And so we continue the exploration of the stylised women in Dynasty Warriors, based on the romanticised Romance of the Three Kingdoms, fictionalising a period of history in which women were not particularly recorded…
First appearance: Dynasty Warriors 7
In the games: Introduced to be
a pair of breasts on legs the most “mature” lady of Wu, Lianshi appears as a bodyguard to Sun Shang Xiang and love interest for Sun Quan. Hailing from a powerful family that has apparently fallen from grace, Lianshi owes an unspecified debt to the Sun family and serves her mistress and the family loyally. When Sun Shang Xiang leaves for Shu, to marry Liu Bei, Lianshi remains behind as eye candy to protect the Sun family in a more general role, which also allows her relationship with Sun Quan to blossom. Tits.
In fiction: Lianshi doesn’t actually appear in Romance of the Three Kingdoms, and so isn’t the subject of the usual operas, plays or stories that they inspire.
In history: Unusually, we actually know Lianshi’s name! It was Bu Lianshi, and as such she was also known as Lady Bu. She lived in Xiapi, in Xu Province, an area that was heavily contested and saw a great deal of exploitation and fighting. After almost five years of constant warring, Bu Lianshi’s family decided to move to Huan, though this was soon conquered by Sun Ce, putting paid to their ideas of living in peace. During this conquest, she came to the attention of Sun Ce’s brother, Sun Quan, and from there became his concubine. While there is a legend that Sun Quan saw Bu Lianshi at the roadside and immediately made her his paramour (such was his attraction to her) it is more likely that she was introduced through a relative who was serving as an official to Sun Quan.
Bu Lianshi remained high in Sun Quan’s favour for the rest of her life. She was known to be friendly and accepting of his other wives, while others were known to quarrel, and became popular throughout the Wu court as a result. Though she and Sun Quan were never married, he wanted her named his empress. Despite her popularity, such a proposition had little support, possibly because she had given birth to Sun Quan’s daughters, compared to another concubine, Lady Xu, who was the mother of his sons and heir. Unable to marry Bu Lianshi and unwilling to marry Lady Xu, Sun Quan installed neither as his empress, but the former was known as the first empress of Wu in everything but name. She helped her husband with political affairs, lived in the empress’ part of the household and dressed to match her unconfirmed position. When she died, Sun Quan was distraught, and a surviving eulogy by him demonstrates his regret that he didn’t make her his wife or empress after all, insinuating that Bu Lianshi was too humble to have accepted such a title. Posthumously, Sun Quan granted her the title of Empress, and although he was buried with the only woman he actually created empress (Empress Pan), Bu Lianshi is also buried on the same mountain. Her breast size is unrecorded.
First appearance: Dynasty Warriors 3
In the games: Nu Wa makes a brief appearance in Dynasty Warriors 3. As an additional character without a story mode, she doesn’t have any information available about her. Our knowledge of her is limited to what we see on screen; she wears green despite belonging to Wei, her rapier is twice the length it should be and she has a really annoying voice.
In fiction/history: Nu Wa is an unusual addition, given that she doesn’t appear in Romance of the Three Kingdoms. Rather than an historical figure, Nu Wa is a mythological goddess who created mankind. She also restored the pillar of heaven after it had crumbled, thus saving mankind and restoring order to the world. Sometimes, she is included in the mythological ‘Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors,‘ who appear in mythology as great rulers who imparted vital knowledge onto the people to ensure their survival (such as making fire, hunting and fishing). Here, Nu Wa appears as a legendary empress alongside her brother/husband, the God Fu Xi (who also makes a similarly brief appearance in Dynasty Warriors 3).
First appearance: Dynasty Warriors 7
In the games: Instant fan favourite, Wang Yuanji, appears as a tutor for Sima Yi’s younger son, Sima Zhao. Her role is to motivate the otherwise lazy Sima Zhao, ensuring that he realises his potential, instead of giving into apathy. Because of her desire to improve Sima Zhao, she also has a good relationship with his parents, and later she becomes Sima Zhao’s wife.
In fiction: Wang Yuanji appears only as a reference in Romance of the Three Kingdoms, where she is named only in relation to her husband. Noted as the daughter of Wang Su, her appearance extends as far as naming the sons she bore Sima Zhao.
In history: Born into a relatively successful family, Wang Yuanji was the daughter of a Wei military officer and the granddaughter of a Wei warlord. Given that her family were known for their intellect, it isn’t all that surprising that she learned to read and write at a young age. She was noted especially for her devotion to her family, and was distraught when her grandfather (and later her father) died.
When she married Sima Zhao they had at least four sons and one daughter together. Their son Sima Yan would become the founding emperor of the Jin dynasty. As Sima Zhao’s wife, she was humble, frugal and equally devoted to his own family. Unsurprisingly, she managed the household well and maintained harmony among Sima Zhao’s concubines, all of which served to cement her popularity. She also used her intelligence to aid her husband, advising him on matters of government, and predicting a rebellion against him before it occurred. When her husband died, she continued to live as she had before; advising her son, managing his concubines and maintaining her frugal lifestyle, even though she was now the empress dowager. When she died, as much a fan favourite as she is in fiction, she was buried alongside her husband, and given a posthumous name that meant, ‘brilliant’.
First appearance: Dynasty Warriors 5
In the games: The daughter of Zhang Fei and sister of Zhang Bao, Xing Cai (who should really have the family name Zhang) joins the Shu army to defend the homeland that her father and his comrades created. Fighting alongside her brother and the warrior Guan Ping, she is given the role of bodyguard to Liu Bei, and (after his death) to his son, Liu Shan.
In fiction: Xing Cai is inspired by the historical Empress Zhang, and so doesn’t appear in other fiction, given that she is largely an original character. As Empress of one of the least inspiring Emperors of the era, little fiction is based on her either.
In history: Empress Zhang was the second wife of Liu Shan, and the second one to bear the name. She and her predecessor, the first Empress Zhang, were daughters of Zhang Fei and his wife. Little is known of his wife, save that she was a niece of Xiahou Yuan, and Zhang Fei kidnapped her when she was 12 or 13 years old. She was forced to marry him, and bore him children, including the two Empress Zhangs. The first Empress Zhang died after a short time in the role, leaving no lasting legacy, nor anything that could be used to compare her sister too. We know the second Empress Zhang was with her husband when his kingdom was conquered by Wei forces and he was relocated to Luoyang. Nothing else is recorded of her activities, personality or death.
First appearance: Dynasty Warriors 8
In the games: The youngest child of Guan Yu, Guan Yinping, although slight and given an almost school girl-like appearance, is physically the strongest of his brood, able to level buildings and destroy walls, but is apparently unaware that that’s…a thing.
In fiction: Her only reference in the Romance of the Three Kingdoms occurs when Guan Yu rebukes a messenger carrying a marriage proposal between her and a Wu official. She also appears as the focus of folk tales and the occasional Chinese opera based on said folk tales. Here, her name is Guan Feng or Guan Yinping; the latter, a name given to her by Zhang Fei after he took a silver adornment from the warrior Lu Bu, during their encounter at Hu Lao Gate. She becomes an accomplished fighter after learning her martial arts from Zhao Yun, and swore vengeance against Wu upon her father’s death, joining Liu Bei to fight in the war. In some tales, she marries the Li Yi (likely the Shu official rather than the Wu officer, but historically unlikely either way) and dies from illness or complications from a miscarriage.
In history: Alas, the only thing that is known of Guan Yu’s daughter is that he had one. As is often the case for these women, that is as far as the records take us.