Category Archives: Background

Wang Zhaojun

Wang Zhaojun 王昭君 was renowned as one of the four great beauties of ancient China. She was born about 50 BC as the youngest daughter of a much older father, who doted upon her, regarding her as a precious pearl. As she grew into a young woman, she became both a great beauty, and a highly accomplished one, able to play music, paint, write calligraphy and play the game of go, too. In 36 BC, when she was about 14, she was ordered to enter the harem of Emperor Yuan of Han, and left home regretfully. It is said that she played her lute to console herself as she rode her horse to the capital, and a flock of geese passing by were so struck by the beauty of her music and her appearance that they forgot to beat their wings and fell from the sky.

It was custom that once a young woman entered the imperial harem that the imperial portrait painter would make a painting of her to present to the emperor. Most new concubines would bribe him to portray them in a flattering light, but Zhaojun refused, so the painter made her look ugly in the painting and, as a result, the emperor never visited her while she was in his harem. Three years later, Huhanye, the leader of the Xiongnu, a nomadic people who lived on the steppes to the north of China, visited the capital and proposed a marriage between himself and one of the emperor’s daughters to cement relations. Unwilling to send one of his children off to the barbarian north, Yuan decided to offer instead the lowest ranking and ugliest of his concubines – Wang Zhaojun. Huhanye accepted the offer, and was overjoyed when Zhaojun turned out to be one of the most beautiful women he had ever seen. The emperor was furious, but couldn’t go back on his word, so the marriage took place, and relations with the Xiongnu improved greatly. The unfortunate painter, though, was executed for dishonesty!

Ehime Man’yōen


Man’yō Name Sibakusa
Modern Name Chikarashiba 力芝(チカラシバ)
Ohishiba 雄日芝(オヒシバ)
English Names
  1. Yard grass, Indian goosegrass, wiregrass, crowfootgrass
  2. Chinese pennisetum, Chinese fountaingrass, dwarf fountain grass, foxtail fountain grass, swamp foxtail grass
Scientific Name F. Poaceae; Eleusine indica
F. Poaceae; Pennisetum alopecuroides
Distribution Various parts of Japan
Seasonal Association

Poems (2)

MYS VI: 1048 MYS XI: 2777


Man’yō Name Sanokata
( さのかた)
Modern Name Akebi
English Names Akebi; chocolate vine; five-leaved akebia
Scientific Name F. Lardizabalaceae
Akebia quinata
Seasonal Association

Poems (3)

MYS X: 1928 MYS X: 1929 MYS XIII: 3323