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Li Qingzhao's Life - Work and Love

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Li Qingzhao's Life, Work and Love

Regarded by many as the greatest Chinese poetess of all time, Li Qingzhao definitely made her remark on the long history of Chinese poetry. Her feminist and sensitive approach added an emotional spin to the male- dominated Chinese poetry. Born into a spiritually and intellectually wealthy family in 1084, Li received good education that most Chinese women were not socially and even legally permitted to have until the mid-twentieth Century. Influenced by her father, she possessed a strong sense of right and wrong and lived her life accordingly. Therefore, in addition to the feminist touch to her ci work, she is also famous for her patriotism and outspoken critics about other people's work. Her peculiar status determined that her life would be "unorthodox" and rebellious.

That being said, she is still best known for her sensitive and feminist ci work regarding personal feelings that no other could match, although only fifty-some of the legend eight volumes of her work survived. And as a woman, her life and work cannot be separated. From her worry free adolescent hood to the breathtaking love at first sight; from the blooming newlywed to the frustrated neglected wife; from the catastrophic death of her husband to the devastating loss of all her life collections, as her life unwraps itself before us, we shall see how her personal life and work coexist as an highly emotional and personal organism and what this organism meant to classic Chinese poetry and culture as a whole.

Before proceed further into her life, we need to exam the status of women at her time which, in turn, would help us understand her life and work better. Confucius, whose value system was considered orthodox for the most part of Chinese history, once said: "Only women and mean persons I am the most difficult to get along with.", and followed his infinite wisdom, most women were treated worse than second class citizen and sometimes as possession of her husband.

Women were encouraged to die for chastity while men were allowed to marry multiple wives. And they shall receive no literal education what-so-ever, as the old Chinese saying goes: "it is women's virtue to be ignorant." They were also physically restrained by foot binding where "In its most extreme form, foot binding was the act of wrapping a three- to five-year old girl's feet with binding so as to bend the toes under, break the bones and force the back of the foot together"(1). And since all the horrors mentioned above are practiced through generations as orthodox value, some women even tried to fit themselves into those values.

In contrast to those women, the seed of righteous and rebellious was planted in Li Qingzhao's mind when she was only a child. Li was born into a family of generations of officials and



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