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100 Famous Women in China

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发表于 5/7/2017 07:38:41 | 显示全部楼层 |阅读模式
1,嫘祖  Leizu (discoverer of silk)

Leizu (?--?) was the wife of Xuanyuan Huangdi (Huangdi literally meaning Yellow Emperor, living round 2550 BC. Chinese people, i.e., Han tribe, deem themselves the posterity of Huangdi.) A legend had it that Huangdi had a war with another tribe, whose leader was Chiyou, who, it was said, had the ability to raise heavy fog so that the army of Huangdi could not find the way where to go. And it was also said that Huangdi invented a guide cart, on which there was a flat plate with a magnet in the shape of a big spoon. The spoon could turn round and the handle of the spoon always pointed south. It was the earliest type of compass.
        When Huangdi defeated Chiyou, he returned in triumph and had a feast of celebration. All of a sudden the goddess of silkworm came to offer the silk to Huangdi for congratulations. Huangdi gave it to his wife, who loved the glistening thin thread very much. She began to breed silkworm and wove the thread into silk cloth and made a gown for her husband. She also taught people to breed silkworm. She was thus called Lady Silkworm, and in later history was deemed the Goddess of Silkworm. She died on the way in company of Huangdi when he traveled over the country.
        But there was another legend about the original goddess of silkworm. A girl and her father lived together. The father went to fight for Huangdi. There was a horse in the house. One day the girl thought of her father badly, and she said to the horse, “Oh, horse, if you can bring back my father, I will marry you.” the horse ran away immediately and after some time the father came home on the horseback. The girl was glad, but she forgot her promise to marry the horse entirely. However, the horse remembered it and got sick. The father asked his daughter about the sick horse. The girl was reminded of her promise and told it to her father, who, of course, would not let her daughter marry a horse. Therefore he killed the horse and flayed the hide of the horse. Then he lay the hide on the ground in the sun to make it dry. The daughter came close to the hide and said, “You, horse, how can I, a human, marry you, a horse?” Then she stamped her foot on the hide. Suddenly the hide flew up and wrapped around the girl. The girl was frightened out of her senses and ran off from home to the nearby woods with mulberry trees.  Then she began to eat mulberry leaves and spewed out silk threads.
 楼主| 发表于 5/14/2017 07:48:18 | 显示全部楼层
2,薑嫄 Jiangyuan (mother of planting)
Jiangyuan (?--?) was born in the present Wugong town of Shaanxi province and was the wife of Gao, the great grandson of Huangdi. One winter day, she was walking in the countryside and saw a giant footprint by the Wei river. She trod in it and when she was back home, gradually she felt that she was pregnant. She conceived the baby for twelve months and then gave birth. The baby looked ugly with a very big head. The mother thought that it was a monster and so deserted it for three times. But every time the baby was saved. At last the mother took it back and brought it up. So the baby was named Qi (meaning to desert). Later he was called Huoji. The mother gave him good education. He was the earliest ancestor of Zhou dynasty (1121—476 BC). From early boyhood he was interested in plants and when he grew up, he taught people how to grow grains, etc. that was the beginning of agriculture in China. People remembered his mother and historians gave her the title of mother saintess.
 楼主| 发表于 5/21/2017 07:48:30 | 显示全部楼层
3.  蘇妲己 Su Daji (cruel beauty)
Su Daji (?--?) was the wife of King Zhou (?--1046 BC), who was the last king of Shang dynasty (1765—1122 BC), and proud of his great strength. She came from Su clan. Her father was Su Hu, the chieftain of the clan. She was a pretty girl and could dance. In 1147 BC, King Zhou conquered Su clan. Su Hu had to give his daughter to King Zhou as his trophy. It was the tradition in ancient China that the conqueror always demanded valuables and pretty girls from the defeater. Since Daji was very beautiful, the king made her his queen after he got some pretense to kill his original queen.  This queen had two sons, who were exiled. The king did these to please his new queen, if not secretly required by her. As the new queen could dance, the king ordered the palace musician Shijuan to compose some decadent music.  Daji danced to the obscene music to please the king. The king was so doting on her that he would grant all her wishes, no matter how absurd and cruel her desire was. There were some facts recorded in the history books.
        The king had a garden built having a pond filled with wine and a forest with dried meat fillets hanging from the boughs of the trees. He often held a banquet there, with as many as three thousand officials gathering there. They played and chased each other naked among the trees. The king and the queen liked to row on the wine. Anyone could drink the wine from the pond.
        Daji ordered a huge deep pit dug and put in hundreds of snakes. She would have her offenders thrown into it to feed the snakes. She also invented some torture equipment. The most cruel one was a bronze pillar with inside vacant. Then firewood and coal filled it and burned. When the pillar was hot, a criminal was brought and made to embrace it till he was burned to death with shrill bitter cries.
        Once in winter when she saw an old man walking on ice with bare feet. He seemed not to feel cold. She thought that he might have something special in the bone of his shin. Therefore she ordered to have the man brought to her presence and to have his foreleg cut down to see if anything special inside his bone.
        Another time, when she and the king sat on the terrace to look at the street. At the time, a women with child walked by. She said that the woman would have a girl while the king said that she would have a boy. So they bet who would guess right. Then the woman was brought in and her belly was cut open to see it was a boy or a girl. Two lives lost for their absurd bet. Besides these, all the courtiers who criticized their misbehavior were executed.  Finally they lost the support of courtiers and people and was at last subdued by Zhou dynasty. The king burned himself and Daji hanged herself.
 楼主| 发表于 5/27/2017 07:38:48 | 显示全部楼层
4,齊文姜 Qi Wenjiang (an able and adulterous woman)

Qi Wenjiang (733—673 BC) was the second daughter of Duke Xi (?--698 BC) of Qi dukedom  bordering on the East Sea. She had a sister Qi Xuanjiang. Both girls were beautiful, well-known to all states in China at the time. It was in the first warring period (770—221 BC) in the history of China. All the dukedoms, marquisates, and earldoms etc. became independent though the king of Zhou dynasty was still in reign in name only. His power could only reach within the territory of his kingdom.
        Duke Ling (540—493 BC) of Wei dukedom wanted to have the elder sister Xuanjiang to be the wife of his son. Her father agreed and sent her to Wei dukedom. But when Duke Ling set eyes on the girl, her beauty stunned him, and he took the girl as his own wife, to the disappointment of his son. There was even a folk song to sing the praise of her beauty. Since that day, Duke Ling stuck to his young wife day and night. If he could not see her even for a moment, he would look like his soul had left his body.
        Then Duke Xi declared that he would find a husband for his second daughter. The news spread and all the sons of the rulers of other states came to the capital of Qi dukedom to seek for the hand of the girl. It happened because of two reasons. Firstly, the girl was a beauty known in all states. Secondly, Qi Dukedom was a big state. If a small state had the relationship with a big state, the small state would have more safety against other neighboring small states. In that period, there were much more small states than big states. They often wanted to merge others to become big. Among all the suitors, the girl selected the son of Zheng State. But when the son went back to his own state, he regretted of the marriage and broke the agreement, because he was afraid that the daughter of a big state would certainly bully the son of a small state. He would not be bullied by his wife. When the girl learned the decision of the boy she had chosen, she turned irritating and then woeful. She became languish and sick, because the breech of the marriage from the boy's side was an insult to the girl in the public eye, which meant that the girl might have some defects in her moral or character.
        She had a brother and they played together since childhood. As the brother knew that his sister was sick, he came to see her, desiring to comfort her.  Young girl and young boy, no matter what was their relationship, when meeting in certain condition, would easily give themselves up for love action. At that time, there were no moral rules for such things like in present days. A beautiful girl and a handsome boy were surely a destined pair.
        Lu dukedom was just next to Qi dukedom. Duke Huan (731—694 BC) of Lu state just succeeded to the throne and was in need of a wife. Qi dukedom was a large state while Lu dukedom was a bit smaller, and not so strong. Duke Huan thought that if he got a wife from a big state, he would have a strong support for his rule. So he married Qi Wenjiang though he knew the abnormal relationship between the girl and her brother. Different people have different ideas to a certain thing. Duke Huan did not care for it as long as he had a beautiful wife and strong support. After the wedding, the husband and the wife got along well and they had two sons.
        After several years, Duke Xi of Qi dukedom died and his son, the brother, turned to be the new duke, called Duke Xiang (729—686 BC). The rulers of other states went there for the ceremony. Duke Huan of Lu dukedom went there, too, but he did not bring his wife together, though the wife begged to go with him. He feared that if the sister and the brother met again, their fire of love might rekindle. However, if he never took his wife back to her mother state, it would look weird to other states. So after eighteen years, he did go to visit Qi dukedom with his wife, who was already in her forties. But women in forties are still in need of that.  
        Duke Xiang was glad that his sister came at length after long years of separation. He recalled their happy time together. When the duke of Lu state and his wife settled down in the guest room in the palace, the duke of Qi state asked his sister to see his wife in the rear of the palace. The duke of Lu state could not say NO to this request. Once in some back room, the brother and the sister fell into action right away like dry wood caught fire. For several days, the duke of Lu state was left alone and so one day he trespassed into the rear palace and witnessed their action. He slapped his wife on the face and dragged her away from the room. He and his wife started immediately back to Lu dukedom. He let his wife go ahead and he himself attended the farewell party given by the duke of Qi state, the brother. He left the palace in a coach after bidding adieu, but was killed in the coach by a knight of Qi dukedom. The knight overtook the wife and reported to her of the death of her husband. The wife clearly knew what had happened to her husband, but she said nothing. She let the knight go to back to tell the news to her brother, who hurried here to meet his sister. The sister stayed on the border of the two dukedoms for a while. And the brother often came to meet her. Finally she had to return to Lu dukedom with the news that the duke of Lu state died suddenly on the way back. Although the courtiers of Lu state suspected something, but they had no evidence, and had to keep silent. Later the knight was executed on some excuses to keep the murder a secret. But on the execution spot, the knight told the secret to all the people present at the top of his voice.
        When Lu dukedom was informed of the sudden death of their duke, the elder son of the diseased duke became the ruler. He was Duke Zhuang.  As he was still young and so his mother, Qi Wenjiang, helped him to manage the state affairs. She was a capable woman and made Lu dukedom strong and once defeated Qi dukedom in a battle, though Qi dukedom was her parental state. Anyway, Qi dukedom should not fight Lu dukedom as they were brother and sister.
 楼主| 发表于 6/4/2017 08:15:19 | 显示全部楼层
5,西施 Xishi (the first beauty of the four beauties)
Xishi (?--?) lived in the first warring period, later than Qi Wenjiang, who lived in the earlier time of that period. Xishi was born in Ningluo village in the suburb of Zhuji town in Zhejiang province. Her real name was Shi Yiguang. As Ningluo village was divided in two parts, the east part and the west part. Since Shi Yiguang lived in the west part, and so she got the nickname “Xishi” (Xi means west).
        She was one of the four beauties, the earliest one, in the history of ancient China. The other three were Wang Zhaojun, Diaochan, and Yang Yuhuan, whose story was told in another book of mine titled “Love Tales of Ancient China.”  There were so many beautiful women in the history of China, why were these four women that grouped as the four beauties, not others? None nowadays can tell the reason. We just tell the stories as they were. Xishi often washed gauze clothes in a stream in her village, and thereby she got another nickname “gauze-washing girl.”
        There were two states bordering each other: Wu kingdom and Yue kingdom, both in the present Zhejiang province. In the latter part of the first warring period, the Zhou kingdom already perished. Therefore, all survived states after merging called themselves kingdoms. In 494 BC, Wu kingdom defeated Yue kingdom and captured the king of Yue kingdom, Gouqian by name. Guoqian (520—465 BC) showed himself to be a very tame captive and vowed that if he could be allowed to go back to his own state, he would always be loyal to Fucha (?--473 BC), king of Wu kingdom. Guoqian also bribed Bopi, a favorite courtier of King Wu to throw good words for him. King Wu was a good-for-nothing while King Yue was a capable man. Why Yue kingdom was defeated by Wu kingdom was because a very famous strategist as well as an able general served Wu kingdom. This famous strategist Sun Zi (545-470 BC) had written a world renowned military book titled  Arts of War. He was deemed as martial saint. Some famous rules in the book are “know your enemy as well as yourself so that you can always be victorious,” “always give your enemy a false move so as to mislead them.”
        At length, Guoqian was released and went back to Yue kingdom. Every year, Guoqian sent a lot of tributes to Wu kingdom to show his faithfulness. But secretly he wanted to have revenge. One of his courtiers, Fan Li, suggested a strategy that Guoqian should send the King Wu some dancing girls so that King Wu would always enjoy the dancing and neglect his state affairs, which would provide Yue kingdom a chance to conquer Wu kingdom.
        Fan Li (536—448 BC) began to look for beautiful girls within the state and he found Xishi one day when she was washing her gauze by the stream. As soon as he set eyes on her, he felt that she was the right girl he was looking for. So he took the girl to the palace to be taught singing and dancing. After some special training, she was sent to King Wu, who liked the girl very much and did indulge in singing and dancing of the beauty. She could dance clog-dancing and she had plenty of tiny bells sewed on her skirt so that when she danced the bells gave out tingling to the rhythm of her dancing.  The king made her his queen and had a new palace built for her, inside which there was a special corridor called “clog-sounding corridor.” It was built like this—hundreds of big vats were put side by side and wooden planks were laid on top of them. When the girl danced on the planks, wearing clogs, the empty vats echoed with a hollow sound to meet with the rhythm of the dancing. The king did neglect his state affairs, and seeing this, Sun Zi left Wu kingdom and lived somewhere as a hermit. Wu kingdom was finally defeated by Yue kingdom. King Wu made suicide.
        There were two legends about the end of Xishi. The first one was that when the king of Wu kingdom died, she was drowned in a river. The second one was that Fan Li took her with him, fearful that if King Yue saw her, he might be charmed by her beauty and also neglect his state affairs. Fan Li became a merchant and lived with Xishi happily till the end of their lives.
 楼主| 发表于 6/11/2017 07:23:39 | 显示全部楼层
6. 鍾無鹽 Zhong Wuyan (an ugly and wise woman)
Zhong Wuyan (?--?) (wuyan literally meaning no beauty) was ugly, but wise and could fight. How ugly was she? There was a description: a big belly, a big head, her forehead and eyes looking like sucked in, and her skin very dark and course. She was suspected that her mother or father came from abroad, not the offspring of Han tribe. Most famous women in Chinese history were beautiful. Only this one was ugly. As she was so ugly, no man would marry her. She was still single when she reached the age of forty.
        At that time, King Xuan (?--301 BC) of Qi state was on the throne. He was not a capable man with a quick temper. He liked flattering. There was corruption all over the state and other states were watching for some opportunity to invade Qi state. The famous Mencius had come to give him advice, but he would not listen. Qi state at the time had a clever premier Yan Ying (?--500 BC), who was short in stature. Qi state had three haughty knights at the same time. They even sometimes refused to obey the king. So Yan Ying was afraid that they might endanger the state. One day there came a chance. There grew a peach tree in the palace. The peach tree produced some large fruits that day. Yan Ying  suggested to the king to give two of the peaches to the three knights. One knight ate one and another knight ate the other. The third one had none. Yan Ying said to him that it was a disgrace to him that he could have none to eat while the other two ate theirs. The third one was ashamed of  himself, and drawing out his sword, he killed himself. The other two knights said that the three of them were like brothers. They should not eat the peaches without thinking of their brother. They felt ashamed of themselves for the neglect. Therefore, they killed themselves on the spot. This event in the history was called “Killing three knights with two peaches.”
        One day the king went hunting with Yan and met Wuyan in the forest. Wuyan was an ambitious woman and had certain opinions about the state. She seized the opportunity to come forth to talk to the king. She analyzed the dangerous situation the state was now in and made good suggestions to him. Therefore, at the advice of Yan, the king took her to the palace and made her his queen. When Yan state, which was to the north of Qi state, sent a messenger there to test the wisdom of the king. The messenger brought two jade rings connected together. The king was asked to separate them. Just when the king did not know what to do with it, Wuyan came out. She brought a small hammer and used it to knock one ring into two pieces. The rings were thus separated. However, Yan state yet sent the army in an intention to conquer Qi state. Wuyan led the army of Qi state to meet the army of Yan state and defeated it. She helped the king to make Qi state strong.
 楼主| 发表于 6 天前 | 显示全部楼层
7. 孟母 Mother of Mencius (392—317 BC) (a considerate mother)
Mencius (372—289 BC) was naughty when a boy. His father died when he was only three. Her mother brought  him up and educated him. In his teenage, he liked to imitate whatever he saw. At first they lived in the countryside, close to a graveyard. When people came to bury corpses, crying. He would dig a small pit in the ground and put in a piece of wood, and cried. When his mother saw it, she thought that this was not a good place to live. They moved into the nearby town, close to a market. There were a slaughter house to slay pigs and also a black smithery with noises of striking iron. All such distracted her son from studies. Besides, the son imitated how to sell things like merchants in the market. Then they moved to the east side of the town, close to a school. Therefore, the son imitated how the students read and write in the classroom. The mother liked the place and settled down forever. So Mencius became a famous scholar. This story was called “three moves of the mother of Mencius.” The story shows that neighborhood is very important in grow-up of children.
        Another story told us how the mother of Mencius educated her son. Once her son played truant at school. The mother was weaving a cloth at the loom when the son came home. The mother cut the cloth on the loom into two. The son curiously asked why. The mother said that her son played truant while learning was just like she severed the cloth in the process of weaving.
        We can still visit the grave of the mother of Mencius at Mt. MaAn (meaning saddle) in Anhui province.  
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