Consort Yu

Illustration

Emma Groeneveld
by ShangGuan Zhou
published on 22 January 2019

Artistic rendering of Consort Yu (also Yuji, born Yu Miaoyi), the young concubine of Xiang Yu, King of Chu (r. 206-202 BCE). She was captured in one of the skirmishes of the Chu-Han Contention (206-202 BCE) in which the forces of Liu Bang of Han fought with Xiang Yu's Chu forces and brought to Giaxia. Despite knowing he was walking into a trap, Xiang Yu wished to save Yu and marched for Gaixia, where he was indeed ambushed (Battle of Gaixia, 202 BCE). Xiang Yu and his consort were eventually reunited and sang a lament known as The Song of Gaixia together. Yu performed the sword dance (depicted in this image) as she sang her verses and then, blaming herself for the Chu defeat, and wishing to save Xiang Yu from further disaster through his love for her, she killed herself with his sword. Xiang Yu buried her and committed suicide not long after.

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