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This is a Chinese name; the family name is Yu.

Consort Yu (Chinese: 虞姬pinyin: Yú Jī; died 202 BC), name Yu Miaoyi (Chinese: 虞妙弋pinyin: Yú Miàoyì), popularly known as "Beauty Yu" (虞美人), was the favourite concubine of "Hegemon-King of Western Chu" Xiang Yu.

Contents

Biography

Yu Miaoyi's birth date was unknown and there are two accounts of her origin. The first said she was a native of Yanji Village (顏集鄉) in Shuyang County, while the other claimed that she was from Changshu in Suzhou, but both pointed that she was born in present-day Jiangsu province.

In 209 BC, Xiang Yu and his uncle Xiang Liang started a rebellion to overthrow the Qin Dynasty and Yu Miaoyi's older brother Yu Ziqi was serving in Xiang's army as a general then. Yu Miaoyi met Xiang Yu, fell in love with him and became his concubine. Since then, she followed Xiang as he went to battle and hardly left him.

In 202 BC, Xiang Yu was besieged in the Battle of Gaixia by the combined forces of Liu Bang (King of Han), Han Xin and Peng Yue. The Han army started to sing folk songs from Xiang's native land of Chu to create a false impression that they had captured Chu. The morale of Xiang's troops plummeted and several soldiers deserted. In despair, Xiang indulged in alcohol and sang the famous Song of Gaixia to express his sorrow. Yu performed a sword dance and sang a verse in return. To prevent Xiang Yu from being distracted by his love for her, Yu committed suicide with Xiang's sword after singing. She was buried at Gaixia.

A "Consort Yu Tomb" stands in present-day Lingbi County, Anhui province.

Song of Consort Yu

This verse was sung by Consort Yu after Xiang Yu sang the Song of Gaixia. She committed suicide with Xiang's sword after singing.

漢兵已略地,

The Han army has conquered our land;

四面楚歌聲。

We are surrounded by Chu songs;

大王義氣盡,

My lord's spirits are low;

賤妾何聊生。

Why then should I live?

Popular culture

The romance of Xiang Yu and Consort Yu has been the subject of plays, films and TV series, even though not much about Consort Yu was recorded in history. The story was reenacted on stage in the classic Peking opera Farewell My Concubine. A novel of the same title by Lilian Lee was adapted into Chen Kaige's award-winning film Farewell My Concubine. Renowned poets Su Shi, He Pu and Yuan Mei have written poems about Consort Yu as well.

References and external links

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