By popular request (all right, one person asked for it) it’s time for another Warriors waifu. This week, we take a look at Zhenji, also known as Zhenshi, Zhen Luo, Zhen Fu, Lady Zhen or “the one with the flute”.
She’s been a fixture in the Warriors series since Dynasty Warriors 3, and also shows up in the various Warriors Orochi games. In most games, she’s depicted as wielding a flute as her weapon, though in Dynasty Warriors 6 and 9, she swaps the flute for a chain whip — probably a tad more effective in battle, but not nearly as iconic.
She is, by all accounts, a woman of “dazzling beauty”, so let’s take a closer look at who she is and where she came from!
According to the Sanguozhi (also known as the Records of the Three Kingdoms, penned by Chen Shou in the third century), Zhenji (as we shall refer to her hereafter) grew up as the daughter of Zhen Yi, prefect of Shangcai County in the Eastern Han Dynasty. Zhen Yi died when Zhenji was no more than about three years old, but accounts from the period suggest that prior to his death, he brought his children before a fortune teller known as Liu Liang, who believed that Zhenji would “become very noble in the future”.
She distinguished herself in her childhood through her refined nature and her preference for reading, study and writing over frivolous playtimes. Her brothers suggested that she should be doing “what women traditionally do (such as weaving)” but Zhenji countered that “virtuous women in history learnt from the successes and failures of those who lived before them; if they didn’t read, how did they learn all that?”
When China was plunged into chaos towards the end of the Eastern Han dynasty, Zhenji’s family considered taking advantage of the situation by selling their large stockpiles of grain in exchange for valuable items. Zhenji, ever the little diplomat, supposedly said “it’s not wrong to own expensive items, but in this chaotic era, owning such items has become a wrongdoing; our neighbours are suffering from hunger, so why don’t we distribute our surplus grain to our fellow townsfolk? This is an act of graciousness and kindness.”
At some point around the turn of the 3rd century, Zhenji married Yuan Xi, son of Yuan Shao, who controlled a significant part of northern China at the time. Yuan Xi subsequently assumed a post in charge of You Province, but Zhenji did not follow him; the Yuans were subsequently defeated by Cao Cao of Wei, and during the aftermath of one of these battles, Cao Cao’s son Cao Pi stumbled across a terrified Zhenji and Yuan Shao’s widow Lady Liu. Impressed by Zhenji’s beauty, Cao Pi subsequently married her — though certain accounts note that Yuan Xi was still alive at the time. These accounts also note that Yuan Xi and his brother Yuan Shang were defeated by Cao Cao in the year 207, after which they fled to join the warlord Gongsun Kang, who subsequently executed them just in case they became a thread to him. Ah, politics.
Zhenji went on to bear Cao Pi a son and a daughter, with the latter going on to become the second emperor of the state of Cao Wei. She was renowned as remaining humble even with her status, and often provided encouragement to Cao Pi’s other wives — particularly those whom he appeared to favour less. On one memorable occasion, she defended the honour of a concubine that Cao Pi wished to send away because she was “unruly, impulsive and disobedient”, because she was concerned people would misunderstand the situation as Zhenji abusing Cao Pi’s favour towards her. Cao Pi, on this occasion, ignored her pleas.
The accounts of Zhenji’s ultimate downfall and death vary somewhat. The Sanguozhi suggests that Cao Pi began to favour her less, and that she complained about this. Supposedly, Cao Pi responded to this by sending an emissary to force her to take her own life. Other accounts suggest that she fell ill and passed away while Cao Pi was urging her to take on management of the imperial harem, and the most unlikely theories suggest that she had affairs with Cao Pi’s younger brother Cao Zhi, or even Cao Cao himself.
In the Dynasty Warriors games, Zhenji’s history is reflected by the fact that she is often shown serving Yuan Shao, then switches to Wei partway through the narrative. Following her meeting with Cao Pi in Guan Du, she is depicted as appearing alongside him in subsequent battles, and is often shown as being killed at either Hei Fei Castle or Wu Zhang Plains depending on which particular story paths you are following.
In Warriors Orochi, Zhenji starts as one of many unwilling servants of Orochi, leading the Wei and Date armies to protect other prisoners of the snake god. She is subsequently rescued by Cao Pi and accompanies him in the final battle against Orochi, going on to stand by his side throughout the subsequent games.
Her characterisation in the Warriors games sees her looking for personal satisfaction in battle, which can sometimes lead her to look arrogant or smug — particularly when happily receiving praise for her looks. She has something of a rivalry with other women in the series, showing particular rivalry towards Sun Shangxiang and Yueying — in the latter case, the pair are often depicted arguing over who has the “better” husband. She does seem to get along well with Nō, however, believing the latter to be one of the few people out there who can appreciate and understand the “depths” of her music.
Oh, and Zeus wants to bang her in Warriors Orochi 4, but being a strong-hearted kind of gal, she turns him down. Now that’s willpower. And guts.
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