Her original name is unknown. She lived in the State of Yue during the Spring and Autumn Period of Chinese history. Born near the base of Mount Zhuluo (in the southern part of present-day Zhuji District in Zhejiang Province). She worked as a washer of silk. She was endowed with wisdom and intelligence. Her features were well
proportioned. Her build was slender, so fragile that it seemed the wind would carry her away. She possessed the poise of a "national beauty with heavenly fragrance," as well as the demeanor that could ruin nations and cities. At that time, the states of Wu and Yue clashed, and Yue suffered a major defeat. Goujian, the King of Yue, was captured and taken to Wu to do menial labor. After several years, he was released and allowed to return home. He then took to sleeping on a pile of firewood and tasting gall, and he never stopped planning the recovery of his country. For ten years he promoted child bearing among the populace; for ten years he drilled and trained. He selected Xishi and Zheng Dan, trained them for three years, and offered them to Fuchai, the King of Wu. Xishi used her graceful and beautiful dancing to entrance the King of Wu into ignoring national affairs. Wu Zixu issued warnings, but Fuchai did not take heed. As it is said, "loyal words are hard on the ears." Unfortunately his words were all too true, and Wu was eliminated by Yue. Fuchai regretted not having listened, and feeling unworthy to face his loyal ministers in the Yellow Spring, he covered his face and committed suicide. Having accomplished her mission, Xishi sailed the Lake of Five with Fan Di. Fan Di then changed his name to Lord Taozhu.
A verse of critique says:
Women are the waters of disaster,
Laying waste to nations and cities.
Unequalled beauty, heavenly fragrance:
Licentious individuals never understand.
Fuchai, the King of Wu,
Failed to listen to loyal advice.
Xishi, after completing her mission,
Dwelt in seclusion at the lakeshore.
Another verse says:
Wu Zixu had unswerving patriotic loyalty,
But he served the wrong master, who had him killed.
Since ancient times, blunt speech has always been hard on the ears,
While deceitful words are good for exploiting situations.
The manipulations of creation are truly laughable,
Making all the myriad, muddled beings even more foolish.
The disputes of black or white, right or wrong, never come to an end.
It is best to observe the chess games of the world with dispassionate eyes.
Xishi was born during the Spring-Autumn Period of Chinese history, near the base of Mount Zhuluo. She made her living by rinsing the silk used for making cloth. This girl was inherently very intelligent, and her appearance was very pleasing; she was so fragile that it seemed the wind would blow her away. She frequently exhibited the demeanor of an ill but lovely woman. Her beauty could be compared to that of the national flower of heavenly fragrance. She was as lovely as a flower and had the potential of bringing a nation or city to ruin.
At that time, the feudal states of Wu and Yue were warring against each other. Goujian, the King of Yue, suffered defeat and was taken prisoner by Fuchai, the King of Wu. The King of Yue then endured insult and adversity. Through his submissive obedience, he moved the King of Wu and earned his deep trust, and the King of Wu allowed him to return home. Goujian was determined to reestablish the former glory of his country and reclaim his territories; he was determined to engage the state of Wu in another battle to the death. However, since his means were meager and weak, he patiently developed his troops and nurtured their skills, never forgetting his will to rebuild his country. For ten years, he did all he could to encourage the people to bear children, so that the military would have a source of fresh troops, and he also saw to the training of the soldiers.
King Goujian also lived through the bitter and the sweet with his confidants, Wen Zhong and Fan Di. He took to sleeping on a pile of firewood and tasting gall. He slept on a crude bed of firewood, which served to remind him of his past mistakes that led to the loss of his homeland. To taste gall means to induce vigor by enduring pain. In order to fulfill his goal of reclaiming his state, he did his best to live without enjoyment and to accept suffering, using these actions to inspire his troops.
King Goujian also selected Lady Xishi and Lady Zheng Dan as spies. He trained them for three years and then offered them to Fuchai with the intention of provoking his passions. Lady Xishi was talented in song and dance; she had extraordinary skill in the art of dance. King Fuchai was so mesmerized by the lovely dancing of Lady Xishi that he ignored important national affairs. Oblivious to everything else, he knew only the pleasures of wine and song. His official, Wu Zixu advised, "This woman is an unlucky omen for the country; do not allow yourself to be entranced by her. You should take good care of the government." Fuchai refused to take heed. The remonstrance was hard on his ears, so he ordered Wu Zixu
to kill himself. A few years later, Goujian indeed marshalled his troops and invaded Wu, and Fuchai suffered a total defeat. Unable to face his loyal followers who were in the Yellow Spring, he covered his face in shame and committed suicide. That was the destiny of a despot.
The Yellow Spring is not synonymous with the underworld. When people die, the road they travel upon is yellow; the water flowing under the ground is also yellow, and so is the soil; everything is yellow, so the Yellow Spring is just a yellow-colored spring, where there is no illumination from the sun, moon, stars, or lamps, so everything is dark and gloomy. Also, when a depression in the ground is near water, it is also called Yellow Spring, because the soil in the depression is yellow and so is the water flowing beneath the soil.
With the state of Wu vanquished, Xishi had accomplished her mission, so she accompanied Fan Di to sail the Lake of Five, which is known today as Lake Tai. Fan Di then changed his name to Lord Taozhu and lived in relative anonymity along the shores of Lake Tai as a merchant.
A verse of critique says:
Women are the waters of disaster. Some women may find this statement unjust and retort, "Men are the fires of disaster." Be it waters or fires of disaster, in general, it is not good to be too pretty or handsome. Exceedingly attractive people are actually the reincarnations of monsters or demons, which is why they have a perverse charm that causes people in the world to become utterly infatuated. It is most unfortunate for a person to have good looks. Whether it is men or women, it is not good to have a perverse kind of aura, like that of a fox spirit, because it tends to beckon all kinds of trouble. Still, people are attracted to beauty and are fond of that perverse charm. That is why women sometimes fall for handsome men and men are sometimes bewitched by beautiful women. Female fox spirits charm men, and male fox spirits bewitch women. People in the world are deluded by one another. Thus women are the waters of disaster, and it can also be said that men are the fires of disaster.
Laying waste to nations and cities. She was capable of causing the downfall of a country, such that cities were defenseless under invasion.
Unequalled beauty, heavenly fragrance: Xishi was as beautiful as a flower.
Licentious individuals never understand. Licentious individuals are those who lust after beauty; whether they are men or women, they fail to understand this principle.
Fuchai, the King of Wu, is an excellent example of this fact. He
failed to listen to loyal advice. Wu Zixu offered him advice, but he refused to listen to Wu Zixu's words.
Xishi, after completing her mission, dwelt in seclusion at the lake-shore. When Xishi finished her mission, she followed Fan Di into seclusion by the Lake of Five.
Another verse says:
Wu Zixu had unswerving patriotic loyalty, Wu Zixu was a very loyal official, but the king he happened to serve was rather foolish.
But he served the wrong master, who had him killed. He served his king with utmost devotion, but was put to death by his master, so he died with a grudge.
Since ancient times, blunt speech has always been hard on the ears, Since ancient times, those who hear the blunt and straightforward speech always find the words difficult to listen to. Thus it is said, "What is bitter to the taste actually is good medicine; what is abrasive to the ears is really sound advice."
While deceitful words are good for exploiting situations. Therefore, treacherous and obsequious officials always try to take advantage of situations by flattering people with sweet-sounding lies.
The manipulations of creation are truly laughable. In creating the myriad things, the creator seemed to be playing a joke on people. The world is a very laughable affair. Sometimes the benevolent ones receive unpleasant retributions, while the evil people receive pleasant rewards. This makes people very confused.
Making all the myriad, muddled beings even more foolish. All the people of the world are muddled. You cheat, while I scheme. You lie to me, and I lie to you. We are all deluded and utterly foolish.
The disputes of black or white, right or wrong, never come to an end. In this world, what is black? What is white? What is right? What is wrong? We could never finish discussing these principles.
It is best to observe the chess games of the world with dispassionate eyes. We ought to realize that as humans, we should watch with dispassionate eyes and calmly observe the victories and defeats. We should perceive the activities of humankind as a game of chess: sometimes we win and sometimes we lose. Sometimes we succeed by a stroke of luck, and other times we experience complete failure.