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Diao Chan was one of the Four Beauties of ancient China. She was said to have been born in 161 or 169 AD, depending on the source. However, unlike the other three beauties, she does not appear in any known historical writings, and is quite possibly a fictional character.

Diao Chan appears in the classic novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms in a plot involving the warrior Lü Bu and the warlord Dong Zhuo. According to historical records, Lü Bu did have relations with a maid of Dong Zhuo's. However, there is no evidence that this person's name was Diaochan. In fact, it is extremely unlikely that it was Diaochan, because "Diāo" was not, and is not, commonly used as a Chinese family name. "Diāochán" likely referred to the sable (diào) tails and jade decorations in the shape of cicadas (chán), which at the time adorned the hats of high-level officials.

In Romance of the Three Kingdoms

According to the novel, Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Diao Chan assisted the official Wang Yun in a plot to persuade the warrior Lü Bu to kill his adopted father, the tyrannical warlord Dong Zhuo. She did this by becoming Dong Zhuo's concubine but also Lü Bu's betrothed, then manipulating the two through their jealousy and her charm. Dong Zhuo's tactician, Li Ru, saw that the dancing girl was driving both the lord and the warrior mad, so he proposed that Dong Zhuo give Diao Chan to Lü Bu instead of fighting over her. Upon hearing this he threatened Li Ru with death and stated that no warrior was worth what Diao Chan was to him. Diao Chan had Lü Bu wrapped around her finger.

She told him that being with Dong Zhuo made her unhappy and wished to only be with him. Lü Bu was outraged and went to Wang Yun to plot Dong Zhuo's death. Lü Bu had to escape shortly after killing Dong Zhuo and he lost a battle to Dong Zhuo's generals. He did, however, meet up with Diao Chan once more. Diao Chan followed Lü Bu during his time as a rogue leader until he took Cao Cao's castle of Puyang. Together they traveled the land until Lü Bu was later killed when Cao Cao's forces overran his base at Xiapi. There is no mention of Diao Chan in the novel after this.

In folktales

There is a folktale that Diao Chan was captured by Cao Cao after Xiapi. When Cao Cao was trying to keep Guan Yu in his service, he sent Diao Chan to seduce Guan Yu. Guan Yu suspected that he was being tricked as he knew how she had betrayed Lü Bu and Dong Zhuo so he killed her to prevent her from hurting anyone else (source: Mengde New Book). A second version of this story is that years after Xiapi, Liu Bei, Zhang Fei and Guan Yu all wanted to marry Diao Chan and the three argued bitterly over her. To end the strife between them Guan Yu cut her in half.

In one Yuan Dynasty play, Diao Chan is introduced to Guan Yu by his 'brother' Zhang Fei after the death of Lü Bu, but instead of accepting her as the spoils of war, Guan Yu decapitates her with his sword. This event does not appear either on the history records or the novel itself, but is propagated through mass media such as operas and storytelling. There is also another idea of what happened to Diao Chan. There is also a source that says she did meet Guan Yu, but he let her become a nun. After hearing this, Cao Cao wanted to take her as his own. When the news reached Diao Chan, however, she committed suicide.

Modern references

  • Diao Chan was portrayed by Chen Hong in the 1995 Chinese television serial Romance of the Three Kingdoms.
  • Diao Chan was one of the first female characters to appear in the Koei video game series Dynasty Warriors, where she is alternatively named "Diao Chan". She also appears in Koei's Warriors Orochi. But in this game series,she later has feelings for Lu Bu.
  • She also appears in Koei's game Kessen II, where she is Liu Bei's lover. It should be noted that Kessen II has its own entirely fictional story (As opposed to the Dynasty Warriors series) and simply shares the same characters and basic framework.
  • The ninth cycle of America's Next Top Model, (2007) had a challenge where the final four contestants had to dress up and modernise the four beauties of ancient China. The show included a description of Diao Chan.
  • In PS2 Game Ikkitousen: Shining Dragon, Cho-sen (Diao Chan) appeared in this game.
  • In Koihime Musou, Diao Chan is ironically featured as a muscular man wearing only a thong, sporting two pigtails and tend to use twinkles on his eyes.

See also



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