Diao Chan: Historical Figure or Ficitional Character?

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Diao Chan: Historical Figure or Ficitional Character?

Unread postby someguy44 » Fri Feb 07, 2003 2:05 am

A lot of people seem to think that Diao Chan is a fictional character made up by LGZ. However, I have done some research and I have found that this person did indeed exist (at least according to the encyclopedia I read). She is regarded as one of the four beauties of China and of those four, they consist of: Diao Chan, Wang Zhaojun, Xi Shi, and Yang Gue Fei. Now I know that Yang Gue Fei is a real historical figure so I'm kind of leaning towards the same way for Diao Chan because of it. The following is what was stated from the Encyclopedia of China by Dorthy Perkins regarding Diao Chan.




"Diao Chan
(Tiao Chan) The most beautiful woman in the three kingdoms period (San Guo; 220-280) and one of the "four famous beauties" in Chinese history. Diao's father died when she was a girl, so she and her mother became servants in the mansion of a government minister named Wang Yuan. After Diao's mother als died, Wang's wife gave her a refined upbringing. She was not only beautiful but intelligent and fond of studying. At the time, the emperor was being controlled and the people were being oppressed by an evil govenment official, the imperial rector, who was the rival of Minsiter Wang. Wang and Diao Chan plotted to overthow him by creating a rivalry between the rector and his godson, who was also his most powerful general. Wang offered Diao to the rector as a concubin, but Wang also told the general Diao was his daughter and theat she would marry the general. On the wedding day, Wang sent Diao to the rector's home instead, and told the general that the rector had kidnapped her. This infuriated the general, who killed the rector so he could have Diao Chan for himself. This act freed the Chinese people from the evil tyrant. It is not known what happened to Diao Chan, although she may have married the general. Her patriotic story, the subject of many Chinese novels and operas, is titled The Tangled Rings."


Although, I beleived that Diao Chan is a real historical figure, I find some strange facts with this article. This article seems to agree with what LGZ told of Diao Chan in his novel. Either Dorothy Perkins fibbed and got her sources from LGZ's novel or that LGZ didn't make this part of his novel "fictional".

Anyone care to englihten me??? I would like to hear arguments from people who think Diao Chan isn't real and back up their arguments with some sources or vice versa... meaning, I would also like to hear arguments from people claiming that Diao Chan was indeed real and back up their sources.

Mod edit: Bad grammar. Please don't put several question marks when asking a question; one will do just fine
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Unread postby Erdrick » Fri Feb 07, 2003 2:32 am

Well, Diao Chan, as we "know" her, is fictional; think of the differences between Historical Guan Yu and Novel Guan Yu, increase the factor a few times, and there it is. There was no "Diao Chan", or if so, it was a hell of a coincidence. There are a very few historical nods to a serving girl/concubine of Dong Zhuo who he liked, (read, porked...), who Lu Bu liked (read, probably was fooling around with), which got them into a tiff. However, there was no chain scheme or big using the girl to make Lu kill fatas... er, Dong. As for the bio, its an "enchanced" version of her in RTK, (which was popular for a few centuries prior to Luo Guanzhong making the recent incarnation, (was more a wide collection of stories/plays/histories from the times)), used in the play you mentioned, (and a few others, I believe).
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Unread postby someguy44 » Fri Feb 07, 2003 3:10 am

Well, the one thing I don't understand is that Diao Chan is consider to be one of the "four beauties of China". Whether or not she was involved in the Lu Bu / Dong Zhuo dispute is not something I really care for. All I care for is the fact that if she did indeed exist. If she's one of the four beauties and she's fictional, then how can Yang Gue Fei be considered one of the four beauties as well. I don't understand why they would put a fictional character with a real historical figure for some title like "the four beauties of China".

Can someone please explain this one to me???
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Unread postby TheGreatNads » Fri Feb 07, 2003 3:19 am

someguy44 wrote:Well, the one thing I don't understand is that Diao Chan is consider to be one of the "four beauties of China". Whether or not she was involved in the Lu Bu / Dong Zhuo dispute is not something I really care for. All I care for is the fact that if she did indeed exist. If she's one of the four beauties and she's fictional, then how can Yang Gue Fei be considered one of the four beauties as well. I don't understand why they would put a fictional character with a real historical figure for some title like "the four beauties of China".

Can someone please explain this one to me???


Well people who are ignorant of Guan Yu's deeds and/or failures worship him as a god. Possiblly the case is similar here. Except she's not worshipped as a god, but remembered as one of China's great beauties. And it's well known that Guan Yu existed. :)
Last edited by TheGreatNads on Fri Feb 07, 2003 3:40 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Unread postby Erdrick » Fri Feb 07, 2003 3:31 am

Richard III.

Historical king, wasn't all that great a guy. But, he's remembered as a tyrant because of Shakespeare's play.


King Arthur.

Some evidence a guy existed, but he's remembered as this wise, wonderful ruler. (And, since he or someone like him may or may not have existed, his legends become more "fact" than fantasy).


(And, trying to avoid offense by pissing off everyone equally...)

Jesus Christ, Mohammed, Siddharthra, Moses, (can't think of central Hindu historic figure).

All recorded in historical texts, but what are they remembered for? The religious doctrines that sprang up around (and mostly) after they were dead and buried or cremated or what-have-you


With Diao Chan, same general principle. She may or may not have existed, (like I mentioned earlier, the servant who both were having fun with (maybe), may have been real; no evidence beyond the minute sources). Why she specifically became one of the four; probably something like... the story around her sounded good, (obeying father by doing horrible things to herself, (subjecting herself to Dong and Lu, etc...)), so make her beautiful too, (which makes sense, because why else would either Zhuo or Bu care), so that she becomes an even better "heroine" to emulate.
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Unread postby someguy44 » Fri Feb 07, 2003 3:43 am

Well people who are ignorant of Guan Yu's deeds and/or failures worship him as a god. Possiblly the case is similar here. Except she's not worshipped as a god, but remembered as one of China's great beauties.


True, but that's not my beef. Whether or not Guan Yu, historically, wasn't as heroic as he was depicted from the novel doesn't matter. What matters is that he did at one time walked on this planet. That's the beef I have with Diao Chan. I don't care if she did or didn't do anything special during history. All I care for is about her existence. It doesn't make much sense to me for Chinese historians to regard a fictional character as one of the 4 beauties, when in fact that at least one of the four beauties (if not more) are real historical figures.

It's like the four great novels of China. We all know that they exist because we have mass copies of them flowing around (even if it's been alter somewhat). This is the same feeling I get with the four great beauties of China.
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Unread postby TheGreatNads » Fri Feb 07, 2003 3:48 am

someguy44 wrote:True, but that's not my beef. Whether or not Guan Yu, historically, wasn't as heroic as he was depicted from the novel doesn't matter. What matters is that he did at one time walked on this planet. That's the beef I have with Diao Chan. I don't care if she did or didn't do anything special during history. All I care for is about her existence. It doesn't make much sense to me for Chinese historians to regard a fictional character as one of the 4 beauties, when in fact that at least one of the four beauties (if not more) are real historical figures.


My point was that people who had the idea that Diao Chan was a great beauty, and that Guan Yu was a God, believed in LGZ's book. They assume he is right. And since he gave Guan Yu such a great name, people believe him(LGZ) and consider Guan Yu a god. And I'm saying similar to the case in Guan Yu, that because of his Diao Chan story, people highly regarded her and because of it she became one of China's four beauties. Do you get my point yet?
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Unread postby Jiang Zhi » Fri Feb 07, 2003 3:59 am

My dad's large volume of history books has one sentence (only one) that mentions the name Diao Chan :P and it's in the 3 kingdoms period. I'll get my dad to show me one day and tell me what it means before I post more here :P

But yeah, it's a huge volumn of around 20 to 30 books :P all about Chinese history.......he bought it in China
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Unread postby Lady Wu » Fri Feb 07, 2003 4:37 am

ZZTJ (almost verbatim from SGZ)(de Crespigny's translation) wrote:Moreover, Dong Zhuo had ordered [Lü Bu] to guard the palace doors, and he took the opportunity to seduce one of the maid-servants. So now Bu also had a guilty conscience. Wang Yun had always behaved very well towards Bu, and Bu told Yun how Zhuo had nearly killed him. Then Yun told him about the plan against Zhuo and asked him to act as the agent from within."


This is all that is officially recorded of the incident between Lü Bu, Dong Zhuo, some woman, and Wang Yun. The woman's name isn't recorded, nor was it mentioned that she was an agent of Wang Yun's. As is said already, the evidence that we have can neither prove nor disprove her existence. Furthermore, the word "diao-chan" refers to an ornament on the caps of those of high official position during those times and thus probably a common name for a servant girl. I wouldn't be surprised if the girl Lü Bu seduced was actually called Diao Chan, but there's no way to find out for sure.

So what's the deal? We know for sure that there is a woman who belonged to Dong Zhuo and who Lü Bu lusted after. Then Wang Yun took that opportunity to get Lü Bu to go against Dong Zhuo. Since the episode of Dong Zhuo throwing an axe (or some other sharp thing, I forget) at Lü Bu happened before that servant girl came onto the scene, she can't be the source of the animosity between the two men. Diao Chan as we know her from SGYY did not exist. But there certainly was a woman at that time who has a subset of the properties which we attribute to the fictional Diao Chan.

As for whence her bio in the Encyclopedia of China, my opinion is that since it's an encyclopedia, it's for people looking things up. So if someone comes across the name Diao Chan, and want to know who that was, what the bio said was right -- that's indeed what the name "Diao Chan" refers to. Even if there was no such person called Diao Chan, it makes more sense for the encyclopedia to include her than not, especially since one can never really "prove" that she never existed. The title "The Four Beauties of China" came about much later, when legends of her made her real to everyone.

Also, if you look closely at the wording of the encyclopedia article, it's not written in an objective way. Dong Zhuo was referred to as "an evil official who controlled the emperor and oppressed the people", and Lü Bu was said to have "killed [Dong Zhuo] so he could have Diao Chan for himeslf". Though Dong Zhuo was evil by my standards, there's no way I brand him as "evil" in a historical document without giving supporting claims. Also, no where in history were Lü Bu's true intentions recorded, so the second statement is invalid too as history. Therefore I would have doubts trusting this article as supporting evidence for Diao Chan's existence.

PS: BTW, I don't believe that the term "4 Beauties" is coined by historians. I'm not even certain as to the historical existence of Xi Shi.
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Unread postby someguy44 » Fri Feb 07, 2003 10:42 pm

My point was that people who had the idea that Diao Chan was a great beauty, and that Guan Yu was a God, believed in LGZ's book. They assume he is right. And since he gave Guan Yu such a great name, people believe him(LGZ) and consider Guan Yu a god. And I'm saying similar to the case in Guan Yu, that because of his Diao Chan story, people highly regarded her and because of it she became one of China's four beauties. Do you get my point yet?


I understand what you mean, but there's a big difference between assuming a human to being a god and a fictional character to being a real person. A lot of historical figures have become gods/goddess (Buddha, Avalokashvara, Guan Yu) in people's minds, but that doesn't mean it's true. Dieties are just fictional creations of the human mind. The same can not be said the other way around. While it's quite possible that Diao Chan became one of the 4 beauties solely base on fictional storytelling (by guys like LGZ and his predecessors), it's unlikely for her to be associated in the same category with a real historical figure like Yang Gue Fei if she wasn't real. I used the 4 great novels as an example because they can be mass produce and mass copied, hence we have ample evidence of their existence with the passing of time. Humans can't be that way so there's no real way of knowing whether or not she's real or just folklore. I'm only leaning towards realism because she belongs in the same category as a real historical figure. You can say that Guan Yu belongs in the same category as other gods, whom weren't humans. But like I said before, it's not the same thing.
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