Cai Wenji

Cai Wenji was the daughter of Cai Yong (AD 133-132), a famous scholar and official of Eastern Han. She was both a learned scholar and a proficient musician.

On one occasion, as she listened to her father play the qin, she asked: "Father, is the second string broken?"

It was, but Cai Yong suspected that his daughter had just made a lucky guess. He deliberately snapped the fourth string to test her and was astonished when Cai Wenji said: "Now the fourth string is broken too."

Cai Wenji married a man named Wei Zhongdao from Hedong. Following his untimely death, she returned to her father's house as a widow. Towards the end of the Han era, the country was thrown into turmoil. Cai Wenji was captured by Hu troops and carried off to their city. She lived in the Hu territory for twelve years as the concubine of a Xiongnu prince, named Zuoxian and bore him two sons.


A sincere friendship had existed between Cai Yong and the Wei warlord, Cao Cao. Sensing Cai Yong's loneliness, the warlord sent precious gifts to Prince Zuoxian in exchange for Cai Wenji.Thus, Cai Wenji returned to her homeland where Cao Cao arranged for her to marry an officer named Dongsi. After Cai Yong's death, all his work would have been lost if not for the fact that his daughter had a good memory. She set down all that she remembered, word for word and presented it to Cao Cao.


Cai Wenji had led a turbulent life. In some ways, even her good memory proved to be a burden to her as she constantly longed for the two sons she left behind in the Hu region. She was also haunted by thoughts of her carefree childhood. Poetry was her consolation and this was where she expressed her sorrow and anger in works such as Poems of Sorrow and Resentment and Eighteen Laments Sung To A Hujia from which the following excerpt is taken:


 "At the time of my birth, the land was at peace,
      But later, the Han Dynasty fell into decline.
      Heaven is unkind, allowing wars, suffering, separation;
      Earth is unkind, that I should have to live at such a time.
      Weapons of war are everywhere, making the roads perilous.
      Soldiers and people fleeing to exile, suffering together.
      The land, billowing clouds of smoke and dust, is a prisoner of the Hu.
      Integrity and willpower have disappeared.
      I cannot accept the vulgar barbarous customs,
      Humiliated and abused, to whom can I turn?
      I sing to my hujia and qin,
      But no one knows my anger and my grief."


Cai Wenji and Cao Cao

Emperor Han Wudi  tv series n=0&db=0&s=0&fbl=800