The two Wives of Emperor Shun

The two consorts of Youyu were the daughters of Emperor Yao. The eldest was Ehuang, the younger was Nüying.

Shun’s father was bigoted and his mother was cold and calculating. His father was called Gusou, he is an old blind man. His younger brother was called Xiang and was given to idle roaming. Shun was able to harmonize them and win them over. He served Gusou with filial reverence. His mother hated Shun and loved Xiang. But Shun still maintained his composure and harbored no ill will. The Chief of the Four Mountains recommended Shun to Yao. Yao thereupon gave Shun his two daughters in marriage so that he could observe Shun’s conduct toward them. The two women served Shun in the fields and did not use their status as daughters of the Son of Heaven as a pretext for arrogant, overbearing or disrespectful behavior. They continued to behave with humility, reverence and frugality, being completely mindful of the wifely way.

Gusou and Xiang plotted to murder Shun and ordered him to plaster the granary. Shun returned home and told the two women, “Father and mother have ordered me to plaster the granary. Shall I go?” The two women said, “By all means, go!” When Shun began to repair the granary, the ladder was removed, and Gusou set the granary on fire. Shun flew forth and escaped.

Xiang once again plotted with his father and mother and Shun was ordered to dig a well. Shun reported this to the two women, who said, “Yes, by all means go!” Shun went forth and dug the well. Gusou and Xiang blocked the exits and entrances and then sealed it shut. Shun tunneled his way out.

Up to this point they had been unable to kill Shun. So Gusou tried once again and invited Shun to drink wine hoping to make him drunk and then kill him. Shun reported this to the two women. The two women thereupon gave Shun an elixir. He bathed in a pool and went forth. Shun drank wine all day long but never became drunk.

Shun’s younger sister, Xi, pitied him and was in accord with her two sisters-in-law. Although Shun’s parents wanted to kill him, Shun never harbored resentment towards them. They raged against him incessantly. Shun went forth into the fields, wailing and weeping. Daily he cried out to merciful Heaven; he cried out to his father and mother. Though they tried to harm him, his feelings of affection for them endured.5 He bore no resentment against his younger brother but was sincerely and sedulously generous with him.

When he was appointed as the General Regulator, he received guests from the four quarters. He went into the forests and entered the foothills. Yao tested Shun in a hundred ways, and in each matter Shun consulted with the two women. When he succeeded Yao, he was raised to the rank of Son of Heaven. Ehuang became queen and Nüying his secondary royal consort. He granted Xiang a fief in Youbei and in serving Gusou continued to be in accord with him.6 Everyone praised the two women as intelligent, perceptive, chaste and benevolent. While making a tour of inspection, Shun died at Cangwu. 7 His honorary title was Chonghua (Double Splendor).8 The two royal wives died in the region between the Jiang and the Xiang River. Therefore they were commonly called the “Ladies of the Xiang.”

Ladies of Xiang

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