Xi Shi was said to have lived during the end of Spring and Autumn Period in Zhuji(诸暨),the capital of the ancient State of Yue.She was said to be “so beautiful as to make swimming fish sink”.There also goes a saying ”Beauty lies in the lover’s eyes”In chiese,we can say Xi Shi lies in the lover’s eyes.
King Goujian of Yue was once imprisoned after a defeat in a war by King Fuchai of Wu.The state of Yue later became a tribulatory to Wu.Secretly planning his revenge,Goujian’s minister Wen Zhong suggested training beautiful women and offering them to Fuchai as a tribute.His other minister,Fan Li,found Xi Shi and Zheng Dan,and gifted them to Fuchai.
One day when she went to a stream to wash clothes and the fish in the water saw her and fell down from the surface of the water after being astonished by her beauty. This is the legend, but the fact is Xi Shi was sent to the State of Wu to seduce the ruler for her own state. Finally, the ruler of the State of Wu was defeated by the State of Yue.
Bewitched by the beauty of Xi Shi,Fuchai forgot all about his state affairs, on their instigation,and killed his best advisor,the great general Wu Zixu.In 473 BC Goujian launched his strike and put the Wu army to full rout.King Fuchai lamented that he should have listened to Wu Zixu,and then committed suicide.
There is another well-known figure of unknown origin,probably fictional and parodical,named Dong Shi (东施).The “Dong” in her name means “east” contrasting to Xi Shi’s “Xi”,which means “west”.Apart from her name,she is said to be the exact opposite of Xi Shi in being extremely ugly and,in modern depictions,fat.This in turn has created the saying “Dong Shi imitates a frown”,meaning to attempt imitating another work only to show up one’s own weaknesses.