The legend of Diao Chan

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The Four Great Beauties

Caroline Young, artwork and text

QFWF, July 2th 2019 © Source: The art of Caroline R. Young (2002), Heritage Immortals and Four Great Beauties
The Beauty that outshines the Moon

Once upon a time there was a young woman who was so beautiful it is said that her beauty shamed the Moon.
Madam Diao Chan was her name and she is considered one of the Four Great Beauties of ancient Chinese history.

According to tradition, she was a traveling singer by trade and lived during the Han Dynasty around 200 AD.

Her beauty was rumored to be so exquisite that the moon would hide its face in shame whenever she ventured outside at night.

She was orphaned as a baby, and came to live in the household of Prime Minister Wangyun, who took her in after she’d been abandoned by his front door.

He loved her very much and looked upon her as though she were his own daughter. Prime Minister Wangyun was not married and had no children of his own.

Lady of Valor

These were the twilight years of the once mighty and powerful Han dynasty, when warlords regularly fought each other for the rights to the various thrones that always seemed to be up for grabs.

Of all the warlords, Dong Zhuo was the most evil and powerful. With his adopted son, Lu Bu, fighting by his side, he was seemingly invincible.

Prime Minister Wangyun was a loyal and faithful servant of the Han emperor.
He grew dismayed as he watched Dong Zhuo and Lu Bu monopolize the leader, filling the young emperor’s mind with fabrications and lies about many of his loyal men: men whose only crime was that they stood in the way of Dong’s unbridled ambition.
These men were punished and often executed because of Dong’s and Lu Bu’s false accusations.

Wangyun felt increasingly hopeless about the future of his precious Homeland and was at his wits end about what to do.

One evening, Diao Chan encountered Wangyun walking in the family garden, completely lost in thought. She could see his worry and asked the cause of his distress.
Upon hearing of Dong’s and Lu Bu’s treachery, she immediately vowed to help save Wangyun and her beloved country in any way that she could.

The Beauty that shames the Moon

Together, they hatched a plan: they would use Diao’s exceptional beauty to drive a wedge between the two powerful allies of father and son.
In a plot to divide and conquer, Wangyun betrothed her to Lu Bu, while at the same time promising her to Dong Zhuo as a concubine.

Both men fell madly in love with her and could not decide how to settle their dispute. As the hostilities grew, Diao Chan did all she could to add fuel to the fire, and the two men that had always been so close became bitter enemies and fiercely jealous of each other.

Wangyun and Diao slowly gained Lu Bu’s trust and eventually his assistance in assassinating Dong Zhuo, thus saving the empire from certain destruction.

In the illustration above, Caroline Young shows a peacock stopping to admire the beautiful Diao Chan just after she’s convinced her suitor to help save her treasured homeland by killing his adopted father.

Diao Chan has the heroic characteristics associated with the bravery and loyalty of the dog.

Caroline Young

As an adopted child of Chinese-American expatriates living in Hong Kong, I have always been intrigued by how the Chinese culture explained the mysteries of the universe.