Paintings: Wenji Returns to China

Zhang Cuiying

PureInsight | September 1, 2003

[] When Cao Cao, the king of one of the Three Kingdoms, befriended the South Xiongnu (a minority group in ancient China), he remembered that Cai Wenji, the daughter of his deceased friend, was living in South Xiongnu. Cao Cao decided to bring her home. Cai Wenji, like her father, was a well-educated person. She had fled as a refugee to Xiongnu, together with the people in Chang An (now called Xi an, previously the capital of China), after her father was killed.

After Cai Wenji fled to Xiongnu, soldiers ransacked and looted the city. At one time, the soldiers of Xiongnu kidnapped Cai Wenji. Seeing that she was young and beautiful, they gave her to the King of Xiongnu as a gift. From then on she became the wife of the King, who loved her very much. She lived in Xiongnu for 12 years. Even though she adapted to the ways of Xiongnu, she still missed her country deeply.

When Cao Cao remembered Cai Wenji, he ordered people to deliver presents to Xiongnu in order to bring her home. When Wenji arrived back home, Caocao asked her about her family's collection of scrolls. She told him that the 4000 scrolls were lost during the wars, but she had memorized 400 of them. Cao Cao was surprised and very happy. He ordered her to write down everything she could remember. Thus, the return of Wenji made a great contribution to the preservation of ancient Chinese culture. So "Wenji Returns to China" is a celebrated page in Chinese history.

Zhang Cuiying created a series of six paintings to tell the story of Wenji from the time when she was abducted to the Kingdom of Xiongnu until she reunited with her children upon her return to China.

First: Wenji brought nothing but her father's articles and a Chinese zither.

Second: Wenji has difficulty adjusting to Xiongnu's culture and diet.

Third: Twelve years later Caocao sent messengers to escort Wenji back to China, but her children cried and begged her to stay.

Fourth: After Wenji returned to China, she kept thinking of her children in the Kingdom of Xiongnu and tried to ease her pain with music.

Fifth: After Wenji returned to China, she focused on compiling her father's articles and The History of Western Han Dynasty. Within several years she compiled more than 400 of her father's articles.

Sixth: Eight years later the King of Xiongnu came to China with their children to reunite with their mother Wenji.

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