three female chinese poets: yuan zhengzhen, xue tao and yu xuanji


translated by song zijiang and kit kelen

hac sa beach, coloane, macau ©papa osmubal

hac sa beach, coloane, macau ©papa osmubal


paddling the lake
to the tune of changxiangsi (long lovesickness)
yuan zhengzhen

to the north
to the south
mountains loom in the clouds

these mountains, this lake,
this scene
as if painted

I pluck a lotus
for pleasure

paddling a red boat
west to east

no path to the one I miss

old photo ©papa osmubal

old photo ©papa osmubal

the eagle away from the oversleeve
xue tao

claws sharp as blades
eyes acute as tinkling bells

hunted rabbits over the plain received high praise

for no reason
soared into serene clouds

I must not again be held on the emperor’s shoulder

shadow leaves on umbrella ©papa osmubal

shadow leaves on umbrella ©papa osmubal

the late spring

yu xuanji

lovers seldom come to this deep alley
their spirits have to linger on in dreams

whose fragrance of damask is this?
from which tower does this breeze blow the song?

sounds of drums in the street
disturb my morning sleep
magpies chirping in the courtyard
confuse my spring sorrows

how can I care
for things of this world?
ten thousand miles, my life,
like a boat unmoored


xue tao


Xue Tao (768–831), along with Yu Xuanji and Li Ye, was one of the three best-known female Chinese poets from the Tang Dynasty. Xue was the daughter of a minor government official in Changan, the Chinese capital during the Tang. A hundred of her poems are known to have survived to this day.