The Four Beauties. From left to right: Xi Shi, Wang Zhaojun, Diaochan, Yang Guifei
|Alternative Chinese name|
The Four Beauties or Four Great Beauties are four ancient Chinese women, renowned for their beauty. The scarcity of historical records concerning them meant that much of what is known of them today has been greatly embellished by legend. They gained their reputation from the influence they exercised over kings and emperors and consequently, the way their actions impacted Chinese history. Three of the Four Beauties brought kingdoms to their knees and their lives ended in tragedy.
The Four Great Beauties lived in four different dynasties, each hundreds of years apart. In chronological order, they are:
- 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 seeing her reflection in water.
- 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.
- Yang Guifei (719-756, Tang Dynasty), said to have a face that puts all flowers to shame.
A quote describes the four beauties. The exact origin of this quote is debated.
|xī shī chén yú
zhāo jūn luò yàn
diāo chán bì yuè
guì fēi xiū huā
|sai1 si1 cam4 jyu4
ciu1 gwan1 lok6 ngaan6
diu1 sim4 bai3 jyut6
gwai3 fei1 sau1 faa1
|Xi Shi sinks fish
Wang Zhaojun entice birds falling
Diaochan eclipses the moon
Yang Guifei shames flowers
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