Wang Zhao Jun was nicknamed Wang Qiang and was also known as Mingfei or Mingjun. She is referred as being one of the Four Beauties in Chinesehistory.She was born in Baoping Village, Sigui County in the Western Han Dynasty and was sent by Emperor Yuan in marriage to Xiongnu Chanyu to establish friendly relationship with the Han Dynasty through marriage. In the prevalent version of the legend of the Four Beauties it is related that Wang Zhaojun had left her hometown one bright autumn morning on horseback and started her journey northward. Her horse neighed all along the way, which made her feel sad and difficult to control her emotions. She then began playing sorrowful melodies on a stringed instrument, as she journeyed on the saddle of her horse. It is related that a flock of geese heading southward saw her riding the horse and on hearing her music forgot to flap their wings and fell to the ground which is why Zhao Jun has acquired the nickname, `fells geese’ or `drops birds’.
Intelligent/Adept in Pipa
Towards 36 BC, Emperor Yuan decided to choose his concubine from the state wherein as per the customs prevailing then, it was that when choosing a new wife, the Emperor would be presented with the portraits of the possible women. It became a practise then, for the ladies to offer bribes to the court artist to make ensure that they were well portrayed to the emperor. Due to Wang’s fame, she was the first choice for the concubine and the Emperor issued the edict that she should enter the harem.
It is said that because Wang has such confidence in her beauty and temperament, she refused to bribe Mao Yanshou, the artist, as the other maid did. Due to this, the artist painted a very unflattering image of her and the final portrait showed her as the ugliest of all the ladies in the palace resulting in the emperor not setting his eyes on her while she remained in the palace as lady-in-waiting.
Became an Envoy of Peace for Han
Wang ZhaoJun was not in favour of the thought of wasting her life in the harem and hope that something could happen one day which would free her from that way of life. Thereafter in the 33 BC, she got an opportunity to be free when the Hun, a group of nomadic people from the north who wanted to maintain friendly relationship with the Han Dynasty through marriage came on the scene. Huhanxie, the Chanyu – Khan, of Hun came to the capital requesting for a Han princess as a bride with the Emperor Yuan agreeing to help him.
Not keen on providing him with a beautiful wife, he gave orders to present the plainest of them all to be selected. When her unflattering portrait was presented to the emperor, he merely glanced at it and gave his approval on selection of a bride in marriage. It was only when Wang Zhao Jun was on her way of departure did the Emperor set eyes on her and much to his dismay, realized his terrible mistake that she was in fact one of the most beautiful woman in his palace.
Though he wanted to find a substitute for her, it was quite late to change his decision and the fate of Wang Zhao Jun was now sealed and she had to depart. With sorrow and anguish he parted with Wang Zhao Jun. The court artist on the other hand was eventually put to death for deceiving the Emperor.
The Emperor provided Wang with a generous dowry and due to this event; he also changed the name of his reign to Jing Ning, which means peaceful boundary, indicating that Zhao Jun’s departure for Hun, way beyond the Great Wall would bring about everlasting peace and harmony between the Han and the Hun together with a peaceful border. Wang, under the escort of Han and Hun official, dressed in a beautiful red dress with a pipa in her arms set out from Chang’an on a white horse for her journey to the distant land of the Huns.
Initially she found it difficult to adjust to the way of life of the Hun but being determined to overcome all difficulties she gradually became accustomed to their habits and customs. Subsequently Wang Zhao Jun got on well with the Huns and became successful in spreading the Han culture and civilization in the Hun tribe.
She was loved and respected by all the Hun and Chanyu gave her the title of the First Lady of Hun Peace, honouring Wang as a queen who was responsible in bringing about peace and security to the Hun tribe.
History of Friendship and Unity
Wang Zhao Jun lived in Hun for the remainder part of her life where her children continued her good work of maintaining friendly and amicable relationship between the Han and the Hun. The narration of Zhao Jun’s Settlement Way beyond the Great Wall has now become a household story in the history of friendship and unity among Chinese and also a well-known subject in Chinese poetry, novels and drama.
It is related that after the death of her husband, Wang Zhao Jun married the eldest son of his and his concubine according to the customs of that time which was abhorred by the Chinese moral norms in which she was brought up. Due to the sake of her country’s stability and peace, she was self-sacrificing for a second time thereby earning respect of her compatriots in her generation as well as the generation to come.
Her tomb, presently at Hohhot in Inner Mongolia is considered as one of the eight special scenery spots in today’s Inner Mongolia. It was built by the Huns of ancient time in memorial of the goodwill envoy from the Han.