Xi Shi — First Honey Trap in History of China with Mysterious Ending

Xi Shi, original name as Shi Yiguang, was one of the Four Beauties in Chinese history. 

 

Besides her stunningly alluring, as a well-trained honey trap, she was also involved in perishing a strong kingdom during the Spring and Autumn Period (770 BC — 403 BC).  

Flourishing and Expanding of Kingdom Wu

About 2,500 years ago, the Zhou Dynasty gradually lost control over powerful vassal states.

 

Some ambitious overlords, such as Lv Xiaobai and Ji Chonger, flourished their kingdoms and largely expanded their territories through annexation wars when power and land kept transferring among different states. 

Decades later, Wu became a strong and large kingdom, with the assistance of brilliant prime minister Wu Zixu (? — 484 BC) and his best friend Sun Tzu (author of Art of War). 

Unfortunately, when the king of Wu was leading his army fighting against the Empire Yue, he got shot and soon passed away. His crown prince Fu Chai (? — 473 BC), a brave and ambitious monarch, inherited the throne. 

After two years of training and preparation, in the year 494 BC, Fu Chai, the current King of Wu, under the assistance of Sun Tzu and Wu Zixu, defeated Empire Yue and completed the vengeance for his father. 

After this big success, King Fu Chai kept expanding in the next decades and competing to be the overlord of all states. 

Unearthed Spear of Fu Chai the King of Wu — Hubei Museum (Photo by Dongmaiying)

Failure and Preparation of Kingdom Yue

After the big failure against Kingdom Wu on the battlefield, Gou Jian (about 520 BC — 465 BC), the King of Yue, tried his best to beg for a truce. He sent countless treasure and money to nobles and ministers of Empire Wu, himself volunteered to serve King Fu Chai for years. 

During his serving period, Gou Jian stayed cautious and humble and showed great respect to King Fu Chai. Gradually, King Fu Chai and many officials in Kingdom Wu believed that Gou Jian truly surrendered, so they sent him back to Kingdoms Yue. 

After Gou Jian came back, he implemented a series of policies to increase population, and develop agriculture. 

Meanwhile, Gou Jian kept eating the worst food, sleeping in the hardest bed, and participating in productive activities. He did everything he could to stay alert, to remind himself of that big failure, to work harder, and to seek revenge. Soon, his state became wealthier and his army much stronger.

Gou Jian also kept tributing to King of Wu, while bribing powerful officials of Empire Wu. Finally, in the year 484 BC, insightful prime minister Wu Zixu was framed up and committed suicide, and his best friend Sun Tzu resigned and lived in seclusion since then.

Besides those preparations, Empire Yue also trained some beautiful women and sent them to Empire Wu as honey traps to seduce and distract Fu Chai.

Unearthed Sword of Gou Jian the King of Yue — Hubei Museum

Appearing and Training of Beauty Spy Xi Shi

Born into a family of poverty, Xi Shi used to do laundry with her mother for living. Fishes in the river were also impressed by her beauty since they would hide and forget to swim when they saw Xi Shi showing up by the river.

Some ministers of Yue selected Xi Shi in their vengeance plan. 

In the next three years, Xi Shi studied singing, dancing, elegant behaviors, and etiquette. Then, she was sent to the King of Wu. 

Fu Chai, a talented and diligent monarch, after having laid his eyes on Xi Shi for the first time, he was attracted and indulged with her beauty, talent, and softness; he loved her accompany very much, and gradually paid less attention to his kingdom. 

Unearthed Bronze Wine Container (He) of Fu Chai the King of Wu — Shanghai Museum 

The inscriptions said that it was made for a woman, under the command of Fu Chai the King of Wu. This woman is widely believed as the civilian born Xi Shi, whose name could not be carved on a valuable bronze ware for certain reasons.

Final War of Kingdom Wu and Yue

Decades later, when King of Wu was competing overlords up in the north, Gou Jian led his elite army to attack Wu and captured Wu’s crown prince. 

King Fu Chai sent people to a plea for a truce, which only lasted for six years.

King Gou Jian then kept attacking Empire Wu. In the year 473 BC, Gou Jian finally defeated Fu Chai’s army and soon occupied Wu’s capital city. 

Fu Chai, the ambitious king of a huge empire, the monarch who was once full of accomplishments, committed suicide; the kingdom Wu perished.

Gou Jian finally finished his vengeance, after 20 years of hard work and preparations. 

Mysterious Ending of Xi Shi

As for beauty Xi Shi, there are many different versions concerning her ending throughout history.

In the first version, she committed suicide. After twenty years of living together, she had already fallen in love with King Fu Chai. She could not betray her kingdom Yue, so she finished her mission, but chose to die with her beloved one. 

Another frequently documented version is that she was put into a bag and thrown into a river.

 

Some said this was done by people of Empire Wu because they blamed her to be the reason for the perishing of their country. Some said this was done by King Gou Jian or his queen, both trying to avoid Xi Shi to ruin Empire Yue as well, just like what she did to Wu. 

Meanwhile, there has been another saying that most people would like to believe, in which the minister who found and trained Xi Shi into a honey trap quitted his job and took her away. 

 

After they both completed their mission of assisting their king to revenge and defeat Wu, they changed their names, buried their past, and traveled around other states together since then. 

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