"Appreciating feminine charms,
The Han emperor sought a great beauty.
Throughout his empire he searched
For many years without success.
Then a daughter of the Yang family
Matured to womanhood.
Since she was secluded in her chamber,
None outside had seen her."
Yang Yuhuan, later to become Yang Guifei (AD 713-756), was the daughter of Yang Xuanyan, a census official in Sichuan.
An only child who lost her father early in life, Yang Yuhuan was raised in the household of her uncle, Yang Xuangui. She grew up to be one of the few women whose beauty has caused the downfall of monarchs and nations.
"Yet with such beauty bestowed by fate,
In the twenty-second year of the Kaiyuan reign, Yang Yuhuan was chosen to enter the imperial harem. In the twenty-eighth year, the Tang Emperor Xuanzong summoned her to the Huaqing Palace where she first rose to imperial favour.
"Her hair like a cloud,
Her relatives gained unprecedented influence: her uncle, Xuangui, was made a senior official in the capital; her cousin Yang Guozhong was appointed prime minister; her elder brother, Yangxian became an official of the second rank while her younger brother, Yangqi was given an imperial consort as his wife. Her sisters were all appointed to nobility.
"The Rainbow and Feather Garments Dance
Emperor Xuanzong, wallowing in the pleasures of the flesh, neglected his court and politics. In AD 755, An Lushan, a powerful general, seized the opportunity to stage a rebellion and marched into the capital. Emperor Xuanzong fled towards the south- west, taking Yang Guifei with him.
"The emperor's green-canopied carriage
They had not gone far from the capital when the soldiers refused to go on, demanding the death of Yang Guifei. Emperor Xuanzong had no choice but to watch Yang Guifei kill herself at the slopes of Mawei village.
Like the soldiers, the common people hated Yang Guifei, believing that she had brought harm to their country. In reality, she was no more than the plaything of a fatuous monarch, used as an excuse by treacherous subjects to justify sedition. Perhaps those who truly deserve to be despised are the self-indulgent emperor, his traitorous subjects, and fair-weather friends who used claims of kinship to gain power. Beyond that, the blame must lie with the backward system of feudal autocracy under which Yang Guifei lived."Heaven and earth may not last for ever,
But this sorrow is eternal."
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