Queen Bao Si – The legendary beauty who is accused of causing the downfall of the Western Zhou Dynasty




queen bao si
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Queen Bao Si was the second Queen to King You of the Western Zhou Dynasty. She has been notorious for causing the fall of the Western Zhou Dynasty.[1] Her story has often been seen as a morality tale that rulers should stay away from beautiful women because they could destroy them and their kingdoms.[2] Yet, some modern historians have been very sympathetic to Queen Bao Si.[3] They see her as a scapegoat for a weak ruler who no longer held authority in his own kingdom.[4] Thus, Queen Bao Si still remains a controversial and elusive historical figure.

In 792 B.C.E., Queen Bao Si was born. Because she brought about the downfall of the Western Zhou Dynasty, ancient chroniclers have mythologised her origins.[5] The myth claimed that in the palace of the Western Zhou Dynasty, a palace maid magically gave birth to a baby girl because she did not have a father.[6] The maid abandoned her daughter after she gave birth.[7] The baby girl eventually ended up in Baoguo. When Bao Si grew up, she was given to King You of Western Zhou.[8] This story’s message is clear. Queen Bao Si was born solely to destroy the Western Zhou Dynasty.[9]

Modern historians believe that Bao Si was actually from a humble and poor family in Baoguo.[10] Her beauty attracted a Prince of the State of Bao, and she became his concubine.[11] In 779 B.C.E., the State of Bao was defeated by King You of the Western Zhou Dynasty. The Prince of Bao gave Bao Si to King You to beg for mercy.[12] King You immediately fell in love with Bao Si.[13] He accepted the Prince’s terms and brought her back to his palace.[14] Bao Si became King You’s concubine.[15] 

Consort Bao Si bore King You a son named Prince Bo Fu. King You wanted to depose Queen Shen and make Bao Si his Queen instead.[16] He also wanted to demote Prince Yijiu as the Crown Prince to commoner status in favour of Prince Bao Fu.[17] Many of his ministers were outraged.[18] Yet, King You still made Bao Si the Queen of the Western Zhou Dynasty and Bo Fu the Crown Prince.[19]

Queen Bao Si had everything she wanted.[20] Yet, it was said that she never smiled.[21] King You would often light the beacon fires just to make her laugh.[22] The beacon fires were supposed to be used to summon the lords to protect the Western Zhou Dynasty from foreign invaders.[23] Eventually, the lords stopped coming because they knew that King You was trying to please his Queen.[24] 

Meanwhile, in 771 B.C.E., the Marquis of Shen was very angry that King You had deposed his daughter as Queen.[25] He was also angry that he demoted his grandson, Prince Yijiu, as the Crown Prince.[26] He wanted to kill King You and put Prince Yijiu on the throne.[27] The Marquis of Shen rebelled against Zhou and joined forces with the State of Su and Xiyi Quanrong.[28] They invaded  Haoting (the capital of the Western Zhou Dynasty). King You was forced to light the beacons, but the warlords never came. They believed that King You was trying to please his Queen.[29]

King You was killed during the rebellion.[30] Queen Bao Si was captured by Xiyi Quanrong.[31] Her fate after her kidnapping remains unknown because she is no longer mentioned in ancient chronicles.[32] Prince Yijiu ascended the throne as King Ping.[33] He moved the capital from Haoting to Luoyi and created the Eastern Zhou Dynasty.[34]

Queen Bao Si has been infamous for being instrumental in the fall of the Western Zhou Dynasty.[35] Yet, some historians believe that she may have been a scapegoat.[36] They believe that the story of King You lighting the beacons may have been false.[37] They also believe that King You’s power was already so weak that he could no longer control the lords of various states.[38] Instead, the lords became very powerful and no longer looked to King You as their ruler.[39] Therefore, modern historians have been more sympathetic to Queen Bao Si.[40] After King You’s death, the era of the Spring and Autumn period began.[41] During this period, Chinese states were declaring their own independence from the ruling Zhou Dynasty to form their own dynasties.[42] 

Sources:

Cook, C. A. (2015). “Bao Si. Wife of King You of Zhou”. Biographical Dictionary of Chinese Women: Antiquity Through Sui, 1600 B.C.E. – 618 C.E. (L. X. H. Lee, Ed.; A. D. Stefanowska, Ed.; S. Wiles, Ed.). NY: Routledge. pp. 3-7.

Eno, R. (2010).  1.7. Spring and Autumn China (771-453). Indiana University, PDF.

iMedia. (n.d.).“Bao Si: It’s a beauty but it’s not necessarily a disaster”. Retrieved on 14 October 2023 from https://min.news/en/history/ec3eeaa31de9baa9697917dd9dd88252.html.

iNews. (n.d.). “Bao Si: the second queen of King You of Zhou, the protagonist of ‘The Beacon Fire Show’”. Retrieved on 14 October 2023 from https://inf.news/en/history/431e4d138aedca1ab813ebdb99d4c835.html.

Kleeman, T. F. (1994). A God’s Own Tale: The Book of Transformations of Wenchang, the Divine Lord of Zitong. NY: State University of New York Press.


[1] Cook, 2015

[2] Cook, 2015

[3] iNews, n.d., “Bao Si: the second queen of King You of Zhou, the protagonist of ‘The Beacon Fire Show’”

[4] iNews, n.d., “Bao Si: the second queen of King You of Zhou, the protagonist of ‘The Beacon Fire Show’”

[5] iMedia, n.d., “Bao Si: It’s a beauty but it’s not necessarily a disaster”

[6] iMedia, n.d., “Bao Si: It’s a beauty but it’s not necessarily a disaster”

[7] iMedia, n.d., “Bao Si: It’s a beauty but it’s not necessarily a disaster”

[8] iMedia, n.d., “Bao Si: It’s a beauty but it’s not necessarily a disaster”

[9] iMedia, n.d., “Bao Si: It’s a beauty but it’s not necessarily a disaster”

[10] iMedia, n.d., “Bao Si: It’s a beauty but it’s not necessarily a disaster”

[11] Cook, 2015

[12] Cook, 2015

[13] Kleeman, 1994

[14] Cook, 2015

[15] Kleeman, 1994

[16] Kleeman, 1994

[17] Kleeman, 2015

[18] Kleeman, 2015

[19] iNews, n.d., “Bao Si: the second queen of King You of Zhou, the protagonist of ‘The Beacon Fire Show’”

[20] Kleeman, 1994

[21] Cook, 2015

[22] Cook, 2015

[23] Cook, 2015

[24] Cook, 2015

[25] iNews, n.d., “Bao Si: the second queen of King You of Zhou, the protagonist of ‘The Beacon Fire Show’”

[26] iNews, n.d., “Bao Si: the second queen of King You of Zhou, the protagonist of ‘The Beacon Fire Show’”

[27] Cook, 2015

[28] iNews, n.d., “Bao Si: the second queen of King You of Zhou, the protagonist of ‘The Beacon Fire Show’”

[29] Cook, 2015

[30] iNews, n.d., “Bao Si: the second queen of King You of Zhou, the protagonist of ‘The Beacon Fire Show’”

[31] iNews, n.d., “Bao Si: the second queen of King You of Zhou, the protagonist of ‘The Beacon Fire Show’”

[32] iNews, n.d., “Bao Si: the second queen of King You of Zhou, the protagonist of ‘The Beacon Fire Show’”

[33] iNews, n.d., “Bao Si: the second queen of King You of Zhou, the protagonist of ‘The Beacon Fire Show’”

[34] iNews, n.d., “Bao Si: the second queen of King You of Zhou, the protagonist of ‘The Beacon Fire Show’”

[35] Cook, 2015

[36] iNews, n.d., “Bao Si: the second queen of King You of Zhou, the protagonist of ‘The Beacon Fire Show’”

[37] iNews, n.d., “Bao Si: the second queen of King You of Zhou, the protagonist of ‘The Beacon Fire Show’”

[38] iNews, n.d., “Bao Si: the second queen of King You of Zhou, the protagonist of ‘The Beacon Fire Show’”

[39] iNews, n.d., “Bao Si: the second queen of King You of Zhou, the protagonist of ‘The Beacon Fire Show’”

[40] iNews, n.d., “Bao Si: the second queen of King You of Zhou, the protagonist of ‘The Beacon Fire Show’”

[41] Eno, 2010

[42] Eno, 2010






About Lauralee Jacks 188 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!

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