Li Qingzhao:
Outstanding Poetess
and Compiler

Li Qingzhao (1084-1151) was born of scholarly parents, and as an infant could recite over a hundred ancient poems. By the time she had reached her teens she was proficient in chess, calligraphy, painting and the lute, and wrote extraordinary poetry. She had all the accomplishments of a scholar.

At the age of 18 Li Qingzhao married Zhao Mingcheng, son of the prime minister, and the couple lived in Qingzhou. Zhao Mingcheng differed from the usual profligate sons of officials, being eager to learn and dedicated to his career. He was a keen collector of antiques and an expert on epigraphy. The couple lived a studious, frugal life, their only extravagance being works of painted and sculpted art.Zhao Mingcheng began to compile his monumental work, "Notes on Ancient Bronze and Stone Inscriptions," in 1117. Then in 1128 Jin troops captured Qingzhou and burned down the couple's house, together with their collection of cultural relics. Zhao Mingcheng died of illness on his way to his post in 1129, and Li Qingzhao fled to Hangzhou with a host of other refugees, where she settled. A few years later, she collated her husband's manuscripts and finished compiling his work. The whole collection comprised 30 volumes, including 2,000 rubbings and more than 500 essays.

Li Qingzhao was a ci poetess, and eventually developed a school of her own. At that time ci poetry fell into two schools: euphemistic and heroic. Li Qingzhao's poems were of the former school, but her starkly eloquent poems had none of the floweriness of that of her peers. Li Qingzhao's poetry became known to later generations as the Yi'an style, and she is now regarded as leader of the euphemistic school.

Being suppressed by feudal ethics must have been particularly unbearable to women of sagacity and talent like Su Xiaomei, Shangguan Wan'er, Ban Zhao, Cai Wenji and Li Qingzhao. It is tragic to consider how few others were able to emerge and contribute what they had to China. One wonders how different the course of Chinese history might have been, had more women earlier participated in its arts and government.



animated LiBai poem

Tang poet Bai Juyi's "Song of Pipa "

Tribute to LiBai

Tang poet Gao Pian poem  "Ode to Summer"

Animation "The Way"

Animation - "Shan Shui Qing" parts 1 and 2