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


yu xuanji


Yu Xuanji (approximate dates 844–869) was from Changan. She is distinctive in that many of her poems are written in a remarkably frank and direct autobiographical style — that is, using her own voice rather than speaking through a persona.