The art of seduction: the story of Xi Shi, beauty of China

The art of seductionWest Lake, Hangzhou.

The West Lake (西湖, Xī Hú) in Hangzhou is said to be the incarnation of 西施 (Xī Shī), one of the four beauties of China. Hence it is also called Xi Zi Lake, where “Xi Zi” means Lady Xi.

This is the story of Xi Shi as told in The Art of Seduction, the best seller of Robert Greene.

“In the fifth century B.C., Fu Chai, the king of Wu, defeated Gou Chien, the king of Yue. Gou Chien was captured and forced to serve in Fu Chai’s stables. He was finally allowed to return home, but every year he had to pay a large tribute of money.

One year Gou Jian sent as part of the tribute two beautiful maidens to Fu Chai, who received them in his palace. The beauty of one of the girls far surpassed that of the other; her name was Xi Shi. She looked him in the eyes without a hint of shyness. She was confident and coquettish, something he was not used to seeing in such a young girl.

Fu Chai called for festivities to commemorate the occasion. Inflamed with wine, Xi Shi danced for the king. She sang, and her voice was beautiful. Reclining on a couch of white jade, she looked like a goddess. The king could not leave her side. The next day he followed her everywhere. To his astonishment, she was witty, sharp, and knowledgeable. When he had to leave her to deal with royal affairs, his mind was full of her image. Soon he brought her with him to his councils, asking her advice on important matters. She told him to listen less to his ministers; he was wiser than they were, his judgment superior.

Xi Shi’s power grew daily. Yet she was not so easy to please; if the king failed to grant some wish of hers, tears would fill her eyes, his heart would melt, and he would yield. One day she begged him to build her a palace outside the capital. Of course, he obliged her. And when he visited the palace, he was astonished at its magnificence, even though he paid the bills: Xi Shi had filled it with the most extravagant furnishings. Fu Chai spent more and more time there, sitting by a pool and watching Xi Shi comb her hair, using the pool as a mirror.

The months went by; he stayed in the palace. He missed councils, ignored his family and friends, neglected his public functions. He lost track of time. If anything but Xi Shi took up his time, he worried that she would be angry.

Finally word reached him of a growing crisis: the fortune he had spent on the palace had bankrupted the treasury, and the people were discontented. He returned to the capital, but it was too late: an army from the kingdom of Yue had invaded Wu, and had reached the capital. All was lost. Fu Chai had no time to rejoin his beloved Xi Shi and committed suicide.

Little did he know that Gou Jian had plotted this invasion for years, and that Xi Shi’s elaborate seduction was the main part of his plan.”

While living in China, I’ve seen many white devils going crazy for an exotic Chinese girl that slowly take them down on her world done of long black hair, soft skin, coquettish behaviors, sudden changes of mood and irrational expectations (maybe not a castle, but yet…).

The interesting thing is that many times these girls are far less interesting than Xi Shi, the maiden described in The Art of Seduction.

So, what’s the secret of Chinese women?

Click here to order “The Art of Seduction” on

Photo Credits: Photos by Sapore di Cina

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