Chang’an’s First Beauty


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“Shen Zhen, the Emperor has recalled his edict. I will cancel my wedding with Xu Qiniang this instant. Come back to me.”

“Does Your Lordship know, they say that there are no bluer skies than those of Mobei and that the clouds float so low that if one were to lift one’s hand, they would graze one’s fingertips. I wish to see it.”

“Look at me and tell me clearly … Do you love him?”

“I do.”

“What was all this the Third Miss and I shared these years? Nothing but fog?”

“When is the wedding to be held?”

“In two years from now.”

“And then? How should I address you then? My Lady, the Marquise Changping?

“Your Lordship has been very kind to Shen Zhen. She promises never to forget his life-saving grace. If ever there be another life …”

“You know I do not believe in rebirth. The road to Mobei is long and tiring. Take care of yourself.”


The Marquis Yunyang was deposed by the Emperor and his family ended up in dire straits overnight. As such, the Third Miss of the Shen Household, her family’s most precious jewel, found herself abandoned by all with a sick brother on her hands. Having no other choice, she set up a cosmetics shop in Chang’an.

But to the eyes of all, especially her relatives’, she had become nothing but an alluring flower any man could pick at will.

Passing by her Baixiang Pavilion, the heir to the Grand Duchy of Zhen, Lu Yan, witnessed her being harassed by the idle sons of Chang’an’s leading class. Her appearance reminded him of dreams that had been plaguing him lately, revealing to him a past with her and the sultry love affair they had shared in a previous life.

With shaking fingers, he also remembered the bitter taste of heartbreak when she left him to marry another man.

Thus, in this life, he decided to save her once more, lure her into an affair, install her as his mistress and never let her escape his sphere of influence again.

However, to keep Shen Zhen by his side, finding her a place to stay and caring for her brother was not enough. Little did Lu Yan know he would be pulled into the darkest corners of Chang’an and take part in games of power that at times implicated the Main Gentleman of the Empire, the Emperor himself. Selling what he held dearest in the process: his integrity as an official.

All for the sake of Chang’an’s First Beauty.

Associated Names
One entry per line
Related Series
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Counterattack of the Cannon Fodder Chambermaid (3)
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The Rebirth of the Malicious Empress of Military Lineage (2)
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Recommendation Lists
  1. Slow Burns + Slice of Life
  2. Imperial/historical/schemes/political
  3. Favorite fantasy novels
  4. Historical / Ancient C-Novels (On Going)
  5. Blessing yall with these GEMS

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14 Reviews sorted by

Flying Jade
New Flying Jade rated it
May 23, 2021
Status: --
ML is a cold a**hole. If you can get through that first impression, then the story begins.
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New peppertrail rated it
May 21, 2021
Status: --
I found this on novelupdates and I saw there were only 41 chapters translated as of today, so I was trying to hold back and not read it. But I just couldn't. The plot alone haunted me and I knew I wouldn't be able to read anything unless I read this one.

I was compelled to read the translated chapters, and I just had to MTL the rest. The translation is excellent. The story is realistic. The characters are real.

This one is very different from the usual historical C-novels. It's a... more>> bit sad and heart-wrenching, but there is redemption. I'm just not sure if it's enough redemption, or if a lot was just lost in machine translation. <<less
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marchmallow rated it
July 7, 2020
Status: --
The first few chapters got me hooked so I decided to MTL the rest.

I have to say, as an avid reader of historical c-novels, you really have to set aside your modern ideologies. This is set in an imperialist era that follows a strict hierarchy with values and rules based on Confucian ethics. You also really have to read the tags. And if you're expecting a lot of doting and pampering, you're bound to be disappointed.

A lot of this story is told from the ML's perspective. He's a man who... more>> belongs to the upper echelons of society, and his uncle is the emperor. He has status and good looks, and has been pampered and arrogant since young, so he's used to always getting his way. And his character stays consistent throughout the story. Even as he acknowledges his feelings for the FL, he still finds it hard to shed his cold and commanding personality when dealing with her. He isn't instantly soft once he realizes he's in love.

As snippets of his past life unravel throughout the story, however, he changes very slowly and becomes more self-aware about how he treats her. Knowing that FL married someone else in the past, the anxiety, insecurity and regret (for such a confident and arrogant man) he feels in his present life is very realistic.

The power gap between the leads is particularly prominent. As a sheltered young miss from a fallen noble family, of course FL is unreconciled to be someone's mistress, but her circumstances really leave her no choice. She's a woman from the ancient times and was born and raised in her boudoir, what does she know about protecting herself from dangers outside? I feel that her personality, as well as her mental struggles are quite realistic.


She ends up in a really tough situation that the ML resolves for her in exchange for her dignity. In that, he can keep her and her family safe as long as she becomes his mistress. She's forced to learn intimate matters between men and women against her will to ask him for favors. These favors mostly involve her family... like meeting them, etc.

She broods over this quite often. Back when she was still a noble, her peers were respectful to her. But after her father was convicted, some of the rich young masters pestered her frequently and one even straight out asked her to be his concubine. Imagine the impact of this on her self-confidence... it's heartbreaking to read.


The stuff ML does to avoid the past from repeating itself gets him roped into a struggle for power between the princes. So it's quite plot-driven, and the romance and political intrigue is very well-balanced. There are little details that may seem insignificant but are actually quite important.

And the side characters! They're fleshed out and written so well that you really sympathize with them. As said by the translator and by one of the reviews, it really delves deep into certain themes and struggles ancient women experience that other novels don't touch.


Her eldest sister contributes a lot to the plot. And she's probably my favorite in this story... as well as her romance with the ML's colleague.


As a huge fan of rebirth stories, especially ones written this well, I'm giving this a 5/5. If you're looking for fluff, this ain't for you. <<less
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Mimmers rated it
July 4, 2020
Status: --
For whatever reason... The first chapter to this story just sucked me in. Maybe it is the translation (I just want to say the translator blew me off - commitment to excellency, anyone?!), maybe it is the sort of simple realism that seems to exude from the story, I don't know. What I do know is that I MTLed the whole story in about 48 hours. I am taking a break before starting on the epilogue.

First of all, the things NOT to expect from this story? Fluff. There isn't really... more>> any fluff to it, as the translator said him/herself on the host site. The ML is an adult who feels lust for the FL. He is not a man of feelings, but a man who has been granted everything he ever wanted in his life. He has been accustomed to care for no one but himself. Thus, expecting empathy from him from the get-go is a bit unrealistic. However, as more and more memories of his past life resurface, his feelings and behavior towards the FL change as well. And when he DOES do something out of empathy and care, it is generally truly meaningful.


At the beginning of their relationship, though he is cold and seems to only be interested in the physical aspect of their relationship, the ML sneaks the FL out of Chang'an and takes her on a trip. By doing so, he permits her to reunite with her younger brother - whom the ML had pulled out of Chang'an when the family was in a dire situation.

Somewhere in the middle of the story, once he is very clear about his feelings for the FL, he once again arranges for her to see her sister who is suffering from abuse at her husband's and MIL's hands, though the FL is reputed to be somewhere far away. And there is this one sentence that really shows he has grown: He is not arrogant enough to believe himself to be the most important person in her life.


Someone suggested "Counterattack of the Cannon Fodder Chambermaid" as a similar work and I really feel the dynamic between the couple in "Chang'an's First Beauty" and "Attack" is similar. It takes a while for the MLs to come to term and understand what they are feeling for the females. Just that the MC of "Chang'an's First Beauty" actively takes responsibility for his former misdeeds.

When she eats things she cannot stand out out of fear he will lash out at her, when she refuses to cry in front of him, when she lies to him - he knows it is his fault. And he regrets, not like a caricature of feelings, but true, human feelings of regret.


And what to say about the secondary characters? They are not pawns or plot-pushers. They have LIVES and PERSONALITIES and at times, we get sucked into their hardships and really relate to them. As the translator mentioned, many themes other Chinese novels do not touch get really studied in this work. Women desiring divorce, not fearing it, though they might end up in the streets with no protection. Married women having lovers. The difficult situation mistresses, as opposed to wives or concubines, find themselves in.

Is this the best novel I have read? No. In the list of suggestions that I saw, I have read all the novels and all were better than this (besides "Counterattack of the Cannon Fodder Chambermaid" - I would say they are on the same level, with "Chang'an' First Beauty" being more serious and "Counterattack" being a bit more lighthearted). However, it might still be my favorite novel in the sense that the development of the love story between the ML and FL and the fear the ML feels that this life would be just a repeat of his past life are so realistically rendered. <<less
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Lanecleaver rated it
August 22, 2020
Status: c22
This is a rather unique novel. It follows the ML primarily, but still manages to be a josei, and a well written one at that. I cannot think of another novel that has put as much detail into the ML's life and thoughts off the top of my head.

The characters are distinct, the plot is intriguing, and the author's approach to the plight of women in this time period makes for compelling and sympathetic characters. The ML's actions so far aren't brushed over by the author, and it's quite a... more>> punch in the gut to see how the FL views them when interacting with another character in the story.

I would also like to mention that the translator is an absolute gem, and I appreciate their timely releases, consistent quality, and thoughts on the story/characters immensely. Their insights into the characters have made me think deeper about their motivations and thoughts on several occasions.

The ML so far is a bastard, but I'm looking forward to his internal turmoil when he begins to change for the better and repent for his actions. As other reviewers have stated, no fluff to be found here, and be prepared to potentially pop a blood vessel from the ML. If you prefer more realistic romances, especially for this time period, then this is more up that alley. <<less
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Shinygold13 rated it
January 31, 2021
Status: Completed
This is really really really good! The novel’s perspective errs more on the side of the male lead but that’s what made this novel uniquely endearing. We get to see the classic cold-hearted ML rationalize his feelings then finally gave up and just let himself go. The FL isn’t weak as well, she is emotionally strong, able to protect her heart even when she scarifices her body to protect her loved ones. Her situation is somewhat grim and if the man she is with is other than the ML you’d... more>> say it would be a hopeless case. Alas, regardless of the previous life or the current life, FL is the only one who lived a life she chose in the end, it wasn’t the best scenario (the last life) but what mattered is that she chose it herself.

And that’s refreshing to read. A woman can be physically weak, be naive, be ruthless and that’s alright because these are facets of humanity. She doesn’t have to be a saint to have a happily-ever-after, a woman only needs to know what truly matters to her and hold on to it.

And the rest would just follow. <<less
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Gushishi rated it
December 30, 2020
Status: Completed
The author is superb! 5 stars!

The story is engaging, I need to know the mystery and the closure.

Really recommended! Mostly for the translation and the TL's notes!

*This is not that fluffy but monogamy.
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Milliane rated it
March 24, 2021
Status: c28
They weren't kidding when they said this has drama. I feel like my heart is being gutted out and wrenched from my chest every freaking chapter. The story gives a a very realistic depiction on how women had such a hard time during ancient times and you kind of understand why some women would resort to underhanded methods to get what they want - because that's the only way they'll get anything.

... more>>

I feel like crying everytime she has s*x with him. I'm just amazed that she is still standing strong for her brother who she loves so much. I guess what hurts me so much is that the ML doesn't think he's doing anything wrong and the FL knows that she can't do anything but offer herself up to him to ensure the safety of her brother. She has nothing left to offer but herself and it's very sad.

I know the story still has a long way to go and the ML will develop into a self-aware person in the future but I don't think my heart can take it any more. I'll probably wait until the translations are done because this just hurts my heart. :' (


I keep telling myself I should drop this but the story is just so good and the characterization is amazing. This is probably one of the most realistic ancient rebirth stories I have ever read. It's a different take since this is from the ML's perspective and since his memories come in bits and pieces he doesn't love the FL yet. He is the poster boy for ancient men with power: misogynistic and arrogant. I look forward to his character development as the story progresses. <<less
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October 10, 2020
Status: c25

The transalation is superb, which makes the story so much better.

The story is intriguing enough to keep you hooked! The story is told with mostly with ML's POV but we get to see how different his POV is from the MC's. He can read her intentions easily, but not her emotions. He treated her unfairly and is now beginning to feel sorry for his actions.

Im really bad at giving reviews but this one is one of the best and novel stories out... more>> there I swear. <<less
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rakusu rated it
September 21, 2020
Status: c127
Very well written. No annoying super shameless characters. I like the plot and the way it was written the ML's perspective. It kinda reminded me of Tyrannical Wang's Beloved Wife in a way that the ML is the one reincarnated. The conflict are mostly politically driven which is breath of fresh air. Most of the historical novels I've read are mostly internal household struggle with political conflict barely touched on. ML went through a lot just to make sure the past where FL married someone else won't happen again. FL... more>> has very strong and smart character at first but it can faded in the last third of the novel, maybe because it's mostly focused on ML. And the FL is really powerless with no backing and status but, still good novel. 127 chapter is nice. The recent one I've read span 2200+ but all characters are shallow. This one is still on the "one of the good ones" list. Looking forward to read the epilogues. The eldest sisters story needs a conclusion, too. <<less
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December 15, 2020
Status: Completed
Really wanted to read more. The extras were really awesome. Meh

I don’t want to say much but this josei is really good. I can read this over and over. All the male leads of the couples are worth writing their own book. If there was, I definitely read them too.
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Ariel rated it
October 30, 2020
Status: Completed
I really love this novel. It’s different from other rebirth stories and I like the fact that it’s from ML’s pov. And the character development is amazing.
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May 20, 2021
Status: Completed
I am writing a review for the first time and this novel compelled me to write one. It was an awesome read for me. I mtled after ch 38 and it was understable through mtl. I liked elder shen jiao and zhen should couple more than the main couple. The translator is also doing a fantastic job but updates are kinda irregular.

All in all a good read 👍
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harne_sudutt11 rated it
April 18, 2021
Status: c37
This is a novel, ladies & gentlemen. Plot, intrigue & complex relationships that accurately depict ancient China, power struggles & nobility.

There is angst but not the one where you'd want to cry over. You'd just lean back, think and sigh in thoughts whether it was correct or inevitable, whether it was growth or merely fate that taught him some lessons.
... more>>

Well, more like he was lucky enough to know the consequences of his incorrect actions beforehand through the dreams and hence was able to avoid those regrets


Shen Zhen is a chess piece who had been moved by others but has knowledge about it and tries to adapt her way to get what she wants, even if she has to go through anything.

The chapter where Lu Yan realises why she's obedient (like he broke her pride on the first night) just breaks my heart for her


The most important part about this novel is that as other reviewers have mentioned, all characters are people with their lives. This is NOT a Qidian webnovel with 2D characters. I like them, I don't deny that but this novel is way deeper.

It might be a bit difficult to wait for updates (I can feel it after binging up to this point), but the story is really really good. The drama aspect is just perfect, not too much but still keeps you hooked. Would definitely recommend <<less
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