Xi Shi of the Spring and Autumn period, Wang Zhaojun of the Han dynasty, Diao Chan of the Three Kingdoms era, and Yang Guifei of the Tang dynasty are considered the Four Great Beauties of China. Of these four, Yang Guifei is famed for being quite plump. If we skip all the actresses (and actors) who played her in the iconic opera Gui Fei intoxicated, we’re still looking at some ten different renditions of her character.
The historical Yang Yuhuan (Yuhuan being “Jade Ring”) was born during the Tang dynasty, and was initially married to a Tang dynasty prince. Coincidentally, this prince’s mother had once been a highly favored consort of Tang Xuanzong, and was unable to become empress because she was from the Wu clan, and the Tang court was still shaken from the memory of Wu Zetian’s rule. Tang Xuanzong became enamored of the beautiful Yang Yuhuan, and sent her to a Taoist nunnery so he could marry her instead. Thus, she became Yang Guifei (where Guifei is a title, the highest rank a consort of the Tang dynasty could be without actualy being the empress). When the An Lushan rebellion broke out, she and the emperor fled, but the soldiers blamed her for the chaos, and she died. Xuanzong later abdicated from the throne.
Which actress do you feel portrayed the famous beauty the best?
01. In 1962, Li Lihua played Yang Yuhuan in Yang Guifei 《杨贵妃》(The Magnificent Concubine, a Hong Kong film produced by the Shaw Brothers).
02. In 1986, Feng Baobao played the consort in the Taiwanese drama Consort Yang (Yang Guifei 《杨贵妃》）。
03. Lin Fangbing 林芳兵 gained weight for her 1990 role as Yang Guifei in the mainland drama Emperor Xuanzong of Tang《唐明皇》. Fun fact: a four year old Yang Mi played the young princess Xianyi in this drama. She later went on to play Wang Zhaojun (and, well, a plethora of other roles), the second of the Four Great Beauties of China.
04. Zhou Jie became one of the iconic faces of Yang Guifei for the 1992 mainland movie Imperial Concubine Yang 《杨贵妃》
05. In 1994, Tian Niu played Yang Guifei in 天道钟馗 (The Celestial Zhong Kui). This is a lesser known performance of the part.
06 .Hou Junjie played Yang Guifei in “The Later Story of Yang Guifei“《杨贵妃后传》 in 1996.
07. Xiang Hailan also played Yang Guifei, in the 2000 TVB drama Legend of Lady Yang《杨贵妃》 She was criticized for looking too old, and not attractive enough to be one of the four great beauties of China.
Also, there is a historical Bath of Yang Guifei that you can visit in China. No Yang Guifei (or water), though.
08. Flying Songs of the Great Tang《大唐歌飞》from 2003 featured Wang Luyao as Yang Guifei.
09. Fan Bingbing was an adorable Consort Yang for the 2007 drama, The Lotus Garden of the Tang《大唐芙蓉园》 (It was actually filmed in 2004, which means she was only 23 when acting out the role).
10. Yin Tao was Yang Guifei for the 2011 drama, The Secret History of Yang Guifei《杨贵妃秘史》 Fun fact: Both she and Fan Bingbing played both Yang Guifei and Wu Zetian; Fan Bingbing for the Lotus Garden of the Tang, and then Empress of China (and then, Lady of the Dyndasty). Yin Tao was Wu Zetian for the Secret History of Wu Zetian. I wonder how alike the two women actually looked…
11. If you think Fan Bingbing’s 2004/2007 rendition of Yang Guifei was the most gorgeous…her biggest rival, actually, might turn out to be herself. She filmed Lady of the Dynasty《杨贵妃》 in 2013, and the movie will be released this year in July. Let’s be honest – we’ve posted several pictures of her already.