Definition from Wiktionary, the free dictionary
- 111: Ban Gu, Book of Han, Chapter 67, Biographies of the emperor's maternal relatives (漢書外戚傳第六十七)
- Consort Li, concubine to the Emperor Wu of Han, was originally a dancing performer. Her brother Yannian was a gifted musician and dancer, beloved by the emperor. Every time he composed something new, it never failed to move those listening to it. One day, Yannian did a dance and sang, "There is a beauty in the north, who stands out among the generations. One look will topple the men of the city. A second look will topple the men of the country. I would rather not know about toppled cities and toppled countries, because a beauty of this caliber may not come around again!" His majesty sighed and said, "Wow! Can there really be such a person in this world?" Whereupon Pingyang mentioned that Yannian had a sister. His majesty summoned her, and she was indeed a sight to behold, and a good dancer. As a result, she received the emperor's favor, and bore him a son; this was Prince Ai of Changyi. (Wiktionary translation)
- (archaic) a drop-dead gorgeous woman; a beauty who could drive a man to distraction; a woman so beautiful, that he might be tempted to ignore his duties at court, and thus bring about the downfall of his empire
- ^ A reference to the Emperor Xuanzong of Tang, whose relationship to Yang Guifei brought to mind the Emperor Wu of Han's relationship to his concubine, Consort Li. Bai Juyi would have considered it unpoetic to refer to his subject directly.
The story encapsulated by this word also figures prominently in the movie House of Flying Daggers.