The Stories of Four Beauties
In Chinese, “沉鱼落雁 (Chen Yu Luo Yan), 闭月羞花 (Bi Yue Xiu Hua)”refers to the
Four Great Beauties. Nowadays, it is also a way to express your compliment to a woman who you think is extremely beautiful.
“Chen Yu” is referring to Xi Shi (西施), it is said that fish would forget how to swim and
sink in the water when Xi Shi walks by. The “real” name of Xi Shi is Yi-guang Shi (施夷
光). “Shi” is the family name and Yi-guang is the given name. It is said that there are two villages at the foot of the same hill-the west (Xi, 西) one and the east (Dong, 东) one.
Most of people live in those two villages have the same family name, which is Shi. Because Yi-guang Shi lives in the west village, people call her Xi Shi for short. The story of Xi Shi from Wiki is basically the same version that I have. So, I’m going to put it here
for your reference.
“King Goujian of Yue, king of Yue, was once imprisoned after a defeat in a war by King Fuchai of Wu, king of the State of Wu. The state of Yue later became a tributary to Wu. Secretly planning his revenge, Goujian's minister Wen Zhong suggested training beautiful women and offering them to Fuchai as a tribute (knowing Fuchai could not resist beautiful women). His other minister, Fan Li, found Xi Shi and Zheng Dan, and gifted them to Fuchai in 490 BC.
Bewitched by the beauty and kindness of Xi Shi and Zheng Dan, Fuchai forgot all about his state affairs and at their instigation, killed his best advisor, the great general Wu Zixu. Fuchai even built Guanwa Palace (Palace of Beautiful Women) in an imperial park on the slope of Lingyan Hill, about 15 kilometres (9.3 mi) west of Suzhou. The strength of Wu dwindled, and in 473 BC Goujian launched his strike and put the Wu army to full rout. King Fuchai lamented that he should have listened to Wu Zixu, and then committed suicide.
In the legend, after the fall of Wu, Fan Li retired from his ministerial post and lived with Xi Shi on a fishing boat, roaming like fairies in the misty wilderness of Tai He Lake, and no one saw them ever again. This is according to Yuan Kang's Yue Jueshu 《越绝书》.
Another version, according to Mozi, is that Xi Shi eventually died from drowning in the river. (西施之沈，其美也)”
“Luo Yan” refers to Zhao-jun Wang (王昭君). Here is the Story from Wiki:
“Wang Zhaojun was born to a prominent family of Zigui country, Nan county (now Xingshan county, Hubei) in the south of the Western Han empire. She entered the harem of Emperor Yuan probably after 40 BC. During her time in the Lateral Courts, Wang Qiang was never visited by the emperor and remained as a palace lady-in-waiting. When choosing a new wife, the Emperor was first presented with portraits of all the possible women. Wang Zhaojun's portrait was either never viewed by the Emperor, or was not in its true form, and therefore the Emperor overlooked her.
In 33 BC, Huhanye visited Chang'an on a homage trip, as part of the tributary system between the Han and Xiongnu. He took the opportunity to ask to be allowed to become an
imperial son-in-law. Instead of honouring the chanyu with a princess, Huhanye was presented with five women from the imperial harem, one of them who was Wang Zhaojun. A story from the Hou Han Shu relates that Wang Zhaojun volunteered to join the shanyu. When summoned to court, her beauty astonished the emperor's courtiers and made the emperor reconsider his decision to send her to the Xiongnu.”
During the way to Xiongnu, Zhao Jun missed her homeland Han so much and started to play Pipa (琵琶, a four-stringed Chinese musical instrument) to express her feelings. The sound from her playing was so sad that made the Giant Wild Goose flying by fall off the sky. That is how the phrase “Luo Yan” comes from (apparently not due to her beauty).
Then back to Wiki, “Wang Zhaojun became a favourite of the Huhanye shanyu, giving birth to two sons. Only one of them seems to have survived, Yituzhiyashi (伊屠智牙師).
They also had at least one daughter, Yun (雲), who was created Princess Yimuo and who
would later become a powerful figure in Xiongnu politics. When Huhanye died in 31 BC, Wang Zhaojun requested to return to China. Emperor Cheng, however, ordered that she follow Xiongnu levirate custom and become the wife of the next shanyu, the oldest brother (or her stepson, born by her husband's first wife) of her husband. In her new marriage she had two daughters.”
“Bi Yue” refers to Diao Chan (貂蝉). The existence of Diao Chan is still controversial.
Most people believe that she is a fictional character in history. Nevertheless, I like her story most personally, because she is an important figure in one of my favorite book “The
Romance of the Three Kingdoms” (《三国演义》)
“In the historical novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Diaochan assisted the official Wang Yun in a plot to persuade Lü Bu to kill his foster father, the tyrannical warlord Dong Zhuo. Wang Yun presented her to Dong Zhuo as a concubine but at the same time, Wang also betrothed her to Lü Bu. Diaochan used her beauty to turn Dong Zhuo and Lü Bu against each other by inciting jealousy between them. While Dong Zhuo is out one day, Lü Bu sneaks into his bedroom in hope of seeing Diaochan. Diaochan pretends to be very upset and attempts suicide by throwing herself into the pond, saying that she is ashamed to see Lü Bu as she had been violated by Dong Zhuo. Lü Bu is heartbroken and promises that he will not let her suffer further at the hands of Dong Zhuo. Just then, Dong Zhuo returns and sees them embracing each other. Lü Bu flees while Dong Zhuo chases him with a spear, hurling the weapon at him but misses. On the way, Dong Zhuo meets his advisor, Li Ru, who suggests to him to give up Diaochan and let Lü Bu have her instead, so as to win Lü's trust. Dong Zhuo goes back to Diaochan later and accuses her of betraying his love, saying that he intends to present her to Lü Bu. Diaochan replies indignantly that Lü Bu embraced her against her will, even attempting suicide to "prove her love" for Dong Zhuo. Dong Zhuo is moved and dismisses the idea of relinquishing her. Lü Bu is outraged and goes to Wang Yun's to vent his frustration. Wang then seizes the opportunity to instigate Lü Bu into joining the plot to kill Dong Zhuo, to which Lü agreed. Lü Bu kills Dong Zhuo while the latter is on his way to a "coronation ceremony;" actually a trap set by Wang Yun and Lü. Dong Zhuo's followers led by Li Jue and Guo Si overrun the capital city Chang'an later to avenge their lord and Lü Bu is defeated in
battle and forced to flee. Diaochan's eventual fate differs in various accounts. Some said that she was killed by Dong Zhuo's followers along with Wang Yun after Lü Bu escaped while others claimed that she followed Lü Bu while he roamed the land with his army until he seized Puyang from Cao Cao. In some adaptations of the novel, Diaochan was killed along with Lü Bu after the latter was defeated by Cao Cao and Liu Bei's forces at the Battle of Xiapi.”---from wiki
“Xiu Hua” refers to Consort Yuhuan Yang (杨贵妃), it’s said that her beauty put flowers
to shame. I found that the story of Consort Yang is full detailed in Wiki, and here is a link for your reference: