。演西厢,扮贴旦红娘脚色。体态倾靡,说白便巧,曲尽萧寺当年情绪。常在予家演剧,留连不去。后为田皇亲以二千金酬其母,挈去京师,闻又属之某王,宠冠后宫,入滇南终焉。”
  9. ^ "Sun Huichang: Chen Yuanyuan".
  10. ^ Lee, Wai-yee. "Women as Emblems of Dynastic Fall in Qing Literature". In Wang, David Der-wei; Wei, Shang (eds.). Dynastic Crisis and Cultural Innovation: From the Late Ming to the Late Qing and Beyond. Brill. p. 95.
  11. ^ "Light up the lamp and read Chen Yuanyuan".
  12. ^ "The Chinese village that kept a courtesan's secret for centuries". South China Morning Post. 2019-05-10. Retrieved 2019-12-14.
  13. ^ Lee & Stephanowska 1998
  14. ^ "Romance and Myth in Water Painting Garden".
  15. ^ 清·胡介祉《茨村咏史新乐府》:“崇祯辛巳年,田贵妃父宏遇进香普陀,道过金阊,渔猎声妓,遂挟沅以归。”
  16. ^ 清·叶梦珠《阅世编》:“十六年春,戚畹田宏遇南游吴阊,闻歌妓陈沅、顾寿。名震一时,宏遇使人购得顾寿,而沅尤靓丽绝世,客有私于宏遇者,以八百金市沅进之,宏遇载以还京。”
  17. ^ 明·冒襄《影梅庵忆语》:因便过吴门,慰陈姬。盖残冬屡趣余,皆未及答。至则十日前复为窦霍门下客,以势逼去。先吴门有?匿之者,集千人哗劫之。势家复为大言挟诈,又不惜数千金为贿,地方恐贻伊戚,劫出复纳入。余至怅惘无极,然以急严亲患难,负一女子无憾也。
  18. ^ 明·冒襄《影梅庵忆语》:偶一日,赴饮归,谓余曰:“此中有陈姬某,擅梨园之胜,不可不见。”余佐忠节治舟数往返,始得之。其人淡而韵,盈盈冉冉,衣椒茧时背顾湘裙。真如孤鸾之在烟雾。是日燕弋腔红梅。以燕俗之剧,咿呀啁哳之调,乃出之陈姬身口,如云出岫,如珠在盘,令人欲仙欲死。漏下四鼓,风雨忽作,必欲驾小舟去。余牵衣订再晤。答云:“光福梅花如冷云万顷,子能越旦偕我游否?则有半月淹也。”余迫省觐,告以不敢迟留,故复?南岳归棹,当迟子于虎??丛桂间,盖计其期,八月返也。余别去,恰以观涛日奉母回。至西湖,因家君调已破之襄阳,心绪如焚。便讯陈姬,则已为窦霍豪家掠去。闻之惨然。
  19. ^ "How to look at generation Geji Chen Yuanyuan objectively".
  20. ^ 清·陆次云《圆圆传》:声甲天下之声,色甲天下之色。崇祯癸未岁,总兵吴三桂慕其名,赍千金往聘之,已先为田畹所得。时圆圆以不得事吴,快怏也。而吴更甚。田畹者,怀宗妃之父也,年耄矣。圆圆度流水高山之曲以歌之,畹每击节,不知其悼知音之希也。甲申春,流贼大炽,怀宗宵旰忧之,废寝食。妃谋所以解帝忧者于父。畹进圆圆,圆圆扫眉而入,冀邀一顾,帝穆然也。旋命之归畹第,时闯师将迫畿辅矣。帝急召三桂对平台,锡蟒玉,赐上方,托重寄,命守山海关。三桂亦慷慨受命,以忠贞自许也。而寇深矣,长安富贵家胥畹忧甚,语圆圆,圆圆曰:「当世乱,而公无所依,祸必至。曷不缔交于吴将军,庶缓急有借乎?」畹曰:「斯何时,吾欲与之缱吴欲之而故却也,强而可,至则戎服临筵,俨然有不可犯之色。畹陈列益盛,礼益恭。酒甫行,吴即欲去。畹屡易席,至邃室一淡妆者,统诸美而先众音,情艳意娇。三桂不觉其神移心荡也,遽命解戎服,易轻裘,顾谓畹曰:「此非所谓圆圆耶?洵足倾人城矣!公宁勿畏而拥此耶?」畹不知所答,命圆圆行酒。圆圆至席,吴语曰:「卿乐甚?」圆圆小语曰:红拂尚不乐越公,矧吴颔之。酣饮间,警报踵至,吴似不欲行者,而不得不行。畹前席曰:「设寇至,将奈何?」吴遽曰:「能以圆圆见赠,吾当保公家,先于保国也。」畹勉许之。吴即命圆圆拜辞畹,择细马驮之去。畹爽然,无如何也。
  21. ^ "The most unjust beauty in Chinese history: the tragedy and fate of Chen Yuanyuan".
  22. ^ Wakeman 1986, p. 300
  23. ^ 《明史·流寇》:“初,三桂奉诏入援至山海关,京师陷,犹豫不进。自成劫其父襄,作书招之,三桂欲降,至滦州,闻爱姬陈沅被刘宗敏掠去,愤甚,疾归山海,袭破贼将。自成怒,亲部贼十余万,执吴襄于军,东攻山海关,以别将从一片石越关外。三桂惧,乞降于我。”
  24. ^ "The history of red makeup photos of a generation - parallel traces of the famous Geji Chen Yuanyuan".
  25. ^ "The Chinese village that kept a courtesan's secret for centuries". South China Morning Post. 2019-05-10. Retrieved 2024-05-28.
  26. ^ "The oral account of the secret successor: Chen Yuanyuan missed Wu Sangui during his lifetime and was physically and mentally exhausted".
  27. ^ "Chen Yuanyuan was buried in Majiazhai, Guizhou".
  28. ^ Wakeman 1986, pp. 292–294
  29. ^ Spence 1990, p. 33
  30. ^ Huang 1997, p. 205
  31. ^ Lovell 2006, p. 252
  32. ^ Wakeman 1986, pp. 292–294
  33. ^ Chang & Owen 2010, p. 179


  • Xie 谢, Yongfang 永芳; Shi 施, Qin 琴 (2014). "像传题咏与经典重构———以《秦淮八艳图咏》为中心" [Acclaim for portraits and classical reconstruction: 'Qinhuai bayan tuyong' as the centre]. Zhongguo Wenhua Yanjiu (2): 180–188.

See also[edit]