Lady Huarui – The Royal Consort who was loved by two Emperors

(public domain)

Lady Huarui (also known as Madame Huarui and Consort Xu) was one of China’s most beautiful women.[1] Yet, it is sometimes said that beauty is a curse rather than a blessing. [2] Unfortunately, this phrase happened to be true for Lady Huarui. Because of her beauty, Lady Huarui was loved by two Emperors. However, her beauty attracted jealousy among those around her and caused her to be murdered because of one Emperor’s deep love for her.[3]

Lady Huarui lived during the Ten Kingdoms era.[4] After the fall of the Tang Dynasty, Central and Southern China was split into ten kingdoms.[5] These ten kingdoms would eventually be reunited under Emperor Taizu of Song.[6] This turbulent era would have a direct impact on Lady Huarui’s life.

In 940 C.E., Lady Huarui was born in the Later Shu Dynasty’s kingdom (modern-day Sichuan Province).[7] Her father was Xu Kuang-zhang.[8] Lady Huarui’s real name and early life are unknown. Her father presented her in front of the Emperor Mengchang of Later Shu Dynasty in an effort to curry his favour.[9] She was so charming and beautiful that Emperor Mengchang was immediately smitten and made her his royal consort.[10] He gave her the title of “Lady”[11] and renamed her Huarui, which means “Flower Stamen.”[12]

Emperor Mengcheng deeply loved Lady Huarui and promoted her to a higher rank.[13] One summer night, Emperor Mengchang took Lady Huarui to his summer retreat in Mokechi.[14] He was so enchanted by Lady Huarui’s beauty that he wrote a poem describing her features.[15] The poem went: “White, smooth, sweatless your skin. Its fragrance sweeping the hall with wind.”[16] The poem became so popular with the people that for centuries Lady Huarui’s name had become synonymous with beauty.[17] One day, Lady Huarui and Emperor Mengchang visited the city’s gates. She happened to drop her white fan, which was picked up by a commoner.[18] It was not long until her white fan became fashionable in the city and caused people to create imitations of her white fan.[19]

Emperor Mengchang promoted many literary writers and scholars.[20] He also liked to promote his own literary works.[21] Emperor Mengchang’s love of literature encouraged Lady Huarui to compose her own poetry.[22] She would spend the rest of her life trying to perfect her craft.[23] Therefore, Lady Huarui was not only known for her beauty but also for her poetry.

In 965 C.E., Emperor Taizu of Song attacked the Later Shu Dynasty, and Emperor Mengchang was defeated. Emperor Taizu had heard about Lady Huarui’s beauty and wanted to see her.[24] He sent officials to escort both Lady Huarui and Emperor Mengchang to Kaifeng (the capital of the Song Dynasty).[25] On the way to Kaifeng, she wrote the poem on the hotel wall. It went: “Leaving the conquered homeland, I with broken heart and agony. Long and painful the spring, sad cuckoo on my riding way.”[26]

Once they arrived at Kaifeng, Lady Huarui was made a concubine to Emperor Taizu.[27] However, Emperor Mengchang was executed ten days after his arrival.[28] Lady Huarui mourned the loss of her first husband, Emperor Mengchang. Even though she was a concubine of Emperor Taizu, she never stopped loving Emperor Mengchang.[29] However, she had to conceal her true feelings.[30] She always kept a portrait of Emperor Mengchang.[31] When Emperor Taizu asked her about the portrait, she said it was the Shu god of fertility.[32] She also told him, “Those who pray to this god will have more children.”[33] Therefore, Emperor Taizu never knew her true feelings and always assumed that she always wanted to bear him children.[34]

Lady Huarui continued to write poetry, especially about the fall of the Later Shu dynasty. One of these poems was “Narrating the Fall of the State”.[35] It went:

“The king on the rampart flies the white flag,

Deep within the palace how could I know?[36]

One hundred thousand and forty soldiers put down their arms

And not one of them could be called a true man.”[37]

This poem proved to be so emotional for generations that she has been classified as a patriotic poet.[38] This poem and her other poems were published under The Complete Collection of Tang Dynasty Poetry.[39]

For more than ten years, Lady Huarui remained Emperor Taizu’s concubine.[40] However, she continued to grieve and love Emperor Mengchang.[41] Despite her love for Emperor Mengchang, Emperor Taizu was still madly in love with her.[42] He always wanted her by his side, even when he was sick.[43] However, Emperor Taizu’s younger brother named Zhao Guangyi was jealous of Lady Huarui because of the influence she was wielding on the Emperor.[44] Zhao Guangyi tried to get rid of her by making a false accusation that she was poisoning the Emperor.[45] Emperor Taizu knew the accusation was false and ignored it. Realising nothing could dissuade Emperor Taizu from casting aside his beloved concubine, Zhao Guangyi decided to murder Lady Huarui himself.[46]

In 976 C.E., Lady Huarui accompanied Emperor Taizu and Zhao Guangyi on a hunting trip.[47] Zhao Guangyi aimed his bow at an animal.[48] At the last minute, he suddenly turned his bow at Lady Huarui and shot her instead.[49] Lady Huarui died immediately. This ended the sad life of the legendary beauty. She lost her first husband, whom she deeply loved and died in the most tragic way.

Lady Huarui has become a legendary beauty for centuries.[50] She was so beautiful that even Emperor Taizu’s grandson, Zhao Heng (who would later become Emperor Zhenzong of Song Dynasty), was so captivated by the myth of Lady Huarui’s beauty that he wanted to have a concubine who looked just like her.[51] He even went to Lady Huarui’s kingdom of Shu to find the woman who matched the exact description of Lady Huarui.[52] However, Lady Huarui’s poetry also made her famous. Historians have traditionally credited her as the author of 157 poems.[53] While Lady Huarui has remained legendary for her beauty, it is through her poems that readers get to know her true thoughts. Therefore, Lady Huarui will continue to remain a popular icon because she represents both beauty and intellect.


Yu, Z. (2015).“Madame Huarui”. Notable Women of China: Shang Dynasty to the Early Twentieth Century. (B. B. Peterson, Ed.). London: Routledge. pp. 254-257.

Ching-Chung, P. (2014). “Fei, Lady Huarui of Northern Song.” Biographical Dictionary of Chinese Women, Volume II: Tang Through Ming 618 – 1644. (L. X. H. Lee, Ed.; A. D. Stefanowska, Ed.; S. Wiles, Ed.). NY: Routledge. pp.71-72.

McMahon, K. (2013). Women Shall Not Rule: Imperial Wives and Concubines in China from Han to Liao. NY: Rowman and Littlefield.

[1] Yu, 2015

[2] Ching-Chung, 2014

[3] Ching-Chung, 2014

[4] Yu, 2015

[5] Yu, 2015

[6] Yu, 2015

[7] Yu, 2015; Ching-Ching, 2014

[8] Yu, 2015

[9] Yu, 2015

[10]Yu, 2015

[11]Ching-Chung, 2014, p. 71

[12]Ching-Chung, 2014, p. 71

[13] Yu, 2015

[14] Yu, 2015

[15] Yu, 2015

[16] Yu, 2015, p. 255

[17] Yu, 2015

[18] Yu, 2015

[19] Yu, 2015

[20] Yu, 2015

[21] Yu, 2015

[22] Yu, 2015

[23] Yu, 2015

[24] Yu, 2015

[25] Ching-Chung, 2014

[26] Yu, 2015, p. 255

[27] Yu, 2015

[28] Ching-Chung, 2014

[29] McMahon, 2013

[30] Yu, 2015

[31] Yu, 2015

[32] Yu, 2015

[33] Yu, 2015, p. 256

[34] Yu, 2015

[35] Ching-Chung, 2014

[36] Ching-Chung, 2014, p. 72

[37] McMahon, 2013, p. 249

[38] Yu, 2015

[39] Yu, 2015

[40] Yu, 2015

[41] McMahon, 2013

[42] Ching-Chung, 2014

[43] Ching-Chung, 2014

[44] Ching-Chung, 2014

[45] Ching-Chung, 2014

[46] Ching-Chung, 2014

[47] Ching-Chung, 2014

[48] Ching-Chung, 2014

[49] Ching-Chung, 2014

[50] Yu, 2015

[51] Ching-Chung, 2014

[52] Ching-Chung, 2014

[53] Ching-Chung, 2014

About Lauralee Jacks 165 Articles
I am a former elementary teacher in Tennessee. I have a bachelor’s degree in Liberal and Civic Studies from St. Mary’s College of California, a master’s in Elementary Education from the University of Phoenix, and a doctorate in Educational Leadership from the College of Saint Mary. Because my family are from East Asia, I have a passion for historical Chinese and Korean television shows. I always wanted to separate fact from fiction in dramas. Writing articles from History of Royal Women gives me a chance to dig deeper and explore these royal women as they might have been in real life. Also, it gives me a chance to look at the history and culture of where my family originated. I love researching East Asian royalty because they rarely get enough attention in the West often being overshadowed by European royalty. I find these royal women to be just as fascinating and their stories deserve to be told. Thus, I am excited to write for History of Royal Women!

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.