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REBEL WITHIN A CLAUSE : IN N OVATION IN THE POETRY OF XUE TAO BY ANNA LEWIS A Thesis Submitted to the Division of Humanities New College of Florida in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree Bachelor of Arts Under the sponsorship of Jing Zhang, Phd. Sarasota, Florida April, 2013
ii Dedication This thesis would not have been possible without the help and influence of four courageous Chinese ladies. T o Serena and Ms. Chen, for showing me that there was, and always more things in heaven and earth To Professor Zhang, for her unfailing guidance and patience this year And lastly to Xue Tao, for being brave have the courage to be so bol d.
iii Acknowledgements Firstly I would like to thank my parents, for their constant love and support, not just during the writing of this thesis, but throughout all five years of my undergraduate education I am incredibly proud and grateful to be your daughter T hank s also to my sister for the many useful phone counseling sessions, and to my extended family, especially Uncle Perry and Cousin Teresa, for their considerate card s and awesome care packages. I would like to thank all my professors and teachers who have supported and believe d in me over the years and pushed me to accomplish more. I have been fortunate to have had many e xcellent teachers in my life N aming them all here would be impossible but hopefully it will suffice to say I will cherish what you have taught me. I would like to thank my friends, here at New College and elsewhere, for putting up with my chronic self doubt and for their unfailing encouragement despite the fact I know they wanted to throttle me at times. In particular, thanks to alumni Amber Patti f or her valuable thesis commiseration, and Celia Silverstein for helping me keep things in perspective. I would like to thank Juno and Jolly for being wonderful pets. I miss you guys. If only I could have stroked your little heads while writing this thesis smoothly. Last but by no means least to my rice cooker for all the delicious pasta and rice based meals, without which I would have been severely malnourished during my college career The twenty dollars I sp ent on you my freshman year was the best spent tw enty dollars ever
iv Table of Contents Dedication ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ .. ii Acknowledgements ................................ ................................ ................................ ................... iii Table of Contents ................................ ................................ ................................ ....................... iv Abstract ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ ...... v Introduction ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ 1 Chapter One: Poems of Longing ................................ ................................ ............................... 10 Chapter Two: Poems of Banishment ................................ ................................ ......................... 21 Chapter Three: Poems of Outings ................................ ................................ .............................. 32 Conclusion ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ 43 Appendix ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ .. 50 Bibliography ................................ ................................ ................................ ............................. 57
v REBEL WITHIN A CLAUSE: INNOVATION IN THE POETRY OF XUE TAO ANNA LEWIS New College of Florida, 2013 Abstract This thesis studies the work of Xue Ta o (768 831), a woman poet of Tang China (618 907) By the time Xue Tao began writing a rich Chinese poetic trad ition already existed, as well as a long standing convention of using gendered personas within certain genres. In her poetry, Xue Tao plays with these conventions manipulating traditional representations of gendered voice and creating from them a n original, distinct voice. An example can be seen in her blending of the voices Banishment Poetry She further explores the use of gendered voice by transgressing the customari ly allotted roles of the female voice within the poetic traditi on, and expanding it to new genres and modes, as is seen in her poems In addition to her confluence of gender binaries in her poetry Xue Tao uses, or intentionally misuses, tropes and stock images in new and novel ways These elements of innovation, paired with the incredibly versatile voice found in contribute to Xue Tao creating a poetic voice of her own. Professor Jing Zhang Division of Humanities
1 Introduction Xue Tao (ca. 768 832 CE) was a poet and courtesan of Chengdu, in the Xichuan Circuit of the Jiannan region 1 during the later Tang Dynasty (618 907). Achieving fame during her lifetime for her poetry, c alligraphy, and wit, Xue Tao was given a place among the many famous figures of the Tang only a few generations after her death 2 Her legacy today, in addition to the many colorful anecdotes and stories about her life, con sists of 90 poems preserved in the Quan Tang Shi a greater number than any other woman in the collection 3 The Tang D ynasty was a time of renovation and change, and the poetic tradition itself exemplifie s this demonstrates many innovative trends o f the poetic culture of her day. B ut though her poetry has enjoye d continued popularity since her death it has rarely been seriously evaluated for its literary and historical value. Because of her position as a courtesan and a woman, Xue Tao was often cast in the role allocated to talented women in pre modern China: a tragic figure whose talent sentenced her to an unhappy life as a courtesan. manipulation of the poetic conventions of her time as well as her own unique poetic voice. Her exploration of a rich variety of themes and topics suggests a commitmen t to the poetic tradition that went beyond the professional engagement required of a courtesan. Within her poetry, the 1 was the name given to the province occupying what is today t he western half of In this thesis the area will be referred to by the Tang Dynasty name of Xichuan. For ( Cambridge, Mass: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2009) p 75 2 (late 9th century) Beilizhi an account of the have already surpassed her. That Xue Tao was being used as a measure against which to judge all talented courtesans a half centu ry after her death speaks volumes to her fame. Qi, Sun. Beilizhi. Trans. Paul W. Kroll. 621 626. 3 The Quan Tang Shi a collection of Tang Poems commissioned by the Kangxi emperor of the Qing Dynasty in 1705, contains some 50,000 poems by over 2,000 authors. Of these, only 600 poems were composed by women. This thesis uses the version of the Quan Tang Shi provided by the Chinese Text Project.
2 many instances of original poetic innovation, best demonstrated in her artful handling of existing gender conventions, suggest that had h er work been considered canon and studied as consistently as other Tang poets, its impact on later poetry c o uld have been significant. Rather than a curse, the celebratory, triumphant, and proud tone present in many of her poems suggests that Xue Tao neith er resented her gender n or the talent given to her. On th e contrary, she viewed them as both gift s and tool s, tools which she used most aptly during the course of her life to achieve what few women writing in the pre modern world were able to: an autonomous poetic voice. Poetry, Women, and Courtesans in the Tang Dynasty The Tang Dynasty, often referred to as the golden age of Chinese poetry, boasts some of the best known and regarded poets of the literary tradition. Many new genres and styles devel oped during the Tang which would have profound impact on later poetic tradition F or example the lushi that required a meticulous command of the tonal nature of the Chinese language to compose. New styles and genres developed to reflect political changes and social conditions. For example, in the early Tang, a time of great military expansion, the bian sai shi p ai or Borders and Frontier Fortress" school was popular. During times of civil unrest and strife, poetry would often directly or metaphorically critique government policies. Poetry on more secular topics, such as landscapes, flowers, and beautiful wo men and courtesans, was also popular, particularly during times of prosperity and excess. Developments in poetic trends were further encouraged by the necessity of composing poetry in order to pass the Civil Service Examination, which was greatly codified during the Tang. By the Tang Dynasty a literary tradition existed stretching back over a millennium for poets to reference. Those taking the exam would have studied this established tradition leading
3 to a class of people who all had a similar corpus of l iterary knowledge. This collective understanding encouraged the extensive use of motifs, symbolism and metaphors. We could even motif often changed with time an d use. After the Rains, Taking Pleasure Among the Bamboo contains allusions to two well known stories relating to bamboo that a well educated Tang reader would easily be able to identify. 4 When the spring rains come to the southern sky you can just make out how odd! the look of frost, the cool allure of snow. The mass of plants mingle thick, indiscriminant, and lush. But this one with her empty heart can hold herself alone. Her groves kept the seven sages high on poetry and wine. Yet earlier still, her tear splotched leaves When your years turn to winter, sir, you will know her worth her ice gray green, 4 Jeanne Larsen, Brocade River Poems: Selected Works of the Tang Dynasty Courtesan Xue Tao (Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press, 1987) 3.
4 her virtue: rare, strong nodes. of scholars and gentlemen of the 3 rd century who were known for gathering in a bamboo grove to drink and discuss Daoism, music, and poetry. The sixth Emperor of the 23 rd 22 nd centuries BCE. When he died while traveling his two wives reportedly rushed to the area (modern day Hunan) and cried blood y tears by a river before throwing themselves into it. Their tears left the bamboo of t he region spotted with red, c reating the ir ass ociation with bamboo used in this poem. For many women, the limited education they would have received would not have allowed them to construct the knowledge base needed for poetic composition. In addition, policies of gender segregation meant that noble women were not permitted to interact with men outside of their own family, hindering the spread of new literary ideas. Prior to the Tang dynasty, women of elite families seemed to have been permitted to engage in a variety of literary traditions besides t he poetic. During the Tang, in particularly after the reign of Empress Wu ( 690 705 ), there was a noticeable decline in female writings outside of the poetic field. By the late Tang, poetry too seems to have been deemed outside the realm of what was acceptable for a respectable woman, perhaps in response to the rise of courtesan culture and the subsequent association of the courtesan with the poetic genre. 5 Courtesanship in China can be traced back to the Spring and Autumn period and earlier. Based on a lexical dissection of the meaning of the characters for courtesan, changji it 5 For more perspectives on women and writing during this time period, see Idema and Grant, The Red Brush: Writing Women of Imperial China (Cambridge: Harvard University Asia Center, 2004) p. 163.
5 seems that the group of people the word originally denoted were primarily musical entertainers, though by the time of the Tang they had become more multitalented. Under the Tang government, the practice of courtesanship became formally institutionalized. Courtesans fell into two groups: governmental and private. Governmental courtesans were required to register as an official courtesan, and were both subject to and supported by the policies of regulated guilds 6 The duty of an official courtesan was primarily as an entertainer and hostess. Individual services to their p atrons, sexual or otherwise, were probably limited. Men prestigious enough to hold such high government appointments as to merit an official courtesan most likely also had the resources to have wives, concubines, and even private courtesans of their own Governmental courtesans w ere required to host and entertain at official government banquets, and would have held no small amount of sway at these events. As such, the official courtesan of a high ranking individual had to be the best of the best, and Xue Tao, known for her talents in poetry and conversation, was highly qualified. Xue Tao certain is this: she lived most of her life in Chengdu, and served several of the military governors appointed there. Later in her life, she retired to her own home near Chengdu and lived out the rest of her life independently. Chengdu in Sichuan provin ce. Xue Tao spent the majority of her life in Chengdu, and the city 6 For more discussion of Tang courtesans and the lexical meaning of the term changji Status of Pleasure: Courtesan and Literati Connect 26 53.
6 and nearby regions appear frequently in her poems. Her father passed away while Xue Tao was still an adolescent leaving her family in impoverished circumstances. Perhaps because of her f courtesan early in her adult life. In what was probably a fortunate turn of events, the military governor Wei Gao (745 805), who served as military governor of the Xichuan Circuit from 7 Evidently courtesan, with a few interludes, until his death in 805. military commanders. It is around this time that Xue Tao probably met the well known poet and statesman Yuan Zhen (779 831), who was assigned to the Jiannan region in 80 9. One of Yuan Zhen sheds a good deal of light not just on their standing and opinion of her position as a poet Sending Old Poems to Yuan Weizhi 8 A poetic disposition, everyone has one. But some exquisite scenes I alone perceive. Under the moon flowers hum to the darkness. Morning rain: willows droop their heads in plea. been taught that green jade should be hidden deep. that 7 Taken from a preface to a 1609 collection of her poems. Chen, Wenhua ed., Tang Nushiren sanzhong. Idema and Grant p 182. 8 Weizhi was the courtesy name of Yuan Zhen, and the name which his friends and contemporaries would have used to refer to him by. This poem and others not marked otherwise are translated by me from the Quan Tang Shi
7 It is clear that this is not a flattering praise poem written from a courtesan to her patron. This is a woman speaking with confidence and authority as an equal, or even as a mentor to a man who was very well esteemed among his peers and held a good deal of power and influence during his life. Popular history paints Xue Tao and Yuan Zhen as lovers, but m any scholars contest whether they ever met at all T he beauty/scholar pairing was very celebrated in the Tang dynasty, and Xue Tao and Yuan Zhen at the top o f their respective categories w ere prime candidates for rumor and speculation Even if the story of their romance is fabricated, it still testifies to the celebrity and renown of the two poets. In her later life, Xue Tao achieved the means to live indep endently, and supported herself in her own household, a rare occurrence in pre modern China. Usually the most likely route for an aging courtesan was to marry into a family as a concubine. There is a possibility she became a Taoist priestess, and there are also stories that she made a special type of colored stationary to support herself Another story claims she founded a poetry chanting school. Her home is believed to have been located by the famous Brocade River, Jin Jiang near where Du Fu (712 770) one of the most celebrated Tang poets, lived some decades earlier. once exceed over 5,000 poems; unfortunately, just contain information that may help to illustrate the social environment Xue Tao was writing in and how her poems were vie wed by her peers and readers. The first anecdote is from and is found in the Quan Tang Shi following her poems. It says that one day when Xue Tao was about eight or nine years old, her father asked
8 her to compose a couplet in response to h is own on the large tree in thei r yard. Xue Tao Its branches receive bir ds from the north and south/ It s leaves sends off the wind that comes and goes 9 Her father looked unhappy, probably because he saw foreshadowed ion to the life of a courtesan, a tree where birds and wind (patro ns) come and go but do not stay This anecdote is probably not true, not so much because of the early death of her father or sentiment exists with striking similarity in the early biographies of many literary woman. Aptitude for composition in a girl was often viewed as a potential corrupt or of virtue, something to be smoothed out at a young age, rather than encouraged, for the sake of future happiness. The second anecdote has more basis in fact: some time during her life she was recommended to the position of collator jiaoshu This position, primarily a sinecure in the palace library for talented young men who had done well in the examinations, gives an indication of how esteemed Xue was during her adult life Although the position was denied or the recommendation itself never formally submitted, the title stuck and afterward people began to call her nujiaoshu ay of referring flatteringly to talented courtesans. These two anecdotes reveal much about how Xue Tao and her work were perceived during her lifetime and after On the one hand her talent was regarded as a misfortune; on the other it was celebrated. Perh aps in response to these widely diverging opinions, there is a great deal of variation in In just her 90 remaining poems, we see both examples of quintessential love longing poetry and examples of genres usually reserved for the male literati 9 Quan Tang Shi. Chinese Text Project. Web. 3 Mar. 2013.
9 Some poems were clearly written to serve her position as a courtesan, while others see m to lways on my red st This thesis will examine t and entertainer. These original elements indica te that not only was Xue Tao a fully fledged member of the literary tradition, as capable of adaptation and innovation as any poet of her time, but her perspective s in a largely male tradition allowed her to create her own unique poetic voice.
10 Chapter One Poems of Longing poems which can be grouped togeth er under their common theme of longing Longing, for a place, for absent people for the past, is a motif that occurs frequently in Chinese poetry, and is closely a ssociated with a female persona. In this chapter three part icular types of lon poems, qifu poems, and guiyuan poems. les of the literati Receiving an official post often meant traveling far from home and family, providing officials with ample material for composition on the theme of hom esickness. A good example of a Home T ( 701 762 ) Quiet Night Thoughts At the head of my be d, the bright moonlight. I suspected for a moment it was frost on the ground. Raising my head I look at the bright moon, Lowering my head I think of my hometown. In contrast to the qifu and guiyuan types, Home T houghts poems are usually written in an autobiographical or semi autobiographical voice. The qifu and the guiyuan types are similar to each other in terms of content, and typically use a female persona. By the time Xue Tao was writing and composing poetry in the late 8 th century, using a female persona in certain genres had become convention. The names of these genres alone should give a good idea of the typical formulae of such a poem: qifu and the guiyuan, In essence, a woman alone in her boudoir
11 mourns /resents her absent husband or lover, who is kept away by war or his own fickle heart. There are some variations between typical formulae for the two: qifu poems are usually starker in husband is serving. Guiyuan poems may contain more sumptuous images; usually the woman in the poem is reminded of her ab sent lover by spring blossoms or paired mandarin ducks or the like, and the speaker might not be a faithful wife but a resentful lover, disgruntled by lack of attention. The Female Persona in Tang Poetry R begs the question of au thenticity, since by Xue Tao these personas had been largely created and solidified by male poets. Whether the (ca. 340 BC Li Sao as the first definite use of a female voice by a male poet. Earlier than this though, many poems in the Shijing have a female voice. The poems in the Shijing are usually thought to have been folk songs, so there is the possibility that these songs were composed by women performers or sung by woman while they were working, but it is impossible to say with any certainty whether the female persona originated from authentic female authorship. So i n reality, it is not so much a female voice we are hearing as a voice decided by a largely male group of literati over time as what a n ideal poetic woman should sound like. In her book Ge ndered Persona and Poetic Voice Maija Bell Samei discusses the many different reasons a male poet might have had to take on a female persona in his poetry. Taking on a female voice allowed male poets to broach subjects they might be unable to as a male, such as love longing It could also allow them to make political commentary. A poet could use the
12 voice of an abandoned lover to express his resentment at being unappreciated by his ruler or superiors, or the voice of a wife separated from her husband by war to critique the military policies of the court. It also provided poets with a familiar stereotype associated with pathos, and allowed poets to use a fictive voice in what was usually a fairly autobiographic al tradition 10 in most poems in the female voice is conveyed indirectly through use of specific gendered images. Chinese poems often do not contain pronouns, and when they do they are often of indeterminate gender. There can be a misleading tendency in English translations to over emphasize the gender of the speaker because of the gen dered pronouns that English grammar necessitates. In the Chinese original the feminine element is usually much more subtle makeup kit, or as vague and allegorical as an inclusion of water in the poem, which is traditionally associat ed with yin, the female element in Daoism Over time a stock set of these feminine images developed in association with certain t ypes of poetry For example, in the qifu type, the abandon ed woman will very often climb to a high place to watch and wait for their missing man, to the point where in the last lines of the qifu : The soldiers turn round, looking toward the border, And think of home, with wistful eyes, And of those tonight in the upper chambers Who toss and sigh and cannot rest. 11 (9 12) A woman poet writing in the Tang would have been confronted with this already e poetic voice and presence. For courtesans, who relied on the literati for 10 Maija B. Samei, Gendered Persona and Poetic Voice: The Abandoned Woman in Early Chinese Song Lyrics (Lanham: Lexington Books, 2004) pp 6 8. 11 Witter Bynner, and Kanghu Jiang, The Jade Mountain: A Chinese Anthology, Being Three Hundred Poems of the T'ang Dynasty, (New York: Knopf, 1929) pp 60 61.
13 their livelihood, using the female voice that had already been established by the literati themselves might have been more beneficial than trying to forge a femal e voice of their own. Samei goes so far as to state that: literary world would speak in a language other than that which existed at the time, especially when that language had firm roots not only in literary convention but also in social realities and 12 Contrary to this expectation, Xue Tao at times appropriates this poetic female voice and at times abandons it to suit her authorial needs. Both i n her poems of longing, and in her other poetry there are times when she makes use of this fictive female voice, times where she uses a voice that could be d from the canon female voice, and times where no discernible gendered voice exists. Though the four poems by Xue Tao which follow all contain some of the stereotypical images and tropes associated with the qifu guiyuan and Home T houghts poems, they also contain elements that defy the stereotypical expectations for these types. The first two poems, a themselves are a combination of both guiyuan and qifu and the language they contain dif fers from typical guiyuan / qifu at first seems to be a typical Home T of the poem becomes very different. The last contains familiar elements associated with longing, but the longing of the poem itself is in distinct enough that the meaning of the poem is unclear. First, the poems that adhere most closely to a traditional guiyuan or qifu poem: 12 Samei, p 20.
14 Sent to Afar, Two Poems Delicate new cattail blades bend, then stand once more at attention. Spring sends out ranks of flowers to stop up the creek. I know my lord you have not yet ridden by way of Qin Pass. The moon shines through a thousand doors ; I cover my face and cry. Hibiscus newly fallen ; Bright brocade characters: opening the seal, all that arrives is worry. Those in the women ings like weapons and horses. While the moon is still high, I also climb to watch for him. The traditional qifu images in this poem are quickly noticeable. The moon appears in both poems (in the same position in each line, perhaps for emphasis or parallelism). In the first poem the woman is crying in moonlight, her loneliness enhanced by contrasting her solitary cr ying figure with the image of a thousand doors. The character wang qifu poems. Natural images of spring occur in the first poem, and autumn in the second, indicating the amount of time the woman has been waiting. The coming of spring in qifu and guiyuan poems often results in the speaker seeing the new flowers and regretting not having anyone with whom to enjoy them Fall is associated with the passing of time, aging, regret and unfulfilled desire. Though both the flowers and the moon are typical elements in guiyuan and qifu poems, the way Xue Tao incorporates these images into her poems is unique. In the first poem, she gives the spring imagery a martial feel with her use of the characters qi even, fa and sai which mean attention using the disparity between the strict martial imagery and the pliable natural imagery,
15 etween the flowers and cattails around her and her thoughts of the battlefields and frontiers where the object of her longing is. The lunar element of the two poems is also something very common in the guiyuan / qifu genre that Xue Tao uses in a more uniq ue way. In the las t line of the second poem the woman climbs t o watch for her man in the moon light. D epending on how you translate the third character of the line, hai the line could be read a interesting because it suggests a certain amount of companionship between the moon and the woman as they both climb together, the woman in the tower and the moon in the sky. Even if other meanings are chosen, the moon of this poem has a feeling of greater proximity to the speaker. This c moon contrasts with the usual distant and cold moon that looks down unfeelingly in most qifu poems. The next poem c an be immediately identified by its title as a Home Thoughts poem. As mentioned the transient life of a scholar official often meant that they were awa y from home, a home which they c ould then l ongingly refer to in their poetry However, the home of Xue T poem is unclear, and makes the poem different from a standard Home T houghts poem. Home Thoughts Below lofty Mt. Mei the water is like oil. What day did this slip of sail depart from the Brocade Shore? To t he sound of oars in even stroke I set out in mid stream. either left at a very young age or never saw. It could also be about longin g for an absent person or f or something more insubstantial, perhaps a more permanent existence of the
16 second line seems to indicate this last possi points to Zhuangzi (4 th century BCE) which suggests that a more figurative reading might be what the author intends. If Xue Tao is longing f houghts poem. when she was very young or before she was b orn, so she Nor is a yearning ever expressed in any of her remaining poems. It is Chengdu and Xichuan that Xue Tao frequently refers to with the fondness of a native. In the first line, Mt. Emei is mentio n ed, which situates the poem in X ichuan. Since Mt. Emei is some distance from Chengdu, it is possible that Xue Tao was traveling, and is speaking wistfully of the city. Or perhaps she is in Chengdu and it is Mt. Emei that she is longing for, and she is imagining the appearance of the water below Mt. Emei nostalgically in the first line. But the depth of longing described in the poem seems disproportionate f or the distance; Mt. Emei is 140 kms from the center of modern Chengdu. In longing tone. in this poem probably reflects the feelings Xue Tao would have had toward this concept in he r own life. A s a courtesan and public woman she would have severed her ties to any family home she might have returned to in Ch marrying into a respectable household was also unlikely With her subsistence as a courtesan dependent on the whims of her patron, and given the frequency that position changed, (it is said Xue Tao served 11 different military governors duri ng the course of her life), her position as an official courtesan was also unstable. When taking these factors into consideration, it makes the
17 l to call home seem highly possible. Finally, the imagery and sequence of the po em also set it apart from a typical Home T houghts poem. Home T houghts poems are usually focused around two seque ntial actions of the traveler: first they look a t the sce ne before them, and then they reminisce about home. In Xue immobile speaker, there is a strong sense of movement. The first line Below lofty But the next three lines all contain indicators of movement. In the second line the speaker lament s her transient and then reflects in the next line on their What day did this slip of sail Finally, in the last line of the poem, rather than arriving at a destination, we have what seems to be the active beginning of another j To t he sound of oars in even stroke Where is the speaker s etting out for in the last line? Perhaps they are beginning a quest fo Or perhaps it is just the beginning of another journey in their transient unmoored lifestyle. The fact that no definite destination is mentioned or reached in the last line de fies the traditional layout of Home T houghts poems. In fact, no character associated with home occurs in the poem at a ll outside of the title. Instead, there is a variety of travel vocabulary The final poem contains conventional images associated with longing poems, yet the longing itself remains undefined.
18 River Side From the west wind an abrupt report of wild geese, side by side But in the world of men body and soul descend alone If not for the genuine secret s we find in fishes bellies, who could, night after night, stand by the clear river? It is possible to interpret this poem as a poem of romantic longing. In the first line, wild geese are usually associated with correspondence between parted lovers. The last two characters of the first line shuang shuang by emph asize this coupling connotation, though i if the usual v formation in which geese migrate is imagined. The image of the geese flying together is co in the world of men body This line contrasts with the exp ected reaction of the lonely persona Rather than seeing the geese and mourning on their own solitude, or resenting the geese for no t bringing a letter from a distant lover the speaker of the poem instead reflects rather philosophic ally on the universal loneliness of human existence. The purpose of the downward movement in the second line goes beyond contrasting the body and soul s descent with the literal descent of the geese. It also evokes the Chinese view of time. Instead of going from left to right, in China time is often imagined as going from top to bottom, or progressing downwards. So this line could also be read, in the w orld of men, hearts progress through time alone or basically, we live out our lives alone. Compared to complaints of personal loneliness usually made in poems of longing, this expression of universal tragedy is a very ambitious and empathetic sentiment. The third line contains another allusion to correspondence via animal messengers. The messages in fish bellies come from a Han era story of a poet who used to throw his letters into a stream to have them delivered by fish. In time fish and geese became so associated with this
19 role as message bearers that a four character idiom yu yan wang lai fish and geese came to be associated with correspondence between lovers 13 However the in the third line has more of a connotati th a n a romantic sort of secret. It could also mean secrets of a political nature. Though Xue Tao was not known for making political commen tary in her poetry, it i s a possible interpretation. If the se secrets of the poetic art. Perhaps Xue Tao is referring to her poetic correspondence with another poet. The speaker states that these secrets are the only things that sustain them as they wait by the river. If it is thes e poetic exchanges that sustain them while they wait, then for what is the speaker waiting ? Is it r ecogn ition of their poetic talents? Or p erhaps the speaker is still waiting for a stable home and identity, as in the previous poem. In contrast with the of the last line, the object of the speaker longing is rather opaque. Ambiguity is an integral part of Chinese poetry, but in River S ide it is particularly high place led to an a ssociation with the qif u genre Conversely, i and symbolism used creates the sense of longing while still allowing the poem to retain a sense ambigui ty is itself intentional and part of the overall atmosphere of the p oem. Perhaps as in Xue where the lack of a specific home lends the poem its unique quality, the beguiling ambiguity of the longing in is what gives the poem its charm 13 Zhao Ziyong and Peter T. Morris, Cantonese Love Songs: An English Translation of Jiu Ji Yung's Cantonese Songs of the E arly 19th Century (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 1992) p 65.
20 T hough t feeling of longing is achieved via methods different from those typically employ ed for such poems The first adheres closely to other typical poems of its type by using a female persona and containing the expected imagery, while also demonstrating interesting twists of f contains some of the sen timents expected in a poem, but the longing conveyed is much more complex than simple home sickness. The last River Side contains elements of longing, but the longing itself is vague enough to make the reader wonder for what end the tropes used ( geese, letters in fish, e t c .) are employed onstrated both by her use of and disregard for it. This awareness of genre and play with what is expected is also an essential element in Poems of Banishment
21 Chapter Two Poems of Banishment In contrast with p oem s of longing which frequently borrow a female persona, poems that an autobiographical voice Banishment poems arose in response to the transient lives of officials, mu ch the same as Home Thoughts poems A common punishment for a civil servant of the Tang dynasty was to be sent to some remote and undesirable province to continue their service far from the capital. Th is poem by Han Yu (768 824), a con temporary of Xue Tao, exemplifies the genre: For My Nephew, Hsiang, on my Demotion and Arrival at Lankuan Pass I submitted a memorial to the palace at dawn by dusk I was bound for Chaoyang two thousand miles away I hoped to rid the court of evil ways but dared in my senility to begrudge a few more years Chinling clouds now bar me from my home Lankuan snows still block the path ahead the no doubt to collect my bones from some infested river. 14 The poem contains the key characteristics of banishment poems ; descriptions of distance, images o f a hostile natural environment and the speakers own protest against their banishme nt. Han Yu in his poem is very candid about his grievance, perhaps because he was addressing a family member. Poets would usually air their complaints in a more metaphorical m anner to avoid risk of reprisal 14 Red Pine, Poems of the Masters, China's Classic Anthology of T'ang and Sung Dynasty Verse (Port Townsend, Wash: Copper Canyon Press, 2003) p 445.
22 Although the sente nce of banishment would seem preferable to incarceration or death, sometimes it was just as bad, as officials from the n orth sent to the south often sickened and died in the southern climate. Other undesirable regions included the western and northern fron tiers, which bordered barren steppe and desert in turns. Although in these areas the climate could be more manageable, the cultural climate, remote from the center of the Tang Empire, was considered unbearable. Those banished were intended to suffer in two ways. First they were deprived of the comforts of civilized Chinese society, and second they were often relocated so far from the capital that forgiveness, and therefore promotion and acceleration of their career was difficult or impossible. Banishment poems developed as a popular outlet for exiled officials to channel their resentment, perhaps more from the h ope that circulating their poetry would attract the notice of a sympathetic ear with the power to recall them than for the sake of self expression. Women, who did not hold government offices, were understandably rarely given occasion to take part in the banishment tradition. This did not necessarily mean exclusion from the tradition, as many successful Tang officials who were never banished wrote poe ms where they borrowed the voice of a banished official. However, i t seems from some of her poems that Xue Tao did experience banishment though l ike most episodes of was actually banished and for what rea sons are subject to spe culation T here is a theory Xue Tao was banished by Wei Gao for accepting bribes from people who hoped to curry favor with the military governor through her Other rumors say that she got caught up in the rebellions that swept the region in the early 9 th c entury and was banished as a result. A third view is that Xue known theme, or perhaps a method to regain the lost attention of a patron.
23 Though the exact reason s fo r and confirm an examination of the environment in which such a ba nishment may have occurred may help illuminate possible interpretation s The city of Chengd u and its surrounding area appear bustling ci du was in Xichuan near the western border of the Tang Empire. Its natural beauties were much celebrated by poets of the T ang and other dynasties. Geographically, the city is located near the eastern edge of the Tibetan plateau, and climatically it is mild for most of the year. Traveling west of the city, to ward the plateau and the border, the elevation rises and conditions g row more severe. Despite its often picturesque located to the far west of The Tang Empire, in theory near Xichuan shared its western border with the Tibetan Empir e, which in the 8 th century was one of the chief powers in central Asia, and a real threat to the Tang. During the An Lushan rebellion (755 763), the Tibetan Empire took advantage of the disorder to capture and hold the capital of time. ressure beyond the border military presence was still very strongly felt in Chengdu s longtime patron, Wei Gao, as the military governor, would have played an integral role in the mili tary affairs of the region poem below written to commemorate the completion of a military outpost. For the Opening of Border Strategy Tower Level with The clouds and birds:
24 Eight windows look out over fall. Are under firm control. Not one general covets Fine steeds. From the tower top one sees Where The frontier st arts. 15 Living in Chengdu and serving as courtesan to the military governor Xue Tao was no stranger to the border and to the conflict going on there, and this familiarity is reflected in her poems of banishment. surviving poems, four are on the theme of banishment. They are divided into two sets of pairs addressed to two different people; two to Commander Wei (Wei Gao) and two to a Minister Wu, presumably Wu Yuanheng (758 815) a well liked and su ccessful Minister who filled the role of military governor from about 807 to 813. However, whether the y are who th e poems were initially addressed to is disputed and there are many alternate versions of the poems themselves This suggests that the poems were circulated widely, errors being introduced during copying and re copying Tao, who corresponded with a number of prominent literati and o fficials, having her poems circulated to some degree would not have been unusual. But to have them circulated enough to cause such irregularity in different versions, sugg ests intentional circulation by the writer in 15 Larson, p 80.
25 order to reach a larger audience. If Xu e Tao was circulating the poem s herself through her correspondence s and other means, then she was employing the sa me tact of the banished scholar official by trying to redeem herself through her poetry in order to be recalled. Here is the first of the fou r existing poems that can be included in Xue T B Being Banished to the Border and feeling Nostalgic, Two Poems to Commander Wei (I) hardships. As if I am still in the generals halls I begin a song, and sing it for mountain chiefs and their sons. The first line of the poem tells of the speaker s assumed familiarity with the hostile sta n dards on the frontier, and the second line admits somewhat contritely that the hostility surpasses even her expectations. The third line is flattering to the addressee; even banished and surrounded by new faces and environment, the speaker is still thinkin and is playing, nostalgically, a song from it. This line calls to mind the story of the Han woman Cai Yan of the 3 rd century, who, kidnapped and in a strange new environment takes up a Chinese song. In the third line the speaker openly admits to her shame at using her talents, once so treasured in the court of the addressee to entertain an audience in the fourth line that is either uninterested or incapable of appreciating them. The second poem of the pair continues the i mage of a forlorn woman at the border that was begun by the musical references of the first poem, but adds a surprisingly overt female element in the third line.
26 Being Banished to the Border and feeling Nostalgic, Two Poems to Commander Wei (II) Sly, cunning captives still vie with fate. Signal smoke rises straight and the north worries. Yet this concubine has been strictly taught her lesson. This poem initially is similar to the one that precedes it in tone and format. In the first two lines Xue Tao again makes mention of the bleakness of the borderlands. First t he speaker s ly, cunning cap s suggests that the speaker is surrounded not only by country hicks that are unable to appreciate her songs, as in the first poem, but a lso violent, unruly and un siniciz ed border people. In the original Chinese, the word used for fate in this line is m i ng which is often associated wi th This gives the poem a note of regality that is carried on in the second Signal smoke rises The north was the direction commonly associated with the emperor, who was thought to sit in the north and look south benevolently at all his subjects. apologetic feelin gs. However in this second poem the intrusion of female elements is more prominent. The first poem simply contains an allusion to a female entertainer with the speaker taking up a song and singing it for mountain chieftains. There are no pronouns ; the fema le element comes from the image of a musical entertainer and from imagining the poem in the voice of Xue Tao herself. However in the third line of the second poem Xue Tao specifically ( qi, concubine; or more possibly here, a self woman), an unmistakably gendered word. This is the only time this word for concubine occurs in
27 herself as well as subtly suggesting intimacy with the addressee. A concubine, below a formal wife in the familial hierarchy, was none the less married/ bound to her husband. Insinuating a n intimate relationship between herself and her listener while at the same time humbling herself using the image of a chastened concubine is almost as cunning a move as one would expect from the sly captives in the first line of the poem. The third line also brings sensuality to a poem that is otherwise made up entirely of bleak imagery and hostile border people. As we saw in the previous chapter, the image of a forsaken In Chinese these ) taught (and) strictly reprimanded (this) concubine, (I) creating the image of a chastened, humbled concubine surrounded by the bleak frontier a very romantic ized image not far from that of the abandoned wife or lover that occurs in the qifu and guiyuan genres The difference is that the to which the qifu and guiyan personas are usually confined The regal allusions (to the mandate of heaven and the emperor) of the first two lines contrast sharply, almost irreverently, with the humble and sensualized language of the last two lines In creating this contrast, Xue Tao hopes to show how insignificant her own crime and subsequent banishment are in the face of the problems then p laguing the Tang empire These two banishment poems could be seen as an attempt to blend the banished official and the forsaken woman voice. A banished officia l borrowing the voice of a forsaken woman was not unusual. The uncommon element is that Xue Tao is in the reverse situation. Perhaps
28 because of this, she is able to blend the line between the for saken woman voice and the banished scholar voice much more ef fectively. Two more poems on the theme of banishment exist Although in the Quan Tang Shi the next two poems are addressed to Minister Wu, in some compilations they are addressed to Wei Gao. In support of the theory that the two sets w ere sen t to two different people, there does seem to be a subtle difference in tone between the two sets of banishment poems. While all four poems seem to have be en written in order to express way to make the listener sympathize with her, the tone of the second two poems below is more personal and lyrical in its use of language than the desolate entreaty of the first set of poems suggesting a more gracious relation to the recipient. (I) Firefly in the wasteland grass, moon in the sky. The firefly darts, but how could it reach the edge of the moons arc? Their doubled light could shine 10,000 miles together. But the sight is cut off by In this first poem there is no explicit mention of the frontier, though the title and the wasteland of the first line identify it as the setting of the poem. In this poem, the firefly represents the speaker, c onfined to the grasses of the steppes. The moon, far away in the sky, is her addressee. This contrast is intended as flattery, with the speaker comparing the impossibility of her, a humble firefly, reaching her listener, the bright moon, reinforced in the second line. The previous poem, but less overt
29 suggesting this poem was to someone she was close to, or at least someone she wanted to flatter with the allusion of closeness. The last l ine appears to contain a hint to the motivation behind But vision fails, cut off by clouds: ho The l iteral Chinese translation is: View interrupted (by) cloud This line could be read a number of ways. There could be something p hysically preventing the conveyance of the speake There could be clouds on the steppes blocki ng the speakers view towards home and the listener, success fully. If interpreted more metaphorically, xin conveyed. Possibly this is a self effacing comment on the spe are unable to convey their sincerity with their own abilities Or perhaps they are rebuking the The second poem starts with an image of the spe aker i n a miserable environment: (II) Even a trifling breeze and fine rain penetrate my soul. If I were only free to return, I turn around straight away. of the first line is an intense image; the reader can see the speaker stopping t he i r h orse in a gust of cold wind and pulling t he i r clothes more tig htly about them However, the next line seems to co suggest that it is not really the weather that pierces the heart and liver, but the sight before the speaker. The third line is a supplication to be allowed to return, though it is uncertain
30 if the addressee is actually able to grant this plea or if the s peaker is saying this wistfully. The l ast her a painting. A folded screen would have been something common in a well furnished Tang household. The final line can be in terpreted more deeply if the theory that Xue Tao was banished for accepting bribes is considered The obvious interpretation is that if Xue Tao is allowed to return, she will never again ponder the beauty of the landscapes she sees on screens, now that she knows the harshness of a real life landscape. However, less obvious in the poem, is that the item Xue Tao will refuse to look at is very specifically a painted screen as opposed to a painting. The difference is significant in that unlike a painting, whic h serves purel y ornamental purposes, a screen can also b e used to hide things, such as people. Perhaps the screen is concealing a person, one tempting Xue Tao with a bribe. Or if we explore another function of a screen, as a divider, perhaps the offence f or which Xue Tao was punished was transgressing the division between her own sphere and the sphere symbolized by the space beyond the screen. the story that she someho w ang This could simply mean he dismissed her, without necessarily banishing her to the frontier. A more likely possibility is that Xue Tao wrote the first two of these poems after having di spleased Wei Gao, a nd used the banished scholar motif combined with the forsaken woman voice to appeal to her patron. As mentioned before, having grown up so close to the edge of the empire, she would no doubt be familiar with the situations there and be able to write about them based on what she had heard without having to be actually banished to them. Previous banishment poems by other poets could have served as material as well.
31 The second set of poems could have been written by Xue Tao to Wu Yuanheng before meeting him, as a form of introduction, rather than as an attempt to be recalled from banishment. Wu Yuanheng already held considerable power and prestige and was well liked by the emperor iac metaphor in the first poem where she compares herself to a firefly unable to even approach the luminescent moon. Judging from what little evidence remains, as well as the poems themselves, it seems unlikely that Xue Tao was actually banished, at least not to the extremes of the empire, as suggested in her poems. It is probable however that she did write these poems in response to certain situations in which she needed to win or regain favor with those in power. To this end, we can see her employ ing the same tactic used by banished officials, but with her own distinctive As records s ay that Xue Tao was recalled by Wei Gao twice after dismissal, as well as entering into service under Wu Yuanheng, it seems that her tactics w er e successful.
32 Chapter Three Poems of Outings Although women of the cosmopolitan Tang dynasty were able to enjoy many more freedoms than their counterparts in more conservative dynasties, Tang noble women were still restricted to the i nner sphere of society, or the nei ( does not necessarily mean that they were physically confined within their homes. There are many accounts of Tang women traveling on excursions for pleasure with their servants and female friends or relatives. But they would have rarely kept company with males from outside their household. Even though they were physicall y permitted to leave the inner nei of the home, women were still restri cted from interacting with the wai ( outside) of the mascul ine sphere and everything it symbolized: politics, male gatherings, and in a sense literature, which was primarily the domain of the male literati. The exception to this was the courtesan. Although a man would not usually bring his wife or concubine to a meeting with friends or business partners, a courtesan he might, especially if she was a talented one and he wanted to show her off. Courtesans themselves were often the appointed hostess of such events, especially those in official courtesan positions li ke Xue Tao, and it would have fallen to them to facilitate interaction and discussion between the guests. As a renowned courtesan, Xue Tao would have been requested often to attend parties s described in the following poem and shows a surprising amount of independent volition. Sent upon Being Ill and Unable to Accompany Minister Duan on an Excursion to Wudan Temple Wasted away: no longer Fit for an audience with milord.
33 No use for falling flowers To resent east winds That bring them down. Though I still say my heart Holds the green of spring, What shame if my hair were reflected Bedraggled as tumbleweed! 16 title and the first stanza. The second and third stanzas however also imply that the reason for Xue embarrassed about her age. is the wind that brings spring and new life, and Xue Tao in the second stanza seems to be ack nowledging her age, of the translation makes her sound somewhat begrudging. The third stanza shows that the Poetess still considers herself young at heart, even if, as in the last line, she is too ashamed to go out and have others see her in her aged/unwell state, or to see The reader of course will wonder at the validity of such a refusal. As an aging courtesan, trying to provide for herself, surely any invitation would have been appreciated. This suggests that at the time in her life when Xue Tao wrote this poem, she was established enough to have the luxury of refusing invitations. It demonstrates the extent of freedom Xue Tao, as a successful courtesan, was granted. Not only was she given invitations to particip ate in outings of the wai sphere such as this one, she was also able to refuse such invitations, from the position of a nei sphere. 16 Larson, p 35.
34 This chapter focuses transgression these outings make outside the boundaries of Tang society. Besides demonstrating a crossing of the nei/wai boundary, the four poems discussed below cont ain many images and suggestions t hat could have been considered controversial by a more orthodox audience. The first two poems t o be examined were actually composed on a prospective outing that does not occur because of incleme nt weather. The pair of poems was written in reaction to bad weather on the day of the Double Ninth festival, which occurs on the ninth day of the ninth month in the Chinese calendar. Friends and family would come together to climb to a high point, drink c hrysanthemum wine, and wear dogwood somewhere on their person. Composing poetry to commemorate the occasion would certainly have been one of the activities practiced and it is likely Xue Tao composed this poem in a group setting, though conversely, there seems to be an erotic undertone in the second of these poems which suggests that they were composed in a more intimate setting for a particular patron Because of the traditional associati or male fraternity. Double Ninth poems are often in the form of a male poet celebrating with his brothers or male friends by climbing hills and drinking chrysant hemum wine, or missing them such as in (699 759) poem below : On the Mountain Holiday, Thinking of My Brothers in Shan Tung 17 All alone in a foreign land, I am twice as homesick this day 17 Bynner and Kiang, p 190.
35 When brothers carry dogwood up the mountain, Each of them a branch and my branch missing. In c ontrast with this yang tradition ly it was a very audacious use of the feminine imagery in a genre which was defined by its associations with the masculine. On the Ninth Day Festival, Encountering Rain, Two Poems From 10,000 li: a startling whirl of Shanxi wind gusts deep. The River city is mournful, the daylight is grey. Who would regret not being able to make the usual climb? Instead cherish the cold aroma of flowers, tinted like gold. o you know her in tentions? Her first order, clouds and rain, darkens ponds and pools. Both poems conta in elements of more customary Do uble Ninth p oems, with mention of climbs and chrysanthemums and dogwood berries. However, the traditional climb is prevented by rain, a yin element. The speak Who would regret not being able to make the usual climb? and suggests that the listener should cherish the flowers around them instead f lowers here likely being a metaphor for Xue Tao herself and other courtesans who may have been present. The se chrysanthemum flowers the most feminine of the objects associated with the Double Ninth, are given their own line and emphasized in both poems. Or, if the bright, golden chrysanthemums are viewed as a symbo l of yang, then the yin element of the rain th at saturates them is yet another instance of the yin pervading the yang.
36 The subversive tone of the first poem changes to a seductive one in the second poem There is an even more noticeable intrusion of yin elements, personified in the Goddess shennu of the third line The G oddess that Xue Tao is referring to is from a popular legend of the King of Chu, where said Goddess manifests herself to the King one night, makes love to him, and then disappears, te in the morning clouds and evening rain 18 since came be a euphemism for sexual intercourse and liaisons. This allusion is what is implied in the fourth line. This theme of assignation is also encouraged by the use of delight jiaqi in the fir st line. The character of this phrase often occurs in the Shijing in reference to a rendezvous. This deliberate manipulation of what was commonly a thematically male genre to celebrate feminine space and element s would have no doubt seemed particularly provocative to seen as an intentional challenge of the Double Ninth poem stereotype or as an attempt to tantalize a primarily male audience. Or perhaps she was si mply inspired by the rain. Whatever the intention, the challenging nature o show that she was not afraid of controversy The next poem could also be viewed as controversial, depending on how it s images are interpreted. It coul d be categorized as a poem of an outing, or it could be a poem describing a painting, making it a yongwu poem, or both. Account of Hushi Mountain In the middle of a landscape by Master Wang Pondering the elegant lines, the splashes of ink, 18 For more on the legend of the Goddess, see Stephen Owen An Anthology of Chinese Literature: Beginnings to 1911 (New York: W.W. Norton, 1996) p 189.
37 Today, suddenly I climbed to an empty place and looked out, As I walked my kingfisher crown swayed 1000 peaks If we view this poem as a y ongwu poem, then the interpretation of the poem could be that the speaker is not in actual fact climbing mountains; she is simply looking at pictures of mountains and imagining herself climbing them. This was actually a popular topic for poetry and an activity practiced often by women, especially in later dynasties It was referred to as woyou or On the flip side it could be viewed as a poem of an outing, in which the speaker of the poem does actually climb a mountain. The title of this poem is a reference to an actual place in Xichuan, supporting the theory that this poem could be about an actual climb landscape by andscape equivalent in beauty to one painted by Master Wang. The second line describes the scene using language that would normally be applied to a However it is possible that this artesian language is actually being used to describe a natural landscape that has the appearance of a painting, in much the same way as Xue Tao uses language incongruous with natural scenery to describ e the change poems. The third line signals a sudde n transition from the state of being still and considering a painting and/or landscape, to the actual movement of the outing itse lf. The words Xue Tao uses have strong connotations with enlightenment in Buddhism. It could be that the spea ker achieved enlightenmen t from looking at the painting, or perhaps after climbing and looking at the view before her.
38 This possible enlightenment seems to be contrasted by the frivolousness and playful tone As I walked my kingfisher or caps, like the name suggests, were hair ornaments worn by women and decorated with the vibrant turquoise feathers of the kingfisher. Probably because of the painstaking and expensive process involved in co llecting and inlaying kingfisher feathers onto metal, the kingfisher ornaments were associated with noble or royal women of status 19 Th e line leaves the reader with the regal and exultant image of the speaker wearing such a crown and strolling leisu rely along a thousand mountain tops. On its own this image is powerful enough. But it is possible to go even further and associate the image with the tragic imperial consort Yang Guifei (719 756) who is said to have often worn such a crown. Yang Guife i spent her youth in Chengdu, and may have visited Hushi Mountain. Or even if she never visited it, the fact that she lived in the area would give a poet enough license to imagine such an outing. Many dated the beginning of the decline of the Tang to the An Lushan rebellion, for which some hold Consort Yang responsible. Because of her familial ties to the rebellion, it was led the capital to escape the rebellion. This episode was immortalized in (772 846) Chang Hen G e In the poem, a kingfisher crown is mentioned when Yang is killed 20 This poem is traditionally dated to 806, and is known to have achieved immediate success and promulgation. Xue Tao and Bai Juyi were also said to have corresponded, 19 cotland. Web. 2 Feb. 2013.
39 ife time. The characters in reference to Yang herself If Xue Tao is indeed comparing herself to Yang Guifei, this is a perplexing image. For one thing, li terature has largely perpetuated the idea that Yang was either directly or indirectly responsible for the An Lushan rebellion On one end of the spectrum there are those who say she was an innocent scapegoat, while those on the other claim she was an evil temptress who brought the Tang to its knees of the latter view. A certain emperor of the Han dynasty placed a premium on his dalliances, and longed for a woman so beautiful, that he might be tempted to ignore his duties at court, and thus bring about the downfall of his empire. criticism of the Tang imperial house, but the condemnation is still clear. W hy would the spe aker of Xue identify with a woman who was viewed with such disapproval? suddenly climbs to an empty place and a vibrant and triumphant tone that their Regardless of whether the image in the last line is referring to Yang Guifei, it contains a powerful notion of freedom and independence, which is clearly denoted as female by the kingfisher cap that occurs in the same lin e. This image of a woman, out under the wide sky, atop 1,000 peaks, stands in sharp contrast with that of the sequestered women encountered in qifu and
40 guiyuan poems and with similar sensualized images that Xue Tao utilizes in her own poems of loneliness and banishment. The final outing poem also contains a reference to a famous figure from earlier in the Tang Dynasty. It was written by Xue Tao upon visiting Wes t Cliff, an area located about 50 with the famous poet Li Bai, who had spent his youth and adolescence in Chengdu, and who appears in the first line of the poem as t Westcliff Leaning on the rail and still remembering, the whale riding traveler. Holding wine out to the wind, the hand beckons by itself. In the sound of fine rain, the departing horse stops. Evening sun shadows the lane; the chaotic cry of cicadas. In the firs t line the speaker visits Westc liff and ruminates on its associations with Li Bai the wine and beckoning, perhaps to a companion. Or this could be interpreted as the speaker attempting to summon back the spirit of the aforementioned whal e rider using wine. Li Bai was to the shamanistic Zhao H un from the Chu Ci Another interpretation could be that the second line is in itself a reference to I drank alone No one was with me / Till, raising m y cup, I asked the bright moon/ To bring me my shadow and make us three. (2 4) ( ) 21 21 Bynner and Kiang, p 59.
41 Making mention of previous poets or literary figures is very common in Chinese poetry. A poet would oft en recall a famous poet of an ea rlier generation with reverence and a longing for their acknowledgement We can see this sentiment there is also perhaps a more playful tone, a familiarity that overshadows the reverence. If we interpret the second line as the speaker trying to tempt Li Bai back with wine, it is almost like she is teasing him, or tempting a child. The third and fourth line s contain natural images, yet manage to carry on this playful tone. In the third line, the speaker stops their horse to enjoy the fine rain. The image of rain here stands in sharp contrast with th e rain prevents an outing. The slanting shadows cast by the evening sun and rampant cicadas create a sense of disorientation and disorder in the final line. The wine, the hand beckoning, stopping in the rain, the slanti ng sun and the cicadas, all give an element of wildness to the poem, an otherworldliness that really makes the poem seem like a ritual to summon back the soul of the departed whale rider The playful undertone of this poem is somewhat similar to the tone o Yuan Zhen included in the introduction. This poem seem s to be the exception rather than the rule though, as most of her poems to her contemporaries contain a certain element of humble restraint, as well as a note of the sycophantic. Despite the fact that Li Bai was a celebrated and even somewhat legendary figu poem mentions him is not the humble voice of an aspiring poet. On the contrary it is in a teasing, familiar tone that Xue Tao uses with her peers. The tone and language of the poem sugges t that it is not to beg poetic tidbits that the speaker wants to meet with the great Li Bai, but simply to have a companionable cup of wine with him and enjoy the sights of Westcliff.
42 This sociable voice is similar to the tone of brotherly companionship f ound in typical Double Ninth poems. It is also interesting that this poem by Xue Tao, unlike her Double Ninth references. The noticeable difference in the voic could be seen as a result of the different self consciousness Xue Tao had as a poet, courtesan, and woman. This contrast in voice is also apparent in the other poems previously discussed, with a line most clearly demarcated b etween poems written specifically for a person (signified by the addressee in their title) and poems that have no clear addressee. In poems that are addressed to other people, it is more common for Xue Tao to explicitly exploit her gender or image as a cou rtesan for effect (the concubine of her banishment poems, the sensual imagery of the Double Ninth poems). In her poems without an intended audience, Xue Tao seems more inclined to other forms of poetic expression and innovation (such as her unique home tho ughts poem, or the interesting use of will be discussed further in the conclusion.
43 Conclusion own individual poetic voice. In particular the convergence of gender conventions, such as is seen her inserti on of the female figure of the G oddess into the traditionally masculine Double Ninth poem is one of the most noticeable and unique aspect s of her poetry. The focus of this thesis has meant the exclusion of many of Xue T poems, notably her most of her occasional poetry. These poems would have been composed by Xue Tao in the capacity of an official courtesan, and usually adhere closely to convention, with little if any deviating or innovative elements. The existence of these more conventional poems provides a juxtaposition that further emphasizes the innovative elements among st simply a result of her being ignorant of the conventions required of a specific genre is clearly demonstrated by the quality of her poetry and her exploitation of said genres ing poetic traditions? It was not un usual for a poet to pick a long standing metaphor or story from the vast actively seeking to renovate poetic tradition and the styles that had been popular during the High Tang and later 8 th century 22 Her connection to this renovation can be seen as an indication of However, though the innovative features a connection to prominent trends in poetic thought of her time, the actual type of innovation in her poetry differs 22 For an interesting look at some of the literary ideas that wer time, see Stephen The End of the Chinese 'Middle Ages': Essays in Mid Tang Literary Culture (Stanford, Calif: Stanford University Press, 1996).
44 greatly from the types of innovation her peers were attempting. While many poetic debates of the early 9 th century centered on stylistic di fferences, or whether or not poetry should be written for semantic oriented. For example, her inclusion of gendered voice does not so much deviate from stylistic principl es as it does from the expected content of such a poem. Her poetry is also very different in tone and overall style to the two other famous poet courtesans of the Tang dynasty, Li Ye (d. 784) and Yu Xuanji (ca. 844 86 8). The majority of female voice and many of them fall squarely within the guiyuan category. Li Ye, often considered the best poet of the three, also seems to themes such as love and parting, but of her poems so few remain that making an evaluation of her overall poetic tendencies is difficult. An interesting further study to this thesis would be to evaluate Xue Tao ork more closely within the context of that of her peers yet little is ever said of what such an acquaintance signifies Having s uch acquaintances as Yuan Zhen and Bai Juyi would have led to Xue Tao being exposed to the most avant garde poetic trends of her time, and in turn given her an opportunity to circulate her own work. Such a possible poetic connection has already been su ggested Account of Hushi Mo connotations and tropes that poets could pull from and reference. Her impact on later generations
45 is often not from her poetry but from stories that were circulated and enhanced over the years of her image as an exotic and talented woman. Among the images of Xue Tao that occur in later poetry and literature, there is such a wide va riety that it seems as if Xue Tao must have had multiple personalities in order to create such a diverse literary persona This vast diversity is an indication of the fluctuation in how Xue Tao was perceived over time and among different groups A poem of dynasty might have been considered quite scandalous under another, and the repute of its poet wo uld have fluctuated accordingly. literary depiction s do range greatly, from lone ly ghost, to coy coquet, to calm and collected nujiaoshu among others. For example, here is a poem said to h : To Yang Yunzhong The sound of the clock drones, the lamp burns on and on. I see its shadows, now on the east wall, now the west. The moon is bright outside the window, the cuckoo cries Cruelly they make my lonely soul grieve all the night long. 23 The poem itself contains all the elements of a guiyuan poem: the speak er is inside, lonely and grieving, while objects within the room and outside of it provoke their grief further. The for some later writers, Xue Tao had become just another representative trope of the lonely woman image. In contrast with this sad image, Xue Tao appears at other times gaily writing poetry on her famous stationary. The stationary itself came to take on i ts own significance and became a byword fo r correspondence between lovers. 23 Samei, p 118.
46 Wenlan, Fangbo, Qiuping, and Lianfang at the Xue Tao Well: A Wall Inscription The editor Xue Tao has long been worshiped as a goddess of the female temple, So beautifully her poems speak of love. She left us her wonderful color stationery So we may convey words of love for a thousand years to come. 24 nujiaoshu or collator, became more and more popular. The following poem was written by a noble woman to a courtesan friend, and demonstrates the degree of esteem with which Xue Tao came to be held in the eyes of many literati women. To a Courtesan In a frock the hue of halcyon and a gown purple as peony, You arrive deep in a meadow dotted with flowers on your ornamental carriage. Picking a red leaf to inscribe some impromptu verse, You have no need to envy Collator Xue of bygone days. 25 Xue Tao herself seems to have had some idea of what her later image would be come A Brocade River Collection Jin J iang Ji circulated until it was lost in the 14 th century. It was compiled and circulated not long after her death, suggesting that she left her poetry in some order. This is also suggested in her poem 24 This poem was written by the Qing dynasty poet Han Xizhi and included in his poetry anthology Random Rec i tations in the Cart to Sichuan ( Shuyao Ouyin ). Trans. Li Xue Tao (Southeast Review of Asian Studies Volume 33, 2011) p. 163. 25 By Lu Qingzi
47 S Poets only began self compiling their own poetry in the mid 9 th century. Prior to that, it was custom for a poet to present their poems to a friend and request that they edit and compile a in sending her old poems to Yuan Zhen. fourth lines of her poem to console a Licentiate Zhu, who seems to hav e been unsuccessful in the Civil Service Examination. In Response to Licentiate Zhu, Thirteenth of His Generation Your grand thoughts have the gloss and coolness or a bag of ice smashed to shards on a golden plate from the south. When the master poets hone their tools, their fame lives on. Why bother to check the passing list posted on Exam Hall Gate? 26 The last two lines sound like a well known personal mantra, chanted over and over again. Unable to pursue an official career, Xue Tao would have had no choice but to listen to her own advice. This attitude toward poetry, as not simply a tool to secure her livelihood, but a method to and celebrated, the reason that she has more poems in the Quan Tang Shi than any other woman 26 Larson, p 86.
48 poet, was not simply a happy accident, but because it was her intention all along to create a poetic legacy for herself t hat would last through the ages s are artful, and the ideas behind them are extraordinary. Model calligraphy and startling lines that is why she became famous! 27 to hough her works lack the intent of indirect criticism or moral instruction, they display a talent for singing of flowe rs and moonlight. 28 poems may be technically perfect, but they are also rather conventional. 29 This wide variation in response probably arises from a question o f where to situate Xue Tao within the poetic tradition, a problem which was frequently plies some degree of comparison, but conventional as compared to what? To the male writers of her day? To the female writers? Yet her male and female contemporaries. Was her poetry conventional in comparison with the projected expectation of what a courtesan poet was supposed to sound like? Yet we have seen most genres. anon and deciding with what standards to critique it may have been caused in part by her outlier status as a woman and courtesan, but the difficulty also likely arises from the vast diversity i poetic voice. F rom a humble suffering concubine on the frontier to a triumphant mountaineer in a halcyon crown, from a lonel y wife watching the moon to a poet beckoning Li Bai back from 27 1126), Xuanhe shupu quoted in Tang Nushiren sanzhong. Idema and Grant p 185. 28 Mushu xiantan, in angren yishi huibian. Idema and Grant p 185. 29 Idema and Grant, p 185.
49 beyond the grave. The vast diversity of both innovative and conventional voice makes it nearly impossible to de In fact, the defi ning element of her poems is that they are both conventional and extraordinary. Allotting merit based on whether or not it adheres to convention misses out on its true poetic worth Her poems are an insight into the mind of a woman who se v oice is significant not just because of its gender but because of its own unique contributions to the In order to not miss these exquisite scenes, it is important to read with a mind free of preconceptions
50 Appendix In translating, I have attempted to keep the translations as literal to the originals as possible. In terms of overall structure, Larson in her translations has attempted to capture the semantic pauses and divisions within a single line by breaking it into multiple l ines in her English translation Though I feel this is an interesting and commendable approach to try to present the internal flow of a line of Chinese poetry to an English reader, I feel it takes away the emphasis from the importance of symmetry and parallelism in Tang verse. There are many more possible associations and allusions within the poems tha n those mention ed here. However, a n exhaustive analysis of every poem would make this Appendix unnecessarily long Highlighted here are some of the more important allusions that are relevant to the interpretation s discussed. Introduction Sending Old Poems to Yuan Weizhi A poetic disposition, everyone has one. But some exquisite scenes I alone perceive. Under the moon flowers hum to the darkness. Morning rain: willows droop their heads in plea. forever been taught that green jade should be hidden deep. Yuan Zhen, or Yuan Weizhi (779 831), was a well known poet and statesman famous for his work Yingying's Story He probably met Xue Tao when he was sent to the Chengdu region on official business in 809. They may have became good friends/ lovers and corresponded after Yuan left Sichuan. Those in support of the lover theory sometimes like to point to the last line as a hint at a son Xue Tao might have had by Yuan Zhen. On the translation: not in the original second line, but on its own The re was a lot of trouble with famous for her red poem slips
51 Poems of Longing Sent to Afar, Two Poems Delicate new cattail blades bend, then stand once more at attention. Spring sends out its ranks of flowers to stop up the creek. I know my lord you have not yet ridden by way of Qin Pass. The moon shines through a thousand doors ; I cover my face and cry. Hibiscus newly fallen ; Bright brocade characters: opening the seal, all that arrives is worry. Those in the women horses. When the moon is high, I also climb to watch for him. The language of the first poem seems to have a military feel which I tried to convey in the translation. In the second poem, the hibiscus flowers of the first line could also be a pun. In o when you look at hibiscus the speaker will he might be. Shu was the name of the Sichuan region during Three Kingdoms era. in the final line of the second poem is probably actually a noun phrase meaning something akin Victorian Gothic feel so I translated the phrase as an action instead Home Thoughts Below lofty Mt. Mei the water is like oil. What day did this slip of sail depart from the Brocade Shore? To the sound of oars in even strokes I set out in mid stream. In Chinese, comparing the water to oil does not have the same negative connotations associate d with water and oil in English. Other translators have translated this poem as a poem of longing f or an absent person, probably on the basis of the characters xintong I th ink they usually occur in reverse, as tongxin Mt. Emei is located about 140 km south west of modern Chengdu, and one of the Four Sacred Buddhist Mountains of China. On horseback the trip would take about 22.5 hours (an
52 average horse walks at around 6.4 kms an hour, 6.4/144= 22.5). Feasibly, the trip could be done in a day if a change of horses was provided Traveling by boat is actually probably the method Xue Tao would have used to visit Mt. Emei I have no idea how long this would have taken. River Side From the west wind an abrupt report of wild geese, side by side But in the world of men body and soul descend alone. If not for the genuine secret s we find in fishes bellies, who could, night after night, stand by the clear river? Wild geese and the west wind are associated wit h fall, time, aging, sadness, e t c The the This is in reference to a story about a man of the Han dynasty who would throw his letters into the river and let them be carried to recipients b y fish. One day he was brought a carp, and cutting it open he found a letter from his beloved. A Han era story also exists about the geese. Around 100BC a Chinese envoy w as exiled to the deserts by the nomadic people he had been sent to treat with He lived there tending their sheep for many years. He caught a goose and tied a message to its leg telling of his plight. Coincidently the goose flew south and got shot down the very emperor who had sent out the envoy: the emperor then s rescue Poems of Banishment Being Banished to the Border and feeling Nostalgic, Two Poems to Commander Wei As if I am still in the generals halls I begin a song, and sing it for mountain chiefs and their sons. Sly, cunning captives still vie with fate. Signal smoke rises straight and the north worries. Yet this concubine has been strictly taught her lesson.
53 Though there is no direct reference, the last two lines of the first poem bring to mind Cai Yan, a Chinese woman who was kidnapped during the late Han dynasty by the invading n omadic Xiangnu people. She lived among them and married a Xiangnu chief, giving birth to two sons. She was ransomed back by Cao Cao (155 220) after living among the nomads for 12 years. She was reported to be a talented writer and musician, and two poems are attributed to her, describing her life in the harsh Xiangnu lands. Her story was often retold and romanticized by later writers. In retellings, Cai Yan is often seen among the Xiangnu, singing songs from the imperial court in an attempt to maintain h er Chinese culture and counter her loneliness. orth in the second line of the second poem is reference to the Emperor and imperial court. As I mentioned in the chapter, this is the only time in all her remaining poems that Xue concubine In the last line, Songzhou seems t o be a place about 300 kilometers nor th north east of modern Chengdu, near the mountains. Wu, Two Poems The firefly in the wasteland grass, the moon in the sky. The firefly darts, but how could it reach the edge of the moons arc? Their doubled light could shine 10,000 miles together. t get through. Even a trifling breeze and fine rain penetrate my soul. If I were only free to return, I turn around straight away. The language of these two poems differs from the two poems sent to Wei Gao considerably. It is much more lyrical suggesting that the poem s were not written on the occasion of an actual banishment. The last line of the first poem is particularly ambiguous The third line of the second poem is also a little har d to translate. The final line of the second poem calls to mind Written to Thank Licentiate Yong for a Painting of the Yangzi which becomes quite ironic paired with h er banishment poe m s : Written to Thank Licentiate Yong for a Painting of the Yangzi Gorges 30 A thousand folds of cloudy peaks and the million acre sky, white waves part, depart 30 Larson, p 36.
54 to swirl around the valley lands. You knew what I want sleeping beside clear streams And gave me this scene, the mouth of the gorge, the river pouring through. The difference in addressees is significant because Wu Yuanheng was not posted to Xichuan as military governor until sometime in 807, 806 at the earliest, while Wei Gao died in unlikely. Which means that either Xue Tao was banished tw ice, or that one or both of the pairs of poems were not composed while Xue Tao was in actual banishment. The later theory supports the assertion by scholars that Xue Tao was not actually banished, and that her poems of banishment are mere exercise on a the me or an attempt to gain notice Poems of Outings On the Ninth Day Festival, Encountering Rain, Two Poems From 10,000 li: a startling whirl of Shanxi wind gusts deep. The River city is mournful, the daylight is grey. Who would regret not being able to make the usual climb? Instead cherish the cold aroma of flowers, tinted like gold. r blooms fill the courtyard with scent. Her first order, clouds and rain, darkens ponds and pools. The Double Ninth festival occurs on the ninth day of the ninth month in the Chinese calendar. Traditionally, it was thought that because nine was a number associated with yang, on the Double Ninth there was too much yang floating around to the point where it was dangerous. In order to counter it, friends and family would come together to climb to a h igh point and look out, drink chrysanthemum wine, and wear dogwood somewhere on their person to protect their family. In the first line of the first poem, the fifth character shuo refers to an area in the Shanxi region in the far north of China. wood berries should be ripe around the time of the Double Ninth festival. They could be the knots of
55 the first line of the second poem. Or perhap s people have pulled off the branches and tied them into knots. The character for time qi often occurs with connotations of romantic assignations in the Shijing: On the willows at the east gate The leaves are very luxuria.... The evening was the time agreed on And the morning star is shining bright (1 4) 31 The G oddess of the third line of the second poem is presumably the G oddess from the legend with the King of Chu. In the legend, said Goddess manifests herself to the King, makes Account of Hushi Mountain In the middle of a landscape by Master Wang Pondering the elegant lines, the splashes of ink, Today, suddenly I climbed to an empty place and looked out, As I walked my kingfisher crown swayed along 1000 peaks There are many possible interpretations of or M aster Wang of the first line as Doubl e Ninth poem was used earlier. But t here was also another famous Master Wang that this l ine could be referring to. A third possibility the characters wang jia This would go with the royal image of the kingfisher crown in the final line. Though her actual name was Yang Yuhuan she is better know by her official title Yang Guifei. Guifei was the term for the highest rank of imperial consorts of her time. Yang preceded Xue Tao by about half a century. She later came to be known as the last of th e four kingdom topping beauties of ancient China. Some information about kin gfisher crowns from the National Museum of Scotland catalog: feng guan ) decorated with phoenix, dragons and precious stones were only worn by Empresses in China. From the 19th century, however, a headdress such as this would be worn either by a bride on her wedding day or by an aristocratic lady on formal occasions, as an indication of her wealth and status. 31 Lines 1 4 of poem 140 Dong Men Zhi Yang Translation courtesy of the Chinese Text Initative, < http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/chinese/shijing/ >
56 The origins of this crown are not known, however, its design and condition suggest it may have been used as part of a Qing opera costume, perhaps for a character representing an empress. For example, the famous Tang empress Yang Guifei (719 756 CE), who featured in many popular Chi nese dramas, was said to have worn a kingfisher crown, which fell to the ground as she was dragged away by rebel troops and executed. 32 Westcliff Leaning on the rail and still remembering, the whale riding travele r. Holding wine out to the wind, the hand beckons by itself. In the sound of fine rain, the departing horse stops. Evening sun shadows the lane; the chaotic cry of cicadas. The area of Westcliff came to be associated with Li Bai early on, and there are a lot of local stories about his visit to the area. After this poem, and possibly other lost poems, the location came to be associated Xue Tao as well The final character of the second line, zhao is the same zhao of Zhao Hun the Shamanistic ballad in the Chu ci. In the Chu ci, a drifting soul is tempted back to its body with promises of earthly delights. The speaker seems to be doing the same in the second line. The fine rain, evening sun, and chaot ic cicadas all lend an otherworldly feel to the poem. 32 2 Feb. 2013. < http://www.nms.ac.uk >
57 Bibliography 300 Tan g Poems. Wengu Zhixin, Chi nese Classics and Translations. 22 Apr. 2013. < http://wengu.tartarie.com> Kingf ish Headdress. National Museum Scotland. 2 Feb. 2013. < http://www.nms.ac.uk > The Text of the Shijing The Chinese Text Initiative. 22 Apr. 2013.
58 Hengtangtuishi, Witter Bynner, and Kanghu Jiang. The Jade Mountain: A Chinese Anthology, Being Three Hundred Poems of the T'ang Dynasty, 618 906 New York: Knopf, 1929. Print. Hsiao, Li ling. Xue Tao Stationery: Delivering Love for a Thousand Years Southeast Review of Asian Studies ( SERAS ). Volume 33, 2011: pp. 160 8. Idema, W L, and Beata Grant. The Red Brush: Writing Women of Imperial China Cambridge: Harvard University Asia Center, 2004. Print. J. D. Schmidt. "Yuan Mei (1716 98) on Women." Late Imperial China 29.2 2008 : 129 185. Project MUSE Web. 20 Apr. 2013.
59 Owen, Stephen. The End of the Chinese 'M iddle Ages': Essays in Mid Tang Literary Culture Stanford, Calif: Stanford University Press, 1996. Print. Owen, Stephen. The Late Tang: Chinese Poetry of the Mid Ninth Century (827 860) Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Asia Center, 2006. Print. Payne, Robert. The White Pony: An Anthology of Chinese Poetry from the Earliest Times to the Present Day, Newly Translated New York: J. Day Co, 1947. Print. Peterson, Barbara B. Notable Women of China: Shang Dynasty to the Early Twentieth Century Armonk, N.Y: M.E. Sharpe, 2000. Print. Ya o, Ping. "The Status of Pleasure: Courtesan and Literati Connections in T'ang China (618 907)." Journal of Women's History 14 .2, 2002 : 26 53. Project MUSE Web. 16 Apr. 2013.