WINTER SERENADE - Han Dynasty
Beautiful Wang Chao-chun, daughter of a poor scholar, was chosen to enter the emperor's household as one of over two thousand concubines. Because of her steadfast refusal to bribe the eunuchs to place her in the emperor's chambers as his lady for the evening, she was left to languish in isolation, unnoticed by the emperor for several years. Then China and Mongolia signed a peace treaty. To cement the deal, a lady from the emperor's household was to be presented as a peace offering to the barbarian king. Painters were commissioned to do portraits of every lady in the seraglio, with the understanding that the ugliest would become the new queen of the barbarians. In their attempt to escape such a fate, the concubines resorted to bribing the painters to do better than life portraits. Only Wang Chao-chun remained steadfast in her integrity, and refused the solicitations of the artist assigned to do her portrait. The vindictive artist, unable to enrich his own coffers, added an ugly birthmark to Chao-chun's face when he painted her portrait. Naturally, she was chosen as the peace offering. The festive day came when the barbarian contingent arrived to escort their new queen home. As Wang Chao-chun emerged from the palanquin, all who were present gasped at her unparalleled beauty. The emperor tried to renege on the agreement, as he wanted to keep this lovely maiden for himself. He offered another concubine to the barbarians, but their commander, having seen Chao-chun, refused. To avoid further enmity and hostility, the emperor finally kept his word, and Chao-chun was borne triumphantly to her new homeland. There, the barbarian king and his subjects promptly fell in love with their new queen. And she learned to love her new people, taught them to read and write, and brought culture and refinement to her new country. And the villainous artist was beheaded for his treachery.