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Thread: 100 Famous Women in China

  1. #46
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    40. Princess Wencheng (the princess married to Tibet)
    Princess Wencheng (623—680 AD) was the daughter of Emperor Taizong. She was pretty and clever, and was familiar with Chinese culture. She believed in Buddhism.
    Tibet was then independent of China. It became a vassal state to China only in Qing dynasty, but still only in name. It ruled itself independently, even under KMD government, till CPC sent its army into Tibet and actually ruled it. At that time, sometimes it was friendly to Tang government and sometimes invaded Tang territory. It depended on who ruled Tibet. At the time, Songtsen Gampo was the king of Tibet.
    It was a leap year in 640 AD. The lunar calendar has a double month in the leap year. There were two tenth moons in that year and in the bissextile tenth moon, the king of Tibet sent someone to the capital of Tang dynasty with five thousand taels of silver and hundreds of gems and other valuables, asking for the hand of one of the princesses. Emperor Taizong was on the throne at that time and agreed to marry Princess Wencheng to the Tibetan king.
    On the fifteenth day of the third moon in 641 AD, Emperor Taizong ordered Prince Jiangxia, his cousin, to escort Princess Wencheng to Tibet for the wedding ceremony. When the princess arrived, the king was very happy and had a palace of Tang style built for her. The king also liked the clothes and etiquette of Tang style. Whenever he went to see the princess, he put on gauze clothes of Tang style. According to the history record, the princess brought Tang culture there together with silkworm eggs, which affected the life and customs of Tibetan people. They began to breed silkworms and made silk clothes. She also brought a statue of Sakyamuni, and the king built Ramoche Temple for it. The princess was the second queen of the Tibetan king. His first queen was a princess from Nepal.
    In the fifth moon of AD 650, died the king of Tibet, the husband of Princess Wencheng and so the brother-in-law of the present Emperor Gaozong, son of Emperor Taizong, who already died. Emperor Gaozong was the brother of Princess Wencheng. The son of King Songtsen Gampohad died early and so his grandson was made the king. As the grandson was a child, the prime minister Ludongzan had all the power to rule Tibet. He was talented and so Tibet became strong.
    In the second moon of 679 AD, another king of Tibet died, and his son, eight years old, succeeded to the position of king. In the tenth moon, the sad news of the death of the Tibetan king, Songtsen Gampo, her husband, sent by Princess Wencheng, who was still alive, arrived in the capital of Tang Dynasty. A courtier Song Lingwen was sent to attend the funeral.
    During the tenth moon of 680 AD, Princess Wencheng died in Tibet.

  2. #47
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    41. Princess Taiping (a lewd and ambitious woman)
    Princess Taiping (670—713 AD) was the daughter of Emperor Gaozong and Empress Wu the Great. She was pretty and ambitious like her mother. Her real name was Li Lingyue and Taiping was her Taoist name. Once the king of Tibet wanted to marry her and sent a messenger to the capital. The emperor and empress would not let her marry so far, and so let her become a female Taoist, but only in name, because a female Taoist could not marry so that she could refuse the king of Tibet without offending him. Hence, historians call her Princess Taiping (literally meaning peace). Instead, Princess Wencheng married the king of Tibet (see above).
    In 681 AD when the princess was sixteen, she married her husband, the nephew of Emperor Gaozong. This was her first marriage, which ended in 688 AD, because the brother of her husband joined in a rebellion and was executed. Her husband, though innocent, was put in jail and starved there.
    Her second husband was the nephew of Empress Wu. The couple lived for twenty-two years and the husband died one year before her. During her second marriage, she often had adultery with whomever she liked, sometimes a courtier, and sometimes a monk, who was stout and could have longer action than others. Her husband did not dare to say anything as she was the favorite princess. Empress Wu liked her this daughter better than her other children, because she was more like her mother in appearance and character. To please her mother, she sometimes brought strong men into the palace to entertain her mother. The monk was one of them. When the monk became the favorite of empress Wu, he turned to be arrogant and did a lot of things against the law. The monk was later killed because of his misbehavior.
    When Empress Wu grew old, she made her son Li Xuan the crown prince. In 705 AD, Premier Zhang Janzhi (625—706 AD) had coup d'état and forced Empress Wu to retire and give the throne to the crown prince, who was Emperor Zhongzong (11/26/656—07/03/710 AD). His wife was Empress Wei. She had a daughter, Princess Anle (?--710 AD), who yearned for power, too, and even asked the emperor to make her crown princess so that she could be the successor to the throne. At the same time, Princess Taiping became more powerful as she had supported the emperor to get his throne.
    Empress Wei did not love the emperor. She was also an ambitious woman, and wanted to be the empress sovereign like Empress Wu, who was them dead. So she conspired with her daughter to poison the emperor, her husband. After the death of Emperor Zhongzong, her brother, Princess Taiping and Shangguan WanEr (see next) drafted the will of the diseased emperor to make Prince Wen the crown prince. Empress Wei was the regent and supplanted members of Li family and supported members of her Wei family. So the two family members fought each other. At last, Li family gained the day and killed empress Wei and her family members. In this event, Princess Taiping had a finger and she supported Li Dan (662—716 AD), another son of Empress Wu, also her brother, to be the emperor, who was Emperor Ruizong.
    In the seventh moon of 712 AD, Emperor Ruizong retired and gave the throne to his son, who became Emperor Xuanzong (09/08685—05/03/762 AD), who was the husband of the famous Imperial Concubine Yang, the fourth beauty of the four beauties in the history. Princess Taiping vied with Emperor Xuanzong for power, but she failed at length, and was forced to hang herself at home.

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    42. Shangguan WanEr (a poetess and talented woman)
    Shangguan (double surname) WanEr (664—710 AD) was a poetess and worked as a secretary for Empress Wu the Great. When her grandfather was killed by Empress Wu, because he opposed her to be the empress, she and her mother were taken to the palace as slaves. She was then still a child. Under the education of her mother, she became a girl of talent. She developed a good memory. Later when Empress Wu found her talent, she liberated her from slavery and also her mother. As she could write well and exercise good calligraphy, Empress Wu made the girl her secretary and let her draft edicts for her. She endeavored to please Empress Wu and soon became her favorite. Empress Wu let her handle some state affairs and by degrees, she got some power.
    In 705 AD, during the rule of Emperor Zhongzong, the emperor let her draft all the imperial edicts, which was a very important position. The emperor trusted in her so much that her power grew as well as her ambition. It was said that she had adultery with the emperor. Next year, she had adultery with Wu Sansi, a nephew of Empress Wu. In the seventh moon of 707 AD, the crown prince led his bodyguards to attack the residence of Wu Sansi and killed him. The crown prince wanted to kill Shangguan WanEr, too, because she supported Wu family. WanEr escaped to the palace and the emperor's mother, Empress Wei, protected her. Then the imperial guards came forth to defeat the crown prince, who was killed in the combat.
    In 710 AD, when Princess Taiping became more powerful, WanEr tended to support Princess Taiping. When Emperor Zhongzong was poisoned by Empress Wei, she and Princess Taiping drafted the will of the late emperor to make Prince Wen as the crown prince and Empress Wei became the regent. In the seventh moon, Prince Linzi, son of Emperor Ruizong, led the imperial guards to enter the palace and killed Empress Wei, her daughter Princess Anle, and also Shangguan WanEr, who was thought to be the follower of Empress Wei. When the son later became Emperor Xuanzong, he admired the poetic talent of WanEr and gave order to collect her poems into a book. One of her poem runs as follows:
    Just as leaves fall on the Tongting Lake,
    I think of you ten thousand miles away.
    The dew is dense and the scented quilts are cold;
    The moon sets and the brocade screen is empty.

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    43. Yang Yuhuan (the fourth beauty of the four beauties)
    Yang Yuhuan was the imperial concubine of Emperor Xuanzong, the fourth beauty of the four beauties in the history of China. Her story was included in the book titled “Love Tales of Ancient China.” She was the fat beauty as fatness was the fashion of the beauty in Tang dynasty, while the other three beauties were thin and lean, like what we like nowadays.

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    44. Xue Tao (a famous poetess and a courtesan)
    Xue Tao (768—832 AD) was a famous poetess in Tang dynasty. She was born in ChangAn city, the capital. Her father was a petty official and moved to Chengdu city. When her father died, she lived in this city ever since.
    She could write poems and knew music at the age of eight. Once her father composed a couplet, “There is an old tree in the courtyard, Its tall trunk rising into clouds.” He wanted his daughter to write another couplet so that the four lines could make a poem. She immediately wrote, “Its boughs welcome birds from north to sough, Its leaves send away winds coming and going.” Her father was glad and proud of her. But historians said that these two lines were the exact description of her own fate as she later became a courtesan that welcomed visitors coming and saw visitors going.
    After the death of her father, her family, mother and herself, fell into poverty. She had to become a singsong girl in a whorehouse at the age of sixteen. As a singsong girl did not have love-making with any visitors. She only entertained them with her song or music play, or wrote a poem or painted something for them. As she was beautiful and talented, she was well-known in the area. Her visitors were all local officials and men of letters. Her nickname was “Poetic whore.”
    The governor of that time liked her talent very much and often sent for her to his residence to entertain his guests by chanting poems of her own composition. Thus she made acquaintance with many famous poets and scholars at the time. She even fell in love with one of them, but their love had no result. The governor adored her poetic talent, and tried to get an official title for her from the central government, but of no avail. When this governor died, the next governor came. He liked her too, and canceled her registration in her prostitute record. She became a free ordinary woman. Then she always wore a Taoist costume. She seldom had visitors now. She lived a quiet life in old age. She made a kind of paper called Xue Tao paper, which was slightly pink. The paper was widely used at the time.

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    45. Yu Xuanji (a famous poetess and a female Taoist)
    Yu Xuanji (844—871 AD) was a famous poetess in the late Tang dynasty. At first her name was Yu Youwei. In 894 AD when she was five, her family moved to another town and she started her study at a local school. In 854 AD when she was ten, the family moved back to her hometown, where she began to get acquainted with a famous poet at the time. They wrote poems to each other ever since.
    In 858 AD, she was fourteen. A scholar Li Yi (?--?) wrote a poem on the wall of Chongzhen Temple. It was traditional for ancient poets to write poems wherever they could, such as on the walls of a temple, of a wine house, or even on a cliff wall of a scenic spot. When the girl read it, she liked it and then married Li Yi as a concubine through the introduction of her acquainted poet. As Li had a wife, Yu could only be a concubine. His wife was so jealous that Li did not dare to bring the girl home. He just let her stay in Xianyi Temple.
    A few years later, her husband deserted her because he was a man liking new love partners, except his wife, whom he was afraid of. Yu began to travel east in the autumn of 861 AD. Next spring, she returned to where she started her trip, ChangAn city. In 866 AD when she turned twenty-two, she became a female Taoist in Yanyi Temple and changed her name to Yu Xuanji, which was better known to us. In that period of time, many men of letters came to seek her favor, but she favored none. She treated everyone coming to visit her equally as a friend. She did not remarry anyone. She kept writing poems, fifty-one in all that we know today. Although she was a Taoist, she was a famous woman, and had a maid to wait on her. Once she was so angry with her maid that she beat her accidentally to death. For this crime, she was executed. A famous couplet from one of her poems is so written:
    It is easy to get a precious antique,
    But hard to have a boy of true love.

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    46. Du Qiuniang (a famous poetess)
    Du Qiiuniang (971--? AD) was a poetess. At the age of fifteen, she became a concubine of Li Qi (741—807 AD), who was a relative of the imperial family. He was a corrupt official and once when the emperor wanted him to go to the capital, he was afraid that he would be killed. Therefore, he rebelled, but failed and killed. Du Qiuniang was then taken to the palace. She became a concubine of the emperor, who died in 820 AD. Then the crown prince succeeded the throne and was Emperor Muzong (795—824 AD). Now Du Qiuniang was a middle-aged woman. The new emperor let her be the nanny of his son. When she grew too old, the emperor let her go back to her hometown, Nanking city, where she was born. She died naturally. Her famous poem is thus:
    I advise you not for gold-woven dress to care,
    But advise you for precious time of youth to care.
    If flowers are in full bloom and worth picking, just pick,
    Don't wait till no more flowers, then on empty boughs pick.

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    47. Ladyship Pistil (a humorous poetess)
    Ladyship Pistil (?--976 AD) was her nickname. She was a favorite concubine of the king of the present Sichuan province. As she liked flowers, such as peony, the king gave her this nickname, which was known to us. She was pretty and clever, and could write poems. The king led a lewd dissipated life and his kingdom became weak. At that time, outside Sichuan province, the whole country was under the rule of Song dynasty. Therefore, in 965 AD, Song dynasty sent army to invade the kingdom. The king surrendered, and of course died later. The ladyship was captured. It was said that she became the concubine of the emperor of Song dynasty till her death. There was a famous and humorous poem we know till today, which is:

    The king puts up the flag of surrender on battlements;
    How can his lady know in the deep palace?
    Forty myriad soldiers take off armors in unison;
    No one of them is a man. (meaning no one fighting to death.)

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    48. Mu Guiying (the third of the four heroines)
    Mu Guiying (982--?) was one of the four heroines. The other three were Hua Mulan, Fan Lihua, and Liang Hongyu. All are included in this book. There was a Yang family in Song dynasty. All the family members were fighters, including females, two daughters and seven daughters-in-law. Mu was married to the sixth son. Her fighting skills were the first among all the females. Her father was originally the chieftain of outlaws. They camped on a mountain, called Mu Camp. The government sent Yang family to conquer the Mu Camp, and the sixth son of the family came out to challenge. The daughter Mu Guiying galloped out to face the challenger, whom she captured after a few rounds. She wanted to marry the son and then surrendered to the government. It was thus settled. The heroine became a member of Yang family.
    Then Liao tribe in the north invaded Han dynasty, and Yang family was sent again to defend the territory. The heroine was the commander and by using some ruse, defeated the Liao tribe. They never dared to invade Song dynasty till later the tribe was conquered by Jin tribe. That was her great merit. Then when a revolt took place in Guangxi province in the south, she and her husband went there to subdue it. So she was conferred the title of Marquise Huntian. When a minority state called Xixia in the west invaded the country, she and all other female fighters went to resist the invasion. At the time, all males in the family died in different battles or occasions. The survivors were all widows. In one of the combats with Xixia, Mu was killed in an ambush of the enemy, but the remaining women vanquished the Xixia army.

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    49. Li Qingzhao (a very famous poetess)
    Li Qingzhao (1084—1156 AD) was a famous poetess in Song dynasty ((960—1279 AD), born in Mingshui town of Shandong province. Her father was an official and a famous writer of the time as well. And her maternal grandfather had been a premier. When she was still a young girl, her well-written poems were known in the capital in the literary circle. In 1101 AD, she married Zhao Mingcheng (1081—1129 AD), who was also an official. In 1107 AD, the couple moved to Qingzhou town. They liked to buy books, especially books of old and precious editions. Every time when the husband bought a good edition from the market after work, the couple would enjoy reading it together after supper. Their life was simple and pleasant.
    At that time, there was a minority in the north, named Jin tribe, that often invaded into Song dynasty. In 1127 AD, when the poetess was forty-four, the army of Jin tribe marched south and attacked the town, they had to escape south across the Yangtze River, and next spring they arrived in Jiangning city. As they had to desert their belongings when they fled from the Jin tribe, now they lived in poverty.
    After the death of her husband, she moved to Shaoxing town in Zhejinag province, and lived alone in the house of a local family. In the third moon of 1131 AD, the only things, some old paintings, that left to her, were all stolen overnight. Next year, she went to Hangzhou city to marry another man, but was divorced a few months later, because she found that the man was a corrupt official, who was put in prison afterwards. Then she lived alone and always kept writing poems till the end of her life. But she had only forty-five poems handing down to us. All were well-known to us. I introduced one of them here.

    Seeking, seeking; lonely, quiet; gloomy﹐grievous﹐glum.
    When it just turns warm, but still cold, it’s hardest to have a rest full.
    Two or three cups of light wine, how to fend the evening wind so strong?
    The wild geese pass—I feel heart-broken—since they are my old acquaintance.
    All over the ground the yellow flowers in heaps.
    Languished as I am, who will now pick them?
    Keeping myself at the window, how can I fare alone till nightfall?
    Phoenix trees, plus drizzles on them, dripping and dripping till evening;
    At this moment, what can I do with the word “sorrow”?

    (version in rhyme)

    Seeking, seeking; lonely, quiet; doleful, rueful, woeful.
    When it just turns warm, but still cold, it’s hardest to rest full.
    Two or three cups of light wine, how to fend the strong wind in the evening?
    The wild geese pass, they being my old acquaintance, heart-broken I’m feeling.
    All over the ground, in heaps, the flowers yellow.
    Languished as I am, who will pick them now?
    Keeping myself at the window, how can I fare alone till night falling?
    Phoenix trees, plus drizzles on them, dripping and dripping till evening;
    At this moment, what can I do with the word “sorrow”?

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