Long, long ago, when Mongolia and China had been at war for many years, an unrivalled beauty named Wang Zhaojun was born on the banks of the Fragrance River in Hubei. So lovely was she that her beauty was tangible in the natural surroundings and sweet scent from which the river took its name.

As she grew up the legend of her beauty grew with her and it wasn't too long before word of her unparalleled beauty reached the Emperor's court. She was sent to the palace to take up the distinguished position as one of the Emperor's concubines.

There were over 3000 concubines in the Emperor's court and every one competed for his attention; after all the only way for a concubine to be recognised as special was for her to deliver an heir. For a concubine to be allowed access to the Emperor her family would have to bribe the court eunuchs. They would select only the most beautiful concubines to be painted by the court portraitist. The Emperor would then choose the most beautiful.

As the war with Mongolia raged on, the Emperor began looking for a political solution. He decided he would make an offer of peace to the Mongolians. He told the Mongolians that he would offer one of his daughters to their Khan as a sign of goodwill.