Remarkable Women in Ancient China (9)- Li Qing Zhao

Who is she:

  • Probably the most famous female poet across ancient Chinese history (there had been a number of other women known for poetry such as Ban Zhao but they were all way before her times. I’m not sure but I think her poetry work survived the most).  

Notable Life Events:

  • Born in 1084 during the Song dynasty, to a family of scholar-officials i.e. high born
  • Married Zhao Ming Cheng at the age of 17 and had a happy relationship with him for the majority of the time (she had apparently written a poem to mock his cowardice when he fled a city that he was governing upon its being invaded by nomads) until his death in 1129
  • Briefly married for a second time but quickly divorced the second husband despite that meant she had to be jailed for two years in order to get the divorce (she was released after nine days because she was personally pardoned by the Emperor) 

Why is she remarkable:

  • The fact that her poetry stands out does speak a lot for her work since it was a very male-dominated field, needless to say. I mean, this was ancient China. Except for perhaps cloth-weaving and embroidery, every field was probably male-dominated. 
  • She was considered quite rebellious and not upholding the conventional conception of how a proper high-born woman should behave (by the Song dynasty, female repression was getting under way and being uneducated was being viewed as a virtue for women), given to enjoying wine (which tends to be a trait for Chinese poets), gambling and spending large amount of money on the hobbies of epigraphy and literature (which are shared hobbies with her first husband and might be why they had such cordial relationships) 

Moonlake’s thoughts on her: 

Li Qing Zhao strikes me as very modern actually. Or maybe she is just very well-born and knows what she wants and has all the resources at hand to achieve that exactly. I think I quite like her, actually. I get the sense that she is immensely proud and since I’m also immensely proud, I tend to appreciate that in a woman. 

English reference on her:

Published by moonlakeku

intermediate Chinese fantasy writer working on her debut series

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