House of Xi Shi Fall of Wu

Lookin for love in all the wrong places.

This is one of my favorites pieces, because I love the image, the story and it reminds me of China.  “Xi Shi Fall of Wu”, also called “ House on Xi Shi Lu”.
I had started this piece, like I had started many others, by collecting images.  I had created a wall, combining photographs of metal, car parts and decaying concrete. Then I thought about what this was to become.  I had just finished Sanctuary and I wanted to do something in the same direction, with a similar a feeling.

I looked through photographs I had taken while in China. One particular photo came to mind.  In many ways it was a very ordinary picture, but there was something about it that I liked.  It was the doorway of a restaurant, inside a courtyard in downtown Shanghai. It had some features that are typical of Chinese architecture, the green-shingled roof and sculpted columns with dragon motif that made it look almost ancient. But it also had an odd collection of old wiring, air conditioners that brought it back to the 21st century.

I took this photograph and merged it with the wall of texture that I had created earlier.  I removed the cars in the foreground and replaced them with a photograph I had taken of a Chicago beach. I also included an old cement urn I turned on its side to give the feeling of ruins. The next step was to remove the door so that I could put in some figures. As the image started to unfold I wanted to build a story around the piece, so I did some research and found the 4 most beautiful women of China.  Of those, the story I found most compelling was that of Xi Shi.

In this story, one mans obsession caused the fall of his empire. With this in mind I continued to build the image. In My piece, the restaurant becomes a brothel, called Xi Shi House of flowers and the women in the doorway prostitutes, but also women of the temple serving Xi Shi, Aphrodite and Astarte.

Combining ancient and contemporary elements of the story gives it more meaning for me. The House on Xi Shi Lu is a brothel and temple. It is where we loose ourselves in our passion.  I will occasionally tell people when asked ,”where was that photo taken?” I just say “in Shanghai, on a lost weekend.” So I get to add  myself to the legend.

The Story of Xi Shi

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 tribulatory 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 was a sex addict and 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 on 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 kilometers 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 a way Xi Shi killed him with kindness.

In the legend, after the fall of Wu, Fan Li retired from his minister post and lived with Xi Shi on a fishing boat, roaming like fairies in the misty wilderness of Tai He Lake, and no one has seen them ever since. This is according to Yuan Kang’s Yue Jueshu《越绝书》. Another version, according to Mozi, is that Xi Shi eventually dies from drowning in the river. (西施之沈,其美也)

She is remembered by the Xi Shi Temple, which lies at the foot of the Zhu Lou Hill in the southern part of the city, on the banks of the Huansha River.

The West Lake in Hangzhou is said to be the incarnation of Xi Shi, hence it is also called Xizi Lake, Xizi being another name for Xi Shi, meaning Lady Xi.



  1. admin

    Thanks Gary!

  2. gary...

    Another perfect picture…

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