Zhaojun Going out of the Frontier Pass – Great Wall Story

Among all the Great Wall stories, Zhaojun going out of the frontier pass might be the most popular one that has been passed down from generation to generation.

Who was Zhaojun?

This Great Wall story occurred over 2,000 years ago in the Western Han Dynasty (202 BC - 9 AD), of course with Wang Zhaojun being the main character. She was quite a beautiful woman and ranked among the top four beauties in Chinese history.

Why Did Zhaojun Go out of the Frontier Pass?

At the age of 15 years old, Zhaojun was chosen for the emperor's harem. Because of her unwilling heart to bribe the court painter, her portrait was drawn so ugly that she had not been visited by the emperor for three years! Therefore, she felt sorrowful and resentful.

During that time, it was a common practice that Han Emperors presented beautiful ladies from his harem to nomadic tribe leaders so as to maintain peace. When the Khan of Xiongnu Tribe asked the emperor to grant a lady to him as his queen for three times, Zhaojun volunteered to be the one. Before departure for the wedding, Zhaojun was interviewed by the emperor. Seeing such a beauty, the emperor regretted but had to keep his words.

The bridal procession marched a long way to the frontier. Finally, she stepped out of the frontier pass and reached the Khan's territory, which was just in the north of the Great Wall.

Zhaojun got used to the life in Xiongnu quite soon and got along well with the Huns. The marriage of Zhaojun and the Khan enhanced the relationship of the two nationalities and promoted their cultural exchange. It was said that after Zhaojun married the Khan, no wars took place on the border between central China and Xiongnu for over 60 years.

Which Great Wall Pass Did Zhaojun Leave From?

In ancient China, a pass was usually set up on the Great Wall, the border between the territories of China's central court and northern nomadic tribes. Among the many passes on the Great Wall, which one did Zhaojun leave from? This is always a tricky question to history buffs.

Some say it refers to the Yumenguan Pass of Dunhuang Great Wall in Gansu, which lies on the western border between central China and Xiongnu, according to a poem written by the great poet Li Bai in the Tang Dynasty (618 - 907).

Some say it should be the Yanmenguan Pass in Daixian County, Shanxi Province on the northern frontier based on some historical records.

At present, the most prevalent saying is that Zhaojun left from the Guanglu Pass in Banyannur, Inner Mongolia, in order to take the shortest route. The bridal procession departed from the capital Chang'an and headed northward to Guanglu Pass, out of which the troop of Xiongnu stationed. 

Different Opinions on Zhaojun's Marriage

A mainstream opinion is that Zhaojun's marriage is actually a tragedy. The feudal rulers should be ashamed for they exchanged women for peace. On the contrary, others deem that Zhaojun hadn't been better if she remained to stay in the royal palace. At least, she made a contribution to her nation by marrying the Khan.

Further Reading:

Stories of Badaling Great Wall
Legends of Jiayuguan Great Wall
Legend of Shanhaiguan Great Wall
Legend of Yumenguan Great Wall
Generals of the Yang Family – Yanmenguan Great Wall Story
More Stories of Great Wall 

- Last updated on Aug. 30, 2019 -
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