Zhongli Chun – The Ugly Queen

The Ugly Queen (2018)(Screenshot/Fair Use)

Queen Zhongli Chun (also known as Zhong Wuyan) is one of China’s most popular and recognizable historical figures. Queen Zhongli Chun was known to be one of the four ugliest women in Chinese history. Unattractive and a spinster until 40 years old, she made an unlikely candidate for Queen consort. Yet, despite her looks, she was clever and resourceful. She gave her king sage advice on how to be an excellent ruler. The king respected her and did as she advised. Because of her, Qi became a powerful state.

Queen Zhongli Chun was born sometime in the fourth-century B.C.E during the Warring States period.[1] The Warring States period was a time when the seven states of China (Qin, Chu, Zhao, Wei, Han, Yan, and Qi) declared independence from the ruling Zhou dynasty and warred with each other.[2] Queen Zhongli Chun was from the city of Wuyan in the state of Qi.[3] Little is known about her parents or her early life. She was reportedly known to be the ugliest woman in China, and no woman could look any uglier than her.[4] This is what historians have described of her appearance:

“She had a massive forehead and deeply sunken eyes, large fingers with long joints, a turned up nose and a throat that sounded like it was made from knots. The nape of her neck was thick; she had little hair; she was bent at the waist and her bosom protruded; and her skin was like varnish.”[5]

She was reportedly so unattractive that no man wanted to marry her, and she remained a spinster.[6] Despite her drawbacks, Zhongli Chun was a clever woman. She was also an excellent magician. When she was 40 years old, she learned of King Xuan of Qi’s interest in the occult.[7] She made her way to the palace to ask the king to marry her.[8] When King Xuan learned that an ugly woman was at his gates requesting him to marry her, he was amused and sent her in for an audience.[9] 

Zhongli Chun attracted his attention by claiming that she knew how to make herself invisible.[10] King Xuan was startled when she used her magic tricks to disappear in front of the king.[11] This intrigued King Xuan that he summoned her the next day, asking how she performed the magic trick. However, Zhongli Chun did not explain her disappearance to King Xuan.[12] Instead, she gave him sound advice on how to strengthen his kingdom. She told him that there were four dangers ahead of him. The first danger was that he had corrupt internal administrators running his kingdom, and his borders were surrounded by powerful neighbouring states.[13] The second danger was that King Xuan was burdening his own people with his lavish lifestyle.[14] The third danger was that the people in his court were only flatterers and did not want to give him any constructive advice.[15] The fourth danger was his own licentiousness.[16]

King Xuan was deeply impressed with Zhongli Chun’s advice.[17] From that day on, he deeply respected her. He made Zhongli Chun his queen. King Xuan followed her wise counsel and made many reforms.[18] Because of Queen Zhongli Chun, Qi became secure.[19] King Xuan strengthened the economy and military.[20] He also repaired the capital’s gates and chose an heir apparent.[21] We do not know when Queen Zhongli Chun died, but she remained loved by her people. She was attributed the phrase, “Having seen our noble lord, our hearts are full of joy.” [22]

Her eulogy reads:

“The woman of Wuyan

Sought and addressed King Xuan of Qi

She distinguished the four dangers,

And declared the state chaotic and troubled.

King Xuan followed her advice,

And opened his four gates.

He established an heir apparent,

And honored the Lady of Wuyan.”[23]

Queen Zhongli Chun remains a popular icon in Chinese media. There have been many movies and television shows about her. Some television shows include My Fair Lady starring Fann Wong as Zhongli Chun, and the more recent The Ugly Queen, whom she is portrayed by Hao Wen Ting. There is even a television show that reimagines her life in modern times called Zhong Wu Yan. In this series, famous actress Cheryl Yang portrays the infamous queen. There is also a recent movie about her called Zhong Wuyan the Queen, where she is portrayed by Fang Cheng Cheng. Therefore, despite her homely appearance, Queen Zhongli Chun found a home in the hearts of her king and people.


Chen, Xirui (2019). “The Ideology and Significance of the Legalists School and the School of Diplomacy in the Warring States Period” 4th International Conference on Modern Management, Education Technology and Social Science (MMETSS 2019). Atlantis Press.

Cook, C. (2015). 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.

Wang, Robin (2003). Images of Women in Chinese Thought and Culture: Writings from the Pre-Qin Period through the Song Dynasty. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company.

Xiang, Liu, and Anne Behnke Kinney (2014). Exemplary Women of Early China: the Lienu Zhuan of Liu Xiang. NY: Columbia University Press.

[1] Cook, p. 95

[2] Chen, p. 593

[3]Xiang & Kinney, p. 123

[4] Xiang & Kinney, p. 123

[5] Wang, p. 157

[6] Wang, p. 157

[7] Cook, p. 95

[8] Cook, p. 95

[9] Cook, p. 95

[10] Cook, p. 95

[11] Cook, p. 95

[12] Cook, p. 95

[13]Xiang & Kinney, p. 125

[14] Cook, p. 95

[15] Wang, pp. 158-159

[16] Cook, p. 95

[17] Xiang & Kinney, p. 125

[18] Cook, p. 95

[19]Xiang &  Kinney, p. 125

[20] Cook, p. 95

[21] Cook, p. 95

[22] Xiang & Kinney, p. 125

[23] Xiang & Kinney, pp.125-126

About Lauralee Jacks 174 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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