Women Poets of China

By Kenneth Rexroth; Ling Chung | Go to book overview

I.
Notes to the Poems

ANONYMOUS ( fifth century). These are four of twenty-five anonymous poems gathered under the title Hua Shan Chi. "On the Slope of Hua Mountain". The curious legends is that a young man was travelling past the slope of Hua Mountain when he saw a beautiful girl and fell in love with her. When he got home he grew sick with unfulfilled love and took to his bed. In desperation his mother went to see the girl who gave her the apron she wore to bring back to the boy. When he saw the apron he swallowed it and died. With his last words he told his mother to leave his coffin in front of the girl's house. When she saw the coffin, the girl spontaneously sang these twenty-five songs, the coffin opened and she lay down beside the youth and died. This legend begins a long tradition in poetry, dram and fiction of ill-fated lovers, most notably Liang Shan-po and Chu Ying-t'ai, though in fact the songs are probably folk song laments. Hua Shan Chi became a cliché for a cemetery. Ch'üan Sung Shih, chüan 5.

ANONYMOUS (thirteenth- fourteenth centuries). These two poems are examples of the many anonymous popular songs in the Yüan Dynasty sung in the pleasure cities, composed by courtesans or their visitors. Ch'üan Yüan San Ch'ü, vol. II, p. 1696.

ANONYMOUS COURTESAN ( sixteenth century). Chung Kuo Fu Nü Wên Hsüeh Shih, part III, b, chapter 9, p. 57.

CHANG WÊN-CHI ( ninth century?), the wife of an official, Pao, was famous for her short quatrains. This could be a political poem. Ch'üan T'ang Shih, chüan 799.

CHAO LUAN-LUAN ( eighth century?) was an elegant prostitute in the pleasure city of Chang An, the T'ang capital. Her poems were a common type, a sort of advertising copy in praise of the parts of a woman's body, written for courtesans and prostitutes. Ling hua are flowers carried by Taoist

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