A portrait of Chen Yuanyuan, concubine of general Wu Sangui. Her abduction by a rival general led Wu to open a gate in the Great Wall and allow the Qing army from Manchuria to capture Beijing and topple the Ming dynasty. Photo: Alamy

Five famous concubines who shaped Chinese history, from Empress Dowager Cixi back 2,000 years

Chinese serial The Story of Yanxi Palace has whetted appetites for stories of imperial consorts and their machinations; we recall five women whose actions, allure, and even abduction, had decisive impacts on the empire in their day

Topic |   Chinese history

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A portrait of Chen Yuanyuan, concubine of general Wu Sangui. Her abduction by a rival general led Wu to open a gate in the Great Wall and allow the Qing army from Manchuria to capture Beijing and topple the Ming dynasty. Photo: Alamy
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