Zhaojun Goes Beyond the Great Wall as a Bride
In ancient China, the ruling families of the Han people sometimes intermarried with rulers of minority ethnic groups in the border areas for political purposes. This was called heqin (peace through marriage ties). During the Qin and Han dynasties, the Hun nomads became a threat to the people of the Central Plains, launching numerous southward invasions. In its early years, the Han Dynasty was not strong enough to repel the Huns, so the Han rulers resorted to the policy of heqin to pacify the borders. With the strengthening of the economic and military forces of the Han Dynasty, the policy of appeasement was replaced by one of military pacification. By the end of the reign of Emperor Wudi, the Han Dynasty had not intermarried with the Huns for 80 years.
During the reign of Emperor Xuandi (74 -49 BC), the power of the Huns had declined drastically. At that time, two men contended for the title of khan, or paramount chief, of the Huns. One of them, Huhanye by name, sought the help of the Han Dynasty. He visited Chang'an twice, and pledged his allegiance to the emperor. He also expressed his willingness to help the Han Dynasty guard the border areas. In 36 BC, Emperor Yuandi, Emperor Xuandi's successor, dispatched troops, which ensured Huhanye's victory. In 33 BC, Huhanye went to Chang'an for the third time, and offered to restore the heqin system by marrying a Han princess. Emperor Yuandi agreed immediately, and set about selecting a woman from his palace to marry Huhanye. A palace maid named Wang Zhaojun volunteered to marry Huhanye. The latter gave her the title "ninghuyanzhi" which signified that the Huns would build peaceful and friendly relations with the Han Dynasty.
Wang Zhaojun lived in the Huns?encampments for many years. Under her influence, her children and the people around her all did their best to maintain the good relations between the Huns and the Han Dynasty, which brought a rare period of stability to the northern border areas.