China's women poets had to be tough, for their lives were 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 considered fit to be educated. Yu Xuanji was a courtesan, and like the geisha in Japan, she must have learned much of here skill at writing poetry from 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. At first 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.'