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  • Julia Min

分得知字韵 I picked the word ‘zhi’










I picked the word ‘zhi’

written by: Li Qingzhao

translated by Julia Min

For three decades she’s been learning poetry,

pursuing not the fame but her own passion.

Her poems are often shared by classy gentry,

filling the curious minds at social moments.


This poem was an outcome of an intellectual game she had with her lady friends perhaps in the drawing room (similar to a poetry club /book club today), where Yi’an picked the word ‘zhi’ so she had to come up with a poem using the word as the end rhyme right there and then, in seconds! She also had a lot of fun doing the game with her husband and maybe, her brother, too. They could spend hours playing the game and the rewards were usually the loser serve tea to the winner, or it could be wine made of rice, flowers or fruits.

The ‘she’ in the poem refers to herself. She’s past thirty years old now and her works had been well recognized ever since teenage years. Famous poets like Zhao Buzhi, Wang Jun and many others would mention her poems to their peers for her amazingly good lines. Zhao even said that her teenage poems “almost as good as the best poets of the time.”

By the way, the tea culture back then was very sophisticated compared with what you may know today. Please refer to her other poems for better understanding, e.g. “My Dream at Dawn”, “The Fragrant Grass by the Pond”, “Spring Finds also a Lady’s Seclusion with Returning Green”......


‘zhi’: knowledge or fame


1.  李清照文集 作者:(北宋)李清照著,刘振鹏
2   《李清照集笺注》李清照撰,徐培均笺注; 2002年上海古籍出版社



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