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Li Qingzhao: Woman Poet of Song Dynasty


A remarkable female poet of the Song Dynasty (960-1279), Li Qingzhao (1084-1155) made great achievements in prose as well as poetry, but most of all in the field of lyrics. Born into a literary family in present-day Jinan of Shandong Province, she established herself early as a major talent. In 1101 she married Zhao Mingcheng, who shared her artistic and academic interests.

The style of Li Qingzhao's lyrics changed sharply after she fled to the south after the invasion of the Kin Kingdom in north China. Before she went south, her lyrics mainly recounted the lives of girls and women in their boudoirs. For example,Like a Dream and Complaint of the Princedescribes the airy life of cheer the poetess enjoyed at home.Tipsy in the Flower's Shadowexpresses a girl's loneliness and longing for love, as also expressed in theFlute on Phoenix Terrace, andA Twig of Plum Blossoms.After fleeing south, she endured great hardships in life and the style of her lyric poetry turned deep and pithy.Buddhist Dancers Charm of a Maiden SingerandSlow,Slow Songexplore the author's feelings about life in exile.Joy of Eternal Unionis one of the classic Li Qingzhao's lyric poems composed in the south, presenting a scene during the Lantern Festival in which the poet, avoiding the company of friends, meditates on the bitterness consigned her by the war. In this lyric poem, Li Qingzhao rises above self-pity and expresses her fears for the whole nation.

InPride of Fishermen, the poet not only spilled out the distress caused by homelessness but also expressed a strong desire for an unfettered freedom. Li Qingzhao's lyrics are woven with a "delicate restraint" in the following ways: first, merging intense passion with literary images, creating an artistic conception in which feelings and scenery are well blended; second, using simple but original language, which in Li Qingzhao's lyrics is very natural and expressive. Not many literary quotations sprinkle her lyrics but with much spoken language and common sayings, Li Qingzhao's lyrics have the beauty of music and are easy to recite.

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