Caroline Young, artwork and text
Lady Willow was a beautiful courtesan in the Tang dynasty (618-907).
She won the heart of Han Yi, a brilliant scholar. With her encouragement, he was successful in the imperial examination, and attained a high position in government.
In 755 CE, the ruler An Lu Shan separated the lovers out of jealousy of Han Yi’s exquisite lover, banishing the scholar to a different province. Shazhali, a local barbarian general, saw the great beauty one day and determined that he would have her for himself.
Eventually he kidnapped Lady Willow and forced her to become his concubine.
Han Yi was distraught with worry, having received no news or letters from his true love. A great warrior, Xu Jun, heard of the couple’ s plight and was so moved by their love and devotion to each other that he stormed Shazhali’s castle, rescued Lady Willow, and returned her to her true love, Han Yi.