There were many historical women famous for their beauty, some of whom became scapegoats for public criticism for destroying counties. However, there were also men who were also engraved into the history books for their pretty faces and incredible charm. The legends about them were no less dramatic.
Pan An (潘安)
Pan Yue, also known as Pan An, a famous litterateur in Jin Dynasty, might be the most famous handsome man in China. His reputation spread so widely that people used “look like Pan An (貌若潘安)” as a compliment. The extent of his attractiveness can be derived from a story called “throw fruits into a carriage until it is full (掷果盈车)”.
It was said that every time Pan went out, people would run after his carriage, trying to sneak a peek at him. Apparently, the number of his fanatic fans was so large that not everyone could approach him. So the dedicated, of course mostly women, found a creative way to express their admiration—throwing fresh fruits onto Pan’s carriage. Nobody knows whether Pan was ever hit by the fruit, but every trip outside was a harvest for him.
However, Pan was famous not only for his appearance but also his literature prowess. Equal in popularity with another litterateur, Lu Ji, there was a saying that “Lu’s literary talent is like a sea; Pan’s literary talent is like a river (陆才如海，潘才如江)”.
Wei Jie (卫玠)
Wei Jie, Jin Dynasty, was recognized as a pretty boy at the age of five. His grandfather said that Wei was good-looking in a different way and he was very sorry that he was too old to live until Wei grew up. When Wei was a teenager, he went onto the street in a goat-carriage, people all thought he was a statue made of jade. Even his uncle, General Wang Ji, who was also extremely handsome, said that hanging out with Wei was like “putting a gleaming pearl beside me (珠玉在侧)”.
Needless to say, such a stunning appearance attracted crazy fans too. When Wei travelled from Yuzhang to Jianye, people eager to look at him gathered together and blocked the street. But maybe because beauty is always fragile, people’s craze for Wei led to his tragedy. Since Wei had been weak in health since birth, after being watched for several days, he became sick and died later. People described his death as “Wei Jie was watched to death (看杀卫玠)”. Perhaps it was the most bizarre death one could imagine, but for a pretty handsome guy, it seemed to be a little… romantic.
Prince Lanling (兰陵王)
Gao Changgong, in the North Qi Kingdom of the southern and northern dynasties, the forth son of Emperor Wenxiang, also known as Prince Lanling (兰陵王), was famous for his diligence, modesty, military talent and, of course, charming looks.
But not everyone was lucky enough to witness his charm. It was said that as a military general his face too pretty to scare enemies, so he had to wear an ugly mask in battles. After a victorious battle, his soldiers composed a song and dance “Prince Lanling in Battle (兰陵王入阵曲)” praising the magnificent Prince. Later, it became an imperial court dance in the Sui Dynasty, and it was even introduced to Japan, where it has been preserved and performed to this day.
However, competence, talent and reputation led Prince Lanling to his death. When his cousin Gao Wei ascended the throne, Prince Lanling’s existence upset him a lot. After he listened to the “Prince Lanling in Battle”, he said to Prince Lanling, “it is too dangerous for you to get into the enemy’s battle array. In case you lose, you will have no chance to regret.” Without realizing it was a test, Prince Lanling answered, “I don’t think so, it is for the family business.” This raised the emperor’s suspicions about a possible coup. To protect himself, Prince Lanling often pretended to be sick, stayed away from wars and politics. However, his low profile didn’t save him. Finally in 573 A.D, the emperor sent him a cup of poisonous wine, Prince Lanling drank it and died in his early 30’s.
Han Zigao (韩子高)
Han Zigao, born in the southern and northern dynasties, was not only known for his beauty but also as a homosexual lover of an emperor. It was said that Han was good-looking like a beautiful girl. Living during war, he experienced many dangerous situations. But on many occassions, when soldiers approached him, they saw his beauty and could not bring themselves to hurt him. When Han was 16 years old, he met a military general, Chen Qian, his future lover. Chen was deeply attracted to Han’s breath-taking beauty, and said to him, “If you come along with me, I promise you will live a really rich life.” Han agreed.
Chen was a short-tempered person, but every time he became angry, he would look at Han and calm down. Han learnt military skills quickly and became Chen’s right-hand man. One day, Chen said to Han, “People say I am destined to be an emperor, if it comes true, you will become my queen. ”
Later, Chen founded Chen Dynasty and became an emperor, but he was unable to keep his promise. Han spent all his time with Chen until Chen died. Not long after Chen’s death, Han was persecuted to death at the age of 30. Outside the tomb of Chen, there were two statues of Kylins, different from the usual male and female design, both of them were male.
Murong Chong (慕容冲)
In China’s long history, there have been more than 400 emperors. Some started as farmers, soldiers, and even beggars. But compared with them, Murong Chong, the emperor of West Yan Kingdom in Sixteen Kingdoms Period, was perhaps the most handsome emperor and definitely had the most unusual fate: he was born as a prince, became a toy-boy and then finally took revenge and claimed the throne.
Born as a prince of Former Yan, Murong had a stunningly pretty face, much like his entire family. In the year of 370A.D, when Murong was only 12 years old, his country was broken by Fu Jian, emperor of Former Qin, and Murong was captured along with his beautiful sister. Fu Jian was fascinated with Murong and his sister that he didn’t kill people from Murong’s clan. Children sang that “A female and a male phoenix, flew into the palace”. Phoenix was just Murong’s nickname. It was humiliation, but Murong swallowed all of it.
Years later, Fu Jian let Murong leave the city. For Murong, it was an opportunity for a new life. Murong reunited with his brother and uncle, who later started a rebellion. Fu Jian was decisively defeated by the numerically inferior Jin. Murong then took action. After a series of victories, Murong went back to Changan with his revenge army.
In hopes of softening Murong, Fu Jian sent him a coat and said, “Since you came from far away, you must be in short supplies. This coat represents my heart. I treated you well in the past, why have you become so heartless?” However, this coat just added wood to the fire of hatred. The city was besieged by Murong’s army and famine burst out with many people starving to death. Fu Jian killed Murong’s other brother who was in the city as captive. In the end, Murong broke into the city and Fu Jian fled. But Murong could not forgive this city. His revenge turned against everyone in the city. “The deaths were countless”.
Next year, because Murong refused to take his clan back home, he was murdered by his subordinates. His legendary life ended at the age of only 28.
Mastery Image comes from TV play Legend of Chu Liuxiang