The final installment of Women of the Three Kingdoms. Or at least, the final installment until Koei announces new female characters for the series, or until I decide to share with you the stories of the women I discovered while researching this series. Here we look at the remaining women who have been fictionalised in the Dynasty Warriors series and their origins in fiction and history.
First Appearance: Dynasty Warriors 8: Xtreme Legends
In the games: The daughter of the mighty Lu Bu, Lu Lingqi, appears in her father’s historical route in the expanded edition of Dynasty Warriors 8. Unfortunately, because the writers weren’t sure how to write her interactions with Diao Chao (her father’s lover), Lu Lingqi only appears in the final third of Lu Bu’s story. When she does appear, she is courageous and an excellent fighter, but her father is reluctant to allow her onto the battlefield.
In fiction: In the Romance of the Three Kingdoms Lu Bu’s unnamed daughter by his wife, Lady Yan, is used in a potential marriage alliance with the son of Yuan Shao. When trying to secure the marriage for the second time, having called it off a year previously, Lu Bu apparently wrapped his daughter in fabric, tied her to his horse and unsuccessfully attempted to deliver her personally to her prospective groom.
In history: As usual, little is known of Lu Bu’s daughter, other than her existence. Lu Bu and Yuan Shao did indeed negotiate a marriage between the former’s daughter and the latter’s son, Yuan Shu. However, after the bride had already been dispatched to her potential husband, Lu Bu was convinced that the alliance was a bad one, and so he recalled his daughter and killed Yuan Shu’s envoy. Despite this momentary conflict, Lu Bu found himself allying with Yuan Shu anyway, and a year later decided to renew the agreement, while also asking for military reinforcements. The reinforcements never arrived and Lu Bu was executed by the forces that surrounded him. It is not recorded what happened to Lu Bu’s family, but the families of other officials executed at the same time were well taken care of so it wouldn’t be too far a stretch to imagine the same would apply to Lady Yan and her daughter.
First Appearance: Dynasty Warriors 7
In the games: Oh boy. I mean Cai Wenji is such a pivotal part of the games it’s difficult to condense her role into a short paragraph. She’s a poet, she uses a harp as a weapon, and she fights for the Wei kingdom. She certainly doesn’t disappear the minute she’s introduced as a character. She’s playable in at least one stage, spread over the games in which she appears. No really, one!
In fiction: Because of her interesting, albeit tragic, life story, Cai Wenji has featured throughout the arts in the history of China. She features as the subject of plays, operas and a great deal of artwork, much of which focuses on her time living beyond China, and the circumstances of her return. She also appears in Koei’s Kessen II, this time as Cai Wengi; Queen of Fu. Here she is a sorceress who joins Liu Bei after he defeats her, despite her initial antagonism.
In history: If there’s one thing that’s common for the women of the Three Kingdoms, it’s that much of their story is fictionalised because of a lack of information about them. In the case of Cai Wenji, however, there is a surprising amount known of her, very little of which translates into her minimal appearances in the series.
The daughter of a prestigious Han scholar, Cai Yan (as she was born) was well educated for a woman of the time. In her youth, her father’s enemies at court conspired to have him exiled, but he would be invited to return when Dong Zhou rose to power. Cai Yong accepted a position (reluctantly and only after Dong Zhou threatened to wipe out his family) and so Cai Yan would find herself back at the capital.
The year Dong Zhou was removed from power, as well as the mortal plane, would be an eventful one for Cai Wenji, but not in a good way. Although the tyrant had been overthrown, her father would be imprisoned (where he would die) for his apparent support of Dong Zhou, and her husband of a short time died around this time. A couple of years later, with China well and truly in the grip of chaos, men from a nomadic tribe made incursions into Han territory, and during a raid, abducted Cai Wenji. As a prisoner in the north, Cai Wenji was forced into marriage with a chieftain, a union which produced two children. She remained in this miserable position for twelve years before Cao Cao secured her freedom, after convincing the government they should pay out for the ransom because her ancestors were totally on his case about it.
Cai Wenji was returned, though she left her sons with their father. As an admirer of her father, and a talented poet in his own right, Cao Cao took an especial interest in Cai Wenji and her re-settlement in familiar lands. He arranged her marriage with a government official from her hometown and worked with her to restore those volumes of her father’s that had been lost to the war. Aside from an incident where she convinced Cao Cao to spare her husband after he had committed treason, nothing more is recorded of her life.
A selection of images from Chinese history titled Cai Wenji returns to her homeland.
First Appearance: Dynasty Warriors 7: Xtreme Legends
In the games: A capable fighter and a competent strategist, Wang Yi’s character is dominated by her desire for revenge on Shu’s Ma Chao. While her motivation is pure anger, she is not hot-tempered or reckless. Instead, she’s cold, calculated and patient as a result. I’d say she’s one of the few female characters whose presence isn’t dominated by her relationship with a man…but that’s patently untrue, given how obsessed she is with Ma Chao. But she is at least no man’s woman, and she has many a moment where she acts beyond the need for revenge if it helps her strategy.
In fiction: Wang Yi appears briefly in Romance of the Three Kingdoms as Lady Wang. Her husband, Zhao Ang, hesitates to revolt against Ma Chao because he is holding their son hostage. Lady Wang berates him and threatens her own life if he does not act. Later, she is the sole survivor of her family (except her husband) who are killed in a massacre by Ma Chao.
In history: The Three Kingdoms period is so popular because of the sheer amount of people who met the extraordinary circumstances they found themselves in, head on and persevered. Wang Yi is definitely one such person.
The wife of an official, Zhao Ang, Wang Yi would surely have been little more than a wife and mother to their four children, had events not overtaken them. While Zhao Ang was away, Liang Shuang revolted and conquered the district; two of Wang Yi’s sons were killed in the skirmish. Fearing that Liang Shuang would take her as a prize, and all that entailed, she attempted to kill herself, stopping when she saw her young daughter. Still fearful of rape at the hand of Liang Shuang, or his soldiers, Wang Yi took measures to protect herself and her daughter, and though accounts vary when describing her methods, they are always extreme. She was thought to have fasted to the point of making herself dangerously thin so that she would appear unattractive, and/or she covered herself and her daughter in human excrement so that people would stay away from them. After living like this for a year, Liang Shuang surrendered and Wang Yi and her daughter were returned to her husband, who had had no news of them since their home had fallen. Once they were within a safe distance of her husband, Wang Yi told her daughter that she had lived only to protect her, now that they were safe again, there was no reason for her to continue, and so she attempted again to kill herself. This time she ingested poison, but her daughter got help quick enough for an antidote to be administered, although the recovery period was long.
The family relocated to Jicheng, where they lived peacefully for some years. When Ma Chao led a rebellion against Cao Cao, however, he laid siege to the city, and once again Wang Yi rose to the occasion. The siege lasted eight months, during which time, Wang Yi herself engaged in the fighting, using archery skills to engage Ma Chao’s soldiers. Although they were outnumbered ten to one, the people of Jicheng held the city, until it appeared that reinforcements were not coming, and Ma Chao executed a prominent member of the Jicheng administration.
With the city in his hands, Ma Chao took Wang Yi’s surviving son as a hostage, while Wang Yi herself befriended Ma Chao’s wife, in order to make it appear that her family was loyal. Between her efforts and her husband’s attempts to ingratiate himself with Ma Chao, the two survived under enemy occupation and were able to plot against their captors. When Zhao Ang expressed concern for their son’s life, should their plot be discovered, Wang Yi rebuked him saying that as they were willing to risk their own lives, why should they hesitate over their son’s? The plot was successful, Ma Chao was driven out, and they continued to hold him off until Cao Cao’s reinforcements arrived. During this time, Wang Yi actively participated in battles against Ma Chao, but after his final retreat, he did indeed execute their son.
First appearance: Dynasty Warriors 8
In the games: The wife of Sima Yi, and the mother of his children (who also appear in the games), Zhang Chunhua is calm, collected and capable. Her family respects her yet border on fearful of her, but in the way children are afraid of invoking their parents’ wrath. She supports her husband and her sons but also acts as an adviser and, where appropriate, strategist. Her intelligence and devotion to her family are her key features, in a series where the women are almost exclusively discussed in-game, in terms of their appearance.
In fiction: A lot of information about Zhang Chunhua’s life comes from sources written after her children had established the Jin Dynasty, and so as a result, may not be entirely based in fact. One story in particular which may not have actually happened, saw a thirteen year old Zhang Chunhua murdering the family maid when the maid saw that Sima Yi was not as ill as he had told Cao Cao he was. Fearing the maid would let slip the deception, Zhang Chunhua either strangled or poisoned her and took on the maid’s duties herself.
In history: Zhang Chunhua belonged to a minor family of officials, but even in her youth was noted for her upright moral character and her intelligence. She married Sima Yi, who would become a prominent politician under Cao Cao and whose success would allow his grandson to found the Jin Dynasty, ending the Three Kingdoms period. In their later life together, Sima Yi was thought to favour his concubine and neglected Zhang Chunhua as a result. After he rebuked her for her looks, Zhang Chunhua allegedly attempted to starve herself, prompting her children to do the same. Sima Yi was reconciled to her but later said he only did so for the sake of his sons.
The story contradicts their apparent respect for each other, and the year Sima Yi retired from public life coincided with the year his wife fell ill and died.
First appearance: Dynasty Warriors 7
In the games: Time for some full disclosure. If it weren’t for the fact that I’d committed to look at all the women in the series, and I’m a sucker for completionism, Bao Sanniang would not appear here. In the games, her entire personality is based on two things: Cats and Guan Suo. The picture above is taken from her special attack, and yes, you see right, she is on the floor pretending to be a cat. Cats are just one of her obsessions, the other being Guan Suo, with whom she is freakishly obsessed. The relationship is wholly one-sided on her part, so it’s unclear if they’re actually romantically involved. Needless to say every other word out of her mouth is about Guan Suo and how she is committed to his side…seemingly regardless of his feelings on the matter. Worryingly the producers added her to be an assertive, independent female character…which makes me wonder if they know what either of those two words means.
In fiction: Bao Sanniang features in numerous operas and plays, mostly inspired by her presence in the fictional work Biography of Hua Guan Suo. Here she is a daughter of a bandit leader and the greatest warrior of her family. When Guan Suo hears of her, he decides to challenge her for the right to marry her, something he does after defeating all the male members of her family first. She then accompanies him on some of his campaigns, often joining the fight alongside him.
In history: She didn’t exist. Like, not even a little bit. At this point I’d surely look to Guan Suo and see if any of his wives or concubines were weirdly obsessed with him to form as the basis of her character, but as he exists only in fiction as well, we can rest easy that no real woman’s memory is being perpetuated as a cat lover acting out her own personal Fatal Attraction.