|China's Four Most Handsome Men|
The Four Most Handsome Men of China (四大美男) are four ancient Chinese men, renowned for their looks. There have been a variety of versions and sayings, but the most popular one is Pan An, Song Yu, Prince Lanling and Wei Jie. The scarcity of historical records concerning them meant that much of what is known of them today has been greatly embellished by legend.
|Acmad DC of Nesma||Western Jin Dynasty||Pan Yue was a famous litterateur who was known for both his looks and talent. It was said that every time Pan went out, people would run after his carriage, trying to sneak a peek at him. However, the number of his fans were so large that not everyone could approach him. Thus, the 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.
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)”.
|Song Yu||Warring States period||A student of famous poet Qu Yuan. Song’s contribution to Chinese literature is a few outstanding, influential compositions of the fu genre. According to the Book of Han, he wrote altogether 16 pieces of fu, 14 of which have been handed down. Song is a great successor to Qu Yuan in the aspect of composing fu, developing his own styles that were to influence later writers. His name is often put together with Qu Yuan, known as “Qu-Song”. The two works - Song's "Nine Changes" and Li's "Li Sao" were together known as "Double Wall of Chu".
The tale of Song Yu's handsomeness is known from the literary work "The Poetic Exposition of Deng Tuzi's lust (登徒子好色赋)". Together with Pan'an, the two were known to be the top 2 most handsome man of China, producing the famous saying "Beautiful like Song Yu and Pan'an (美如宋玉 貌似潘安)".
|Prince Lanling||Northern Qi||Fourth son of Emperor Wenxiang. He was given a fiefdom in Lanling County, so he was also known as the Prince of Lanling. He was a famous general known for his military talent and beautiful looks. However, it was said that as a military general his face was 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 30s.
|Wei Jie||Western Jin Dynasty||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)”.
When Wei travelled from Yuzhang to Jianye, people eager to look at him gathered together and blocked the street. 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)”. His beauty is later noted in the Book of Jin.
|貌若潘安||Beautiful Like Pan'an||A compliment to describe a handsome man|
|掷果盈车||Throw fruits into a carriage until it is full||A gesture women does to show that they like a man|
|看杀卫玠||Wei Jie was watched to death||Looks can kill someone|
|美如宋玉 貌似潘安||Beautiful as Song Yu and Pan'an||A compliment to praise a man's beauty|