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FULL Xi Shi (FT Wong) Taipei 2001 Xu Linqiang, Liu Keqing, Liu Haitao, Chen Lichan

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  • Format: Broadcast
  • Quality Video: 3 Audio:3
  • Subtitles: yessubs, cnsubs  
  • Video Recording from: YouTube     FULL VIDEO

Xi Shi was, according to legends, one of the renowned Four Beauties of ancient China. She was said to have lived during the end of the Spring and Autumn period in Zhuji, the capital of the ancient State of Yue.

In traditional stories, Xi Shi was named Shi Yiguang (施夷光). She was discovered by the Yue minister Fan Li and given to King Fuchai of Wu by King Goujian of Yue in a sexpionage operation which successfully brought down the State of Wu in 473 BC. This account first appeared in Spring and Autumn Annals of Wu and Yue published five centuries after the conquest, and is completely absent in earlier works such as Guoyu, Zuo zhuan, and Records of the Grand Historian.

Xi Shi’s beauty was said to be so extreme that while leaning over a balcony to look at the fish in the pond, the fish would be so dazzled that they forgot to swim and sank below the surface. This description serves as the meaning behind the first two characters of the Chinese idiom 沉魚落雁, 閉月羞花 (pinyin: chényú luòyàn, bìyuè xiūhuā), referring to the Four Beauties, which is used to compliment a woman’s beauty, meaning one is so beautiful she sinks fish and entices birds to fall, eclipses the moon and shames flowers, (lit. ’fish dive, goose fall; moon hide, flower shame’).

Story of Xi Shi
King Goujian of Yue was once imprisoned by King Fuchai of Wu after a defeat in war, and Yue later became a tributary state to Wu. Secretly planning his revenge, Goujian’s minister Wen Zhong suggested training beautiful women and offering them to Fuchai as a tribute (knowing Fuchai could not resist beautiful women). His other minister, Fan Li, found Xi Shi and Zheng Dan [zh], and gave them to Fuchai in 490 BC.

Bewitched by the beauty and kindness of Xi Shi and Zheng Dan, Fuchai forgot all about his state affairs and at their instigation, killed his best advisor, the great general Wu Zixu. Fuchai even built Guanwa Palace (Palace of Beautiful Women) in an imperial park on the slope of Lingyan Hill, about 15 kilometres (9.3 mi) west of Suzhou. The strength of Wu dwindled, and in 473 BC Goujian launched his strike and completely routed the Wu army. King Fuchai lamented that he should have listened to Wu Zixu, and then committed suicide.

In the legend, after the fall of Wu, Fan Li (范蠡) retired from his ministerial post and lived with Xi Shi on a fishing boat, roaming like fairies in the misty wilderness of Taihu Lake, and no one saw them ever again. This is according to Yuan Kang’s Yue Jueshu (越绝书). Another version, according to Mozi, is that Xi Shi later died from drowning in the river.

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