I wish we could have a conversation about Wendi Deng the way Chinese people, like my ma, the Chinese Squawking Chicken, talk about Wendi Deng. But this is not a cultural history blog. And it would be impossible to give you a comprehensive understanding of the foundations of some of our assumptions, which are often unfair and always totally gossipy. Nothing could be more gossipy than the imperial ranking system for Chinese emperors and their companions and the resulting backstabbing and intrigue that characterised the ancient Chinese courts. These were the soap operas of my youth. The Legend of Chung Mo Yim was my favourite of them all.
Chung was the emperor’s first wife. As was customary back then, the emperor could have as many consorts as he wanted. Chung’s emperor was a fool, so she was sent from heaven to protect him and the dynasty. Chung was gorgeous...but only on half her face. The other half of her face was totally scarred. This represented her half human (the scarring), half heavenly origins. Once a month though, on the full moon, the gods allowed her to show her true, complete self and her entire face was restored and no one in the land could match her beauty. On this day, the emperor could look at no one else. He was hers entirely. She used this time with him to counsel him on political matters, making sure that he was protected against interlopers and those who would advise him to act on policies that would hurt his subjects. On every other day though, well, he was distracted. And most of the time he was distracted by his second wife. She was fair and wily. And she was also supernatural, sent from the dark side of heaven to disrupt the order on earth and cause chaos. Underneath all that prettiness, Second Wife was actually a fox. And this is where the Chinese term for homewrecker comes from: Woo Lei Jing, or “fox spirit”, a devious woman who preys on married men.
Chung Mo Yim and Woo Lei Jing battled constantly. Chung repeatedly thwarted Woo Lei Jing’s attempts to bring down the empire. In the end, Chung prevailed. The empire was rewarded with several years of lasting peace and Chung was recalled back to heaven, where she never had to be (half) ugly again and became a proper goddess, with all its rights and privileges. A good emperor is one who recognises the value of his Chung Mo Yim.
So... now, maybe, you have a better idea of what the Chinese Squawking Chicken, and her like, would have thought when Rupert Murdoch married Wendi Deng? And what they must have been saying yesterday now that Murdoch and Deng are getting divorced?
Have a great weekend!
Yours in gossip,