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Where king and concubine took their lives :Suzhou

By Yao Minji   (Shanghai Daily)

10:33, January 16, 2013

(File Photo/ xinhua)

Little-known Suzhou in northern Anhui Province, once a busy Grand Canal port, was the site of history-changing battles and the tragic love of a king and concubine. Yao Minji tells the story.

In Chen Kaigei's award-winning film "Farewell My Concubine" (1993), the protagonist is so deeply immersed in his performance that he finds the boundary between stage and real life to be blurred.

His most famous role is in the famous Peking Opera "Farewell My Concubine," for which the acclaimed movie is named.

The title's literal translation is "The Hegemon King Says Good-bye to His Concubine" (Xiang Yu proclaimed himself "Hegemon King of Western Chu"). The tale is based on historical records from 202 BC when Consort Yu (Yu Miaoyi), the concubine of King Xiang Yu, committed suicide when the king's army was defeated and he fell into depression. "Your courage is all gone, how can I live on," she famously said before stabbing herself to death.

Pursued by enemy soldiers, the king and a few dozen soldiers carried her body and buried it along a road before he slit his throat with his own sword. Soldiers brawled over who would claim the bounty on his head.

It is not often that there are descriptions of women in ancient Chinese history, to say nothing of their words. But Yu was famous for accompanying the king on military campaigns and he was besotted with her. Their love story is famous.

For thousands of years, Chinese people sympathized with the king who was very close to becoming emperor - a rare case since he was a failure. And many legends about him have been passed down through the centuries. The tragic love story between king and concubine is one of the best known.

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