Highlights of Chinese Culture and History
Zhaojun's Settlement Outside of Great Wall
During the reign of Emperor Xuan Di of the Han Dynasty, here occurred a split among the aristocracy of the Huns as a result of a power struggle. Five Hun chieftains started fighting against each other. Eventually only two left, Huhanxie and Zhizhi by name, who were involved in an internecine war. Worried by the possibility that Zhizhi might ally himself with the Han Dynasty in a united front, Huhanxie came in person to Changan, capital of the Western Han Dynasty, and expressed to the Han Emperor his desire to maintain peace and friendship with the court of the Western Han Dynasty. Emperor Xuan Di warmly received the first Hun chieftain ever to pay a formal visit to an emperor of Han. At the time of the departure of Huhanxie, Emperor Xuan DI gave him a large amount of grains and honored him with a 10,000 cavalrymen escort under two generals who accompanied him on his way back to his homeland.
Chieftain Zhizhi often attacked his brother and invaded the territories of other nationalities. So after Emperor Yuan Di succeeded to the throne, Huhanxie came to Changan once again asking for aid from the Western Han Dynasty. Before long, with help of Han troops, Huhanxie defeated Zhizhi and reunified the Huns.
With a view to perpetuating his friendly relations with the Western Han Dynasty, Huhanxie came to Changan for the third time in 33 B.C. and proposed that the friendship between the Han and himself be cemented by a matrimonial relationship.To this Emperor Yuan Di gave his gracious consent, and immediately had the following message passed among the palace maids, "Whoever is willing to marry the Hun chieftain will be adopted by this Emperor as a princess."
All the palace maids were pretty girls hand-picked from among the populace for the emperor to do as he wished. Once they entered the imperial palace they lost their freedom. Everybody was longing for a chance to leave the royal harem, yet to have to marry the chieftain of the Huns was simply to much for them.
As stipulated in the palace regulations of the time, no palace maid was permitted to present herself before the emperor on her own. Instead, a court painter named Mao Yanshou was given the job of painting a portrait for each maid which was then submitted to the emperor. Only when a maid was chosen by the emperor could a meeting be arranged. Mao Yanshou took advantage of this privilege and extorted money from the maids who almost without exception were willing to give a lot of money in order to be painted in a favorable light. There was, however, one maid who was different sort. This was Wang Qiang, alias Wang Zhaojun, who was a rare beauty. She was clever, diligent and courteous, well versed in poetry writing an din playing musical instruments. What's more, she was an honest, upright person and simply refused to pander to Mao Yanshou's extortion. The latter, nursing a grudge against her, never presented her in the portrait as she was. For this reason, Wang had been kept in the royal harem for a good many years without ever having been a recipient of royal favors.
When the news reached her that the Huns had asked for a matrimonial relationship with the Han, Wang expressed her willingness to marry the chieftain of the Huns partly out of concern for her own happiness and future and party for the friendship and unity between the two nationalities of Han and Hun. Emperor was so happy at the news that he approved of a grand wedding for Huhanxie and Wang in Changan.
Huhanxie was both gratified and grateful for having married such a angel of a girl. The couple went to Emperor to express their gratitude and to bid farewell. It was then that for the first time Emperor Yuan Di had set eyes on Wang Zhaojun and he immediately realized what a raving beauty she was. He was filled with deep regret. Yet it was already too late, and the emperor could not but let Wang go away with the chieftain. Emperor granted Wang a generous dowry and , specifically for this event, even changed the name of his reign to Jing Ning (peaceful boundary), implying that Zhaojun's departure for Hun way beyond the Great Wall would ensure everlasting peace and harmony between the Han and the Hun and a trouble-free border.
Under the escort of Han and Hun officials, Wang, in a beautiful red dress and with a pipa in her arms, set off from Changan on a white horse for her long journey to the distant land of the Huns. At the beginning, she found it hard to adapt to the way of life of the Hun. However, she was determined to overcome all difficulties and gradually became used to their habits and customs. Eventually Wang Zhaojun got on very good terms with the Huns and succeeded in spreading the Han culture and civilization among the Hun nationality. As she was loved and respected by the Huns, Chieftain Huhanxie conferred on her the tittle of the First Lady of Hun Peace, eulogizing Zhaojun as a queen who had brought peach and security to the Hun nationality.
Wang lived in Hun for the rest of her life. Her children continued her work of forging a friendly and amicable relationship between the Han and the Hun. The story of Zhaojun's Settlement Way beyond the Great Wall has become a household tale in the history of the friendship and unity among Chinese nationalities as well as a popular subject in Chinese poetry, drama and novels. Today, on the bank of Daheihe (Great Black River) in the southern suburbs of Huhhot in the Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region, there stands a the Tome of Zhaojun, which was built by the Huns of olden times in memory of this goodwill envoy from the Han.
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