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View south across 長江 from 鸚鵡洲 Yīngwǔzhōu

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River Walk
       Yu Xuanji 843-868      

Placid Great River�
       hugs Wuchang shore,�
Past Parrot shoal
       before ten thousand doors. �
Wake from spring nap�
       on pleasure boat�
Dreams of butterflies�
       still seeking blooms.�
Jiāng Xíng
Dà jiāng héng bào wǔ chāng xié,
Yīng wǔ zhōu qián hù wàn jiā.
Huà gě chūn mián zhāo wèi zú,
Mèng wéi hú dié yě xún huā.

Translator: Dongbo 東波

China's women poets had to be tough, for their lives wer not easy. Until recently China was a man's world and for a woman to become educated was the result of stong character, for women were not considdered fit to be educated. Yu Xuanji was a courtesan, and like the geisha in Japan, she must have obtained much of here skill at writing poetry for here customers, the officials who were her customers in the decling years of the Tang.

She must have honed her skills when she was entertaining and drinking with them at drunken parties. At some point she impressed one man, Li Yi, who purched her freedom and took her as his concubine. But later he dumped her in the south, near present day Wuhan.

When she finally made it back to the capital life was not good and she became a Daoist nun and turned her back on men. Then she drifted back into prostitution as a coutesan nun. At the age of 25 she was reportedly executed for beating her maid to death in a fit of jealous fury.

As Jan W Walls writes in Sunflower Splendor (Pg.578),'She was a woman in a man's world, and although she resented it she was helplessly dependent on men. Her poems are an intensly personal but real reflection of her life and feelings, and as such they will be found worth reading.'

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