Xi Shi

Beauty, as an element of breathing improvement, and the art of body nourishment through the skin are related to the knowledge left by the legendary Chinese beauty Xi Shi. The idea behind all creams, perfumes and generally all cosmetic products is an important part of Taoist alchemy, it represents the Taoist art for external and internal perception of beauty.

The nourishment properties of beauty are allegorically linked to the depth and finesse of the finest Chinese tea – the Longjing. Xi Shi is one of the five beauties in Taoism, she is known as the daughter of a tea master, and is also related to the image of the morning goddess (energetically associated with the freshness of daybreak).

In the Taoist tradition beauty is linked with the face and the hands, and is represented by the Dui trigram (lake, West). Xi Shi’s beauty is related to the West lake – the growing ground of the most exquisite Chinese tea: the Longjing. Beauty is also associated with the notion of ‘drinking the water from the West lake’. Curiously enough, in spite of the overall placid attitude to physical beauty, the Taoist tradition understands internal beauty as originating not only from internal processes but also from external ones.

This Taoist idea served as basis for the development of the five-perfect-beauty-forms technique. The five beauties were represented by five masks. However there was only one embodied form of beauty and it was Xi Shi. At least that’s what Li Bai’s poem dedicated to Xi Shi demonstrates.

Xi Shi was born in a village called Zhuluo, not far from the town Zhuji, in the Zhejiang province. Zhuji was the capital of the ancient Chinese state Yue during the Spring and Autumn period (the Chunqui period, 春秋時代, 770—476 BC). Admittedly, she was the most beautiful of the four beauties: Xi Shi, Diao Chan, Wang Zhaojun and Yang Yuhuan. Legend has it that whenever Xi Shi washed her clothes by the river, all fish sank to the bottom - they were so captivated by her beauty.

During Xi Shi’s time Yue state was defeated by the state Wu, ruled by the emperor Fu Chai. Yue’s ruler Gou Juan was thrown in jail for three years and his state was merged with Wu. In order to return to power, Gou followed the advice of one of his ministers, Wen Zhong, and invented a clever plan offering Fu the two beauties Xi Shi and Zheng Dan.

Fascinated by the beauty of Xi and Zheng, Fu began to pay less and less attention to public affairs and gradually lost interest in the reports of his ministers. At the insistence of the beauties he even ordered the killing of his supreme General Wu Zixu. So the power of Wu state gradually weakened, and eventually the army of Yue vanquished Wu‘s army. Fu committed suicide.

Later, the legend goes, Xi Shi became the wife of Fan Li, another of Emperor Gou Juan’s ministers. After Fu’s defeat Fan Li left office and the state. No one ever saw Xi and Fan again.

 

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